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Do you know how to spot a sociopath? Have you ever wondered: is my friend a sociopath? This post covers sociopath warning signs, sociopath symptoms, & more.
I first became interested in learning how to spot a sociopath after receiving a strange and disturbing letter in the mail. (See Anonymous Hate Mail.)
While doing research on how to spot a sociopath, I came across this book and it literally changed my life. I read it in two days. Seriously. I could not put it down. Here’s why: according to author Martha Stout, ph.d. –
“1 in 25 ordinary Americans secretly has no conscience and can do anything at all without feeling guilty.”
1 in 25 Americans, or about 4 percent of the U.S. population. That means you likely know a sociopath, or two, or three. Let that information sink in for a moment. Ready to learn how to spot a sociopath? Read on for more information.
What is a Sociopath
A sociopath is defined as a person with a personality disorder manifesting itself in extreme antisocial attitudes and behavior, and a lack of conscience. Also sometimes called a psychopath, or the more politically correct term now outlined in the DSM-IV: Antisocial Personality Disorder.
In short, a sociopath is a person who has no conscience. This is the first tip in learning how to spot a sociopath.
Socipaths know the difference between right and wrong. However, they simply don’t care. They often do horrendous things and feel no guilt over it. Imagine being able to do anything, or act how you please, and never feel guilt or remorse.
Most people think of a sociopath, or psychopath, as a killer. Or at the very least, probably someone who is extremely dangerous. While most (if not all) murderers are sociopaths, not all sociopaths are murderers.
Therefore, the most common sociopaths are people you might not even suspect. They have jobs. They may be married with children. Most of all, they might even have friends. And that friend might be you.
The problem with this is that someone without a conscience can’t ever really be a true spouse, parent, or friend. They are often able to go through the motions and can “pretend” or act the part quite well. However, they feel very little, if anything, for others.
Sociopath vs Psychopath
As mentioned above, some people use the term sociopath and psychopath interchangeably. While sociopaths and psychopaths do share many similar traits, there are some differences.
Psychopathy is a more severe form of sociopathy, often with more symptoms. This means that all psychopaths can be considered sociopaths. However, not all sociopaths are necessarily psychopaths.
For example, sociopaths may be able to form bonds with some individuals, like family, while psychopaths typically can not.
How to Spot a Sociopath: Sociopath Warning Signs
Learning how to spot a sociopath is not easy. However, according to The Sociopath Next Door, while not all sociopaths are alike; they do share similar traits and behaviors.
1. Lack of Empathy
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Sociopaths often have no empathy for others. However, they may be able to fake it to serve their needs.
If someone you know is rarely empathetic, keep a watchful eye on that person. (Keep in mind that there are other disorders where lack of empathy may be a trait.)
Sociopaths are often, though not always, charismatic. Upon meeting them they may shower you with compliments or say something like “I feel like I’ve known you for years.” They will also try to get close with you quickly.
If someone is always complimenting you in an effort to get you into their good graces, be careful.
3. Pity Party
Sociopaths use pity quite often. According to Stout, this is one of the most common and important traits to look for when learning how to spot a sociopath.
If someone you know is constantly trying to get you or others to feel sorry for them, keep your guard up. This is a clever play because non sociopaths have empathy and a conscience, making it hard to confront or be angry with someone who is “supposedly” going through a rough time. In fact, sociopaths seek out empaths or people who are extremely kind and generous, because these people often give them numerous chances.
In The Sociopath Next Door, Stout writes:
“If you find yourself often pitying someone who consistently hurts you or other people, and who actively campaigns for your sympathy, the chances are close to 100 percent that you are dealing with a sociopath.”
4. Game Players
Most humans have a conscience, and a majority of their time in life is spent on making and nurturing connections and relationships. Those relationships might be personal or work related. Since sociopaths have no conscience; they feel no love, do not work on nurturing relationships, and therefore have a lot of time on their hands. They get bored easily, which leads to their games.
Everything is a game to the sociopath and the goal is to win. In fact, their entire life revolves around the thrill of winning. It may be as simple as winning an argument or putting you down with a veiled insult. Or it may be as drastic as shaming someone publicly and socially or getting someone fired.
The sad thing is that their thrill is often short-lived and so they move on to the next game. These games almost always involve hurting others and that’s the way they like it.
Anyone in a sociopath’s life is often part of the game. Whether it be a spouse, children, or friends; they are all pawns in the game of a sociopath.
Gaslighting is a form of intimidation or psychological abuse where false information is presented to the victim, making them doubt their own memory, perception and quite often, their sanity.
Sociopaths are experts at gaslighting. When caught in a lie or backed into a corner they will retaliate. Fiercely. This retaliation often takes shape in the form of more lies. Whether in the work place or in a social circle; sociopaths will deny their actions, spread rumors, and gossip to get the upper hand. Their end goal is to make YOU look and feel like the crazy one, and it’s amazing how well it works.
Most people are not aware that a sociopath is a sociopath. Remember, they can be charming. They can fake their way through almost anything. It’s only those who truly get close to sociopaths, and who are then burnt by them, that start to question their actions. When you finally come to terms with what has happened to you, it’s almost unbelievable. It’s your word against theirs and since they are experts at lying (remember they feel no remorse) they will usually win.
How to Deal with a Sociopath
If you find yourself dealing with a sociopath, run as fast as you can in the other direction. Do not engage any further. If it serves their needs, they will only try to rope you in. Do not try to outplay them. They love the challenge. Do not try to out them. They will only gaslight their way through it.
It’s unfortunate that sociopaths are able to get away with their actions. However, most actions are rarely criminal. This leaves little legal recourse. If you do find yourself being threatened, then of course contact the authorities.
If the sociopath in your life is a spouse, relative, or boss; try to engage as little as possible and see if you can find a way to get out of the marriage or switch jobs.
While it might feel frustrating to let a sociopath “win”, remember that they really aren’t winning in the end.
Sociopaths live very lonely and often isolated lives. Their lack of “feeling” leaves them empty. They have no real relationships or connections with others.
Living your life well is the best revenge.
What causes a sociopath?
There is no clear answer here. It appears as though it may be a combination of predisposition at conception and whether or how it manifests itself through upbringing.
Do sociopaths know they are sociopaths?
Some sociopaths do know that they are sociopaths, many don’t. However, almost all sociopaths realize that they are different at some point in their lives.
In doing further research, I found a website for sociopaths. The common theme was that they very quickly discovered that they lacked empathy and a conscience, and found that they had to fake it from a very young age, to appear normal. What’s even more chilling was that an overwhelming majority of the members, on this website, felt that they were superior and that a conscience was for the weak.
Is there a cure?
Is there a cure for a lack of conscience? The answer is most likely no. Most sociopaths do not think they are wrong and have no interest in changing. However, there are some ways of managing their behavior. Ideally, treatment involves getting the sociopath to recognize that a change is in their best interest.
Martha Stout’s Tips From The Sociopath Next Door
When considering a new relationship of any kind, practice the Rule of Threes regarding the claims and promises a person makes, and the responsibilities he or she has. Make the Rule of Threes your personal policy.
One lie, one broken promise, or a single neglected responsibility may be a misunderstanding instead. Two may involve a serious mistake. But three lies says you’re dealing with a liar, and deceit is the linchpin of conscienceless behavior.
To learn more about Martha Stout’s book, “The Sociopath Next Door”, or to purchase, Click Here.
How to Spot a Sociopath Conclusion
I hope you’ve found this post helpful. Once you learn how to spot a sociopath, you’ll be amazed at how many people display sociopath symptoms. It’s much more common than you probably thought.
While it certainly is not fun having to deal with a sociopath, arming yourself with knowledge is the best way to defend yourself. Should you decide to remain in a friendship, or relationship, with a sociopath; be sure to remember your boundaries and stick to them.
Have you had any experiences with a sociopath? Feel free to share your story in the comments section below.