Who is a Sociopath?
A sociopath can be defined as a person with an antisocial personality disorder, exhibiting antisocial behavior that is usually a result of social and environmental factors in the person’s early life.
Although often wrongly used interchangeably and sharing common traits like lack of empathy and remorse, moral deficiency etc, Sociopathy is not the same as Psychopathy; which is also a personality disorder.
Sociopaths are often characterized by a lack of empathy, lying, lack of remorse and shame, disregard for other’s feelings, exploiting and manipulating others for personal gain, a weak conscience, and in some a penchant for criminal offences as well as extreme egocentrism.
HOW TO SPOT A SOCIOPATH
Trying to discover if someone you know, work with or are in a relationship with is a sociopath? Here are 5 easy clues to watch out for:
- Inability to relate to other people’s pain or discomfort (Extremely happy to witness someone else’s pain, Laughing at something a normal person would consider gory and nerve wrecking):
Sociopaths do not feel emphatic towards other people. Rather they seem to enjoy it when someone else is in pain or uncomfortable e.g. a sociopath could listen to a rape victim recount a traumatic rape experience and not feel sorry for the harrowing experience the victim had to go through but would rather ask if the victim could give more specific details of the most harrowing parts of the rape, and would happily enjoy this retelling or would dismiss as inconsequential and boring as a video portraying a starving child.
- Sociopaths are unrepentant liars (Liar Of the century Award!)
Sociopaths are extremely good liars and what’s worse, they quite enjoy it. They are very good at telling Big stories and glamorous lies aimed to charm people into believing whichever story they sell to them. Even when caught in a lie, they will tell more lies to cover it up or distract you rather than come clean. Most sociopaths are extremely uncomfortable when forced to tell the truth and usually try to find a way to turn it to their advantage e.g. as a ploy to get back into a superior person’s good graces or win back their confidence.
- They never take responsibility but easily blame others for their own faults (The “it is not and can never be my fault’’ attitude)
Sociopaths believe that they can do no wrong and they are never to blame. They never take responsibility for wrongdoing unless it shows them in a positive light or helps to progress a scheme. They would rather blame someone else and try to make it look like they are being unjustly treated or accused. E.g. if something goes wrong when they are in charge, they will try to throw the blame on a subordinate instead of accepting their own shortcomings.
- They are manipulative (Wrapping people around their little finger is their favorite game and they are absolutely charming)
Sociopaths are very good at manipulating people to do what they want or using people to achieve their needs and desires (financially, emotionally, sexually etc) and will often do this without considering how the other person feels e.g. A sociopath will continually manipulate a person to remain in a relationship not because they love them but because they love the feeling of control they have over the person. Sociopaths thrive around weak people as they are easy to control and are usually uncomfortable around strong willed people because they are more difficult to manipulate emotionally. Sociopaths have no moral scruples and have no problems using whatever means possible to achieve their desires including flattery, persuasion, guilt-tripping, blackmail etc
- They lack emotions: (Masters of fake emotions)
Sociopaths can only feel the emotions of Anger or Hate and are simply numb to other emotions. Because of this, they are unable to form lasting relationships with others because they lack the emotional commitments required to maintain such relationships. They can however convincingly fake any emotion in other to portray a facade of emotional stability to others when the situation calls for it e.g. A sociopath can pretend to be affectionate and kind in other to gain the trust of their partner in a relationship then over time become manipulative and controlling after gaining their trust.
Other Characteristics of a Sociopath:
- Early behavior problems which are referred to as juvenile delinquency.
- Indulging in crime of slander.
- Exhibiting promiscuous behavior and infidelity, often tagged as being incapable of love.
- Having an entrepreneurial criminal mindset.
- Being authoritarian, dominating and secretive.
- Showing cheap goal-setting tendencies – like enslavement of victims.
Is Sociopathy a mental illness?
Yes, it is. It is called “Antisocial Personality Disorder” or ASPD. The symptoms of antisocial personality disorder can vary in severity. The more harmful or dangerous behavior patterns are referred to as sociopathic or psychopathic. Even though, the symptoms may be similar to psychopathy, it is very different. Sociopathy is mostly characterized as something severely wrong with one’s conscience; psychopathy is characterized as a complete lack of conscience regarding others. Complications of this disorder include imprisonment, drug abuse, and alcoholism.
People with this illness may seem charming on the surface, but they are likely to be irritable and aggressive as well as irresponsible. They may have numerous somatic complaints and perhaps attempt suicide. Due to their manipulative tendencies, it is difficult to tell whether they are lying or telling the truth. This disorder is common in the male population. Antisocial personality is confirmed by a psychological evaluation. Other disorders should be ruled out first, as this is a serious diagnosis.
About three percent of men and about one percent of women have antisocial personality disorder. Much higher percentages exist among the prison population. Like most mental illnesses, the cause of this disorder is quite unknown. Environmental and genetic factors are greatly considered.
This disorder is one of the most difficult personality disorders to treat. Individuals rarely seek help on their own, and when they do, they may lie during therapy.
There is no clearly indicated treatment for antisocial personality disorder. Recently, an antipsychotic medication called clozapine has shown promising results in improving symptoms among men with antisocial personality disorder. (www.psychologytoday.com)
Please Be cautioned:
You may be tempted to relate these sociopath characteristics to your unreasonable friends, family and other acquaintances; however, only an expert can diagnose someone as a sociopath. Hence, tagging a person as a sociopath, without any expert opinion should be avoided.
National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus, 2006. Antisocial Personality Disorder. www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000921.htm
Stout, M. (2006). The sociopath next door: The ruthless versus the rest of us. Harmony Books.