Sociopaths: Common Symptoms and Traits
Published: 2014-12-13 - Updated: 2020-11-07
Author: Thomas C. Weiss | Contact: Disabled World (www.disabled-world.com)
Peer-Reviewed Publication: N/A
Additional References: Library of Psychological Disorders Publications
Synopsis: Sociopaths display antisocial behavior characterized by lack of empathy towards others, displays of abnormal moral conduct and inability to conform with normal society. While no person is born with this disorder, sociopathic personality disorder does involve a history of persistent antisocial behavior during childhood prior to the age of 15 and if left untreated, the disorder continues into adulthood. Sociopaths have poorly connected speech and an abundant supply of excuses. During speech they use hand gestures more than usual. These tendencies reflect difficulty in converting thoughts and feelings into speech.
What Defines a Sociopath?
Sociopaths are usually defined as people who display antisocial behavior which is mainly characterized by lack of empathy towards others, coupled with displays of abnormal moral conduct and an inability to conform with the norms of society. People who experience antisocial personality disorder are often times referred to as, 'sociopaths.' Some of the other characteristics that sociopaths might display are lying, lack of remorse for others and towards living beings, stealing, impulsive behavior, irresponsible behavior, drug or alcohol abuse, issues with the law, violating the rights of others, aggressive behaviors and more.
Sociopaths are often unable to control their own behaviors and their expressions of irritability, annoyance and threats when faced with situations that do not appeal to them and they often tend to resort to aggression, threats and verbal abuse. While no person is born with this disorder, sociopathic personality disorder does involve a history of persistent antisocial behavior during childhood prior to the age of 15 and if left untreated, the disorder continues into adulthood. Sociopaths could also have been influenced by different environmental factors around the age of 15 that is also one of the main reasons for the disorder in individuals.
Some of the environmental factors may include abandonment, deprivation, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, association with others who are antisocial and physical abuse, among others. While there are no distinct biological causes that have been identified as the main cause of the disorder, research suggests that for people who experience sociopathic personality disorder, the part of the brain that is largely responsible for a person's learning from their own mistakes and responding to sad and fearful facial expressions tends to be smaller than in an average person's. Researchers believe this may be the reason for lack of empathy towards others in sociopaths. There are theories that also indicate that hormonal fluctuations also have a role in the disorder.
People who experience sociopathic disorders tend to be superficially charming. They also tend to display behaviors which include manipulation of those around them, a desire to be in control of everything and everyone around them that often leads to grave consequences, as well as shallow emotions. The warning signs of a sociopath can include the following:
- Cruelty to animals
- Manipulating others without remorse
- Disregard for the safety of others or self
- Inconsistencies between what they say and do
- Excuses or subject changing when caught in a lie
- Perceiving any social situation as a test or contest
- Feeling no shame when caught in an embarrassing situation
- Repeatedly performing acts that can serve as grounds for arrest
- Irritability and aggression, indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults
- Going around a question, answering it in a way that does not really answer it
- Ability to sense vulnerabilities and motivated in using them for personal pleasure or gain
Sociopaths have the ability to understand laws and rules, but they judge them as part of, 'the game.' They have no ability for empathy or emotional understanding behind the rules. Sociopaths have poorly connected speech and an abundant supply of excuses. During speech they use hand gestures more than usual. These tendencies reflect difficulty in converting thoughts and feelings into speech.
Symptoms and Traits of a Sociopath
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) lists some of the symptoms that have to be present in a person in order to be diagnosed as experiencing antisocial personality disorder. According to the DSM, the disorder falls into the Cluster B list of personality disorder. For a person to be diagnosed as a sociopath, they must have at least 3 or more of the symptoms mentioned below:
- Displays promiscuous behavior.
- Displays no feelings or shallow ones.
- Inability to abide by the social norms and thus violates law.
- Displays no concern for the safety of others around them or themselves.
- Displays aggression and often tends to get into physical fights and assaults.
- Displays impulsive behavior which is indicated by an inability to plan for the future.
- Displays complete lack of empathy for others and their situation for which they are responsible.
- An inability to sustain a consistent behavior that stems mainly from irresponsibility, particularly at work or in other dealings.
- Displays heightened levels of deceitfulness in dealings with others which involves lying, conning others without remorse, or even using aliases.
Research has revealed that since a sociopath never conforms to the rules of society, they are not bothered about the consequences of their own actions. Such people at times are also able to inspire like-minded people.
Some of the additional traits that are common in antisocial people are that they are often intelligent and have a superficial charm about them. They are able to attain success using unscrupulous methods. Due to these traits, they can also never learn from their own mistakes and do not hesitate to indulge in certain activities that are considered immoral and taboo by society.
The Narcissistic Sociopath
Some people who experience antisocial personality disorder also tend to suffer from another mental health disorder known as, 'Narcissistic Personality Disorder.' Those affected are often called, 'narcissistic sociopaths,' or, 'sociopaths with narcissistic traits,' and such a situation is highly dangerous because these people do not want to be helped.
Such people often times tend to be highly manipulative and without any shred of remorse for their actions - even if their actions have harmed others who are close to them, or their own family members. There is nothing that can stop a narcissistic sociopath from achieving their goals. They make use of all of their charm, which is incredibly superficial, as well as intellect in order to attain their goals by any means possible. Such people often times believe they are above all and do not really care if anyone disagrees with them.
Dealing with a Sociopath
There is no known therapy or cure for sociopathy.
The fact is - some evidence suggests that therapy makes them worse because they use the therapeutic interactions to learn more about human vulnerabilities they may then exploit. They learn how to manipulate better and they learn better excuses that others will believe. They usually do not pursue therapy, unless there is something they can gain from it.
Considering this, there is only one solution for dealing with a sociopath: Get them completely out of your life for good. While this seems radical you need to protect yourself from the drain on your attention, time, money and positive attitude. Healing or helping a sociopath is a pointless waste of your life. Your own goals and life are far more important.
Thomas C. Weiss is a researcher and editor for Disabled World. Thomas attended college and university courses earning a Masters, Bachelors and two Associate degrees, as well as pursing Disability Studies. As a Nursing Assistant Thomas has assisted people from a variety of racial, religious, gender, class, and age groups by providing care for people with all forms of disabilities from Multiple Sclerosis to Parkinson's; para and quadriplegia to Spina Bifida.
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