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What Is a Sociopath? Signs and Behaviors
What Is a Sociopath? Signs and Behaviors

Sociopaths are people with personality disorders who cause harm to others without remorse. In movies, they have scared us with characters like Norman Bates from Psycho and Hannibal Lecter from Silence of the Lambs. While these are extremes, it is not easy to spot a sociopath by looks alone. There are definitive traits that characterize a sociopath, and they are included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders labeled as a personality disorder. These traits can be traced as far back as a person’s childhood.

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Sociopaths vs Psychopaths

Sociopaths vs Psychopaths

Many people confuse sociopaths with psychopaths; both are antisocial personalities, but one can be a sociopath without being a psychopath. Psychopaths are charming and manipulative while sociopaths are impulsive and aggressive without care to consequences. Psychopaths have a genetic disposition to psychopathy while sociopaths are a result of their environment and genetics.

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Traits of a Sociopath

Traits of a Sociopath

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Diagnosing a sociopath can be done by observing specific behaviors and traits in conjunction with one another to accurately attribute a person’s antisocial behavior to be the result of possessing a sociopathic nature. Key traits include:

  • Lying
  • Being unreliable
  • Having no shame or remorse for one’s poor behavior
  • Lack of personal insight
  • No goals for the future
  • Bad judgment that leads to poor behavior
  • Not able to show love
  • False threats of suicide
  • Charming and intelligent
  • Manipulative

Four percent of the population are sociopaths, but the majority of them don't cause harm. Men are diagnosed as being sociopathic more than women.

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Do You Know a Sociopath?

Do You Know a Sociopath?

According to the American Psychiatric Association, there are approximately 8 million American sociopaths. Chances are that you’ve had an encounter with a sociopath and most likely it wasn’t a pleasant experience due to their antisocial characteristics. Perhaps you argued a lot due to their volatile behavior; they lied you felt betrayed and had a feeling of a lack of connection to the sociopath. The hurtful acts of a sociopath happen regularly, and you may have voiced your concern to no avail as they couldn't care less.

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How to Deal With a Sociopath

How to Deal With a Sociopath

The first step in dealing with a sociopath is to recognize them for what they are. You will notice that their behavior isn’t normal or acceptable; you mustn’t let them get to you and once you catch on you will be better equipped not to fall prey to their schemes. Staying safe while handling a sociopath is important. Don’t let this manipulator get the best of you because you aren’t dealing with someone who cares about your well being. Break off the relationship realizing you don’t owe them an explanation as to why you don’t want to communicate with them anymore.

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Protecting Yourself From a Sociopath

Protecting Yourself From a Sociopath

Once you have an encounter with a sociopath, you may wonder what is wrong with this person. Trust your instinct that something is awry. They are good at making your life miserable and can cause you a tremendous amount of pain. There are measures you can take to make yourself feel safe from the sociopath in your life. Move on with your life and take care of yourself while realizing this relationship is detrimental to your health and peace of mind.

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What Makes a Sociopath?

Fear/anxiety/regret/uncertainty in a young man

Researchers have discovered that both genetics and the environment cause sociopathy. There are noticeable differences in the brain between a sociopath and a non-sociopath. The brains of sociopaths mature at a slower rate. A brain injury can also cause sociopathic behavior. Early childhood trauma, poverty, and abuse are contributing factors in the raising of a sociopath. That is not to say that everyone who experiences these obstacles turns out to be a sociopath, but they are common factors that sociopaths share.  

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Who Is a Sociopath?

Black and white picture of a detective smoking his pipe

Sociopaths are people who can be highly successful in society or be unable to adapt with the social mores of their culture. They come from all socioeconomic classes, so you cannot tell just by looking at someone whether they are sociopathic or not. Sociopathic behavior may be exaggerated in the movies, such as the character Alex DeLarge in A Clockwork Orange; not all sociopaths will use violence to get what they want.

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Treatment for Sociopaths

 Treatment for Sociopaths

There isn’t a medication or alternative treatment that will cure sociopathy. Psychotherapy is a medical option that will retrain the sociopath how to behave in a socially acceptable manner without hurting others. Sociopaths don’t understand that they have a problem so many sociopaths don’t get treatment.

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Are Sociopaths Capable of Feeling Love?

Are Sociopaths Capable of Feeling Love?

Sociopaths exhibit an avoidant attachment style when they are involved in any kind of relationship. While sociopaths do marry and have romantic relationships, they are prone to choosing a partner who shares their view that people are valuable for only what they can use them for. If you have fallen in love with a sociopath be prepared for having a difficult time relating and forming a deep connection with your partner.

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How to Recover From a Relationship With a Sociopath

 Relationship With a Sociopath

Once you recognize that you have been in a relationship with a sociopath you can begin to move on while realizing that the sociopath’s hurtful behavior wasn’t your fault. Accept your emotions during the aftermath as there is no right or wrong way to feel. Talking to a counselor may help you to sort out your thoughts and attitudes that impact you as a result of your relationship with a sociopath.

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