How to determine if someone is a sociopath

People often confuse the terms sociopath and psychopath and use them interchangeably. They aren’t different in the clinical sense. Both terms refer to people who have antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). Those with ASPD have no regard for others’ rights or feelings, lack empathy and remorse for wrongdoings, and have the need to exploit and manipulate others for personal gain.

Nature and nurture play a role in ASPD. The reasons behind the disorder are not fully understood. The current belief is that psychopathy generally comes from genetic factors, such as parts of the brain not developing fully, while sociopathy results from an interruption in personality development by abuse or trauma in childhood. People often think that those with antisocial personality disorders are always criminals and are easy to spot, but many are unaware of the disorder and may never be diagnosed.

Sociopaths have less consistent behavior than psychopaths. Psychopaths are more controlled and charming. Their manipulation is more detached, and they plan ahead. Sociopaths experience anxiety and find rage far harder to control. They may act without thought and, as a result, they may have a harder time blending in. Inconsistencies between their words and their lives may be easier to see.

Signs of a Sociopath

It is important to realize that people have many personality traits. Someone may exhibit selfishness or act aggressively, but that doesn’t mean they are a sociopath. Since many people who have ASPD don’t recognize these traits as a problem, watching for consistent behavior patterns might be necessary.

Consistent behavior patterns in sociopaths include:

  • Lack of empathy for others
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Attempting to control others with threats or aggression
  • Using intelligence, charm, or charisma to manipulate others
  • Not learning from mistakes or punishment
  • Lying for personal gain
  • Showing a tendency to physical violence and fights
  • Generally superficial relationships
  • Sometimes, stealing or committing other crimes
  • Threatening suicide to manipulate without intention to act
  • Sometimes, abusing drugs or alcohol
  • Trouble with responsibilities such as a job, paying bills, etc.

Dealing With a Sociopath

Someone with sociopathy is unlikely to seek professional help or even realize they have ASPD. As a result, an important part of dealing and living with someone with ASPD is to know the process of getting them a diagnosis.

Who Needs a Diagnosis?

Children are usually not diagnosed with antisocial personality disorders because childhood development stages mimic some of these behaviors, and their personalities are continuously changing. If early warning signs are noticed in childhood, a conduct disorder may be diagnosed, and intervention may help.

If a teenager exhibits uncontrolled symptoms, such as stealing, harming animals, constantly lying, destroying property for no reason, and breaking rules without thinking of consequences, they may be diagnosable.

People who have a family history of personality disorders or those who have experienced abuse or neglect as children are more likely to develop sociopathy. Men are more likely than women to have sociopathy.

Sociopaths are more likely to abuse their partners, spouses, and children. Since they may engage in criminal behavior, they are also more likely to spend time in prison, and their aggressive behavior can put them at risk of harm. They may have other mental health disorders, like depression and anxiety.

Steps to a Diagnosis

If there is a behavior pattern to suggest sociopathy, a doctor would begin with an assessment of behaviors and a complete physical exam, including blood tests, to rule out any physical illness. If there are no health concerns, the next step would be a referral to a psychiatrist or psychologist, who can diagnose antisocial personality disorders with assessment tools and an interview.

Treatment for a Sociopath

It is hard to treat those with ASPD, including sociopaths. Long-term therapy is needed, which can be especially hard as the sociopath may not recognize the problem. If a sociopath is willing to enter therapy, family involvement may help.

Sometimes, a psychiatrist will prescribe medicine, such as antipsychotic drugs or mood stabilizers, which may prevent impulsive or aggressive behavior. But medication is not considered a cure for antisocial personality disorders.

Therapy sessions to learn about harmful behaviors and their impact on the sociopath and those around them can be useful. Therapy can teach ways to cope and manage behavior to improve relationships and behavior patterns. This can help improve social skills and coping mechanisms, making the person with ASPD happier and productive. Seeking help is the most important step.

Living With a Sociopath

If someone you love has ASPD, it can be very isolating. You can get help from a therapist or find a support group. You won’t be able to change your loved one’s behavior, but you can learn ways to understand and cope, or ways to set boundaries and protect yourself.

If you have experienced anxiety and depression as a result, support groups or therapy can help you. Having someone to talk to can make things easier.

Lovefraud recently received the following letter from a reader:

“I am trying to understand what the sociopath is feeling. Do they feel love? Do they love? What hurts a sociopath? How can you communicate with a sociopath?”

The problem in dealing with a sociopath, or psychopath, is that they are fundamentally different from the rest of us. The extent of their difference is truly difficult to comprehend—until you’ve had a close encounter with one of them.

Let’s look at these questions individually.

Do they feel love?

The short answer is no. In order to feel love, a person must be able to feel empathy. Sociopaths do not feel empathy for other people.

Those of us who are capable of empathy may feel joy when a friend or relative has a baby, or want to help disaster victims by sending a donation, or cry at a poignant TV commercial. A sociopath does not have an emotional reaction to any of these scenarios. Whether due to genetic make-up, or a traumatic upbringing, or both, when it comes to feeling emotional connections to other people, sociopaths simply don’t get it.

Here are some tips for communicating with a sociopath:

    1. Provide as little information as possible.
    2. Document everything. Get communications in writing. If you are communicating verbally, have a witness.
    3. Do not trust. Verify.
    4. Be explicit and lay down the law. If the sociopath violates any terms, there must be consequences.

Implications of no empathy and no fear

Sociopaths do not feel empathy. As Dr. Liane Leedom and other experts have written, they also do not feel fear. Empathy and fear are the basic components of remorse and guilt—so sociopaths don’t feel those emotions, either.

What does all this mean? Sociopaths do not really care about people. They do not feel obliged to comply with society’s rules. They cannot be trusted to “do the right thing.” They have no morals.

That—in all its emptiness—is the true nature of a sociopath.

Hi sky – nah, let’s keep talking about it. 🙂

i know YOU know how difficult it can be to present a different point of view, to go into something that you yourself don’t fully understand (maybe all you have is a kernal) and ask others to come a long.

My idea about ‘acceptance’ may not be mechanism that helps me move forward, but i want to look, explore it. I want to know if acceptance can free me. if acceptance can be defined in a radical enough way to do that.

all for now – must work! i lost a lot of work hours yesterday. i was triggered by my mom and being with my ‘friend’ who i recognize, is afraid of emotions, and then by this stuff and worry for EB.

Hi everyone. This is a little story about how difficult it is to not let the spath back into our lives time after time. However, there comes a time when we finally say to ourselves ’Enough is enough is enough and I will take no more’—”.
Once upon a time there was a little pig (Miss Piggy) and a big bad wolf (spath).
Miss Piggy had had enough of the bad treatment from Mr Wolf so she moved out and built herself a house of straw (her defences were not too strong at this point) and sure enough Mr Wolf came along, saw her vulnerability and huffed and puffed and blew down her weak barriers.

Some time passed and Mr Wolf was up to his old tricks so Miss Piggy moved out and this time she was feeling a bit stronger so she built her defences of wood. Sure enough along comes Mr Wolf, he saw her defences were weak so he huffed and he puffed and sure enough Miss Piggy conceded yet again.
Some time passes and Mr Wolf is telling lies, looking at porn, chatting to other women on msn and treating Miss Piggy badly, so she moves out. She builds solid defences (because she’s learned a lot from her friends at LoveFraud) Sure enough along comes Mr Wolf. ’Urrrrrm’ ”“ (he thinks) she’s making this tough with these solid defences. ’Miss Piggy I just want to talk to you’, he whines. By now Miss Piggy has deleted him from Facebook , blocked his emails and gone no contact, so he’s getting desperate. ’If you don’t talk to me I will huff and puff and blow down your defences says the wolf’.
Mr Wolf huffs and puffs, huffs and puffs but there is no way that he’s going to batter down her defences this time. So, purple in the face from all the huffing and puffing, he struts off in the woods.
As he comes to a clearing he comes across Little Red Riding Hood. ’Hello’ he says ’I have a Porsche on the far side of the wood, I’m about to inherit pots of money and I’ve just been very badly abused by my last girlfriend’. Miss Red Riding Hood feels very sorry for the wolf, he seems such a genuine guy, maybe she can help him (she thinks) and they both skip off through the trees.
And before you can say Grandma’s House Mr Wolf has forgotten all about poor little Miss Piggy and the grief and torment he’s put her through over the years.

On the way Miss Red Riding Hood says ’I need to stop of at Grandma’s House, she’s very ill’.
’Urrrrm’ thinks the wolf ’I feel I’m onto a winner here!!’

How to determine if someone is a sociopath

Chances are that, at some point in your life, you’ve encountered someone who doesn’t seem to take any consideration for your feelings or understanding social norms. They lack an understanding of right and wrong no matter who gets hurt.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

The term “sociopathy” can often be used and, sometimes, you might even find yourself in a moment of self-reflection asking, “Do I have sociopathy?”

It’s not quite that simple, though, so we talked to psychiatrist Andrew Coulter, MD, about what having sociopathy really means, how to deal with it and what to do if you think you have it.

What is sociopathy?

Sociopathy is another term for antisocial personality disorder. “It’s a mental health condition where somebody persistently has difficulty engaging appropriately with social norms,” says Dr. Coulter.

The chronic nature of sociopathy, he adds, is what differentiates this condition from other, episodic mental health conditions like depression, panic attacks or bipolar disorder.

What are the traits of sociopathy?

The list of common traits you might see in a sociopath, says Dr. Coulter, include:

  • Not understanding the difference between right and wrong.
  • Not respecting the feelings and emotions of others.
  • Constant lying or deception.
  • Being callous.
  • Difficulty recognizing emotion.
  • Manipulation.
  • Arrogance.
  • Violating the rights of others through dishonest actions.
  • Impulsiveness.
  • Risk-taking.
  • Difficulty appreciating the negative aspects of their behavior.

Some with sociopathy may not realize that what they’re doing is wrong while others may simply not care. And sometimes, Dr. Coulter says, it can be both.

“There’s just a total lack of empathy or recognizing that what they’ve done has hurt someone or it’s only benefited themselves,” he says. “And sometimes they might recognize what they’re doing is wrong, they just don’t care or they justify it to themselves.”

What causes sociopathy?

Sociopathy can be both a learned condition and one you’re born with, says Dr. Coulter.

“These behaviors aren’t episodic in nature. They’re a chronic condition, part of a chronic way in which a person interacts with the world,” he says. “In a lot of cases, it’s something you’re born with, this personality structure or way of engaging with those around you.”

But, he adds, there are cases in which sociopathy is seen as adaptive behavior. “Someone may have grown up in a difficult environment,” he notes, “or you may see some of these traits in someone who has a chemical dependency.”

In those situations, he says, psychiatrists have to be careful with their diagnosis. “We have to look at this person and determine if this is a long-term pattern of behavior or the manifestation of something else,” he says.

Can I tell if I have sociopathy?

It’s possible to hurt someone close to you without realizing it and once you understand it, it can be alarming. And, in some cases, you might begin to worry that you have sociopathy.

According to Dr. Coulter, the answer is probably no. “Most people with an antisocial personality disorder don’t really seek help or treatment or even recognize what they’re doing is problematic,” he points out.

“It really can be an egocentric illness because you do things without the regard for others and it benefits you this way,” he adds. “More often, people find out that they have this diagnosis when someone else tells them.”

If you do grow concerned about a long-standing pattern of behavior that’s problematic, though, Dr. Coulter advises seeking out a mental health professional for evaluation, especially if it’s causing problems in your personal life or at work.

What’s the difference between having psychopathy and sociopathy?

Both psychopathy and sociopathy fall under the diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder, Dr. Coulter notes. But, he adds, that doesn’t mean they’re the same: “Most people with psychopathy meet criteria for antisocial personality disorder but not all people with antisocial personality disorder have psychopathy.”

Those with sociopathy tend to be more erratic and impulsive whereas those with sociopathy are often able to maintain the appearance of stable, normal life. “We make a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder based heavily on behavior we can see,” he adds.

“With sociopathy, we’re often making the diagnosis based on what we or others see. With psychopathy, the diagnosis is based more on what that person is thinking and how they got to that point.”

What treatments are available for sociopathy?

There are no medications specifically for antisocial personality disorders, says Dr. Coulter. “When we use medication with these individuals, we’re treating aggression, hostility or a co-occurring condition like depression or alcohol use,” he says.

Psychotherapy is often recommended but that can be difficult. “For psychotherapy to be beneficial, the patient has to recognize the issue and want change,” he notes. “Unfortunately, with a condition like this, it doesn’t always pan out.”

There’s not a lot of motivation to work through a course of psychotherapy when so much of what has gotten a person with this condition to that point is a lack of self-awareness or a complete disregard for the consequences of their actions.

How can you deal with someone with sociopathy in your life?

It can be particularly tough, Dr. Coulter says, to deal with a friend or family member who has sociopathy because of that lack of self-awareness. “You can gently recommend a psychiatric or psychological evaluation if their behavior is causing problems, especially if they’re impairing themselves as well as impairing you,” he says.

Because those with sociopathy don’t often recognize what they’re doing is wrong, he says, it’s best to set firm boundaries. “Make sure there’s a limit on how much they can intrude on your rights or limits,” he says. “Have that appropriate distance you’re comfortable with to avoid getting hurt.”

How to determine if someone is a sociopath

There are certain significant predictors of violent behavior in people and being a sociopath is one of them.

More specifically, neurobiologists have identified several factors over the years that are highly correlated or associated with violent behavior in people.

First, the failure to develop adequate coping mechanisms in childhood has been associated with violent behavior later in life. Second, neglect and abuse by caregivers during childhood have been linked to an increased risk of adult violence.

Third, substance abuse (alcohol and drugs) is highly correlated with increased aggression and violence in adolescents and adults. Fourth, childhood brain trauma—due to severe head injury during childhood—has been linked by neurologists to violent behavior in adulthood.

Each one of these correlates of violence—that is, factors which are often found in combination with it—has been observed among violent criminals and murderers over the years.

Although these factors have been scientifically linked to violent behavior, none of them, either individually or collectively, should be considered sufficient or even necessary for an individual to become violent.

In order to understand violent behavior, it is necessary to know some fundamental principles about human personality first. The personalities of people represent who they are and how they behave. Personalities result from genetics and upbringing, and reflect how people view the world and believe the world views them.

Personalities dictate how people interact with others and how they cope with problems, both real and imagined. Human personalities develop and evolve until sometime around their late twenties. After that, human personalities are hardwired, static and cannot be altered.

Forensic psychologists have discovered that certain key traits of violent behavior are very consistent with an antisocial personality disorder known as sociopathy. This disorder is manifested in certain distinct and troublesome behavioral traits and characteristics.

Sociopathy is not classified as mental illnesses by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), released by the APA in 2013, lists sociopathy under the heading of Antisocial Personality Disorders (ASPD).

The APA estimates that there are approximately 8 million sociopaths in the U.S. Therefore, many of us know one, and may be related to one or intimately involved with one.

Sociopathy is characterized by the following personality and behavioral traits:

  • A disregard for laws and social mores
  • A disregard for the rights of others
  • A failure to feel remorse or guilt
  • A tendency to display violent behavior and emotional outbursts

Sociopaths tend to be volatile. That is, they tend to be nervous and easily agitated or angered. They are volatile and prone to emotional outbursts, including fits of rage. In addition, they may be uneducated and live on the fringes of traditional society, unable to hold down a steady job or stay in one place for very long. They are frequently transients and drifters.

It is difficult but not impossible for sociopaths to form attachments with others. They are capable of bonding emotionally and demonstrating empathy with certain people in certain situations but not others. Many sociopaths are able to form an attachment to a particular individual or group, although they have no regard for society in general or its rules.


  • What Is Sociopathy?
  • Find a therapist who understands personality disorders

In the eyes of others, sociopaths will typically appear to be very disturbed. Any crimes committed by a sociopath will tend to be haphazard or spontaneous. If they commit murder, for example, their decision to kill will typically be impulsive and triggered by a fit of rage. The killing itself will generally be committed in a blitz-like attack on the victim and the crime scene will be very messy and disorganized.

It is believed that sociopathy is the result of “nurture” (environment) rather than “nature” (genetics). According to the late Dr. David Lykken, a behavioral geneticist known for his studies involving twins, sociopathy is the product of childhood trauma and abuse. Because sociopathy appears to be learned rather than innate, sociopaths are capable of empathy or forming an emotional connection with others, but only to certain individuals such as a family member or a friend, and only in certain circumstances.

Sociopathy Essential Reads

3 Misinterpreted Signs of Sociopathy Development

How to Spot a Sociopath in 3 Steps

The good news about sociopaths is that due to their volatile personalities, you can typically see them coming. Forewarned is forearmed.

On a related subject, I examine the public’s intense fascination with notorious and deadly serial killers, including David Berkowitz (“Son of Sam”) and Dennis Rader (“Bind, Torture, Kill”) with whom I personally corresponded, in my book Why We Love Serial Killers: The Curious Appeal of the World’s Most Savage Murderers.

Ever suspected someone you know might be sociopathic? These are the characteristics to watch for.

When you think of a sociopath, you probably picture Christian Bale in American Psycho, or Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs. But like most mental health conditions, sociopathy—or antisocial personality disorder (ASP)—exists on a spectrum, and not all sociopath are serial killers. One study estimated that as many as 3.8% of Americans would meet the condition's diagnostic criteria. So odds are, you know someone who has ASP.

What is sociopathy, or ASP? “It’s a syndrome characterized by lifelong misbehavior,” says Donald W. Black, MD, professor of psychiatry at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine. “People with an antisocial personality disorder tend to be deceitful, impulsive. They ignore responsibilities and, in the worst cases, they have no conscience.”

The disorder can be relatively mild, he adds: "Maybe they lie, maybe they get into trouble with their spouses, and that’s about it." At the other end of the spectrum are thieves and murderers, says Dr. Black, who is the author of Bad Boys, Bad Men: Confronting Antisocial Personality Disorder (Sociopathy). “Most people are in the middle.”

One thing to note: While we tend to use the terms "sociopath" and "psychopath" interchangeably, they mean different things. When comparing sociopaths vs. psychopaths, Dr. Black says most sociopaths are prone to impulsive behavior and often seen as disturbed or unhinged, while a psychopath is cold and calculating, sometimes even charming. “I view [psychopathy] as the extreme end of the antisocial spectrum," he says, "because virtually all psychopaths are antisocial, but not all antisocials have psychopathy.”

To be diagnosed with ASP, a person must be at least 18 years old and have a history of aggression, rule-breaking, and deceit that dates back to their childhood. Here are some of the other red flags to watch out for, based on criteria listed in the DSM-V.

Symptom: Lack of empathy

Perhaps one of the most well-known signs of ASP is a lack of empathy, particularly an inability to feel remorse for one's actions. “Many people with ASP do seem to lack a conscience, but not all of them,” he explains. Psychopaths always have this symptom, however, which is what makes them especially dangerous. “When you don’t experience remorse, you’re kind of freed up to do anything—anything bad that comes to mind,” says Dr. Black.

Symptom: Difficult relationships

People with ASP find it hard to form emotional bonds, so their relationships are often unstable and chaotic, says Dr. Black. Rather than forge connections with the people in their lives, they might try to exploit them for their own benefit through deceit, coercion, and intimidation.

Symptom: Manipulativeness

Sociopaths tend to try to seduce and ingratiate themselves with the people around them for their own gain, or for entertainment. But this doesn’t mean they’re all exceptionally charismatic. “It may be true of some, and it is often said of the psychopath that they’re superficially charming,” says Dr. Black. “But I see plenty of antisocial men in my hospital and in our outpatient clinic and I would not use the term charming to describe them.”

Symptom: Deceitfulness

Sociopaths have a reputation for being dishonest and deceitful. They often feel comfortable lying to get their own way, or to get themselves out of trouble. They also have a tendency to embellish the truth when it suits them.

Symptom: Callousness

Some might be openly violent and aggressive. Others will cut you down verbally. Either way, people with ASP tend to show a cruel disregard for other people's feelings.

Symptom: Hostility

Sociopaths are not only hostile themselves, but they're more likely to interpret others' behavior as hostile, which drives them to seek revenge.

Symptom: Irresponsibility

Another sign that someone might have ASP is a disregard for financial and social obligations. Ignoring responsibilities is extremely common, says Dr. Black. Think, for example, not paying child support when it’s due, allowing bills to pile up, and regularly taking time off work.

Symptom: Impulsivity

We all have our impulsive moments: a last minute road trip, a drastic new hairstyle, or a new pair of shoes you just have to have. But for someone with ASP, making spur of the moment decisions with no thought for the consequences is part of everyday life, says Dr. Black. They find it extremely difficult to make a plan and stick to it.

Symptom: Risky behavior

Combine irresponsibility, impulsivity, and a need for instant gratification, and it’s not surprising that sociopaths get involved in risky behavior. They tend to have little concern for the safety of others orfor themselves. This means that excessive alcohol consumption, drug abuse, compulsive gambling, unsafe sex, and dangerous hobbies (including criminal activities) are common.

Can ASP be treated?

Therapy can help manage some of the symptoms and side effects, particularly in milder cases. But it's unusual for a sociopath to seek professional help. “One of the curious things about this disorder is a general lack of insight," explains Dr. Black. "They may recognize that they have problems. They notice that they get into trouble. They may know that their spouses are not happy with them. They know that they get into trouble on the job. But they tend to blame other people, other circumstances."

The good news is that symptoms of ASP seem to recede with age, says Dr. Black, especially among milder sociopaths and those that don't do drugs or drink to excess. But if you know someone with ASP, the best thing to do is steer clear, he warns: "Avoid them. Avoid them as best as you can because they are going to complicate your life."

To get our top stories delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Healthy Living newsletter 

One of the best books about sociopathy is “Confessions of a Sociopath; A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight,” written by pseudonymous author M.E. Thomas. She describes what it’s like to be a sociopath — someone who lacks the ability to feel or sympathize with others.

Sociopaths can be sexy and beguiling; they take risks the rest of us don’t and come across as bold and exciting. Socially, they are often leaders, the life-and-soul of the party.

The downside is that they regard others as objects to be used, don’t feel sympathy, empathy or guilt, and are one step away from becoming criminally vindictive types whose only motivation is to take advantage of weaker people.

Psychologists have changed the definition of sociopathy several times over the decades. It used to be called being a “psychopath.” Sociopath is the newer term. The first researcher to name the concept of psychopathy was Dr. Hervey Cleckley in 1941. Cleckley noted that psychopathy was difficult to diagnose precisely because it presents itself without the obvious symptoms of mental disorder. Psychopaths and sociopaths are often a bit too rational.

Here are Cleckley’s 16 characteristics. Ask yourself if they apply to you.

1. Are you superficially charming and intelligent?

(Answer: For sociopaths, the answer to this question is yes.)

2. Do you have delusions or other signs of irrational thinking?

(A: For sociopaths, the answer is no. They’re super-rational, coldly so.)

3. Are you overly nervous, or do you have other neuroses?​

(A: Sociopaths are rarely nervous or anxious. They aren’t scared of risk.)

4. Are you reliable?​

(A: Sociopaths are unreliable.)

5. Do you tell lies or say insincere things?

6. Do you feel remorse or shame?

(A: Sociopaths rarely feel guilt.)

7. Is your behavior anti-social for no good reason?

(A: Sociopaths may have “inadequately motivated antisocial behavior,” according to Cleckley.)

8. Do you have poor judgment, and fail to learn from experience?

(A: Sociopaths think they’re smarter than everyone else, but they take risks the rest of us would not and don’t learn from punishment.)

9. Are you pathologically egocentric, and incapable of love?​

(A: Sociopaths are.)

10. Do you generally lack the ability to react emotionally?

(A: Sociopaths don’t experience emotions the way the rest of us do.)

11. Do you lack insight?

(A: Sociopaths aren’t self-reflective or meditative.)

12. Are you responsive to others socially?

(A: Interestingly, sociopaths often have to fake their reactions and responses to the rest of us in order to get through their days without being “spotted.”)

13. Are you a crazy party fiend?

(A: Sociopaths engage in “fantastic and uninviting behavior with drink and sometimes without,” Cleckley says. Thomas adds that sociopaths often crave (meaningless) sex more than the rest of us, too.)

14. Do you make false suicide threats?

(A: Yep, sociopaths are drama queens.)

15. Is your sex life impersonal, trivial or poorly integrated?

(A: Sociopaths lack the ability to love.)

16. Have you failed to follow a life plan?

(A: Sociopaths have difficulty holding down jobs. It requires long-term obligations to others.)

There’s no surefire way of self-diagnosing yourself as a sociopath, as sociopaths also tend to lie in tests like these.

But if you recognised yourself or others in these questions, you might want to seek professional help.

Many sociopaths do not want to end up in prison, or as psychotic outcasts. They can use their skills to be successful in business, in ways that less single-minded people cannot.

This article was co-authored by Liana Georgoulis, PsyD. Dr. Liana Georgoulis is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist with over 10 years of experience, and is now the Clinical Director at Coast Psychological Services in Los Angeles, California. She received her Doctor of Psychology from Pepperdine University in 2009. Her practice provides cognitive behavioral therapy and other evidence-based therapies for adolescents, adults, and couples.

There are 13 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article received 46 testimonials and 85% of readers who voted found it helpful, earning it our reader-approved status.

This article has been viewed 2,561,455 times.

Psychopathy is a personality construct consisting of a cluster of characteristics used by mental health professionals to describe someone who is charming, manipulative, emotionally ruthless and potentially criminal. Based on how frequently the term is used in media, you’d think psychopaths are everywhere. In truth, it is estimated that they make up one percent of the population. [1] X Research source Psychopaths are gifted at hiding in plain sight, though. Many appear normal and inviting on the surface. By assessing some core personality patterns, watching the person’s emotional affect, and paying attention to their relationships, you can learn to spot the psychopath among you.

How to determine if someone is a sociopath

1. They Are Intense About Everything

I really do mean everything, their stories are grandiose fabrications, their lives are a huge production and they are the center of it all. Everything about them, their stories, their ego, are big and intense. They believe that their sense of self is entitled to this, and will not be convinced of anything else.

2. Their Promiscuity Will Freak You Out

This was something that I was not prepared for, the sheer number of people that could be taken ahold by someone like this. As far as I could tell, it was more about quantity than quality. Be prepared for sexual fantasies that might scar you upon hearing about them.

3. You Will Doubt Your Own Emotions Around Them

Their high IQ will use logic to counter anything you may say and they will not accept blame even for actions that they have obviously done. They have no concern for the impact that they have on others, so something that will make you upset will be ignored. This causes you to second-guess how you reacted because their logic is so perfect, you feel like they make more sense than basic human understanding.

4. Their Violence And Rage Will Surprise You

Getting angry every once and a while is totally normal, but for a sociopath their rage is at their very core, it is firmly established and undeniable. It’s talked about openly but the actual scope of what you know they would be capable of, without feeling remorse, is just not normal. Don’t be surprised if they admit that they mutilated animals when they were younger.

5. Their Charm Will Draw You In Instantly

One of the first things that drew you to this person was the fact that they were so charming. They smiled correctly, laughed at your jokes, engaged you and left you with a serious impression. As time wears on, you realize this serves as an ulterior motive, allowing them to get what they want without actually investing any real emotional energy.

6. You’ll Get Completely Caught Up In Them

They can alternate between rage and small expressions of approval, which proves to be a dangerous combination. This behavior has you thinking that you can win them over if you just try harder, which produces an addictive cycle of abuse if you’re not wary.

7. You’re One Of Their Only Friends

Whenever you talk about them to someone else, it’s rare that you find a mutual like for this person. Their friends are far and in between, mostly because they have a hard time keeping friends.

8. They Will Lie To You, A Lot

They will tell grand ridiculous stories that weave in and out of the truth, complicating their lie to make it sound so fictional, that it has to be true. Lying is in their second nature; they have the uncanny ability to easily lie about anything to you without thinking about it twice.

9. They Will Never Apologize To You

As far as they are concerned, they are never wrong, and because of that they will never apologize. Their belief that they are perfect and entitled to everything makes them invincible in their minds.

10. They Are Incapable Of Love

Sociopaths are incapable of love; they cannot feel it the way that you or I might experience love. This causes friendships to be very one sided, a sociopath does not see a friendship as a mutual experience but rather an instrument to be taken advantage of and used.