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How to Spot a Sociopath

Two Parts:Reading the SignsGetting Away

A sociopath can be defined as a person who has Antisocial Personality Disorder. This disorder is characterized by a disregard for the feelings of others, a lack of remorse or shame, manipulative behavior, unchecked egocentricity, and the ability to lie in order to achieve one's goals. Sociopaths can be dangerous at worst or simply very difficult to deal with, and it's important to know if you've found yourself with a sociopath, whether it's someone you're dating or an impossible coworker. If you want to know how to spot a sociopath, then you have to pay careful attention to what the person says or does. See Step 1 to get started.

Part 1
Reading the Signs

  1. Image titled Spot a Sociopath Step 1
    Look for a lack of shame. Most sociopaths can commit vile actions and not feel the least bit of remorse. Such actions may include physical abuse or public humiliation of others. If the person is a true sociopath, then he or she will feel no remorse about hurting others, lying, manipulating people, or just generally acting in an unacceptable way.
    • When a sociopath does something wrong, he or she is likely to accept none of the blame and to blame others instead.
    • Sociopaths are willing to hurt whomever whenever if it means that they will achieve their goals. This is why many sociopaths are highly successful people.
    • Sociopaths may be cruel to animals and will show absolutely no remorse for that, either.
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    See if the person is constantly lying. Sociopaths are perfectly comfortable going through their lives telling a series of lies. In fact, true sociopaths are uncomfortable when they are telling the truth. If they are finally caught in a lie, then they will continue to lie and backpedal to cover up the lies. If they are really on the verge of being caught in a major, major lie, though, they may then wildly confess everything in order to maintain your loyalty.
    • Sociopaths love to lie about their pasts, too. Look for inconsistencies in their stories.
    • Some sociopaths will go to great lengths to make you believe their lies. For example, a sociopath may pretend to leave "to go to work" every single day even if that person is unemployed.
    • Many sociopaths are delusional to the point where they believe that their lies are the truth. For example, Charles Manson once said, "I've never killed anyone! I don't need to kill anyone!" (He said this in reference to the fact that his followers killed someone and not he himself.)[1]
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    See if they are able to stay eerily calm in spite of circumstances. A sociopath can experience a highly emotional event without displaying the least bit of emotion, at least on the surface (silent scorn). They often respond to "good news" with cold blank stares. Sociopaths don't register events the same way as non-sociopaths and may barely react in dangerous or scary situations.
    • If you find yourself flustered or panicked and the person you're with looks barely perturbed, then he or she may not register an event as seriously as you do. There are two different kinds of people who do this, one is valiant brave men and woman, who enter into the intensity of the moment to overcome it. The other kind is of dissociation, where it isn't able to touch them in a sort of way. This is a sign of dissociation and is true among members who are not in touch with their own empathy, or have no empathy. This includes sociopaths, who lack empathy.
    • Check to see if the person has ever seemed anxious or nervous, especially in situations that should naturally cause this behavior. Though some people are more even-keeled than others, most people demonstrate some form of anxiety eventually.
    • Studies show that sociopaths do not demonstrate anxiety when shown disturbing images or when they're given small electrical shocks, while non-sociopaths do register anxiety and fear in these situations.[2]
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    See if they are extremely charming -- at first. Sociopaths are great at charming people, because they know how to get what they want. Charming people know how to make people feel special, to ask people the right questions about themselves, and to generally be perceived as fun, likable, and interesting. Truly charming people possess the ability to charm almost anyone, from little kids to old ladies. If the person is incredibly charming at first glance, while his or her later behavior scares or confuses you, then you may have a sociopath on your hands.
    • You can think of sociopaths as con artists who always have a secret agenda. They need to know how to charm people in order to get what they want. To advance their goals, they first have to blend in with the crowd, which means they need to know how to smile, greet people, and make people feel comfortable.
    • Although many sociopaths can be extremely charming, they harbor strong antisocial inclinations. They have a hard time staying in connection for long periods of time. They make frequent and long trips to the bathroom. They can be extremely charming, and then cold and distant. They are also not quite genuine in the interactions either. When people are very polar in their behavior, ranging from antisocial to extremely charming, it's a marker of disintegration in their psyche - and it's a red flag. It can also be an attempt to elicit rejection and wounding, to then control the others with. It is always accompanied with a lack of compassion or basic consideration of another's life. If it doesn't feel genuine from within them, it could very well be a person with sociopathic tendencies.
    • Many sociopaths are so charming that they have a twisted glow about them and even oftentimes radiate sexuality.
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    See if the person is exceptionally intelligent. Some of the famous sociopaths possess a strong mental acumen and can perform well in academics/skill without cracking a book. If they apply themselves they obtain perfect grades. However, sociopaths use their intelligence in order to manipulate and hurt people, instead of to help them. Their extreme intelligence is part of what makes them so dangerous, because they will often be several steps ahead of people who are on to them and are able to cover their tracks.
    • Many of the most notorious serial killers had very high IQ's; this is part of the reason that they were able to evade the police for so long.
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    See if the person is manipulative. Sociopaths understand human weakness and exploit it maximally. Once determined, they can manipulate individuals to do just about anything. Sociopaths prey on weak people and often stay away from equally strong people; they look for people who are sad, insecure, or looking for a meaning in life because they know that these people are soft targets. In other words, a person with unmet needs, is a person that can be more easily manipulated through those unmet needs. Check to see if the person is great at getting other people to do what he or she wants.
    • True sociopaths will slowly gain dominance and control over a person without the person realizing it. They like to be in control of every situation and are uncomfortable being around other strong people. They are always worried about being exposed. When strong people are around, they are afraid to get caught. They will keep distance, and from a distance, make small contact with the 'strong' person, to see if they are noticed. However, Sociopaths like to prey on the strongest people they can deceive, remain unseen, or exposed from. Once they feel exposed, they will play their trump cards, or get out... always on an excuse that doesn't make sense. Much of their dominance they gain through psychological warfare, creating dependency of the other person upon themselves. Like a venom, their game plan is to weaken people over time. They figure If they can remain unseen, they can stay out of harms way.
    • See if the person is completely comfortable deceiving people and blatantly telling lies to get what he or she wants. In the same way they have little to no empathy, they have low or deficient integrity.
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    Look for signs of instigating violent behavior. As children some sociopaths torture defenseless animals such as frogs, kittens, or puppies, or even defenseless people. (This behavior can surface in adulthood, but then damage is delivered via mental and emotional abuse.) This violence is always instigating, and not defensive violence. They will create dramas out of thin air, or twist what others say. If they are challenged or confronted about it, they will point the finger the other way, counting on the empathic person's empathy and consideration of people to protect them, as long as they can remain undetected. Their attempt to point the finger the other way, is both a smokescreen to being detected, and an attempt to confuse the situation.
    • If you have the sense that, while the person is outwardly calm, he or she can snap and get violent at any moment, then he or she may be demonstrating sociopathic behavior.
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    See if the person has a huge ego. Sociopaths often have delusions of grandeur and think they are the greatest people in the world. They will be completely unresponsive to criticism and have an extremely inflated sense of self. They will also have a huge sense of entitlement, thinking that they deserve for others to create amazing things for them, with out consideration for their wellbeing. They don't care about others, just wish to use them.[3]
    • They may also have a completely unrealistic view of their own abilities; for example, they may think that they are extremely talented at singing or dancing, when in reality, they possess almost no skills in these fields. They either are delusional, which is often true, or/and they say such things to add to the facade or mask are wearing/creating in their agenda of deception.
    • The person may also think he or she is better than everyone around him or her, without evidence that he or she is superior.
    • The person may also be completely narcissistic. Thus, the person is far more interested in talking about him or herself than hearing what others have to say. Also, the person spends a great deal of time staring in the mirror rather than observing others in the world. The person, in general, doesn't want to hear what anyone else has to say.
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    See if the person cannot hold eye contact. Sociopaths are known to have a difficulty being with intense experience. The person cannot hold eye contact because he or she is completely uncomfortable gazing into others eyes, which brings up empathy, which they are afraid of. They may look away, and say something to take the interaction another way. However, if they feel like the person they are trying to make victim is weak enough, they may 'stare' with a strange energy, because they feel the other cannot 'see' them. At this time they will try to impose their will. Such behavior is always codependent, needing others to do things for them, or agree with them.
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    Read their face. Faces tell a lot about personality. Every feature in the face has some story to tell. If one is careful about face readings, then it's easy to distinguish between a normal person and sociopath. Eyes are a good way to know the mental state of a person.
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    See if the person has few real friends. Though not everyone gets lucky in the friends lottery, your guard should go up if the person has virtually no real friends. He or she may have lackeys, people who hang around him just to get bossed around, or people who hover around him to try to mooch off of him, but try to see if the person has any meaningful connections with people. If the person has almost no friends, then there's a high chance that there's something wrong with him or her, unless he's very shy or has another compelling reason to lack friends.[4]
    • This goes for family members, too. If the person isn't in touch with any family members and never talks about them, there may be a problem, too. Of course, that person may have other reasons for not talking to these people, such as having a difficult childhood.
    • Look for a lack of connection to the past. If the person has virtually no friends from high school, college, or any past part of his or her life, then he or she may be a sociopath as well. Once exposed, or they find a more ideal target or victim, they move on. Their wish is to wreak havoc on peoples lives.
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    See if the person likes to isolate you. Sociopaths like to meet people and to move fast and come in close. This is so you don't have a chance to pull back or change your mind. You may find that, after just a few weeks, the sociopath is acting very intensely around you, if you're romantically involved. He or she may even make you feel like you're soul mates because he or she is so good at reading people that he or she can say exactly what you want to hear. The Sociopath likely has determined you have an unmet need or dream to be in a close relationship, and they consider it a good opportunity to wear a mask that fits that need or dream. Ultimately, the sociopath will want to have you all to him or herself instead of "sharing" you with the world.[5]
    • If you're dating, the sociopath will quickly try to get you to stop hanging out with your friends, because he or she will feel threatened by them. He or she will make excuses for not hanging out with your friends, saying things like, "They don't really get you like I do" or "They never gave me a chance," or, "They are just turning you against me because they don't like me". They play the victim to the extreme, and try to elicit empathic protection from their target. Trying to make you feel like you are the only one who can save him or her, and that you should spend all of your time with him or her, and listen only to him or her.
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    See if the person is immature. Sociopaths do not learn from their mistakes and repeat the same ones again and again. Therefore, they do not grow or develop as much as other people do. Look for immature behavior that may be hidden underneath the person's veneer of charisma and charm. Here is some behavior to look for:
    • Extreme selfishness. The person may want everything for him or herself at any cost. With this comes an unwillingness to share.
    • A huge ego. The person may be so obsessed with him or herself that he or she doesn't care for others at all.
    • Neediness. The person may want you to be there for him or her whenever you are wanted.
    • Unready for responsibilities. The person may not be prepared or able to deal with or be given any form of meaningful responsibility. They will either pass any work off onto others and take credit whilst excusing failure, or will avoid responsibility entirely.

Part 2
Getting Away

  1. 1
    Don't give them anything they want from you. When dealing with sociopaths be as boring as possible to not feed the sociopath's need for excitement. Sociopaths are easily bored. This includes not giving them emotional entertainment. Remain calm when talking to them. Don't get excited or argue with them. Also pretend that you have nothing that the sociopath may want. Pretend that you lost your money, had your things already stolen, etc. Whatever it is that you provide for them, find an excuse - in a non-emotional, non-confrontational way - to not be able to provide it anymore.
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    Stay away if you can. Once you've confirmed that the person is a full-blown sociopath, then it's best to avoid that person as much as you can. If that person is a co-worker or in your friend group, then you may not be able to completely avoid him or her, but try to steer clear as much as humanly possible. Remember that a sociopath may be able to detect that you're trying to distance yourself and may want to reel you in even more as a result; stay strong and be determined to spend as little time with this person as possible.
    • This doesn't mean you should be openly mean or hostile; this can actually put you in a dangerous situation.
    • Don't tell the person, "I know you're a sociopath." This can enrage the person or make him or her even more determined to win you over. You don't want the person to know that you're onto him or her; just stay as removed as possible without being rude.
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    Be immune to the sociopath's charms. The sociopath may want to charm you and to win you over with gifts, compliments, or stories meant to cast him or her in a favorable light. But remember that once you've determined that this person is a full-on sociopath, there's no turning back. No amount of charming behavior or lies can win you back over to the dark side. Don't let the person flatter you into giving him or her a second chance.
    • Don't give in. The sociopath may even trick you into feeling sorry for him or her, talking about how alone he or she feels, or how important you are to him or her. But if this person is really as lying and manipulative as you determined him or her to be, then there's no way you can have true sympathy for him or her, beyond being sorry that this person is suffering from a mental disorder.
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    If you're dating the person, then get out as quickly as possible. If you happen to be dating the person who is a sociopath, then you have to get out as quickly and safely as you can. The longer you wait, the worse things will be, and the more likely you'll be to get sucked in to that person's line of thinking. If you need to end the relationship, then you have to tell the person as soon and as quickly as you can; there's no need to say you want to end the relationship because you think the person is sociopathic.
    • Remember that there's a difference between a person being really careless and being a sociopath. You may call someone a sociopath just because he's treated you poorly or acts really selfish, but this may just be a sign of poor character. A full-on sociopath really does not care about what anyone thinks or feels -- whatsoever.
    • If you're in a truly controlling or manipulative relationship, then you may not want to end it by yourself. You may need to do it over the phone or have a friend there to help you if you need to pick up your belongings. A sociopath may not take no for an answer. If you try to end the relationship, the sociopath may go to desperate and even violent measures to get you to stay.
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    Warn others. Though you don't need to go around broadcasting the fact that the person is sociopath to all of the world (unless the person is really a danger to others), you should consider warning people in that person's circle. Definitely, warn others who are considering dating 'the person'. Don't anger 'the person' by telling everyone he or she is a sociopath. However, if a situation presents itself where a potential victim really needs to be warned, don't be afraid to say what you think.
    • Take this on a case-by-case basis. If the person is a higher up at your company, then yeah, you probably shouldn't go around warning people. But you should stay away as much as you can.
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    Think for yourself. Sociopaths prey on people who have trouble thinking for themselves or who are looking for too much guidance. The best way you can make yourself immune to the sociopath's charms or to not be susceptible to meeting future sociopaths is to make sure that you know who you are and are able to develop your own ideas and to see the world through your own eyes. Sociopaths stay away from strong-minded people and original thinkers because they know they'll have a hard time controlling them.[6]
    • Though it can take a lifetime to truly think for yourself, making an effort to be informed about current events, to understand multiple perspectives of any situation, and to spend time with people whose beliefs are different from yours can go a long way in helping you become a truly original thinker.
    • Part of it has to do with confidence. If you're confident in yourself, you'll have more confidence in your ideas. And you'll be much more likely to scare away any sociopaths who come your way!
  7. 7
    Give up fear of the sociopath. Instead, use your own thinking skills (as previously noted) and use reason and calmness to respond. For starters, a sociopath can fake everything, including all the listed items above, so if this person is pretending, there is little point playing up to a hollow cut-out. Second, sociopaths are intelligent and this may well be a source of your own distress, trying to keep up or make a pretense at being as clever or as knowing, or more likely, dodging their overwhelming need to make their own intelligence or cleverness the center of everything. If you give up fearing the sociopath, and stop trying to be better than or at the same level as the sociopath, but rather, become far more accepting of your own self and appreciate what makes you worthy and valuable, a sociopath will have a hard time manipulating you. The majority of sociopaths are not killers, sadists or monsters; they're human beings who need to be handled with care. They do not choose to be a sociopath just as you don't choose to be a victim of their wiles. However, you can make it harder or easier for a sociopath to manipulate your weaker self, so the choice lies with you. Educate yourself about the means through which human beings manipulate and mistreat one another and arm yourself with the methods by which you undermine such treatment and get on with your own life.
    • This is not to say the sociopath will appreciate you showing your strong self and refusing to be taken in. However, the sociopath will stop expending energy on you and making further attempts to manipulate you because he or she will know you will call them out on it, every single time. That gets to be boring, and no sociopath likes boredom.


  • If a person is "too good to be true", they probably are. This is the case for any DSM diagnosis, including sociopathy, borderline, and narcissism.
  • Sociopaths often know how to make others believe they are the victim while actually being the aggressor.
  • This type of person will tell you things to get you to forgive them and then say they never told you. This is a tactic to play mind games.
  • Some scientists believe that sociopaths suffer from damage to the prefrontal cortex which regulates emotions and morality, etc.
  • Sociopaths tend to blame the victim for their shortcomings. They can never admit to fault and instead attack the victim. Key factor in any DSM diagnosis.
  • Most are aware of their need to hide cold traits, and are good actors (have adapted to being different) so most of this based on overt behavior is only true for unintelligent, young, or low functioning sociopaths (who do not conceal cruel traits/grossly anti-social behavior).
  • Some experts say that a great number of sociopaths were also child abuse sufferers.
  • Sociopathic behavior is strongly inherited, so look at problems in the family as a clue to a person's real personality.
  • You know that sociopaths are going to lie about their past, so take most of what they say with a grain of salt. Instead, look for any consistencies in any of their stories. Generally, there will be one or two details among all their fabrications that generally remain the same. This could either be the truth, or something they've said so often they think it's the truth.
  • Realize that they may try to manipulate you, and learn to spot when they're trying. Otherwise, they could make you do stuff you don't want to.
  • Attempt to manipulate them. While this is very difficult, it can be rewarding if you are able to. To do so, you have to make them think it was their idea. Make them believe they want to do what you want them to. If they think that you had nothing to do with the idea, then they are more likely to do it.
  • They often overreact emotionally in youth. They will watch other's reactions to circumstances and will mimic their response. Pay close attention and you'll see that their reactions are a bit delayed after observing. They may seem like a very sensitive child due to mimicking emotions they see but over doing it.
  • Keep notes on your interactions - date, time, and description. These notes can be invaluable in tracking what was said, what happened, et al - and may be vital if you end up needing to petition the court for a restraining order.


  • Sociopaths are great liars because they have no conscience. So they will use all excuses for their actions in order to avoid being discovered for who they really are.
  • Don't let them know that you're on to them. While this could go different ways depending on the sociopath, it's still best that they don't know that you know.
  • Sociopaths are less prone to emotion and so can use your emotion against you. It is most effective to deal with people in terms they understand; so, if you must deal with a sociopath, leave your emotions/feelings at the door or they will control you.
  • Be immune to their charm. This just goes without saying.
  • Although not all sociopaths are violent, it is best to distance yourself from these people on any emotional, friendship level.
  • Sociopathic tendencies can often be confused with that of conditions such as autism or vice versa. The key difference is that sociopaths lack conscience, whereas autistic people do care, but may be clueless how to respond, and guess wrong.

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Categories: Social Interactions | Mental Disorders