Sociopaths walk among us each and every day. They are family members, lovers and colleagues. These “cold ones” inhabit a different psychological world, where conscience, love, and remorse are non-existent. The people that they meet are targets who are utilized in order to access the best things in life.
If you read this list and suspect that someone in your life is a sociopath, do not assume that this person will change. This is a personality disorder without a cure. While it’s often difficult to do so, the best way to protect yourself from someone like this is to quietly walk away from them…and to stay away permanently.
Bear in mind that sociopaths don’t like it when people walk away from them. Brace yourself for some vindictiveness and always be vigilant. It’s fair to say that you’ll be smeared and shamed in some way if you defy a sociopath’s wishes by sealing yourself off from him or her.
However, when you do take yourself out of a sociopath’s orbit, you’ll have a much better chance of freeing yourself from the evil and chaos which have polluted your life. When you can’t escape due to circumstances, you’ll do well to stay on guard. A person without a conscience may be interesting. However, he or she is never, ever harmless.
10. Surface Charm and Glibness
Some people seem to have more charm than others. In certain cases, pronounced charm is a red flag which indicates sociopathy. Sociopaths do not feel the same love, empathy and remorse that “neurotypical” (non-sociopathic) people do. This isn’t pop psychology. MRIs show that sociopaths process life differently. These people are real and they simply don’t feel things deeply, or feel bad about any negative acts that they commit.
Since sociopaths grow up conscienceless (or lose their consciences due to childhood trauma or other factors), they realize fairly early on that they don’t react and feel as others do. They know that they are different. In order to cloak their strangeness and in order to get what they want from others, they learn how to act in order to “pass” in society.
As they mimic “neurotypical” people, they become adept at charming them. Their charm is centered on “mirroring” those that they meet. In other words, they gather facts about others and use these facts in order to appear to have the same interests and the same values.
If you meet someone who seems to have the same taste in music and film, the same goals in life and the same level of honesty and morality that you have, you may be very lucky. However, since one in twenty-five people are conscienceless sociopaths, you may be experiencing mirroring.
Being mirrored may be quite enchanting, at least at the outset. However, it’s just fakery. It’s not real. It’s a grand illusion.
The facial expressions of non-sociopaths may also be mimicked by sociopaths, in order to charm victims more effectively.
Any information that you put online which pertains to your life and interests may be investigated by the sociopath and then utilized in order to mirror you. It’s important to be aware that these people are very calculating and that they repeat the same mirroring behaviour with a host of different partners. As well, they have a strong tendency to maintain an array of romantic relationships at one time.
Charm is utilized in order to hide sociopathy and in order to access benefits from others, from money to attention to social status to sex to employment opportunities and beyond. Along with this charm, which may also relate to higher levels of the hormone, testosterone, there is a sense of sexual allure.
This sexual allure is slightly dangerous, yet somehow clean-cut. It’s probably unique to you in terms of how it makes you feel. Sex appeal is something that the sociopath values very highly and it certainly helps to fuel an already-mammoth ego!
Sociopaths are known to have higher levels of testosterone and an excess of this hormone tends to make them more sexually attractive to other people. The downside of this is that sociopaths are often hypersexual, which does not promote fidelity.
Naturally, sociopaths don’t feel guilty when they cheat.
Since they want sex more than others, and use their charisma in order to get it, they typically lack integrity in romantic relationships. In time, their surface charm wears thin, as partners begin to notice red flags which indicate lying and cheating.
The masks that they wear in order to get along in the world work best for superficial friendships (i.e. drinking buddies, co-workers, etc.). Those who are intimate with the sociopath will find that words and actions rarely agree.
This awareness creates cognitive dissonance, which is the feeling that the image presented by the sociopath doesn’t reflect his or her actual self. Cognitive dissonance is quite confusing and disturbing for the sociopath’s victim. It’s a signal of emotional abuse, although most victims push it away mentally.
While victims may push their doubts into the shadows, most people who are romantically involved with these types do notice red flags quite early on.
Glibness may also be a dead giveaway. If you know someone who uses jokes, puns and deflections in order to avoid serious discussions about real problems, beware. This is not unintentional and it’s a sign that the sociopath wants to move the conversation away from difficult issues which he or she prefers not to address.
In particular, if you find that a partner, colleague or friend avoids answering direct questions, or hesitates before answering any types of questions, and also retreats into glibness rather than addressing issues head-on, you should definitely be wary.
The best advice is to go with your gut. Your doubts are creeping in for a reason. You need to trust yourself.
Celebrity Example: Ted Bundy
Ted Bundy’s modus operandi was to win the sympathy of his intended victims by playing the victim himself. Sociopaths know that playing the victim is a very effective way to achieve their goals!
Known for his traditionally masculine features, Bundy was very well-spoken and was able to trick women by appearing to be injured. He wore a fake cast (which he crafted himself at home, from a stolen bag of Plaster of Paris), donned crutches and then posed as a victim, rather than a predator. He would approach women and ask them to help him move things (such as stacks of books) over to his VW Bug.
This infamous VW Bug was modified in order to assist him with rape and murder. He had removed the passenger seat with a mind to making it simpler to carry “cargo”. However, his victims usually didn’t see the missing passenger seat until it was too late.
With sociopaths, the evil often lurks just out of sight, so it’s important to consider the fact that anyone whom you may meet may be conscienceless.
Many a kind-hearted, innocent and empathetic young woman fell for the overpowering charm and glibness of this sadistic killer, who once remarked, during a jailhouse interview, “I’m the most cold-hearted son of a bitch you’ll ever meet.”
It’s safe to say that he had the power to detect sweetness and vulnerability and utilized it in order to select his victims. If you’re sweet and vulnerable, you are a target for sociopaths.
9. Egoism and Grandiosity
Sociopaths have swollen egos. Their lack of emotional depth and incapacity for love are characteristics which they often view as secret weapons in the private (and sometimes public) wars that they wage against those whom they want to manipulate and/or ruin.
This “edge” that they feel they have over non-sociopaths (neurotypicals) feeds their sense of superiority.
Therefore, the second primary indicator of sociopathy is egoism/grandiosity.
This sense of incredible confidence may seem very exciting at first glance. After all, society often rewards those who move through life in a state of obvious self-love. This may be perceived as an “alpha” characteristic.
While many sociopaths don’t end up with a lot in old age, as they burn so many people and also burn out their own bodies, they do tend to reap quite a few rewards (and open a lot of doors) when they are younger, due to the sheer impact of their epic and outsized self-confidence.
Signs of an ego which has narcissistic features (sociopaths are also narcissistic) include bragging about their looks, vanity, bragging about positive encounters with celebrities or other VIPs and bragging about sexual performance and/or exploits. While the braggart may appear to be a lovable clown, the truth is really a lot darker. This sense of potent egoism extends to grandiosity and it’s a signal that something is wrong with the person.
A sociopath’s sense of his or her own abilities, handsomeness or beauty is insanely elevated, which means that he or she will put others on lower rungs, metaphorically-speaking.
You will be below them and so will everyone else. You are there to be led by the puppet-master who has chosen you as a toy. Sociopaths definitely enjoy belittling others and this type of bullying is indicative of egoism.
In terms of spotting grandiosity, look for a sense of disdain for others! For example, the sociopath may make racist statements regularly. As well, he or she may relate to individuals or creatures which are notorious for doing significant damage to humanity or God, such as war criminals, gangsters or the Devil.
Many sociopaths may give you clues to who they really are, even if they frame it as a joke. For example, someone who calls him or herself, “evil” or “bad” is actually bragging about what’s inside. He or she wants this darkness recognized.
If you’re really trusted, to the extent which a sociopath can trust, (which isn’t much) the sociopath may admit to being a sociopath. After this admission, he or she may backtrack or try to turn the whole conversation into a joke. You’ll find that the issue of sociopathy comes up again and again. The sociopath likes talking about it.
Don’t assume that an evil person doesn’t know that he or she is sociopathic. If this person is a teenager or older, it’s safe to assume that the person knows that they have the disorder.
Celebrity Example: Hermann Goring
The late Nazi figurehead, Hermann Goring, is commonly perceived as a sociopath, for good reason. He had many features of this currently-incurable personality disorder, including high sensation seeking, egocentricity and disdain for others.
Like most sociopaths, he had nerves of steel (he was a WWI fighter pilot), an icy and spooky “predator stare”, as well as a penchant for compassion-free manipulation. His mother once stated that he would become “a great man or a great criminal.” It’s safe to say that his mother noticed the red flags that we all become aware of when dealing with the sociopathic.
Goring’s perception of occupying a higher tier is evident in the following quote. It demonstrates his sense of superiority and egoism. His sense of having the power to control the masses is grandiose. The people are his puppets:
“Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peace makers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”
8. High Sensation Seeker
If you want a little excitement, you’ll find it with a sociopath. What you won’t find is love, respect and reciprocity. Sociopaths live in a state of constant boredom, as their inner lives are practically non-existent. Most sociopaths seek out constant stimulation in order to make up for the emotions that they aren’t capable of feeling, as well as the dulled emotions that they do feel.
Since any emotions that they do experience, such as lust, anger, irritation, envy and fleeting happiness, are usually quite weak, they flicker into their consciousness and then dissipate as quickly as they come. Fleeting emotions come and go so rapidly and leave them empty! For this reason, they find that boredom is their biggest challenge in life.
Anger is usually the most powerful emotion that a sociopath feels. He or she may even like to be angry, as it’s better to feel something than to feel so little (as is typical). If someone in your life seems to create drama and chaos on purpose, at frequent intervals, he or she may be a sociopath who is trying to access sensation via arguments. Watch out for someone who seems to thrive on pushing your buttons and stirring up trouble.
Sensation-seeking may happen in an array of ways, from juggling multiple romantic relationships to reckless driving (speeding, drunk driving) to drug abuse and alcoholism. The truth is that many sociopaths abuse drugs and booze on a regular basis. They find it easier to access emotions when they are under the influence. Being drunk and/or high also kills boredom.
Sociopaths may also seek out deviant adventures in riskier locales, such as the Third World. Since they find any fear that they do experience to be pleasurable, they enjoy putting themselves at risk. The rush that they get helps them to feel something.
Otherwise, they experience a sense of emptiness which is depressing and unpleasant!
A lot of the bad behaviour of sociopaths, including law-breaking, cheating and mind games (or even worse!) are related to alleviating boredom and accessing higher sensations. Since they don’t have the raw materials to feel bad about what they do, they are able to push things to the edge.
They may put partners and friends at risk as they don’t have consciences which make them feel protective of others.
Celebrity Example: Charles Manson
Charles Manson turned to petty crimes for survival and in order to seek out the sensations that sociopaths crave. While in juvenile detention, he raped a boy. Later, he found satisfaction in using others as human “remote controls” for heinous and premeditated murders.
Like Bundy and Goring, Manson also had the intense stare that sociopaths utilize in order to gain power over others and he used his predatory stare and charisma in order to turn his cult of weak-minded followers into brainwashed groupies.
The excitement of manipulation is definitely the sociopath’s highest form of sensation. In fact, many derive intense physical pleasure (i.e. sensation) from duping and conning those around them. From his raw beginnings as a neglected and abused child, to his “career” of pimping and auto theft, to his control of a cult of unwashed hippies, the quest for higher sensation led Manson to the very apex of evil.
With sociopaths, things always escalate and this may be traced back to the desire for higher levels of sensation. Without consciences to keep them in check, they are truly capable of anything…
That being said, most sociopaths are content with minor law-breaking. They don’t want to end up in prison cells, so they stick to conning people that they know well, via half-truths, omissions, playing the victim, and pathological lying.
7. Frequent and Compulsive Lying
We all have to lie to some extent in order to function in society. However, most of us make a point of being honest, as it’s a better way to live. Our consciences prompt us to avoid lying when we can. Those who lie a lot, even when it’s not strictly necessary, are far more likely to be sociopaths.
In fact, most people who begin to suspect that people in their life are more evil than anticipated (i.e. sociopaths) do so because they’ve uncovered lies, whether they are large or small. Things stop adding up because words and actions don’t agree. Once you get to know them a bit better, sociopaths often seem shady and dishonorable.
Imagine your own capacity for wreaking havoc, were you able to lie to someone’s face without a single moral qualm. Since they are unencumbered by guilt, sociopaths lie constantly, to everyone in their lives.
Everyone gets a different version of the sociopath which is customised just for them. Everyone sees a different mask. One mask may be donned for a group, while another may be worn for a lover or ex-lover. It’s all about reputation management and manipulation.
Some lower-functioning sociopaths have great difficulty keeping their lies straight. When they are caught out, they’ll try to rewrite history or change the subject.
Lies are also defense mechanisms. They protect the sociopath from what he or she dreads above all else – exposure. The life of a sociopath may be likened to a video game. The people around the sociopath are not loved or respected. They may be liked, but they are simply characters and replaceable.
They’ll be used, whether they are appreciated as good company or secretly hated. All, including family and spouses, will be used in order to access things that the sociopath wants.
It freaks people out that sociopaths take equal advantage of everyone. There is truly no hierarchy! Therefore, a sociopath will be as likely to use (and lie to) their husband or wife as a friend, mother or stranger.
The sense of life being a game is something that every sociopath is aware of. The desire to win the game, in the form of rewards, drives the lies. When a lie is successfully accepted, the sociopath feels a surge of raw power. This power surge is addictive, as it may be defined as pure sensation and takes away the sense of a “black hole” inside of the sociopath. This black hole is the place where a loving heart and conscience should be found.
Celebrity Example: Charles Ponzi
It should be stated that most celebrity sociopaths haven’t been formally diagnosed. So, let’s call them “alleged sociopaths”. It’s safe to say that the murderers listed in other examples are sociopathic. However, other sociopaths don’t turn to violence in order to get their needs met.
One example is alleged sociopath, Charles Ponzi, whose life of lies was all about tricking rich people into investing in sham corporations. The “Ponzi Scheme” is a famous method of defrauding investors and it was named in “honor” of this white-collar criminal.
Ponzi faced the fate that sociopaths dread most, after death itself. He languished in a prison cell for fourteen years. However, it’s safe to say that he enjoyed the lying and trickery immensely before his misdeeds came to light.
6. No Guilt or Sense of Responsibility
Many people really struggle to wrap their heads around the fact that one in twenty-five people are sociopathic and do not feel guilt. Those with consciences find this difficult to comprehend. Likewise, the sociopath finds the inner emotional worlds of neurotypicals to be baffling.
The sociopath, unhampered by a guilty conscience, is able to move from bad act to bad act without tossing and turning at night! For example, serial killers are able to access sensations related to their crimes without feeling any sense of moral wrongness or personal responsibility. A sociopath cannot feel your pain unless he or she makes a conscience effort to do so, and this doesn’t happen too often.
This guiltlessness is accompanied by lack of shame and zero sense of responsibility and it’s one of the primary reasons why most sociopaths seem extremely immature. They seem frozen in adolescence and they lack the emotional tools to learn from experience.
They may claim to want to do better in the future and be very believable when they do so. However, they just can’t learn and their impulsiveness and desire to win at the game of life always leads them to repeat the same mistakes. A sociopath will follow the same patterns in a way that is truly perplexing. Anyone else would learn from experience.
So, guilt doesn’t touch them and mature them. They are wild creatures who focus on satisfying base appetites and urges. In terms of an inner life, they are devoid of shame, guilt and remorse. This makes them dangerous individuals, whether they are violent or non-violent.
In fact, one red flag to watch for is a sociopath who tells you about morally questionable things that he or she has done, seemingly without a shred of guilt. For example, someone who matter-of-factly tells you how he walked out on his family and devastated them, and places all blame on the spouse who was left behind, is someone to watch out for. In the sociopath’s world, anyone who has a problem with him or her is insane.
People who feel guilty tend to examine their own role in things. They understand that there are two sides. A sociopath literally cannot understand, in an emotional sense, how other people feel. Nor will he or she feel guilty about anything that happens.
This chilling sense of “disconnect” from actions which hurt others (which showcases a total lack of empathy) is a prime indicator of sociopathy, which may also be referred to as Antisocial Personality Disorder.
Celebrity Example: John Gacy
John Gacy seemed like a stand-up guy as he blended into his Des Plaines, Illinois community. However, he was really the stuff of nightmares. Utterly without guilt, Gacy serially killed 32 young males during the 1970s.
When we wasn’t busy murdering without a shred of remorse, he spent some of his time dressed as a clown, performing at the birthday parties of local children.
5. Shallow Emotions
By now, you’re getting the general idea. These people look like us, but aren’t the same inside. They are not good people and they’re the reason why so many men and women are scarred from toxic relationships. Therapists spend a lot of time counselling the victims of those with Antisocial Personality Disorder.
Sociopaths do shocking things and their horrible acts, from leading double lives to emptying other’s savings accounts to sabotaging others in the workplace, may be readily apparent or may not be discovered for years.
Part of the problem is that sociopaths don’t feel all emotions. The ones that they do feel are very fleeting. In the sociopath’s world, emotions simply don’t carry much weight, except for anger. Even anger doesn’t usually last too long.
Let’s use an example in order to make this clearer. A human ear processes thousands of sounds. It has thousands of “channels”, whereby a cochlear implant, which is a synthetic version of an ear, has a fraction of the channels of a real ear. The sociopath is the cochlear implant and you (if you’re not a sociopath) are the real ear. Both seem alike, but are very different. It’s about depth and richness in an emotional sense. The sociopath doesn’t have it.
If you want to be understood by another, they have to share your emotional range. When they can’t, a relationship is doomed, whether it’s tomorrow or far into the future. It’s really just a matter of time. Since incapacity for love is a diagnostic criteria for sociopathy, it’s important to understand that a sociopath really can’t love you back.
When you combine this with lack of guilt, no remorse and high sensation seeking, you’ve got a problem!
While many sociopaths probably would like to feel what the rest of us feel, instead of knowing that they are on the outside, looking in, most are quite happy to be sociopaths. For this reason, you shouldn’t pity them. They use pity in order to control other people and they don’t love the people that they control.
Celebrity Example: Diane Downs
Diane Downs tried to kill all of her own children and succeeded in killing one and paralyzing another. This former postal worker and current member of the prison population did it so that she could spend time with a new lover who didn’t particularly want to be around children.
As impulsive and deceitful as any other sociopath, Diane Downs planned craftily, but missed things in her haste to complete her mission. She was convicted and her own daughter testified against her.
Ann Rule’s non-fiction book, Small Sacrifices, tells the story of this shallow sociopath.
To kill your children in order to keep a lover isn’t love! The love which Diane felt for this man wasn`t authentic love, either! It was infatuation and infatuation is about as deep as a sociopath`s love ever goes. With sociopaths, love is mostly about lust, fleeting infatuation and possessing and controlling another.
A sociopath may believe that it’s love, but be aware that it’s not love like other people feel it. It’s not anywhere near what you feel as a non-sociopath! You have to accept that a sociopath doesn`t love you, no matter what that person says. This is so important. No need to torture yourself over the sociopath’s next partner, as the sociopath won’t love the new one, either. It’s just how sociopaths live. Inability to love is the crux of all of the sociopath’s problems.
While they can’t love, you are free to love someone else.
Empathy is feeling someone’s pain. It’s really simple for the empathetic to define. For example, when we heard about the horrible attack by terrorists on the Bataclan nightclub, while the rock band, Eagles of Death Metal, were on the stage, we empathetic beings banded together and felt the pain of the victims. We may have cried. We felt genuine sadness and horror.
Since sociopaths rarely put themselves into anyone’s shoes, they don’t experience this sense of humanity and oneness. It is basically missing. While recent studies have shown that sociopaths are able to turn empathy on and off, it’s mostly in the “Off” setting. This is the default setting for the sociopathic.
Consider everyday con artists, who are all too happy to trick others into giving them things under false pretences. They don’t emotionally understand how other people feel, due to being effectively “empathy-free”. Due to this deficiency, they are able to make false promises to others without feeling the pain of those that they deceive.
If someone in your life makes a lot of promises and these promises just don’t come true, you may want to consider that this person has Antisocial Personality Disorder. Whether it’s a man who talks about marriage but never manages to make it to the altar or a co-worker who promises you credit on a big project and then stabs you in the back, false promises are indicative of sociopathy.
People who have empathy have trouble tricking others so easily, because they can feel their pain. We don’t really need another celebrity example here, as every sociopath that we’ve talked about here has low empathy, to say the least.
3. Trivial Sexual Life
The issue of sex and sociopathy is an interesting one. If you’re dating, one thing to watch for is someone who stares at the opposite sex a lot while you’re out and about. If a person seems to be on the prowl, even when with a partner, that is narcissistic behavior. It’s attention-seeking with a sexual focus. Where there is smoke, there is typically fire.
Sociopaths stare. It’s called the Predator Stare. It’s about inappropriate eye contact. So, watch out for this!
Sociopaths don’t have deep emotions, so they may use sex in order to kill the boredom and in order to enjoy sensation. This lack of depth, coupled with higher-than-average levels of testosterone (and vaulting egos!), means that sociopaths are often hopelessly addicted to sex.
Since these types typically want higher and higher levels of sensation, they may become sexual deviants. This means cheating, using prostitutes, sleeping with people who are under the age of consent, sex tourism and so on. Sex will be skillful, yet not emotional.
Most sociopaths are promiscuous. In fact, promiscuity is one of the factors that psychiatrists look for when diagnosing this condition.
2. Conduct Problems Prior to Age 15
Sociopathy starts young. It manifests in one way or another before the age of fifteen. Teens may be diagnosed with Conduct Disorder. Others may have no formal diagnosis, but may have trouble following rules at school and home and show general disrespect for the truth, as well as parents, siblings and authority figures.
Quite often, but not always, a juvenile delinquent is a budding sociopath.
Some young sociopaths hurt animals and don’t understand why it’s wrong until they are told. Others are violent with people. All will be rule-breakers and most will experiment with alcohol and drugs, as well as sexual contact, long before their non-sociopath peers.
It’s rare to find an adult sociopath who wasn’t a problem teen in some respect.
1. Sadism and Mind Games
If you know someone who seems to enjoy hurting you, as a cat would toy with a mouse, and you find the mind games monotonous and repetitive, it may be time to cut your losses with this person.
A good person is going to protect you from pain, confusion and frustration, rather than piling it on.