The word sociopath is used in relationships often enough that it has become a cliche.

It’s not uncommon to hear a comment like “They’re a complete sociopath. They don’t care who they hurt or what they do to other people” when talking about a jerky boss or vindictive ex-wife.

But what is a sociopath exactly? How are they diagnosed?

Most importantly, how do you know if you are in a relationship with one and what can you do about it?

Sociopath Traits

As illustrated in the video, the top 5 traits of a sociopath are:

  1. Grandiose sense of self
  2. Cunning (lying/deceiving), behavioural problems
  3. Irresponsible, unreliable
  4. Poor behavioural control, impulsive
  5. Don’t feel guilt or remorse

Medically speaking, actual sociopaths are very rare. This term is no longer used by doctors, who now diagnose sociopath and psychopath behaviors as an antisocial personality disorder.

Antisocial personality disorder is a mental condition in which a person has a long-term pattern of manipulating, exploiting, or violating the rights of others without any remorse. This behavior may cause problems in relationships or at work and is often criminal. –

While rare, people with sociopathic behaviour are in our world. This includes our workplaces, classrooms and in some cases, our hearts.

Sociopaths in Love

Unlike the violent criminals portrayed in movies, many sociopaths can function in society. As far as emotional relationships go, however, they are often unable to have or maintain them.

According to Joyce Schenkein, Neuropsychologist, in a research study most sociopaths “were loners, had few friends, no family contacts and frequently lost their jobs (often because of getting into fights, etc.) As far as their ability to love, those who did marry, frequently deserted their family.”

And those that were in long term relationships … what allowed them to be successful? Structure and consequences.

About their parents and partners role:

The few bad children who grew up to become law abiding adults were those whose parents exerted consistent discipline (which is not easy if you have to find your kid in the street and drag home nightly). If these kids grew up and managed to marry “good women” (which is another form of consistent discipline, e.g. “If you lose your job, I’m leaving you”), this was also important in keeping them law abiding. (Joyce Schenkein)

Things to remember when in a relationship with sociopaths:

  1. They can be extremely logical in a crisis, but not emotionally sensitive
  2. They are extroverts with great charm and charisma
  3. They are (calculated) risk takers. They love an adrenaline rush.
  4. They feel comfortable lying, and storytelling
  5. They can read and fake emotions
  6. They can love someone, like a spouse and children
  7. They can be very self-centred and incapable of admitting mistakes
  8. They don’t see actions as “right and wrong” but rather what will help them most

In their own words

“I do have emotions. However I stay for pragmatic reasons and because she doesn’t completely irritate me. We are a good team most of the time. She is very easy, is far from materialistic, and she will do anything for me. She is really in love with me. It allows me to trust her with things that I wouldn’t with anyone else.”

Sociopath Quiz

Here is a quick quiz via Dr. Youtube:

and finally …

Sociopath Books: Learn more

Some recommended reading if you’d like to learn more …

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