What is a sociopath?

“Sociopath” is an informal term that’s often used to refer to someone who has antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). ASPD is a personality disorder that involves a lack of empathy in addition to manipulative behaviors and impulsiveness in some people.

The additional behaviors set it apart from other conditions, such as autism, which can also cause a lack of empathy. “Having empathy” refers to being able to recognize and identify with the feelings of another person.

When trying to identify someone as having ASPD, it’s important to remember that this is a complex diagnosis. It involves a mix of biological and environmental factors. The term “sociopath” also carries many negative associations, so it’s best to avoid accusing someone of being one.

If you think someone you’re close to might have ASPD, consider taking a step back from the relationship. People with ASPD often don’t recognize that they have a problem, and they’re typically reluctant to find treatment.

Signs of ASPD in adults

The signs of ASPD can vary widely from person to person. In addition, one person’s symptoms may change over time. When reading through these signs, keep in mind that all humans exhibit this kind of behavior from time to time, especially when they’re upset. They aren’t always signs of ASPD.

Unlike someone having a particularly bad day, people with ASPD never feel any remorse for what they’ve said or done, even if it caused someone a great deal of harm.

1. Lack of empathy

One of the most notable symptoms of ASPD is a lack of empathy. In response to another person’s feelings, they may come across as:

  • cold
  • unfeeling
  • callous
  • overly critical
  • harsh

People with ASPD don’t always realize how harmful their actions are. In other cases, they may simply not care that their actions hurt someone.

2. Disregard for right and wrong

People with ASPD generally have no regard for boundaries, rules, or laws. Someone with ASPD may:

  • lie
  • cheat
  • steal from others
  • break laws
  • be in constant legal trouble
  • be in an out of jail for minor to major crimes

When disregarding right and wrong, people with ASPD usually don’t consider the short- or long-term consequences of their actions.

3. Wit and charm

In addition to their more negative behaviors, people with ASPD often come off as very charismatic and charming. They may use humor, flattery, intellect, or flirtation for personal gain. In other cases, they might use these techniques to get someone to do something that’s harmful to them.

4. Impulsiveness

People with ASPD tend to act without considering the consequences. They might regularly engage in life-threatening activities without considering their own safety or the safety of anyone else involved.

This impulsiveness and disregard of consequences puts people with ASPD at a high risk of developing an addiction to a substance or behavior, such as gambling.

5. Arrogance

People with ASPD may act as if they’re above those around them. In addition to acting extra confident, they may also be condescending or easily irritated by others, especially those who disagree with them.

6. Aggression

People with ASPD are often psychically or verbally abusive. They may physically harm people without any consideration of the resulting injuries to the other person.

Verbal abuse might include:

  • insults
  • deprecation
  • negative statements
  • public or private humiliation

The bottom line

Each case of ASPD is unique, though there are a few common characteristics. However, most people exhibit some of these traits at one point or another without having ASPD. If someone regularly acts out these behaviors despite fully understanding the consequences, they may have conduct disorder or ASPD.

Regardless of their actions, its best to leave the actual diagnosis to a doctor.