What Makes Someone a Sociopath
A sociopath is a person who consistently shows little regard for the feelings and rights of others

Sociopathy is another term for antisocial personality disorder, a mental health condition in which an individual consistently shows little regard for the feelings and rights of others.

Common characteristics of a sociopath include:

  • Lack of empathy and remorse
  • Disregard for the feelings of others
  • Manipulation with charm or wit
  • Poor interpersonal skills
  • Unstable relationships
  • Hostility, aggression, or irritability
  • Lack of morals or conscience
  • Sometimes may cause harm (emotional and physical) to people around them, leading to criminal history

The chronic nature of sociopathy differentiates this condition from other, episodic mental health conditions, such as depression or bipolar disorder.

How are sociopaths diagnosed?

According to clinical psychologists, sociopaths comprise only 1%-4% of the population and must meet specific criteria based on social, medical, and family history for a confirmed diagnosis.

To be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder and classified as a sociopath, a person must exhibit at least 3 of the 7 characteristics listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition:

  • Failure to conform to social norms concerning lawful behaviors, such as performing acts that are grounds for arrest
  • Deceitfulness, repeated lying, or conning others for pleasure or personal profit
  • Impulsivity or failure to plan
  • Irritability and aggressiveness, often with physical assault
  • Reckless disregard for the safety of self or others
  • Consistent irresponsibility and failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor monetary obligations
  • Lack of remorse or rationalizing for having hurt or mistreated another person

Along with these criteria, a person must be at least 18 years and have a history of behavioral issues by the time they are 15 years old. There should be no evidence that these behaviors are due to the influence of any substance or during a schizophrenic or bipolar episode.

What causes sociopathy?

Although the exact cause of antisocial personality disorder is unknown, a combination of genetic and environmental factors play a key role in developing the condition:

  • Genetics (may make someone more likely to develop an antisocial personality disorder, and life situations may trigger these genetic markers)
  • Changes in brain functioning (in utero or during brain development)
  • History of childhood conduct disorder
  • Family history of antisocial personality disorder or other personality disorders or mental health disorders
  • Abuse or neglect during childhood
  • Unstable, violent, or chaotic family life during childhood

What is the difference between sociopathy and psychopathy?

Sociopathy and psychopathy fall under the diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder and both are characterized by a lack of empathy, self-centeredness, and a tendency to cause harm to others for personal gain.

However, the primary difference between a sociopath and a psychopath is in their conscience and behaviors:

  • Sociopaths tend to be more erratic and impulsive, whereas psychopaths are often able to maintain the appearance of a stable and normal life.
  • Sociopaths usually have a history of childhood trauma or abuse but may be able to connect with others to an extent. Their ability to connect and form emotions may lead sociopaths to be more impulsive and erratic. Psychopaths may not be able to form relationships or emotional attachments to others, exhibiting no remorse when they manipulate or harm people.
  • Psychopaths may have more of a genetic predisposition to be cold.

Can sociopathy be treated?

Currently, there are no medications specifically designed to treat antisocial personality disorders.

Most people with antisocial personality disorders do not seek help or treatment because they do not even recognize what they are doing is problematic. Psychotherapy is often recommended but can be difficult because the person may fail to recognize the issue and may not want to change their behavior.

Identifying early warning signs and seeking early intervention can help the person manage their condition.


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Medically Reviewed on 10/19/2022
Image Source: iStock image

How to Recognize Signs of Sociopathy. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/sociopath-personality-disorder/

Psychopathy vs Sociopathy. https://www.mha-em.org/im-looking-for/mental-health-knowledge-base/conditions/127-psychopathy-vs-sociopathy

Antisocial personality disorder. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/antisocial-personality-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20353928

Signs of a Sociopath. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/signs-sociopath\