How to Identify a Sociopath: Telling Signs and Behaviors
R. M. Dubuc,

Sociopaths live among us. An estimated 2 million sociopaths live in North America alone,
and the most infamous sociopaths have become well-known monsters in the media. Most
sociopaths, however, rarely get the national attention given to extreme sociopaths such as
Ted Bundy or Jeffrey Dahmer. Like many other types of dangerous predators, sociopaths
do not often look like the monsters of our imaginations. This makes it more difficult to spot
a sociopath at first glance. Sociopaths in society range from the estimated 75% of
prisoners to the manipulative next-door-neighbor, or the abusive partner. Luckily, there
are some ways to identify a sociopath, though no sociopath identification guide is an exact

What is a Sociopath?

Antisocial Personality Disorder is the clinical term for the disorder associated with the traits
of sociopaths. In popular culture, the term psychopath is also often loosely used to
reference a sociopath. The clinical diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder has set
criteria, and to be diagnosed, a sociopath would have to have at least 3 characteristics,
and meet other clinical guidelines. Many juvenile delinquents, who have been diagnosed
with Conduct Disorder in their teens, eventually age into meeting the criteria for a
sociopath diagnosis. Treatment for sociopaths has not proven to be very effective.
Psychologists and psychiatrists use the DSMR-IV to make clinical diagnoses, though many
people who qualify for a sociopath diagnosis are never evaluated.

Common Traits of a Sociopath

The common characteristics and personality traits of sociopaths are based on the criteria
used by clinicians who use the DSMR-IV. Sociopaths have a psychological disorder. One
of the most common personality characteristics of the sociopath is their grandiose sense of
self and entitlement. Sociopaths also often display a lack of remorse and most have a very
manipulative personality covered by superficial charm. Sociopaths often use people as a
means to getting what they want. Friendships and romantic partners are often frequently
disregarded and replaced when the relationship no longer suits their self-centered needs.

The emotions of a sociopath may appear to be sincere on the surface, cleverly disguised
by superficial charm and feigned interest. Many sociopaths use manipulative measures to
draw others to them. Chronic lying is characteristic of nearly all sociopaths. Recklessness
and aggressive behaviors are other characteristics, as well as impulsivity. A lack of
remorse, or what is generally termed conscience, is typical for sociopaths.

The combination of at least 3 of the common sociopath characteristics paints a pretty good
description of the common sociopath. Many sociopaths have troubles with law enforcement
and authority, accounting for the high percentages of sociopaths who fill the prisons.
Sociopaths are also likely to be involved in more domestic violence, aggressive crimes,
and have a higher rate of substance abuse issues.

Warning Signs

Recognizing a sociopath is not as easy as it may seem, despite the clear criteria provided
by the DSMR-IV for diagnosis. Sociopaths can be very convincing and charming at first,
especially at the beginning of relationships. A history of poor relationships, problems with
the law, and excessive lying are just a few red flags to watch out for at the beginning. A
lack of remorse, when noticed in a possible sociopath, is often a warning sign. It is nearly
impossible to have a normal relationship with a sociopath, and in some cases, being
involved with a sociopath can be dangerous. Their lack of regard for the welfare of others
and typical lack of conscience can make sociopaths dangerous.


A Checklist for identifying Antisocial Personality Disorder(sociopathy)
was developed by Dr, Robert Hare;and has been used as a diagnostic tool by Medical
professionals and legal professionals for decades.

                                     Hare's Checklist

1. GLIB and SUPERFICIAL CHARM -- the tendency to be smooth, engaging, charming,
slick, and verbally facile. Psychopathic charm is not in the least shy, self-conscious, or
afraid to say anything. A psychopath never gets tongue-tied. They have freed themselves
from the social conventions about taking turns in talking, for example. >

2. GRANDIOSE SELF-WORTH -- a grossly inflated view of one's abilities and self-worth,
self-assured, opinionated, cocky, a braggart. Psychopaths are arrogant people who
believe they are superior human beings.

3. NEED FOR STIMULATION or PRONENESS TO BOREDOM -- an excessive need for
novel, thrilling, and exciting stimulation; taking chances and doing things that are risky.
Psychopaths often have a low self-discipline in carrying tasks through to completion
because they get bored easily. They fail to work at the same job for any length of time, for
example, or to finish tasks that they consider dull or routine.

4. PATHOLOGICAL LYING -- can be moderate or high; in moderate form, they will be
shrewd, crafty, cunning, sly, and clever; in extreme form, they will be deceptive, deceitful,
underhanded, unscrupulous, manipulative, and dishonest.

5. CONNING AND MANIPULATIVENESS- the use of deceit and deception to cheat, con, or
defraud others for personal gain; distinguished from Item #4 in the degree to which
exploitation and callous ruthlessness is present, as reflected in a lack of concern for the
feelings and suffering of one's victims.

6. LACK OF REMORSE OR GUILT -- a lack of feelings or concern for the losses, pain, and
suffering of victims; a tendency to be unconcerned, dispassionate, coldhearted, and
unempathic. This item is usually demonstrated by a disdain for one's victims.

7. SHALLOW AFFECT -- emotional poverty or a limited range or depth of feelings;
interpersonal coldness in spite of signs of open gregariousness.

8. CALLOUSNESS and LACK OF EMPATHY -- a lack of feelings toward people in general;
cold, contemptuous, inconsiderate, and tactless.

9. PARASITIC LIFESTYLE -- an intentional, manipulative, selfish, and exploitative financial
dependence on others as reflected in a lack of motivation, low self-discipline, and inability
to begin or complete responsibilities.

10. POOR BEHAVIORAL CONTROLS -- expressions of irritability, annoyance, impatience,
threats, aggression, and verbal abuse; inadequate control of anger and temper; acting

11. PROMISCUOUS SEXUAL BEHAVIOR -- a variety of brief, superficial relations,
numerous affairs, and an indiscriminate selection of sexual partners; the maintenance of
several relationships at the same time; a history of attempts to sexually coerce others into
sexual activity or taking great pride at discussing sexual exploits or conquests.

12. EARLY BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS -- a variety of behaviors prior to age 13, including
lying, theft, cheating, vandalism, bullying, sexual activity, fire-setting, glue-sniffing, alcohol
use, and running away from home.

13. LACK OF REALISTIC, LONG-TERM GOALS -- an inability or persistent failure to
develop and execute long-term plans and goals; a nomadic existence, aimless, lacking
direction in life.

14. IMPULSIVITY -- the occurrence of behaviors that are unpremeditated and lack
reflection or planning; inability to resist temptation, frustrations, and urges; a lack of
deliberation without considering the consequences; foolhardy, rash, unpredictable, erratic,
and reckless.

15. IRRESPONSIBILITY -- repeated failure to fulfill or honor obligations and commitments;
such as not paying bills, defaulting on loans, performing sloppy work, being absent or late
to work, failing to honor contractual agreements.

responsibility for one's actions reflected in low conscientiousness, an absence of
dutifulness, antagonistic manipulation, denial of responsibility, and an effort to manipulate
others through this denial.

17. MANY SHORT-TERM MARITAL RELATIONSHIPS -- a lack of commitment to a
long-term relationship reflected in inconsistent, undependable, and unreliable
commitments in life, including marital.

18. JUVENILE DELINQUENCY -- behavior problems between the ages of 13-18; mostly
behaviors that are crimes or clearly involve aspects of antagonism, exploitation,
aggression, manipulation, or a callous, ruthless tough-mindedness.

19. REVOCATION OF CONDITION RELEASE -- a revocation of probation or other
conditional release due to technical violations, such as carelessness, low deliberation, or
failing to appear.

20. CRIMINAL VERSATILITY -- a diversity of types of criminal offenses, regardless if the
person has been arrested or convicted for them; taking great pride at getting away with