Sociopaths: The People Among Us
According to the American Psychiatric Association, there are approximately 8 million sociopaths in the United States, equating to about 1 in 25 people. It is highly likely that you have come across a sociopath in your life, whether you knew it or not. But what actually is a sociopath, and how can you recognize and deal with them?
A sociopath is defined as someone who has an antisocial personality disorder. This disorder affects both their personality, in terms of self and interpersonal relationships, and their pathological personality traits, such as obsessiveness and compulsiveness. Sociopaths think and feel differently than people without personality disorders; they cannot turn off their negative thoughts or traits and often cannot see the problems associated with their traits.
Experts believe that sociopathy is caused by a combination of nature and nurture, with the brain of a sociopath maturing at a slower rate than a non-sociopath’s. Furthermore, early life experiences, such as trauma, abuse, or damage to the brain, can also lead to sociopathy.
Although some individuals may exhibit sociopathic tendencies, a full-blown sociopath does not possess genuine respect for others. Sociopaths lack a sense of shame or guilt, and they do not get embarrassed quickly. They are comfortable with lying and do not feel guilty about it.
Sociopaths project a calm demeanor and do not feel fear or anxiety, which makes them adept at staying calm in any situation. They can be charming and generous but only at first, as they have no interest in an individual in the long term. Sociopaths love to be in control and target vulnerable individuals to dominate every aspect of their lives. They have a huge ego and tend to be narcissistic, which means they are more interested in talking about themselves than listening to others. They are also unable to handle criticism and tend to blame others for their failures.
Sociopaths tend to have very few real friends and may try to isolate those they are interested in by asking them to stop hanging out with their friends. They can also be secretive and have low tolerance for boredom, leading to a need for constant stimulation. They have poor behavioral controls and find it hard to predict people’s reactions or understand their feelings, resulting in them hurting or annoying people without realizing it.
Although sociopaths have no genuine emotions, they can fake emotions by expressing shallow emotions, which makes them charismatic speakers. They are authoritarian and see themselves as superior, and they tend towards paranoia, often having little trust in people. Furthermore, they can be cruel to animals, including pulling wings off flies, which is an indication of their violent tendencies.
If you find yourself having to interact with a sociopath, the best course of action is to protect yourself. Do not reveal personal information about yourself or your friends and family, as sociopaths will use this information to gain dominance over you. Keep conversations with them limited to neutral subjects like TV and news. If they lie to you more than three times, cut your loss, and do not give them any more opportunities to harm you.
Trying to take a sociopath down is dangerous as they are calculating and will do whatever it takes to get what they want. Instead, try to work out a win-win agreement and get them on your side. Remember, sociopaths are among us, and recognizing and avoiding them is essential to keep ourselves safe.