With sociopaths more and more in the news these days, you're probably aware of these famously manipulative people. But how do you avoid becoming the mark for a Dirty John-level manipulator? By watching out for the creepy behaviors that often mean someone is a sociopath, you can spot them for what they are. If you get a gut feeling that someone is a bit "off," then be on high alert for these corresponding behaviors.
In general, the sociopath is a person who lacks a conscience and empathy for others, according to Psychology Today. Although it isn't a clinical definition, sociopathy most closely matches the antisocial personality disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), as further explained in Psychology Today. Informally, the term sociopath is used to describe a particular type of manipulative, controlling, and often remorseless person.
In addition, everyday sociopaths don't have to be mafiosos or serial killers or anything. They just might be your colleague or gym buddy or Tinder match. To learn more about the realities of life among sociopaths, Romper reached out to two experts. Psychotherapist Dr. Fran Walfish and David J. Puder, MD, both provided excellent insight into the telltale signs of the sociopath.
1. Charms Everybody
On its face, super intense charisma looks like a positive trait. But beware that appeal. "Charm, Charm, CHARM . . . The most manipulative tactic used by the sociopath is charm," as Dr. Fran Walfish, Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist, tells Romper. "Watch out for excessive charm!" If someone seems too good to be true, then throw up a caution flag before getting too close. Sometimes the charm is only superficial, and it's masking a much scarier person.
2. Flakes On Responsibilities
If this person does everything on their own time, without regard for anyone else's schedule, pay attention. Sometimes people known for sociopathy will display little to no accountability, as Dr. Walfish explains. They might agree to pick you up at a certain time and then never show.
3. Acts Impulsively
Sure, it can be fun to hang around someone who's down for a spontaneous adventure every now and then. But there may be another angle to this kind of spontaneity. "Sociopaths violate social norms, which in psychiatry we call 'antisocial behavior'. They tend to feel a lack of empathy towards others, in addition to some people exhibiting manipulative behaviors and impulsiveness," says David J. Puder, MD, medical director of the MEND partial and intensive outpatient program at the Loma Linda University Behavioral Medicine. That impulsive behavior might cause them to change jobs, romantic relationships, or even cities on a whim.
4. Quickly Loses Temper
Some people will flip out over nothing. And as it turns out, hotheadedness is a potential sign of sociopathy, as Dr. Puder explains. Does this person lose their temper at the slightest inconvenience?
5. Destroys Property
OK, this is getting into the more seriously creepy territory. Sociopaths will sometimes engage in criminal behaviors, and this includes the destruction of property, as Dr. Puder says. That ex who keyed your car was quite possibly a sociopath.
6. Sets Fires
This isn't referring to a chill bonfire at the beach. Some sociopaths also start fires, as Dr. Puder notes. It can be another way to destroy someone's property or intimidate them.
7. Takes Revenge Seriously
Letting go of things is not the sociopath's strong point. Rather, people with sociopathic tendencies take revenge very seriously, says Dr. Puder. They will get back at others for any slight (real or imagined).
8. Enjoys Causing Pain To Others
Well, this is certainly a red flag. Perhaps most disturbing of all, sociopaths also enjoy hurting others, says Dr. Puder. That said, it's unlikely a person with sociopathic tendencies will reveal their worst traits on a first date or job interview. "Much of the above can be hidden from someone they are just meeting, and they can come off charismatic and fun loving," says Dr. Puder. Because of this, it's best to get to know people over time, and keep an eye out for these creepy behaviors.