Recognize A Sociopath: Signs And Characteristics Of Sociopathic Behavior

Last Update on October 26, 2023 : Published on October 2, 2022
Recognize A Sociopath

“I’m not a psychopath, I’m a high-functioning sociopath. Do your research”

One of the most famous quotes on sociopaths, can you guess who said this? Well, if your answer is Sherlock Holmes, then you’re correct! The fictional character written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, described himself as a “high-functioning sociopath” but is he really one?

Just because someone shows signs of sociopathic behavior, doesn’t exactly make them a sociopath. Did you know that despite the common use of “sociopath”, this mental health disorder is rare?

Sociopathic behavior or sociopaths are terms that can be used informally to define certain traits of antisocial personality disorder or ASPD. This disorder can be characterized by a lack of empathy, manipulative behaviors, and impulsiveness, among others.

Other common traits and signs of a sociopath can include being overly charming, having low emotional control, and a tendency to engage in risky and even illegal behaviors. Below, let’s explore the signs of a sociopath in adults and children and can sociopathic behavior be cured.

Who Is A Sociopath?

A sociopath is an informal term to describe a person with Antisocial Personality Disorder or antisocial behaviors. To be diagnosed with ASPD, a person’s social, medical, and family history are to be evaluated. Sociopaths are rare and not all diagnosed with ASPD can be sociopaths. However, some sociopaths might even show signs of a narcissistic personality. These people can be extremely manipulative and abusive.

Many sociopaths are also prone to a substance or alcohol addiction, irresponsible, and have poor decision-making skills, making their work life, social life, and relationships challenging.

Also Read: Psychopath vs Sociopath: What’s The Difference?

Traits Of A Sociopath

To be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder or even classify as a sociopath, one must meet the criteria set in the DSM-5. Here are some traits of a sociopath that can fall under the criteria:

  • They fail to conform to social norms and lawful actions. They might engage in acts that can lead to an arrest
  • They are deceitful, manipulative, and betray others for either pleasure or personal gain
  • They are impulsive
  • They are prone to irritability and aggression and might engage in physical assaults
  • They are reckless and constantly disregard the safety of others
  • They are irresponsible and have a poor work ethic
  • They lack remorse and are often indifferent to the mistreatment of others

Signs Of A Sociopath (In Adults)

The signs of being a sociopath can differ from person to person and their signs might also change as time changes. Here are some common signs of sociopaths you can recognize in adults:

1. Lack Of Empathy

One of the most common signs of a sociopath is that they lack empathy. Empathy is the ability to connect with the other person’s feelings and emotions, however, a sociopath might often come off as cold, indifferent, callous, and harsh when it comes to others’ emotions and feelings. These people might often not even realize that their unfeeling nature is harmful to others. And even if they are aware, they might not even care.

2. Disregard For Boundaries

Sociopaths generally don’t care about boundaries, laws, and rules set by society. They constantly lie, cheat, steal, or break laws. Sociopaths might also get into legal trouble and might even get arrested for minor crimes they commit. With their disregard for rules and boundaries, sociopaths don’t think much about the consequences of their actions.

3. Overly Charming

Who doesn’t like Prince Charming? But not all people with ASPD use their charms for good. Sociopaths might often come off as charming and use their good humor and flattery for personal profit. At the expense of your peace, though. In some cases, they might even use their charm to deceive you into doing something illegal or risky for them.

5. Impulsivity

As I said, sociopaths don’t care much about the consequences of their actions and because of this, they might regularly engage in situations that might be considered life-threatening. They are impulsive and have poor control over their impulses which can put them and their companions in danger.

6. Arrogance And Aggression

Another sign someone is a sociopath can be their arrogance and aggressive nature. If they often act like they are superior and everyone around them should bow to them, then they can be considered a sociopath. They also easily get annoyed by others, especially when others don’t agree with them. Sociopaths can also be abusive and might use insults, deprecation, and public humiliation to put others down.

Signs Of A Sociopath (In Children)

ASPD and sociopathic behaviors are also commonly recognized in children who are now beginning to understand the importance of boundaries and social norms. Here are some of the common signs of being a sociopath in children:

1. Constant Rule Breaking

One of the most common signs of sociopathic behavior in children is their penchant for rule-breaking. If your child often runs away from home, skips school, or engages in activities that go against social norms and rules, then it’s a sign. Most children, however, will stop when they realize how these activities get them in trouble but if they don’t check in now, these tendencies might grow out of control in their adulthood.

2. Destructive Behaviors

Often, children with conduct disorders are diagnosed with ASPD. These children would often have destructive behaviors such as breaking into others’ homes, stealing, starting fires, etc. Some of these behaviors are common in teens but when these behaviors pose a threat to their safety and those of their peers, then it could be a sign of sociopathic behaviors.

3. Aggressive Behavior

Another sign of a sociopath in children is being aggressive. This kind of aggressive behavior can range from mild to extreme and can include physical assault, using weapons, verbal insults, injuring animals, or other aggressive acts. These behaviors can be dangerous and can have legal and social consequences.

4. Constantly Lying

When your child constantly lies and finds ways to get things they desire using manipulative tactics then it can be a sign of a sociopath. As adults use their charm to get what they want, children use their innocence and sweetness to get what they want from others.

Can Sociopathic Behavior Be Cured?

Sociopaths are people who have (if not some) traits of antisocial behavior or are diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). This personality disorder is one of the hardest to treat and even therapy can result in poor outcomes. Even if therapy might work, sociopaths are less likely to seek treatment as they don’t believe anything’s wrong with them.

Their lack of empathy towards others and their lack of feeling guilt can also make it less likely for them to change their behavior. Still, if a sociopath seeks therapy and help from a professional, they can control their symptoms. CBT or even group therapy can help them.

Bottom Line

No one with ASPD and sociopathic behavior is similar. They might share some common traits but their signs can differ from one another. Not only adults can be diagnosed with ASPD and sociopathic behaviors but children can as well.

The signs of a sociopath can’t be easily recognizable but you can still differentiate between a sociopath and other personality traits by observing the signs listed above. If you have a sociopath or loved one, then you can protect your mental health by setting boundaries and calling them out.

I hope this article will help you recognize the signs of a sociopath. For more, you can write to us at or DM us on social media. You can also share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

Take Care!

About The Author

Swarnakshi Sharma
Swarnakshi Sharma

Swarnakshi is a content writer at Calm sage, who believes in a healthier lifestyle for mind and body. A fighter and survivor of depression, she strives to reach and help spread awareness on ending the stigma surrounding mental health issues. A spiritual person at heart, she believes in destiny and the power of Self. She is an avid reader and writer and likes to spend her free time baking and learning about world cultures.


  1. Shequita

    Very informative… Definitely the answer to a lot of my questions.

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