Everyone deals with at least one toxic relationship in their life. Some seem to bounce from one bad relationship to another and can’t figure out why. If this sounds like you, you could be the problem — and it might be something completely out of your control. You could be a sociopath — and this could explain why your relationships with family, friends, and even co-workers always end badly.
What is a sociopath?
Sociopathy, or antisocial personality disorder, is a mental condition that affects a person’s adherence to social norms. Mayo Clinic says sociopaths tend to break rules, behave without regard to consequence, and show indifference toward other people. They often lie, which sometimes gets them into trouble. Just because you’re not the kindest person in your family or friend group doesn’t mean you’re a sociopath. But there are key characteristics which, when combined, signal that you could be. Here are the signs.
Next: A sociopath would insist they don’t do this, even though they do.
1. You lie a lot — just because you can
Usually when someone tells a lie, they have a good reason for doing so. They might want to avoid a confrontation, or refrain from hurting a loved one’s feelings. That isn’t the case with sociopaths, they lie compulsively. Compulsive lying extends far beyond the occasional white lie. Sociopaths are known for their chronic dishonesty, lying whenever they can without a rational reason for doing so. If you find yourself lying more often than you tell the truth — and no motivation to support it — you may be a sociopath.
Next: Do you know right from wrong? Do you care?
2. You don’t care about doing what’s right
Sociopaths don’t have a functioning moral compass. Even if they do know what they’re doing isn’t right, they’re more likely to shrug it off and assume the consequences won’t affect them. Not all sociopaths act out violently or commit crimes, but those who do likely do so because they’re more concerned with personal gain than how their actions might affect others.
Next: Do you think a little too highly of yourself?
3. Others say you have a really big ego
Narcissism is a key trait of sociopaths, and is its own personality disorder when not paired with other key symptoms. Narcissistic personalities lack the ability to feel the emotions of others, and are extremely self-centered. You might briefly feign interest in someone or what they’re doing, but only if you have something to gain from it. If it doesn’t serve or involve your recognition in some way, you’re likely to get bored and move on to something (or someone) else.
Next: Hurting someone’s feelings doesn’t bother you at all.
4. You don’t mind if what you say or do hurts someone else
Most people feel even a small sense of guilt when they wrong someone else, whether accidentally or intentionally. Sociopaths don’t experience this, says NPR — they’re incapable. A sociopath can cut ties with someone close to them, or even verbally or physically abuse those around them, without regret, because they lack the ability to feel remorse. You may be aware that a few choice words can destroy your co-worker’s confidence — but you just don’t care, and say them anyway.
Next: Emotionally, a sociopath isn’t interested in making connections.
5. You think emotional attachments are a waste of time
Sociopaths have trouble acknowledging (or caring about) others’ emotions, says WebMD — which is why they’ll come off distant or uninterested. If you’re a sociopath, you probably don’t try to hide the fact that you’re not interested in connecting with anyone else on an emotional level. You might show your own emotions — especially anger — but forget about maintaining healthy relationships with the people who love you most.
Next: Lack of emotion also changes the way you might interact with others sexually.
6. Therefore, to you, sex is strictly physical
When it comes to relationships, sociopaths are “in it” until there’s nothing left to reward them, Seth Meyers writes in Psychology Today. They have physical needs just like any other human, but will do anything, regardless of whether it’s socially acceptable or not, to fulfill those needs. Emotionally detached, you might view sex as nothing more than a physical necessity. Once emotional implications arise, you’re out.
Next: Do you ever lose your tempter — and just stop caring?
7. You anger easily
Sociopaths aren’t the only ones who have short tempers — but they’re more likely to react angrily — and sometimes violently — without remorse. According to Livestrong.com, many — but not all — sociopaths undergo anger management therapy as part of their treatment. Having anger issues doesn’t automatically mean you’re a sociopath. However, if you’re otherwise emotionally disconnected from others, yet often lash out as a means of “punishing” others for their actions, anger could be considered a red flag.
Next: If your job doesn’t interest you, what’s the point?
8. You’re a terrible employee
Sociopaths are easily bored. So if they’re assigned a task at work that doesn’t align with their interests, they might not even bother putting in the effort. This could make it more difficult for you to perform well at your job, or keep your job altogether. You could even be a toxic co-worker, whether you know it or not. If you have ever tried to convince your co-workers to do your work for you — simply because you didn’t feel like it — you could be more than just lazy.
Next: Do you frequently take advantage of others?
9. You find it easy to manipulate people
Have you ever taken advantage of someone to get what you wanted? Not just once or twice out of desperation, but in many situations involving both strangers and people close to you? Health.com says it’s not uncommon for a sociopath to involve themselves with others, only as a means of gaining something as a result. Some even find entertainment in their manipulative behaviors.
Next: Many sociopaths never learn from their errors.
10. You continue making the same ‘mistakes’
A sociopath knows the difference between right and wrong, but they don’t make any effort to correct their unacceptable behavior. Since they don’t care whether or not their actions affect others negatively, they see no reason to stop. Even when your actions result in undesired consequences, that won’t typically stop you from repeating those behaviors.
Next: Are you a little too reckless?
11. You’re dangerously impulsive
Because sociopaths tend to lack empathy and a moral compass, they may act impulsively — and recklessly. A sociopath can’t see that their behaviors have consequences. You might do something reckless — like speed down the highway — either without thinking about the possible result or while believing you’ll get away with doing it. After all, who cares if someone else gets hurt as long as you get to where you’re going quickly? And there’s no way someone would actually punish you for speeding — right?
Next: Can people trust you to do what you say you’re going to do?
12. They say you’re unreliable
If you’re a sociopath, you probably have a terrible sense of responsibility. It’s difficult for sociopaths to understand that when they don’t do what they’re asked, this affects those outside their own personal bubble. Why take time out of your day to do something for someone else if an expression of gratitude is all you’re going to get out of it?
Next: Are you the worst kind of drama queen?
13. You’re always creating unnecessary drama
A sociopath may not form emotional attachments, but they have no problem tapping into the emotions of others if it somehow serves them. Sometimes this happens completely out of boredom — there isn’t any ongoing crisis for you to insert yourself into, so you create one. This can put a lot of strain on your relationships, especially with those under no obligation to stick around when your behavior gets old.
Next: Do your friends stick with you through it all — or do they just leave?
14. You don’t keep friends around for long
People don’t tend to want to hang around someone who’s manipulative, unreliable, hurtful, and overly dramatic. Therefore, many sociopaths struggle to form long-lasting friendships because they don’t act friendly toward anyone they meet. If you can’t seem to keep even one friend around for long, it could be a sign your social behaviors need some work.