Dealing with a compulsive liar, or any number of toxic co-workers and colleagues can by incredibly trying. While many of these people may be well-intentioned, or perfectly fine people in their own right, they’re stuck with some very real flaws — flaws that make life hell for those around them. But often these flaws are signs of a deeper and more troubling problem, and could even be red flags indicating that someone is a sociopath.
That’s not really a term you’re going to want to throw around lightly, however. You may have had your suspicions that someone is a sociopath, or at least demonstrates some classic sociopathic behavior, but do you truly know what you’re dealing with? If you see this happening (page 7), run.
Defining a sociopath
So, who or what is a sociopath, exactly? The term actually describes a particular condition, antisocial personality disorder, or sociopathy. Sociopathy, according to Mayo Clinic, “is a mental condition in which a person consistently shows no regard for right and wrong and ignores the rights and feelings of others. People with antisocial personality disorder tend to antagonize, manipulate or treat others harshly or with callous indifference. They show no guilt or remorse for their behavior.”
Sound like someone you know? Most likely. Here are seven of those behaviors to keep an eye out for, all telltale signs that you’re dealing with a sociopath.
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1. Compulsive lying
Notice a lot of blatant lying, often for no reason? Consider that a red flag. There are compulsive and pathological liars out there, and both are signs of some underlying issues that a person is struggling with. We’ve outlined the signs of a compulsive liar before, so there are some things you can watch out for when dealing with a potential sociopath. It’s the seemingly pointless lying that should truly tell you there’s something going on.
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2. Emotional detachment
This is the Hallmark feature of a sociopath — complete and total emotional detachment. Sociopaths can and will do things that others cannot or struggle with because they’ve managed to remove the emotional aspect from their behavior. Essentially, they aren’t feeling anything when they are wrong or hurt someone, which makes it easier for them to do it. In other words, there’s a lack of empathy.
Next: This is the one thing a sociopath loves the most.
An inflated ego or sense of self-worth is another classic sign of a sociopath. These people take an overbearing interest in themselves and seem to be more interested in admiring or talking about themselves than interacting with anybody else. This can come across as selfishness and self-centeredness — two things that are easily identifiable in a colleague, friend, or family member given enough time.
Next: Do you feel safe with this person?
4. A reckless attitude
As you can see, many of these traits or behaviors cascade into one another. In this case, recklessness — and it’s easy to be reckless when you lack empathy and have a very high opinion of yourself. Reckless behavior can come in all shapes and forms, but the issue at hand is that a sociopath can’t or won’t see the connection between their behavior and the consequences of their actions. Add in some narcissism, and they’ll likely think they’ll get away with it, or can’t be punished for their behavior.
Next: No one wants to be the recipient of this.
Of course, when things don’t go the way the sociopath had planned, it results in explosive anger. Ever see someone absolutely fly off the handle, or have an ugly meltdown over a minor slight, real or imaginary? That should tell you something. That anger stems from the fact that the inner narcissist is seemingly out of control of their surroundings, which doesn’t jive with a sociopath’s worldview.
Next: Do you find yourself doing things you wouldn’t normally do?
Naturally, a sociopath is going to attempt to play puppet master with the people in their lives. This is likely when many people realize they’re dealing with a sociopath; when it becomes clear that the individual in question is trying to pull the strings and manipulate those around them to get what they want. Again, they think they’ll get away with it due to their narcissism, and don’t care about the consequences.
Next: An easy red flag.
7. A revolving door of friends
As you may have guessed, the manipulation, lying, anger, and recklessness easily drives people away. This is why a sociopath is always surrounded by a new group of people — that is, until the sociopath’s toxicity drives yet another group of friends away.
If you notice that someone can’t hold onto a friend for more than short period of time, there’s probably a reason for it.
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Additional reporting by Gina Ragusa.