Sociopaths are difficult to identify—in part because they all behave differently, and some are worse than others.
There are sociopaths who hold a job, get married, attend church—yet emotionally abuse their families, cheat on their spouses, manipulate their coworkers, steal from their employers, and never get caught. There are sociopaths who never work, torture animals, con their relatives and commit cold-blooded murder—and end up in jail. And there are plenty of sociopaths in between.
The point is that sociopaths exhibit a wide range of behaviors. So it is not just the behavior that defines the sociopath—it is the personality traits as well.
Dr. Robert Hare has identified the key symptoms of sociopathy (he prefers the term “psychopathy”). They are:
- Glib and superficial
- Egocentric and grandiose
- Lack of remorse or guilt
- Lack of empathy
- Deceitful and manipulative
- Shallow emotions
- Poor behavior controls
- Need for excitement
- Lack of responsibility
- Early behavior problems
- Adult antisocial behavior
For more detail, see the key symptoms page on Lovefraud.com.
Sociopathy is a “syndrome.” That means for someone to be a sociopath, he or she must have almost all of these traits, not just a few. However, sociopaths can exhibit the traits to different degrees.
In order to diagnose a sociopath, Dr. Hare developed the Hare Psychopathy Check List—Revised (PCL-R). This is not a multiple-choice test that the subject completes himself. It is an evaluation completed by a trained professional, such as a psychologist.
The psychologist interviews the subject and reviews his or her past behavior. The psychologist gives the subject a score on each of 20 characteristics—basically the traits listed above. The scores for each characteristic are then added together for a total.
Scores on the PCL-R range from zero to 40, with 40 being the worst. The general population usually scores about five or six. People who score above 30 are considered to be sociopaths.
This leaves a lot of room for variations in behavior. Not all sociopaths are violent. Not all sociopaths take money from their wives and girlfriends. Not all sociopaths abuse drugs or alcohol. But many do.
The core of this disorder is that sociopaths have no conscience, no emotional connection to other people and no remorse. If you see those traits, start looking for the others as well.