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What’s a sociopath?

Sociopaths lie, cheat, steal and even kill
Then they move on to the next victim

If you only know one thing about psychology, you should know about sociopaths. Being aware of sociopaths could help you avoid emotional trauma, ruined finances, even an untimely death.

Sociopathy, also called psychopathy, is a personality disorder characterized by deceit on a scale most of us cannot imagine.These men and women are not crazy; they know exactly what they are doing. Here is how Robert D. Hare, Ph.D., begins his book about psychopaths, Without Conscience:

“Psychopaths are social predators who charm, manipulate and ruthlessly plow their way through life, leaving a broad trail of broken hearts, shattered expectations and empty wallets. Completely lacking in conscience and feelings for others, they selfishly take what they want and do as they please, violating social norms and expectations without the slightest sense of guilt or regret.”*

Why is it so critical for you to know about sociopaths? Because millions of sociopaths are living among us. Yes, many of them are criminals, locked up in jail. But far more are on the street, hurting people without breaking laws, operating in the gray areas between legal and illegal, or simply eluding the authorities. They can appear to be normal, but they pose a tremendous threat to us all.

Sociopaths exhibit a range of behaviors. In fact, Dr. Hare diagnoses them according to their score on a scale. So just as you could describe someone’s intelligence as ranging from smart to genius, you could describe a sociopath as somewhere between sleazy and serial killer. If you see sleazy, he or she may be on the low end of the scale, but they’re still bad news.

And there’s more. In addition to sociopaths and psychopaths, other exploiters are diagnosed as having narcissistic or borderline personality disorders. The symptoms are somewhat different, but these people are no less dangerous to your health and wellbeing.

Experts estimate that 1% to 4% of the population are sociopaths or psychopaths, up to 6% are narcissists and up to 6% are borderline. Add the figures together and perhaps 16% of the people around us have exploitative personality disorders.

This web site is dedicated to informing you about these manipulative people so you can protect yourself. Learn to spot the behaviors that might indicate someone has a personality disorder. Once they are adults, most disordered men and women do not change. They cannot be rehabilitated. The sooner you can get away from them, the better off you’ll be.

If you’re worried that your partner may be disordered, read Red Flags of Love Fraud — 10 signs you’re dating a sociopath.

*© 1993 by Robert D. Hare, PhD. Reprinted by permission of The Guilford Press.

Next: Key symptoms of a sociopath / psychopath