Do sociopaths have high self-esteem?

Sociopath: 12 Signs That You Can Know About It

Sociopaths are everywhere - maybe in your office too. Psychopaths love to romp around in the management floors, as we have already explained to you in the article "Cabinet of horrors in the office: Is your boss a psychopath?" But are psychopaths and sociopaths the same thing? How many people are affected by sociopathy and how do you recognize it? We explain how you can protect yourself from the ticking time bomb.

1. Sociopathy vs. Psychopathy: What's the Difference?
2. Psychopaths are masters of deception
3. Sociopaths are impulsive outsiders
4. Sociopaths in professional life are rare - but dangerous
5. How can I recognize a sociopath?
6. Correct use: How to protect yourself from sociopaths
7. Test: Am I a sociopath?
8. Conclusion: Be attentive, but not fearful!

Sociopathy vs. Psychopathy: What's the Difference?

Psychopath, sociopath ... isn't it all the same? At least these terms are often used as synonyms in German usage. Experts are likely to stand up the hair on the back of their necks. Psychopathy and sociopathy both belong to the grouping of "antisocial personalities" (source: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - DSM-5) and have the following common features:

  • manipulation
  • Aggression with a tendency to violent behavior
  • lack of conscience in the sense of guilt or remorse
  • Failure to comply with rules or laws
  • Dominance over their fellow men
  • lack of shame
  • frequent lying
  • lack of awareness of the rights or self-determination of others

Nevertheless, sociopaths and psychopaths are very different and should therefore be classified as two different personality disorders:

Psychopaths are masters of deception

Psychopaths act on other people because of their apparently pronounced social skills often particularly charming, courteous or even fascinating. At the beginning you fit into a group without any problems, are well integrated into society and quickly become the focus of the team. You appear self-confident, helpful and therefore a born “leader” for a group. No wonder that they quickly advance to management positions and that they usually achieve great success in both private and professional life.

The problem is: The social skills of a psychopath are pure delusion. There is pure manipulation behind their alleged trustworthiness. Due to the lack of empathy, other people become a tool for a psychopath to pursue his own goals - regardless of losses. He works in a controlled manner, plans his strategy carefully and can skilfully hide his real intentions. If a psychopath becomes a criminal offender, it is usually a matter of those cases in which "nobody could have suspected anything because he was such a pleasant and inconspicuous person, a loving father, friendly neighbor and hard-working employee". And this is exactly where the most important difference to sociopathy lies:

Sociopaths are impulsive outsiders

Sociopaths show a similar disorder, but in contrast to psychopaths, they cannot control or conceal it. you are Hostage of her feelings, derail quickly and lead a life as an outsider on the fringes of society. If the sociopath becomes a criminal, the statements sound much more like "I always suspected it" or "He was always somehow strange". A sociopath acts impulsively and unplanned. And while experts suspect the cause of psychopathy in a person's genetic makeup, sociopathy arises from traumatic experiences in early childhood, such as violence or lack of affection.

Experts estimate the number of sociopaths at around one to three percent of the German population. Three quarters of them are men, only about a quarter women.

We also explained how you can recognize a psychopath in the article “Cabinet of horrors in the office: Is your boss a psychopath?”. But how does that work with sociopaths?

Sociopaths in professional life are rare - but dangerous

While every tenth manager in Germany shows psychopathic traits, sociopaths are rarely encountered in professional life. Their impulsiveness, inability to socialize, or control their emotions make them difficult workers. The problems often start much earlier, in childhood and school age, which is why the majority of sociopaths are uneducated, with no school leaving certificate or training. However, should you have found your way into an employment relationship, this is usually of a rather limited duration. A sociopath will show abnormalities after a short time and is therefore anything but difficult to recognize.

How can I recognize a sociopath?

If you keep your eyes open, you'll identify a sociopath in no time. He shows special interference patternswhich, unlike the psychopath, he cannot control or even hide. Often he is not even aware of this personality disorder, so, unlike a psychopath, he does not notice that he is actually doing something "wrong". The following behaviors can - but do not have to - be signs of sociopathy, especially when they occur in combination:

  1. spontaneous and impulsive action
  2. rapid and uncontrolled mood swings
  3. Emotional extremes such as panic attacks or fits of anger
  4. lack of shame
  5. Failure to follow rules
  6. moral transgressions
  7. chronic lying
  8. "Win at any price"
  9. social outsider
  10. Unrealistic
  11. Inability to make objective arguments and logical trains of thought
  12. emotional instead of fact-based conversation

Because of their unreality, sociopaths tend to lie a lot. Their stories often seem exaggerated and implausible. In fact, check them once for their truthfulness. You will quickly notice that there is no truth to be found behind the good-sounding story. Therefore, always try to check the statements of the person concerned for facts. But be careful: Many sociopaths react angrily to such a confrontation. Frequent and violent fits of anger are ultimately also part of the disorder of sociopathy. This is arguably the easiest way to expose a sociopath and at the same time you will no longer fall for fictional lies.

Correct handling: How to protect yourself from sociopaths

But how do you deal with him now that you have identified the sociopath? How can you protect yourself from him, his emotional fluctuations, manipulation or even physical attacks?

1. Keep your distance! Of course, the first step once you've identified a sociopath is to keep your distance as much as possible. However, this is not always possible in professional life. What if you are supposed to work together in a team or it is even your supervisor?

2. Be boring! A sociopath needs excitement and variety. He wants dolls that he can pull the strings from and then watch them slowly destroy one another. Sound exaggerated? But that's roughly how the exciting world of sociopaths works - consciously or unconsciously. Don't play his manipulative games, but don't provoke him unnecessarily either. Treat him objectively, discuss the most necessary work topics with him and then withdraw again. The more matter-of-fact and relaxed you are, the more boring you appear to the sociopath and the more likely he is to leave you alone.

3. Don't be intimidated! But that doesn't mean you have to hide fearfully. On the contrary: Treat the sociopath like any other colleague, intern or supervisor. Don't show fear. As long as you do not irritate him unnecessarily or meet him on a lonely street in the dark at night, there is no danger from him at first. Not every sociopath becomes a murderer, even if the TV series from Hollywood would like us to believe that.

4. Get Help! However, should problems arise because the sociopath is harassing, threatening, stalking you or simply making it impossible to work together, you can get help. That's why they don't look like sneaks right away. Instead, you are doing yourself and your work environment a big favor by speaking to your supervisor about the problem or - if the supervisor himself is the dreaded sociopath - by going to the works council. You are certainly not the only person who has seen the strange behavior.

5. Listen to your gut feeling! This will tell you who is a sociopath and who is not, when he is lying (again) or even developing into a danger for you or the company. So sharpen your senses and listen to a bad gut feeling or the little alarm bells in the back of your head. Also, try to identify the reasons for these warning signs and draw the right conclusions for yourself. In an emergency, a career change may even be necessary, in the sense of an internal transfer or a job change, in order to escape the harmful environment of a sociopath. So take the courage to listen to your gut instinct and to draw the appropriate conclusions from it!

Test: Am I a Sociopath?

But what if the sociopath looks at you in the mirror? Are your tantrums or mood swings still in a "normal" range or are you perhaps sociopathically predisposed yourself? Before you scan your environment and judge it, you should finally touch your own nose. So now we have a quick self-test for you: Are you a sociopath?

Answer each of the following questions with one of these numbers:

1 (does not apply at all)
2 (hardly applies)
3 (neutral)
4 (rather applies)
5 (fully applies)

Here we go!

1. I want everything to always go the way I want it to. In return, I accept manipulating or exploiting people.

2. If I can't get my way through or if I get headwinds, I sometimes get very angry.

3. I don't consider small white lies bad. I lie a lot and without a guilty conscience.

4. In my past, I have hurt people through deception or fraud. But I hardly feel sorry for them, if at all.

5. It is not difficult for me to leave people behind. Relationships and friendships were therefore always short-lived for me. I don't know any intense feelings of affection. That's why I'm often referred to as cold or inconsiderate.

6. I get bored easily. I then look for changes in my life, such as a new job, new friends or new hobbies. I like to push myself to my limits. I'm not afraid of the danger.

7. When I'm really sad or angry, I find it difficult to control my emotions. I become aggressive, threaten or even attack physically. Physical arguments are not unusual for me.

8. You could well say that I've broken the law every now and then or stretched it to the limit. I also often and happily break social values ​​or customs.

9. I have difficulties taking responsibility for my actions and pursuing and achieving long-term goals. I usually break obligations like an employment contract sooner or later. I have therefore often had conflicts with persons in authority, such as parents, teachers or superiors.

10. In principle, I make decisions impulsively and from the moment. Planning and discipline are not my strengths. I can break all bridges overnight and start a completely new life, regardless of losses. I just listen to my feelings when doing something like this and feel neither guilt nor remorse when other people are hurt or harmed by it.

Curious; excited? Total your score. Here is your personal result:

10-30 points: Sociopathic traits? Not with you!

Congratulations! You are a socially acceptable person who integrates well into groups, is popular and presumably has a long-term, stable love relationship. You will be valued in your job and convince with your high level of emotional intelligence. Sociopathic traits are nowhere to be found in you. Instead, be careful that your good-natured manner does not make you a victim of one. The motto is: keep your eyes open!

30-40 points: Don't panic, but be careful!

Did some of the questions apply to you at least in part? Therefore, you are still a long way from being a sociopath with personality disorder. So don't fall into self-doubt or panic right away. But stay vigilant, observe yourself and your behavior, and possibly seek professional advice. Another personality disorder may or may not be behind your social difficulties, such as narcissism. Do not jump to conclusions, after all, it is not a clinical test. Working on your social skills here and there could still bring positive results for you as well as for your professional and private environment. Try it!

40-50 points: Let a professional test you!

Did you get 40 or even 50 points in this test? This does not directly mean the diagnosis of "antisocial personality" in the sense of sociopathy. This can only be provided by a professional. For this reason, you should see a psychotherapist or psychiatrist and talk to them about your social problems. This will give your professional and private life a new direction towards a happier and more promising future.

Conclusion: be attentive, but not fearful!

Meeting a sociopath or showing sociopathic traits yourself is not the end of the world. If you pay attention you will spot a sociopath early on, and now that you know how to properly deal with one, it won't do you much harm. And if you notice (repetitive) social problems in yourself, do not hesitate to seek help. Going to the therapist is no reason to be ashamed. You can also keep it to yourself as a little secret. But you will see: as soon as you act, your life will change for the better. Perhaps it would be time in Germany to learn the therapy culture of the Americans. There the “personal therapist” has already become a status symbol. After all, everyone has to carry their own package.

Or what do you think? Have you already had experience with sociopathy in your professional or private life? How do you recommend dealing with sociopathic colleagues or superiors at work? How can our readers recognize these and protect themselves from them? Or how did you perhaps recognize and overcome your own sociopathic behavior patterns?

Photo credit: Aquamethods /


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