A sociopath could be sitting right next to you at this minute and you might never realize it, it could be the co-worker who tells tall stories, the boyfriend who dumps you at the drop of a hat, the friend who seems to have a perfect life, the online friend who is a little mysterious.
The terms "sociopath" and "psychopath" describe pretty much the same personality disorder, people who feel no emotional connections to others and have zero regard for the rules and regulations of society.
Sociopaths are not insane or mentally ill, they know the rules but they just choose to break them
Charming, entertaining, witty Sociopaths look and act like your best friend
If you expect sociopaths to have a crazy or sinister appearance, you're sadly mistaken. Sociopaths look non-descript, average or attractive just like anybody else.
Sociopaths come from all walks of life including well-educated, well-off families. Many sociopaths, therefore, have good social graces. They know how to dress and how to behave in polite society.
This doesn't stop them from lying, cheating and stealing. On the contrary, it makes their deceptions easier. Sociopaths from middle-class or privileged backgrounds often excel at white collar crime fraud, phony stock schemes, embezzlement, insurance scams.
Why sociopaths are hard to recognize
1. They're fluent talkers (liars). Even when caught in a lie, they change their stories without skipping a beat or pretend amnesia. They can have very selective memories.
2. They're totally comfortable in social situations and cool under pressure.
3. They use family or business connections to make themselves appear legitimate.
4. They often become, or pretend to be, lawyers, physicians, Managers, teachers, counselors, police officers and artists. Most of us generally assume people in these positions are trustworthy.
5. They're happy to exaggerate or fabricate credentials. Few of us check their references. They often assume a prominent person's identity/persona who is less visible/identifiable.
6. They will say absolutely anything "I love you," "You can trust me," "I'll never do it again." "I'm sorry", "I will never let you down again" The words, to them, mean absolutely nothing.
7. They construct elaborate alter egos/ identities where they are out the role of the person they would like to be, to disguise their own short comings.
According to Dr. Robert Hare, many sociopaths (he prefers the term "psychopaths") behave in a way that is technically not illegal, but violates conventional ethical standards. Dr. Hare calls these cases "sub criminal."
In his book, Without Conscience, he states:
"They appear to function reasonably well as lawyers, doctors, psychiatrists, academics, mercenaries, police officers, cult leaders, military personnel, businesspeople, writers, artists, entertainers and so forth without breaking the law, or at least without being caught and convicted. These individuals are every bit as egocentric, callous and manipulative as the average criminal psychopath; however, their intelligence, family background, social skills and circumstances permit them to construct a facade of normalcy and to get what they want with relative impunity."*