So your bully could be just a bully…or they could be a sociopath.  How to tell? And why should you be vigilant?

According to clinical psychologist and former Harvard Medical School faculty member Dr. Martha Stout, in the U.S.  sociopathology is more common than anorexia and colon cancer. In her groundbreaking and bestselling book, The Sociopath Next Door, Stout asserts that 1 in 25 Americans, or 4% of the population, are sociopaths. It’s well worth your while to understand these mentally ill individuals and how they work.


Interchangeable with the word psychopath, or the fluffy-sounding anti-social personality disorder, sociopaths are basically people with no conscience.  They have no guilt and no capacity to love or empathize. Furthermore, sociopaths are masters of mind games and manipulation. They’re ice cold and, according to Dr. Stout, can do anything at all, including vicious scapegoating and bullying.


In a word (okay, three words): ordinary, ordinary, ordinary. Sociopaths tend to look more like the Peyton character in “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle” than Charles Manson. The proverbial “wolves in sheep’s clothing”, sociopaths can fool even the savviest observers of human behavior.

What are their guises? Anything from an animal rights advocate to an engineer, gym coach, CEO, Wal-Mart greeter, teacher, day care provider or academic. Simply put, sociopaths are experts at camoflauge and appear anywhere and everywhere. Don’t be fooled by touch-feely labels or lofty-sounding titles, including positions of authority.


According to the DSM-III & IV, the “bible” of mental disorders, if three or more of the following characteristics appear in an individual, you just might be dealing with a sociopath.

1. Failure to conform to social norms (Like not stealing, fibbing or killing…)
2. Deceitfulness, manipulativeness and insincerity. Pity plays and a victim stance are very common.
3. Failure to plan ahead or being impulsive.
4. Conning for pleasure or profit, repeated lying, or the use of aliases.
5. Reckless when it comes to their or others safety.
6. Consistent irresponsibility including poor work behavior or failure to honor financial obligations.
7. Rationalizing the pain they inflict on others. Lack of remorse.
8. Irritability, aggressiveness


* Glib, superficial charm (Mr. Game Show Host, although they can also be subtle and very convincing.)
* Pathological lying
*Absence of anxiety or other “neurotic” symptoms. Considerable poise, calmness, and verbal facility.
*Total self-centeredness and egocentrism. Incapacity for real love and attachment.
* Charismatic and seductive, sexually and psychologically. Fine actors.
* Seems more ‘complex’ and interesting that ordinary people
* Parasitic relationships with friends
* Risk addict and stimulation junkie in every arena of life. Easily bored.
* History of behavior problems (never mind how squeaky clean and/or respected they are now)
* Refusal to acknowledge responsibility for said problems
* Callousness
* Shallow emotion
* An impersonal, trivial, and poorly integrated sex life.
* Inflated and grandiose sense of self-worth (“Someday the world will know how special I really am”)
* No genuine interest in bonding, especially with a mate
* Relationships = strictly gamesmanship

*Projecting –  e.g. a sociopath may accuse someone of stealing when in fact they’re the thief.

* Gaslighting –   e.g.  a sociopath verbally attacking a target and then, after they get upset, claim they’re mentally unstable and should get professional help. This is also known as a mind game.

For a comprehensive look at sociopathy, check out A Beginner’s Guide to Sociopaths: A Hands-On Survival Manual — yet another FREE premium for you (and membership perk!)

Learn more:

Cleckley, Hervey (1903-1984) The Mask of Sanity, Fifth Edition, 1988. Previous editions copyrighted 1941, 1950, 1955, 1964, 1976 by St. Louis: Mosby Co.
Hare, R. (1991) The Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised. Toronto: Multi-Health Systems.

Stout, M. (2005)  The Sociopath Next Door. Random House. Toch, H. & K. Adams (1994) The Disturbed Violent Offender. Washington: APA.


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