How To Deal With A Sociopath
Updated November 07, 2019
Reviewer Chante’ Gamby, LCSW
If you've found this article, it's likely that you're in a challenging relationship with someone in your life. You've heard the definition of a sociopath, and you're seeing the manipulation, the lack of remorse, the pathological lying, and the shallow emotions that they're known for. You've been personally affected and possibly even put in dangerous situations.
Whether the sociopath in your life is a friend, a family member, a coworker, or a romantic partner, their personality disorder takes a toll on you and everyone else around them. With the right tools, you can keep yourself safe and prevent their actions from affecting you personally.
There are ways to deal with the sociopath in your life. In an ideal situation, you would be able to simply leave the relationship and not associate with the sociopath any further. However, this is not always possible. If you're not able to leave the relationship, there are various tools to keep you safe and to prevent this person from causing you pain. These tools include avoiding confrontation, staying alert, and never trying to "fix" a sociopath. We will look into each of these tips in this article. First, let's cover some background information about sociopaths.
What Is a Sociopath?
One in every 25 people is a sociopath. With such a high percentage of sociopaths in the world, it is clear that many people, even people we know, have to deal with sociopaths every day. Even if it's not a common topic of discussion, it's likely that you know a lot of people who have a sociopath in their life, and you may have one in yours as well.
The DSM-5 defines antisocial personality disorder as "[a] pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others occurring since the age 15 years, as indicated by three (or more) of the following:
- Failure to conform to social norms concerning lawful behaviors, as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest.
- Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure.
- Impulsivity or failure to plan.
- Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults.
- Reckless disregard for the safety of self or others.
- Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations.
- Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another."
If you have a person in your life who exhibits three or more of the following characteristics and who negatively impacts your life, it's important to take action. It is also important to remember that you are not alone. Everyday, people who have faced challenges caused by sociopaths get help and turn things around. You can, too. No matter how troubling the situation, you can get help and move forward.
How To Determine If Someone Is A Sociopath
It is important to understand the nature of "relationships" with sociopaths. Based on a sociopath's lack of empathy and remorse, a true "relationship" (genuine caring, give and take, love, etc.) is not possible, though the sociopath may be very good at pretending. Relationships for sociopaths are simply a "means to an end."
As such, they are one-sided and usually don't last long. It has been said that romantic relationships with sociopaths have three stages: assessment (sizing up "prey"), manipulation (sociopath does what needs to be done for goals to be met), and abandonment (mission has been accomplished, a sociopath is done).
When you understand the nature and symptoms of a sociopathy, you can protect and defend yourself. Many sociopaths count on the fact that people won't know who and what they are; as a matter of fact, this is what allows sociopaths to have power over others. If more people were aware of sociopaths, they would be less successful in their quests to manipulate and harm to others.
What To Do When Faced With A Sociopath
When you're in a situation with a sociopath, knowing exactly what to do or how to handle the situation can be challenging. However, if you're aware of the traits of the sociopath and how to protect yourself, you can prevent the relationship from having a negative impact on your life.
If Possible, Leave The Relationship
In a perfect world, the best solution for dealing with a sociopath would be to terminate all contact with them immediately. However, this is not practical in every situation. For instance, if a coworker exhibits signs of sociopathy, you may not be able to quit your job. Nevertheless, if you can afford to leave a relationship with a sociopath, even if it's your job, you should consider it. Avoiding contact with sociopaths is the easiest way to keep them from impacting your life.
It's important to understand that sociopaths can be dangerous and reckless people. They are not influenced by their conscious as most individuals are. This lack of conscious can prompt sociopaths to resort to violent behaviors when they feel threatened. Because of this, you should never confront a sociopath for any reason.
If you find yourself in a dangerous situation with a sociopath or if a sociopath has harmed you, call 911 right away. Do not try to resolve the situation yourself. Staying in an escalated situation with a sociopath could lead to great harm.
Avoid Trying To "Fix" Them
Sociopaths need professional help; you will not be able to help them change on your own, so do not try. Many people who form friendships or relationships with sociopaths want to make a positive difference in their lives. However, for safety purposes, you should leave this to mental health professionals.
This may be frustrating because sociopaths rarely seek treatment; they do not believe they need help. Those who do seek help should work with a licensed therapist in psychotherapy. There, they can receive extensive, extremely specific treatment that friends or family members cannot provide.
Seek Professional Help
If you believe someone you know is a sociopath, consider reaching out to a professional for your own benefit, even if the sociopath is not interesting helping themselves. A therapist can provide support and professional guidance in all areas of life, including those that have been affected by your relationship with the sociopath. If you have a busy schedule or need to speak to someone privately, consider using BetterHelp to connect with a therapist. BetterHelp professionals are available anytime and anywhere. See reviews of BetterHelp counselors below.
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If you are currently struggling with a sociopath, do not lose hope. By leaving the sociopath or learning how to safely interact with them, you can move forward. You can also talk with a trained therapist to understand how to handle a sociopath and heal any pain they may have caused. Take the first step.