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What is a Sociopath?
Sociopathy, also called psychopathy, is a personality disorder characterized by deceit on a scale most of us cannot imagine. These people 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."
Sociopathy is a complex personality disorder. Sociopaths exhibit a wide variety of maladaptive behavior which makes the condition difficult to diagnose. Sociopathy is not one trait; it is a syndrome—a cluster of related symptoms.
Dr. Robert Hare’s Symptoms of Psychopaths are:
Glid & superficial – witty and articulate. They can be very effective in presenting themselves well and are often very likeable and charming.
Egocentric and grandiose – have a narcissistic and grossly inflated view of their self-worth and importance, a truly astounding egocentricity and sense of entitlement.
Lack of remorse or guilt – show a stunning lack of concern, for the devasting effects their actions have on others. Usually they have handy excuses for their behavior, and in some cases they deny that it happened at all.
Shallow emotions - Psychopaths seem to suffer a kind of emotional poverty that limits the range and depth of their feelings. While at times they appear cold and unemotional, they are prone to dramatic, shallow and short-lived displays of feeling. Careful observers are left with the impression that they are play-acting and that little is going on below the surface. Laboratory experiments using biomedical recorders have shown that psychopaths lack the physiological responses normally associated with fear. The significance of this finding is that, for most people, the fear produced by threats of pain or punishment is an unpleasant emotion and a powerful motivator of behavior. Not so with psychopaths; they merrily plunge on, perhaps knowing what might happen but not really caring.
Dr. Dorothy E. Hooks