High-Functioning Sociopaths and How to Spot Them


At some point in your life, chances are you have encountered a sociopath. This individual may have lived in your neighborhood, worked in the cubicle next to yours or even been a member of your inner social circle. Many individuals are unaware of the qualities and characteristics of a sociopath. Sociopathy is a common term used to describe someone who has an antisocial personality disorder. These individuals are can be manipulative and have a general lack of empathy, respect or regard for others. The may also be incredibly charming and intelligent, seeming to have it all effortlessly.

Sociopaths can be dangerous social companions, caring only for their own goals and driven by any means necessary to achieve their heart’s desire. Sociopaths exhibit a lack of concern for the rules or moral implications of their actions, often acting only in ways which benefit themselves.

They are often perceived as overdramatic, calculating and cunning, creating circumstances for which they will benefit. In some cases, these individuals seek out revenge in theatrical and explosive ways that often jeopardize the career, social status or even lives of those they are attacking.

Sociopathy is often categorized in two ways: high-functioning and low-functioning. The terms high-functioning and low-functioning are not medical descriptors but instead are common terms used to describe the level of skill that the sociopath has. Both categories of a sociopath can be difficult in relationships or social networks, each having a specific set of characteristics which open opportunity for harmful behavior towards others.

Low-Functioning Sociopaths

Low-functioning sociopaths are those who are often easily discovered in their social standings. These individuals often lack the skills and experience to manipulate people or situations to benefit themselves. Low-functioning sociopaths are the type of sociopath which often views relationships with others as a form of amusement and entertainment. They will engage and disengage in relationships without much consideration as to how their on/off style of socializing is perceived.

High-Functioning Sociopaths

In contrast, high-functioning sociopaths are said to be masters of their talents. These individuals demonstrate a high level of intelligence, often scoring high on standardized tests. They are often seen as exquisitely charming, possessing social skills that are refined and advanced. In some cases, high-functioning sociopaths have a family background that demonstrates wealth, power, or both.  Additional qualities of high-functioning sociopaths can include:

  • Calculating manner, they seem to recognize any and every opportunity for advancing their own goals
  • Seemingly careless about the opinions of others or how others perceive them
  • An extreme sense of confidence
  • A natural talent for decision making. Their attitude and lack of concern for others allows them the ability to make decisions independently and without fear of hurting others
  • Lack of empathy
  • A rude sense of humor
  • Deceiving
  • An absence of remorse or regret

These individuals are adept at blending into the social circle they are present it. Their high level of intelligence and ability to manipulate others allows them the opportunity of easily disguising themselves and hiding the qualities that would tip others off to their condition.

High-functioning sociopaths are often perceived to be fierce competitors.  Their ability to move through life without concern for others or their feelings combined with their decisive and deceptive nature make them a difficult opponent in any field they are in. Often these individuals seem to achieve high levels of success without much effort.

Unlike low-functioning sociopaths, high-functioning sociopaths often have a code which governs their behavior. Despite this code, sociopaths are not motivated or governed by a conscious like other individuals. They also possess the ability to control their drives and urges. However, these qualities do not prevent the individual from engaging in the negative behavior patterns commonly associated with the disorder.

These individuals can at times be extremely dangerous or harmful to others. This is due to the combined factors of an absence of empathy, respect for others and a high drive to achieve their own goals or pursue actions that will provide benefit to themselves, even when it potentially jeopardizes those around them.  Their decision making is not affected by the outcomes or effects that will result.

Identifying a High-Functioning Sociopath

Are you concerned that someone you know might be a high-functioning sociopath? Here are a few ways to help you identify a high-functioning sociopath.

1. Domineering Personality

High-functioning sociopaths are extremely intelligent and often tend to dominate others in conversation and other scenarios. Their nature demands that they achieve their goals using domination over others. Domination helps these individuals to feel superior and feeds into their self-esteem by establishing a sense of importance over others. In dominating the conversation or situation they are in, they find themselves in control of what happens and what experiences they will have. Domination allows these individuals to control and in turn, ensures that their needs and desires will be met by any means necessary.

2. Fast and Loose with their Language

High-functioning sociopaths are often known for their ability to speak rapidly and use a large variety of words. Their high level of intelligence is exhibited using large or complex terminology to establish a sense of inferiority in others. These individuals often use this style of speaking to cover up or hide the untruths that they often speak. High-functioning sociopaths are known to lie with ease due to their inability to feel empathy for others. While they may understand that lying can be harmful or manipulative, they lack the concern for these issues. These individuals will often babble, use big words and repeatedly lie if it suits their needs.

3. Overly Exaggerative

High-functioning sociopaths often engage in conversation by overly exaggerating their opinion. They make unrealistic promises, provide extravagant compliments and tell tall tells. Their exaggeration can be either highly positive or profoundly negative, using statements and stories as a means of exercising their flair and power over others. Whether they are incredibly charming or extremely condescending, their word choices will be lavish and can switch between positive and negative very quickly.

If you suspect that there is a high-functioning sociopath in your life, you can click here to read about ways to deal with these difficult individuals.

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