What is a high functioning sociopath?

In this blog we will discuss what a high functioning sociopath is. 

A high functioning sociopath refers to an individual who has antisocial personality disorder or undiagnosed traits like lack of empathy and disregard of others; however, sociopaths who are “high functioning” are able to have functioning careers and relationships.  

Let us take a closer look at what high functioning sociopaths are, the difference between sociopaths and psychopaths, and key characteristics of a high functioning sociopath.

We will also briefly touch upon the diagnosis and possible treatments available for people who have dysfunctions in their lives as a result of sociopathy. 

What is a high functioning sociopath?

A high functioning sociopath refers to an individual who has antisocial personality disorder or undiagnosed traits like lack of empathy and disregard of others; however, sociopaths who are “high functioning” are able to have functioning careers and relationships. 

Individuals who are considered sociopaths are individuals who lack empathy and have no regard for the feelings and rights of other people; they do not understand that their behaviours can impact other people.

They are also observed to be narcissistic and engage in criminal behaviours because they believe that they are above the law and will never get caught or punished for their crimes. 

Low functioning Sociopaths do not function well in society and spend their time in and out of the justice system however, “high-functioning” sociopaths are able to assimilate into the world around them.

High functioning sociopaths are very skilled in recognising patterns, social and cultural norms, and are able to incorporate them into their code and conduct which is why high functioning sociopaths are able to lead relatively normal and successful lives. 

According to Kimberly Holland, a writer at Healthline, “…People with high-functioning ASPD can often do typical ‘everyday’ things like hold down a job and maintain a marriage with kids.”

However, it has to be mentioned that there might be high risk of manipulation and exploitation even in these situations for their own benefits- some might do it without awareness while others might be unaware of how this impacts other people. 

Individuals with high-functioning ASPD are able to mask their lack of empathy or their intentions and are seen as polished and polite; charming and caring even- but all of these behaviours are done with the intent of some personal gain.

What are the key characteristics of a high functioning sociopath?

Here are the key characteristics of a high functioning sociopath:

Lack of empathy

They  tend to lack empathy and find it difficult to empathise with others and understand other people. Along with this they might be observed as someone who is very logical- to logical in fact that they are unable to grasp why people feel a certain way.

This often leads them to be unaware of how their behaviours impact other people and are unable to comprehend that people can be hurt by their behaviours. 

For high functioning sociopaths, though they may lack empathy, they are able to learn social norms and social rules. This allows them to feign empathy and even stick to social rules. 

Higher intelligence

High-functioning sociopaths often test well on IQ tests and have superior intelligence compared to other sociopaths and psychopaths. 

Rather than having grandiose ideas about their own intelligence, high functioning social[ths are able to learn daily quickly which allows them to be very calculative in their day to day lives.  

They are socially charming

They have a magnetic personality which allows them to be the centre of attraction and often other people are drawn to them because of how chamng they are. This is because high functioning sociopaths are able to minic and play out a certain kind of ideal for others to appease them.

Seemingly Socially successful

Unlike other individuals with antisocial personality disorder, they are able to hold jobs, are married, and have children. 

They can also be fairly successful in their careers and often are observed to hold high professional positions in their careers. 

Narcissistic

High functioning sociopaths might appear to be narcissistic and have a grandiose self-image due their delusional beliefs about themselves.

They might have sexually deviant interests

This means that they might engage in affairs and engage in the questionable sexual activity- including various forms of paraphillia. 

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They engage in Impulsive behaviours

Sociopaths are often reckless and are driven by their need to get what they want immediately. They are unable to tolerate distress and delays and are often driven by the need for immediate gratification. 

They are compulsive liars

Usually, Sociopaths often lie and often disregard the truth to make themselves look better or get what they want. They tend to stick to the lie even after being found out. 

Engages in Addictive Behaviour

They might be observed to have addictions to drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, or other addictive behaviors.

They engage in criminal behaviours

In general, sociopaths or people with antisocial personality disorders are known rule breakers as a result of which they might have a history of criminal activity because of their belief that they are above the law.

High-functioning sociopaths may also participate in more serious crimes because they believe that they are too smart to get caught and even if they do, they can get out of it. 

What Causes High-Functioning Sociopaths?

Sociopathy and antisocial personality disorder, like most personality disorders, can be caused by the influence of abnormal brain functioning  caused by injury or structure differences as well as early life experiences related to caregiver relationships and trauma.

The exact cause of sociopathy is not known, however most experts in the field believe that this is a result of multiple factors. These include:

  • A family history of antisocial personality disorder or other mental illnesses
  • Brain injury and structure differences
  • Diagnosis of a childhood conduct disorder
  • Exposure to trauma, abuse, or neglect during childhood
  • An unstable or violent family life during formative years (Betterhelp).

What are the treatments for high functioning Sociopaths?

There is no standardised treatment for sociopath or Antisocial Personality Disorder, however there are some interventions for this disorder which target related problems such as therapy for relationship issues and pharmacological intervention for depression or anxiety that are comorbid with the condition. 

These interventions are applied after an individual is diagnosed with high-functioning ASPD. This diagnosis is done via standardised check lists and interviews with the individual as well as with people who live and have witnessed them grow- parents, siblings, guardians, peers, and romantic partners. 

The mental health providers and other medical experts take into account negative patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving based on the Antisocial personality disorder criteria streamlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental disorders (5th Edition).

These criterias include:

  • The individual- who is a adult- exhibits a disregard for rules, norms, or boundaries
  • Is often observed to be repeatedly lying or deceiving others for personal gain
  • Has an inability to act with long-term plans
  • Engages in impulsive behaviours
  • Is observed to lack remorse and has no regard for the rights and feelings of other people.
  • They tend to fail in maintaining responsibilities, such as work or financial commitments
  • Often exhibits aggressive behaviour, especially when challenged

These criterias is observed to impact the individuals functioning in areas related to their relationships and their professional careers as well and cannot be explained by other medical or mental disorders.

Even when someone with sociopath or antisocial personality disorders are diagnosed, it is possible that they are in denial of their conditions and are resistant to treatments. 

There are some interventions available for people with sociopathy and other comorbid conditions, these include:

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapeutic interventions that are targeted towards anger management, delusional thinking, couple and marital problems, and addictions can be effective (betterhelp).

It is possible that these talk therapy interventions can also help unearth root causes of the problems for their negative thought patterns and behaviours.

 However, this is often challenging because most individuals with antisocial personality disorders are in denial and resistant to treatment especially because they do not come for interventions williging and are rather mandated to attend therapy sessions as part of their court ruling following an encounter with the law and judiciary. 

Medication

Currently, there are no medications to treat antisocial personality disorder that have been approved by the FDA; however, it is possible that individuals with sociopathy might be administered medications that can help relieve the symptoms of co-occurring conditions such as anxiety, depression, impulsivity, or aggression.

Stress Reducing Activities

Activities such as Yoga, exercise, guided meditation strategies, and other alternative therapies may help a sociopath manage  stress and become more mindful of their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. 

These activities and interventions do not cure the condition but can be used in addition to pharmacological and therapeutic interventions. 

Conclusion

In this blog we have discussed what a high functioning sociopath is.

We have also taken a closer look at what high functioning sociopaths are, the difference between sociopaths and psychopaths, and key characteristics of a high functioning sociopath.

We also briefly touched upon the diagnosis and possible treatments available for people who have dysfunctions in their lives as a result of sociopathy. 

FAQ related to High functioning sociopath

What is a sociopath’s weakness?

One of the key definition deficits in sociopaths is their lack of empathy and inability to understand the impact their behaviours have on others. 

They also have a hard time dealing with impulses and frustration meaning that they might lack some self control and are often observed to engage in risky behaviours.

What is a high-functioning psychopath?

A high-functioning psychopath refers to individuals who tend to go after what they want- usually success- at the expense of others.

Individuals with high-functioning ASPD are able to mask their lack of empathy or their intentions and are seen as polished and polite; charming and caring even- but all of these behaviours are done with the intent of some personal gain.

Do psychopaths have high IQ?

Researchers believe that there is no evidence that psychopaths were more intelligent than people who don’t have psychopathic traits. There has even been some evidence that psychopaths scored lower on IQ tests compared to non-psychopaths. 

However, because of their delusional beliefs about their skills and abilities, psychopaths might come off as or pretend to be smarter than they are. 

References

Petty.A.Jerk or Sociopath: When Is It More Than a Crappy Personality? TheGreatList. Retrieved on 8th March 2022. https://greatist.com/health/high-functioning-sociopath

 Cocchimiglio.S. Traits Of A High Functioning Sociopath. BetterHelp.Retrievd on 8th march 2022. https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/sociopathy/traits-of-a-high-functioning-sociopath/

Holland.K.What Is a High-Functioning Sociopath? Healthline. Retrieved on 8th march 2022. https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/high-functioning-sociopath

Gardner.A, What It Means to Be a High-Functioning Sociopath—and How to Tell If You Know One. Health. Retrieved on 8th March 2022.https://www.health.com/condition/antisocial-personality-disorder/high-functioning-sociopath

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