Am I a Sociopath?

Dear GoodTherapy.org,

I recently took one of those online quizzes you see on Facebook sometimes. This one was about whether you’re a sociopath or not. I love quizzes and polls, so I clicked. Now I’m sorry I did. According to this site, I am 80% sociopath!

I don’t know what to think about this. I know it’s just an online quiz, but it came from a site that looked like it was pretty credible, and I will admit I have wondered in the past if there is something wrong with me. I don’t think I’m “better” than other people, but I do think I am smarter than most. I can also be really manipulative in order to stack the cards in my favor. More to the point, I lie a lot, and it works. But at the same time, I don’t feel good about lying, if that makes sense. I feel ashamed when I lie, but I justify it based on the self-serving results, and the shame I feel doesn’t stop me from doing it again.

Besides lying, a lot of the questions on the quiz had to do with my ego and whether I feel empathy and regret. I think I do have a pretty big ego, but I also feel like I have good reason to. I would trust my own judgment over just about anyone’s, but I don’t think so highly of myself that I don’t recognize that there aren’t smarter or more educated people out there. Like, I’m not about to tell a doctor that I know more about medicine than they do. If my computer dies, I take it to someone who knows more about computers than I do. I know my limits. I don’t really feel bad for others very often and almost never cry, but it does happen. Also, I know I make mistakes just like others do. I can be very selfish, it’s true. But isn’t the fact I understand I’m selfish indicative of NOT being a sociopath?

Can you tell me what the signs are of being a sociopath and whether you get the sense I am one? And if I am one, am I a lost cause or what? —Apparently Not Smart Enough

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Dear Enough,

First, I want to caution you about taking any online “test” too seriously. They can be fun and diverting, but rarely do they meet the rigorous criteria of reliability and validity that are required of legitimate psychological tests. There is no site credible enough to allow someone to assign themselves an actual mental health diagnosis outside of work with a licensed professional. The training required to administer and interpret psychological testing is extensive, because knowing how to do so ethically and responsibly is essential and not something that can be done through, say, Facebook. Additionally, “sociopath” is not a recognized diagnosis from the DSM-5, the diagnostic manual used for mental health considerations. The closest diagnosis would be antisocial personality, and there are specific criteria that must be met to qualify for that diagnosis.

I would suggest there is pretty strong evidence against you “being a sociopath”—primarily in the fact you are concerned that you might be one and this idea creates distress for you. Generally speaking, people with sociopathy are unconcerned about their behaviors and the impact of those behaviors on others. Feeling remorse about your actions or desires would contradict a diagnosis of antisocial personality.

There is no site credible enough to allow someone to assign themselves an actual mental health diagnosis outside of work with a licensed professional.

From what you describe, it sounds like you have a strong sense of self and confidence in your intellect and your abilities. It doesn’t sound as if you have grandiose ideas about your skills; you recognize the expertise of others and defer appropriately. Your ability to admit mistakes also doesn’t fit with what we might expect to find in someone who meets diagnostic criteria.

It does sound as if some of your choices cause you distress and concern, and it may be worthwhile to talk with a professional therapist about this. You might be able to explore, for example, why you use the strategies you do and how they serve (or don’t serve) you. You can also request legitimate assessments to evaluate the presence or absence of a diagnosis; however, those tests are not infallible and need to be understood within your specific context. A licensed professional with the right training in assessment could be a helpful resource. Additionally, a licensed professional would be able to help you put into perspective how your behaviors, thoughts, and feelings fall within the realm of normative human experience.

Best of luck,

Erika Myers, MS, MEd, LPC, NCC

Erika Myers
Erika Myers, MS, MEd, LPC, NCC is a licensed psychotherapist and former educator specializing in working with families in transition (often due to separation or divorce) as well as individuals seeking support with relationship issues, parenting, depression, anxiety, grief/loss/bereavement, and managing major life changes. Although her theoretical orientation is eclectic, she most frequently uses a person-centered, strengths-based approach and cognitive behavioral therapy in her practice.
  • 3 comments
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  • Jess

    Jess

    April 4th, 2018 at 7:51 AM

    What’s the difference between a sociopath and a psychopath?

  • Ethan

    Ethan

    September 27th, 2018 at 12:58 PM

    Psychopaths are born, but Sociopath are created by their experiences in life.

  • Phillip S.

    Phillip S.

    September 27th, 2018 at 10:15 PM

    I see myself as charismatic and I most definitely change the way I act slightly depending on who I’m around. I’ve also had a problem with lying in the past, but I also see myself as an empathetic person. I love people, I like making people happy and doing nice things, I like being liked. I have unintentionally hurt some people in my life due to irrational thinking and making impulsive decisions, and oftentimes I feel remorse but there have been instances I’ve written people out of my life and hurt them without ever apologizing or feeling guilty. I am scared because I feel like I definitely show some of the signs of being a sociopath, or at the very least a narcissist. I don’t want to be either of those things, I just want to be a friendly person who is surrounded by people to love that love me as well. I’m questioning everything about myself, between my quick pathological lying, my charisma, and my manipulation in the past; I’m scared to ask the question if I’m truly a sociopath, or a pathological liar, or any other menace of the sort. Sorry for the long winded essay here, but what do you think?

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