Signs of a sociopathic personality

Updated February 21, 2017

Ted Bundy was a very charming, handsome man who could woo women and lull them into trusting his every word. He was also a sociopath who ended up being convicted of heinously murdering more than 30 women and degrading their bodies afterwards. Although many sociopaths aren't likely to follow in the footsteps of Ted Bundy, they still share the same tendencies and personality traits associated with all sociopaths.

Clinical Definition

Antisocial personality disorder (APD) is the clinical name for sociopathy, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-IV TR) that mental health professionals use when diagnosing a patient. Sociopathy is sometimes interchanged with psychopathy, but professionals do not always agree. Psychology professor David Lykken believes that sociopathic personalities have more of an environmental root, while psychopaths are more rooted in genetic predisposition. Statistics show that three per cent of men and one per cent of all women are diagnosed. Diagnosis can only be given to those 18 years old with a pattern of conduct disorders.


The most useful tool of a sociopath is charm. Sociopaths are able to turn on the smile or ake advantage of social situations to lure people into their web. Ted Bundy, for instance, would sometimes feign an injury like putting an arm into a sling to elicit sympathy. This charm is why some sociopaths, despite the personality disorder, can have marital relationships.

Early Signs

The DSM-IV also says that symptoms of sociopathy tend to start in early childhood. There tends to be a history of conduct issues, especially with disrespect for authority and fighting with other children. John Marshall McDonald, a psychiatrist, discovered that sociopaths exhibit three specific behaviours as children: consistent bed-wetting after the age of five, pyromania and cruelty to animals. These acts, known as the McDonald triad of sociopathy, are so significant that they were included in the DSM-IV.

Disregard for Others

Sociopaths also have a nearly complete disregard for others' well-being and rights as a whole. It isn't uncommon for a sociopath to shun helping those in distress unless there is some personal gains to be received from it. Some sociopaths can quickly rise to anger and commit acts of violence on loved ones as well, showing lack of empathy. Sociopaths will lie, cheat and steal to achieve their goals, regardless of who is in the way. You won't find a sociopath with a circle of friends.


Sociopaths also tend to be narcissistic and exaggerators, especially when it comes to their personal skills and abilities. They might create lofty, long-term goals that require special skills that the sociopath may not truly have but believes he or she does. Sociopaths can also be known to brag about crimes they have got away with, sensing pride in outsmarting the public or authority.

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About the Author

Paul Bright has been writing online since 2006, specializing in topics related to military employment and mental health. He works for a mental health non-profit in Northern California. Bright holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of North Carolina-Pembroke and a Master of Arts in psychology-marriage and family therapy from Brandman University.