Sociopath is difficult to define. It is often confused with anti-social.
However to be classified as a mental disorder the DSM list the criteria:
Profile of the Sociopath
This website summarizes some of the common features of descriptions of the behavior of sociopaths.
* Glibness and Superficial Charm
* Manipulative and Conning
They never recognize the rights of others and see their self-serving behaviors as permissible. They appear to be charming, yet are covertly hostile and domineering, seeing their victim as merely an instrument to be used. They may dominate and humiliate their victims.
* Grandiose Sense of Self
Feels entitled to certain things as "their right."
* Pathological Lying
Has no problem lying coolly and easily and it is almost impossible for them to be truthful on a consistent basis. Can create, and get caught up in, a complex belief about their own powers and abilities. Extremely convincing and even able to pass lie detector tests.
* Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt
A deep seated rage, which is split off and repressed, is at their core. Does not see others around them as people, but only as targets and opportunities. Instead of friends, they have victims and accomplices who end up as victims. The end always justifies the means and they let nothing stand in their way.
* Shallow Emotions
When they show what seems to be warmth, joy, love and compassion it is more feigned than experienced and serves an ulterior motive. Outraged by insignificant matters, yet remaining unmoved and cold by what would upset a normal person. Since they are not genuine, neither are their promises.
* Incapacity for Love
* Need for Stimulation
Living on the edge. Verbal outbursts and physical punishments are normal. Promiscuity and gambling are common.
* Callousness/Lack of Empathy
Unable to empathize with the pain of their victims, having only contempt for others' feelings of distress and readily taking advantage of them.
* Poor Behavioral Controls/Impulsive Nature
Rage and abuse, alternating with small expressions of love and approval produce an addictive cycle for abuser and abused, as well as creating hopelessness in the victim. Believe they are all-powerful, all-knowing, entitled to every wish, no sense of personal boundaries, no concern for their impact on others.
* Early Behavior Problems/Juvenile Delinquency
Usually has a history of behavioral and academic difficulties, yet "gets by" by conning others. Problems in making and keeping friends; aberrant behaviors such as cruelty to people or animals, stealing, etc.
Not concerned about wrecking others' lives and dreams. Oblivious or indifferent to the devastation they cause. Does not accept blame themselves, but blames others, even for acts they obviously committed.
* Promiscuous Sexual Behavior/Infidelity
Promiscuity, child sexual abuse, rape and sexual acting out of all sorts.
* Lack of Realistic Life Plan/Parasitic Lifestyle
Tends to move around a lot or makes all encompassing promises for the future, poor work ethic but exploits others effectively.
* Criminal or Entrepreneurial Versatility
Changes their image as needed to avoid prosecution. Changes life story readily.
Other Related Qualities:
1. Contemptuous of those who seek to understand them
2. Does not perceive that anything is wrong with them
6. Only rarely in difficulty with the law, but seeks out situations where their tyrannical behavior will be tolerated, condoned, or admired
7. Conventional appearance
8. Goal of enslavement of their victim(s)
9. Exercises despotic control over every aspect of the victim's life
10. Has an emotional need to justify their crimes and therefore needs their victim's affirmation (respect, gratitude and love)
11. Ultimate goal is the creation of a willing victim
12. Incapable of real human attachment to another
13. Unable to feel remorse or guilt
14. Extreme narcissism and grandiose
15. May state readily that their goal is to rule the world
(The above traits are based on the psychopathy checklists of H. Cleckley and R. Hare.)
Now for figures on the number of sociopaths in the USA:
A researcher, Martha Stout, and author of the book "The Sociopath Next Door" calculates that 1 out of every 25 people meet the definition of being a sociopath. this is probably either the truth or very close, but that is based on world wide. As far as being in the USA alone the figures are considerably less than what should be found and only about 1% of the USA has been positively identified as being a sociopath. But it is also recognised that most of the population has not been evaluated and that sociopaths often go unidentified unless the do something that draws attention to themselves.
"Who are these people? Why are they the way they are? Apparently it has little to do with upbringing. Many studies have been done trying to find out what kind of childhood leads to sociopathy. So far, nothing looks likely. They could be from any kind of family. It is partly genetic, and partly mystery.
But researchers have found that the brains of sociopaths function differently than normal people. And their brains function in a way that makes their emotional life unredeemably shallow. And yet they are capable of mimicking emotions like professional actors."