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Sociopath Definition And The Signs Of Sociopaths

Sociopath Definition And The Signs Of Sociopaths

There are about 8 million sociopaths in the US, according to the American Psychiatric Association.[1] That means about 1 in 25 people you know is a sociopath.[3] You probably know at least one – or at some point in life, you’ll probably get to know one pretty well.

M. E. Thomas, a law professor, has a chilling confession. As a professor with many close friendships, Thomas is also a churchgoer and helps her family out. She is not what you might imagine a sociopath to be like. Instead of being outwardly volatile, she has a stable career and social life.

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But she admits that she is not normal. She does not feel ashamed when she breaks rules or hurts others. She doesn’t trust even her “close” friends. She lies and manipulates others – frequently. And her remarkable ability to stay calm helps her appear totally in control.[2]

What Is a Sociopath

By definition, a sociopath is someone with an antisocial personality disorder. This disorder includes impairments in personality (affecting both self and interpersonal relationships) as well as pathological personality traits (compulsiveness or obsessiveness).

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Sociopaths feel, think, perceive, and relate differently than people without personality disorders. They aren’t able to turn off their negative thoughts or traits, and they can’t always see how their pathological traits are problems.

So what causes sociopathy? As far as experts can tell, it’s probably a result of both “nature” (genetics) and “nurture” (environment).[4] Biologically, the brain of a sociopath matures at a slower rate than that of a non-sociopath. Early life experiences, such as trauma, abuse, or physical damage, can cause sociopathy as well.

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Some people only have some sociopathic tendencies but they’re not full-blown sociopaths.[5] Those who have the sociopathic tendencies only exhibit sociopathic behaviors and attitudes sometimes. By contrast, a full-blown sociopath never possesses genuine respect for others.

How to Tell If a Person Is a Sociopath

  • Lack a sense of shame: Sociopaths can’t really feel remorse and guilt, and they don’t get easily embarrassed.
  • Constantly lie: They’re very comfortable in telling lies, as they won’t have any guilty feelings.
  • Calm in any circumstances: Unable to feel fear and anxiety, sociopaths are good at staying calm in any circumstances.
  • Charming and generous just at first: They greet you with a charming smile and ask the appropriate questions. But the fact is, they have no interest in you at all.
  • Manipulative: They love to be in control of every situation, so they target weak people and try to dominate every aspect of their lives.
  • Have a huge ego: Sociopaths tend to be narcissistic and much more interested in talking about themselves instead of listening to others.
  • Unable to take criticism: Owing to their huge ego, sociopaths can’t take criticism. While they may not outwardly express anger, they won’t believe the criticism and instead blame others for failures.
  • Have very few real friends: Sociopaths often have difficulties in making friends, or in any relationships. They seldom truly connect with people.
  • Isolate you from others: To be the centre of your world, they would try to isolate you and ask you to stop hanging out with your friends.
  • Secretive: They don’t connect with people, and so they seldom explain what they do or why.
  • Have low tolerance for boredom: Sociopaths have a strong need for stimulation. This might even include physical punishment or gambling.
  • Poor in behavioral controls: They have a hard time predicting people’s reactions and understanding their feelings. As a result they hurt or annoy people around them without even noticing it.
  • Express shallow emotions: Sociopaths have no emotion but this doesn’t mean they don’t express emotions. They can fake it. So the emotions they express are usually shallow.
  • Authoritarian: Sociopaths see themselves as superior, and so they tend toward authoritarianism.
  • Paranoid: Sociopaths often lack trust in people, doubting what they say and do.
  • Cruel to animals: They might show this in their early childhood – for example, pulling wings off of flies.

How to Deal with a Sociopath

Sometimes we have no choice but to cope with a sociopath. Maybe you recognize sociopathic traits in your coworker or even a family member. Under these circumstances, the best thing to do is to understand their personality and protect yourself. Here are some actions you might take to guard yourself against a sociopath:

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Don’t reveal too much information about yourself.

Sociopaths are often charming at first and look like they want to know more about you. But that’s not the case. All they want to do is to find someone who is weak and then they can manipulate you to achieve their goals.

Never reveal personal information about you or your friends and family or difficulties you’re having. These are the best materials for them to gain dominance over you. Instead, keep conversations with sociopaths to neutral subjects like television and news. They will gradually lose interest and walk away from you.

Don’t give them more than 3 chances.

Sociopaths are good at lying. They can absolutely tell a lie to cover whatever bad move they have done. But don’t give them more than 3 chances. If they lie to you once or twice, they can be forgiven as it might be a misunderstanding or a mistake. But when it comes to the third time, you should better cut your loss and run. Don’t let them have any chance to do more harm to you.

Don’t try to take them down.

It is dangerous to be an enemy of a sociopath. Their calculating nature always grant them whatever they want. Instead of trying to take them down, try to come up with a win-win agreement. Propose as many win-win scenarios as you can. Get them on your side.

Reference

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Anna Chui

Anna is a communication expert and a life enthusiast. She's the editor of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

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Last Updated on October 30, 2019

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

Change is tough, there’s no doubt about it. Old habits are hard to shift, and adopting a new lifestyle can feel like an uphill battle!

In this article, you will learn about a simple yet powerful model:

Stages of change model, that explains the science behind personal transformation.

You’ll discover how and why some changes stick whereas others don’t last, and how long it takes to build new habits.

What is the Stages of Change Model?

Developed by researchers J.O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente over 30 years ago[1] and outlined in their book Changing For Good, the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, was formed as a result of the authors’ research with smokers.

Prochaska and DiClemente were originally interested in the question of why some smokers were able to quit on their own, whereas others required professional help. Their key conclusion was that smokers (or anyone else with a bad habit) quits only when they are ready to do so.

Here’s an illustration done by cartoonist and illustrator Simon Kneebone about the different stages a smoker experiences when they try to quit smoking:

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    The Stages of Change Model looks at how these conscious decisions are made. It emphasizes that change isn’t easy. People can spend a long time stuck in a stage, and some may never reach their goals.[2]

    The model has been applied in the treatment of smoking, alcoholism, and drugs. It is also a useful way of thinking about any bad habit. Social workers, therapists, and psychologists draw on the model to understand their patients’ behaviors, and to explain the change process to the patients themselves.

    The key advantages to the model is that it is simple to understand, is backed by extensive research, and can be applied in many situations.

    The Stages of Change Model is a well-established psychological model that outlines six stages of personal change:

    1. Precontemplation
    2. Contemplation
    3. Determination
    4. Action
    5. Maintenance
    6. Termination

    How are these stages relevant to changing habits?

    To help you visualize the stages of change and how each progresses to the next one, please take a look at this wheel:[3]

      Let’s look at the six stages of change,[4] together with an example that will show you how the model works in practice:

      Stage 1: Precontemplation

      At this stage, an individual does not plan to make any positive changes in the next six months. This may because they are in denial about their problem, feel too overwhelmed to deal with it, or are too discouraged after multiple failed attempts to change.

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      For example, someone may be aware that they need to start exercising, but cannot find the motivation to do so. They might keep thinking about the last time they tried (and failed) to work out regularly. Only when they start to realize the advantages of making a change will they progress to the next stage.

      Stage 2: Contemplation

      At this stage, the individual starts to consider the advantages of changing. They start to acknowledge that altering their habits would probably benefit them, but they spend a lot of time thinking about the downside of doing so. This stage can last for a long time – possibly a year or more.

      You can think of this as the procrastinating stage. For example, an individual begins to seriously consider the benefits of regular exercise, but feels resistant when they think about the time and effort involved. When the person starts putting together a concrete plan for change, they move to the next stage.

      The key to moving from this stage to the next is the transformation of an abstract idea to a belief (e.g. from “Exercise is a good, sensible thing to do” to “I personally value exercise and need to do it.)[5]

      Stage 3: Preparation

      At this point, the person starts to put a plan in place. This stage is brief, lasting a few weeks. For example, they may book a session with a personal trainer and enrol on a nutrition course.

      Someone who drinks to excess may make an appointment with a drug and alcohol counsellor; someone with a tendency to overwork themselves might start planning ways to devise a more realistic schedule.

      Stage 4: Action

      When they have decided on a plan, the individual must then put it into action. This stage typically lasts for several months. In our example, the person would begin attending the gym regularly and overhauling their diet.

      Stage 4 is the stage at which the person’s desire for change becomes noticeable to family and friends. However, in truth, the change process began a long time ago. If someone you know seems to have suddenly changed their habits, it’s probably not so sudden after all! They will have progressed through Stages 1-3 first – you probably just didn’t know about it.

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      Stage 5: Maintenance

      After a few months in the Action stage, the individual will start to think about how they can maintain their changes, and make lifestyle adjustments accordingly. For instance, someone who has adopted the habit of regular workouts and a better diet will be vigilant against old triggers (such as eating junk food during a stressful time at work) and make a conscious decision to protect their new habits.

      Unless someone actively engages with Stage 5, their new habits are liable to come unstuck. Someone who has stuck to their new habits for many months – perhaps a year or longer – may enter Stage 6.

      Maintenance can be challenging because it entails coming up with a new set of habits to lock change in place. For instance, someone who is maintaining their new gym-going habit may have to start improving their budgeting skills in order to continue to afford their gym membership.

      Stage 6: Termination

      Not many people reach this stage, which is characterized by a complete commitment to the new habit and a certainty that they will never go back to their old ways. For example, someone may find it hard to imagine giving up their gym routine, and feel ill at the thought of eating junk food on a regular basis.

      However, for the majority of people, it’s normal to stay in the Maintenance period indefinitely. This is because it takes a long time for a new habit to become so automatic and natural that it sticks forever, with little effort. To use another example, an ex-smoker will often find it hard to resist the temptation to have “just one” cigarette even a year or so after quitting. It can take years for them to truly reach the Termination stage, at which point they are no more likely to smoke than a lifelong non-smoker.

      How long does each stage take?

      You should be aware that some people remain in the same stage for months or even years at a time. Understanding this model will help you be more patient with yourself when making a change. If you try to force yourself to jump from Contemplation to Maintenance, you’ll just end up frustrated. On the other hand, if you take a moment to assess where you are in the change process, you can adapt your approach.

      So if you need to make changes quickly and you are finding it hard to progress to the next stage, it’s probably time to get some professional help or adopt a new approach to forming habits.

      The limitations of this model

      The model is best applied when you decide in advance precisely what you want to achieve, and know exactly how you will measure it (e.g. number of times per week you go to the gym, or number of cigarettes smoked per day). Although the model has proven useful for many people, it does have limitations.

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      Require the ability to set a realistic goal

      For a start, there are no surefire ways of assessing whereabouts in the process you are – you just have to be honest with yourself and use your own judgement. Second, it assumes that you are physically capable of making a change, whereas in fact you might either need to adjust your goals or seek professional help.

      If your goal isn’t realistic, it doesn’t matter whether you follow the stages – you still won’t get results. You need to decide for yourself whether your aims are reasonable.[6]

      Difficult to judge your progress

      The model also assumes that you are able to objectively measure your own successes and failures, which may not always be the case.[7] For instance, let’s suppose that you are trying to get into the habit of counting calories as part of your weight-loss efforts. However, even though you may think that you are recording your intake properly, you might be over or under-estimating.

      Research shows that most people think they are getting enough exercise and eating well, but in actual fact aren’t as healthy as they believe. The model doesn’t take this possibility into account, meaning that you could believe yourself to be in the Action stage yet aren’t seeing results. Therefore, if you are serious about making changes, it may be best to get some expert advice so that you can be sure the changes you are making really will make a positive difference.

      Conclusion

      The Stages Of Change Model can be a wonderful way to understand change in both yourself and others.

      While there’re some limitations in it, the Stages of Change Model helps to visualize how you go through changes so you know what to expect when you’re trying to change a habit or make some great changes in life.

      Start by identifying one of your bad habits. Where are you in the process? What could you do next to move forwards?

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Psych Central: Stages Of Change
      [2] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [3] Empowering Change: Stages of Change
      [4] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [5] Psychology Today: 5 Steps To Changing Any Behavior
      [6] The Transtheoretical Model: Limitations Of The Transtheoretical Model
      [7] Health Education Research: Transtheoretical Model & Stages Of Change: A Critique

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