High Functioning Sociopath ( A Comprehensive Guide)

The rough estimate of sociopaths in a global population is that they make up to approximately 3% to 5% of the population.

There is a high chance that you might have an encounter with a sociopath in your life.

Sociopaths are also divided into multiple classifications including the high-functioning sociopaths who can be charming at first while hiding their real intentions behind a smile which can be manipulative, selfish, and most probably dangerous to you.

Having a relationship with a sociopath and especially with a high-functioning one can be difficult with turbulent experiences.

These relationships can be avoided by looking at the warning symptoms, signs, and the triggers or causes of sociopathy, hence keeping yourself safe by identifying someone who has an antisocial personality disorder. 

In this article, we will discuss High Functioning Sociopaths. 

What is a High Functioning Sociopath?

A sociopath is a term that is generally used to describe a person with an antisocial personality disorder.

They act and think without giving any regards to the other person and mostly their behavior includes cheating, manipulating, and lying for their own personal gains.

Typically, their lack of remorse and narcissism allows them to move and achieve their own goals.

Most of the sociopaths appear like normal people and it is quite difficult to distinguish them normally, but some of the sociopaths are highly anti-social and do not fit into society so most of their time is spent going in and out of the justice system.

High functioning sociopaths are generally difficult to distinguish as they are married, hold jobs, and have children.

In fact, these types of people can be very successful in their life.

Their sociopath traits generally only occur under special circumstances like under life transitions, stress, marriage, layoff, divorce, or any other social challenge or pressure.

Here, in this article, we will be discussing the traits involving high-functioning sociopaths.

Traits of a High Functioning Sociopath

It is possible to see the ways an individual is trying to exploit and manipulate you by understanding the traits and tricks of a high-functioning sociopath.

They are generally very clever and charming and might seem to be genuine and sincere in their actions but with time deceptions, lies and lack of empathy make way for their sociopath nature.

Some of the traits of a high-functioning sociopath are : 

  • High IQ: High functioning sociopaths are often people with higher IQ than others which helps them in manipulating and exploiting others according to their plan.
  • Lack of empathy: They find it hard to understand the emotional consequences or empathize with others especially the ones caused because of their own actions.
  • Narcissism: They often have grandiose self-image and strong self-love which is because of delusional beliefs and low self-esteem.
  • Charming: Although high-functioning sociopaths lack the ability to empathize, they are still capable of manipulating the emotions of others to appear charming.
  • Secretive: A sociopath is usually secretive and does not feel to share any of the intimate details with any person unless he feels like to exploit or manipulate them. 
  • Sexually deviant: Since most of the high-functioning sociopaths lack remorse, guilt, and emotional attachments they tend to have more affairs and are more active in sexual activities. 
  • Sensitive to criticism: Despite having no empathy, high-functioning sociopaths are still looking for the approval of others and are quick to lose temper when they are criticized as they feel that they should be admired much. 
  • Impulsive behavior: High-functioning sociopaths mostly live in their present and will live their current moment to the fullest, utilizing every means at their disposal to achieve their immediate goals. 
  • Compulsive lying: High-functioning sociopaths will always try to make them look better, they will disregard the truth and lie at will to achieve their goals. 
  • Needing constant stimulation: High-functioning sociopaths may need some activity to keep them engaged as they become bored easily. 
  • Addictive Behavior: The mindset of high-functioning sociopaths may lead them to become addicted to alcohol, gambling, sex, drugs, or any of the other addictive behaviors. 
  • Criminal Behavior: Some of the criminal activities that are associated with high-functioning sociopaths might include assault, destruction of property, and theft. They might also be open to participating in more serious criminal activities than these. 

Possible Causes of High Functioning Sociopath

The personalities we have are the result of the combination of our emotions, experiences, thoughts, and behaviors which further makes us into unique individuals.

Personalities are built up from childhood by inherited tendencies of the family and interaction with different people, culture, and society.

Though there are no exact causes which can lead to an individual becoming a high-functioning sociopath but there can be different reasons or risk factors that can potentially lead towards that path, they are :

  • A family history of mental illness or antisocial personality disorder
  • Exposure to abuse, trauma or neglect during childhood
  • Having a childhood conduct disorder or diagnosed with one
  • Violent or unstable family life during the early years

Clinically Diagnosing a High Functioning Sociopath

The traits of high functioning sociopaths are usually manifested after an individual reaches their early teens.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders V has included the general traits of high-functioning sociopaths under the diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder.

To be a sociopath, an individual must demonstrate three of the following antisocial behaviors : 

  • Repeated conning, deception or lying for personal gain and profit
  • Failure to plan or impulsiveness
  • Disregarding lawful behaviors and social norms, performing such actions repeatedly that might result in arrest
  • Aggressive or irritable behavior which might be often marked by assaults or physical fights.
  • Consistent irresponsibility that is, failure to maintain financial and work commitments
  • Recklessly disregarding the safety of others and self
  • Lacking rationalizing or remorse actions that might end up in mistreating, hurting or taking things from others

Also, some of the other requirements to be diagnosed to be a sociopath are that the individual must be at least 18 years of age with enough evidence of conduct disorder before he has reached the age of 15.

The antisocial behavior of sociopaths is not exclusive to events like manic episodes or schizophrenic or the result of substance abuse. 

Treating A High Functioning Sociopath

To treat an individual with a high-functioning sociopath personality is not easy and is often considered to be a lengthy and difficult process.

The prognosis for the treatment administered may vary in each case and is highly dependent on the situation of the individual, their willingness to take part in that treatment, and also on the severity of the symptoms they are exhibiting.

Many sociopaths might have no desire to be cured or treated but general practices taken towards the treatment of sociopathy includes : 

  • Psychotherapy – Using therapy techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy can help an individual who is exhibiting symptoms of sociopathy. This therapy includes challenging delusional thinking, anger management, or treatment of marital and addiction problems. In this therapy, the therapist can also help the sociopath in finding the root of the issues and problems and make it possible for them to change these harmful behaviors and negative thought patterns. The percentage of success of this therapy relies solely on the relationship between the therapist and the high-functioning sociopath, if the individual is in denial of his problems then it is very difficult for the therapist to establish a therapeutic rapport which is necessary for having an effective psychotherapy session.
  • Medications – At the moment, there are no set medications approved for the treatment of high-functioning sociopaths by the Food and Drug Administration to treat their antisocial personality disorder but some of the medications can help them relieve the symptoms that are related to the co-occurring conditions like depression, aggression, anxiety or impulsivity. Since, sociopaths also have the tendency towards addiction, the drugs prescribed for medications are needed to be monitored as there is a chance of abuse or misuse of these drugs. 
  • Stress-Reducing Activities– There are multiple activities that can be done to reduce stress and relieve some of their tension like exercise, yoga, guided meditative strategies, or other therapies that can help a sociopath with depression and anxiety. Although these therapies will not end up curing the symptoms or the disorder they are helpful in reducing the effects of that disorder and can be used as supplement or support towards the cure along with counseling and meditation. 
  • Focus on Relationships– One of the fundamental things that can help sociopaths in their recovery is to try and keep a healthy relationship with their family, friends, and spouses. Family and marriage counseling might help the high-functioning sociopath in overcoming his negative approach if he is willing to give them a go. Also, different programs like 12-step programs and faith communities like Alcoholics Anonymous might also be able to provide the necessary social accountability and support for their own actions. 

Protecting Yourself From a High Functioning Sociopath

It is necessary for oneself to keep them safe from a high-functioning sociopath, one can protect themselves from the dangerous and selfish behaviors of a high-functioning sociopath by identifying and realizing the warning signs and behaviors that they exhibit.

Here, we will explain some of the tips that can help an individual while dealing with the high-functioning sociopath : 

  • Remove them from your life. It might sound drastic and harsh but the best way to protect yourself from a high-functioning sociopath is to remove them from your life as their mind operates quite differently. They might not feel the same emotions as a normal individual if you decide to go away from their life immediately. 
  • Know you can’t fix a sociopath. At the moment, there is no definite cure for a sociopath, and it is a very long and difficult process to help reduce the symptoms concerning a high-functioning sociopath as discussed above. There is a high chance that the individual is not willing to fix himself or you do not have the right knowledge and resources to fix him so believing that you can fix a sociopath will only lead to frustration and failure. 
  • Don’t make agreements or deals with a sociopath. As the sociopath is always looking for the best interest and desire that will benefit him or her and have no urge or desire to look for your needs, it is for the best to not make a deal. Maintain your distance from the sociopath and always be wary of their tearful pleas as it will most probably be hiding something and is one of their manipulation techniques. 

FAQ about High Functioning Sociopath

What is the difference between a psychopath and a high functioning sociopath?

Psychopaths are generally more manipulative and seem to be more charming, they lead a normal life and have a minimized risk in their criminal activities.

Whereas sociopaths are more likely to be rage-prone, erratic, and are mostly unable to lead a normal life. 

Can a high functioning sociopath love?

High-functioning sociopaths can appear to be in love especially when it suits their goals, whereas it is not easy for them to fall in love with someone but there is a chance that later on, they might. 


Brittani Louise Taylor (2018): “8 Signs You’re in a Relationship With a Sociopath, From a Woman Who Almost Married One”

Healthline.com: “ What Is a High-Functioning Sociopath?”

 Sarah Cocchimiglio (2020): “Traits Of A High Functioning Sociopath”