High-Functioning Sociopath: How to Spot One

When most people think about sociopaths, criminals and murderers are the first things that come to mind. But what many people don’t know is that not all sociopaths are violent.

In fact, a high-functioning sociopath can have a successful career, be in relationships, and even start a family. As this condition can be quite tricky to spot, this article will shed light on the most common symptoms.

Learn in This Article

  • What Is a High-Functioning Sociopath
  • Traits
  • Causes
  • Treatments
  • How to Deal with a High-Functioning Sociopath

What Is a High-Functioning Sociopath

Clinically speaking, there’s no distinction between a high-functioning and low-functioning sociopath—they’re both recognized as antisocial personality disorder (ASPD).

Compared to their low-function counterparts, high-functioning sociopaths can mimic people’s emotions and hide their antisocial tendencies to the point they seem fully functional in society. That’s why they’re so difficult to spot.


When thinking about high-functioning sociopath vs. psychopath, it’s not a secret these two terms are often used interchangeably. However, the following symptoms can help you understand what high-functioning sociopathy looks like.

Lack of Empathy and Callousness

Although these individuals can imitate emotions, they don’t really care about other people’s feelings. Unfortunately, a lack of empathy can bring significant distress and conflict in relationships with family, friends, and partners.

In fact, individuals with high-functioning ASPD may get angry quickly and have little patience when dealing with other people’s problems.

Charming and Manipulative

People with this condition are charming and manipulative. They know when to say the right things to get what they want.

They may be able to sweet-talk their way into a promotion at work or convince their friends to engage in something they don’t want to be a part of.

High IQ

It’s not unusual for high-functioning sociopaths to have a higher IQ than other sociopaths or people without mental health conditions.

That’s why they appear intelligent, successful, and persuasive. However, they use manipulation to exploit others and talk their way out of every situation.


If you’re dating a person with high-functioning antisocial personality disorder, you must know they often have a need for secrecy. They might have multiple love affairs or engage in criminal activities.

As they disregard rules and lack emotional attachments, this doesn’t come as a surprise. In fact, high-functioning sociopaths like to live in the moment, act recklessly, and keep secrets from the closest people.

Sensitive to Criticism

Similar to people with NPD or those showing narcissistic traits, high-functioning sociopaths seek approval from other people. However, even pointing out they made a mistake can set them off. As they feel entitled to admiration, criticism is definitely not well-received.

Often Break Rules

As mentioned earlier, one of the most common high-functioning sociopath traits is breaking the rules. They may drive over the speed limit, drink excessively, or commit fraud. Not to mention, they might engage in addictive behaviors, including doing drugs and gambling.


Now that you know the high-functioning sociopath meaning, it’s time to understand where this mental health condition comes from.

Although there’s no specific cause for high-functioning sociopathy, the risk factors include:

  • a history of antisocial personality disorder or other mental disorders in the family;
  • exposure to violence, abuse, or neglect during childhood;
  • early diagnosis of a conduct disorder in childhood;
  • living in an unstable or violent environment in childhood or teenage years.


Unfortunately, curing sociopathy is still not possible. Yet, the right treatment can help these individuals cope with their symptoms.

As high-functioning sociopaths often think there’s nothing wrong with them, treatment is not a small feat.

Mental health professionals usually recommend a combination of psychotherapy, medication, and stress-reducing activities to help people with antisocial personality disorder. Practicing meditation and yoga can help these individuals control their anger, stress, and impulsive behaviors.

How to Deal with a High-Functioning Sociopath

When dealing with an individual with high-functioning ASPD, the most healthy response would be to cut ties with them immediately. However, this is not easy if a loved one is affected by this mental health condition. That’s why we’ve briefly covered some tips on how to protect yourself.

Know You Can’t Change Them

Reducing the symptoms of antisocial personality disorder is a process that might take a long time. In most cases, high-functioning sociopaths will refuse to get help.

So, if you’re starting with the “I can fix them” mindset, chances are you might end up feeling disappointed and frustrated.

Avoid Making Deals with Them

Sociopaths in relationships can’t be fully trusted. They will propose a deal that works for them. When this is over, they might break their promises or find ways to weasel out of them.

Talk to a Therapist

Whether you’re involved in a romantic or professional relationship, turning to a mental health professional can teach you how to protect yourself from manipulation, violence, and anger from high-functioning sociopaths.

High-Functioning Sociopath: Key Takeaways

  • A high-functioning sociopath is someone who appears to have all the advantages in life, but underneath it all, they lack empathy and often exploit other people.
  • They can be manipulative and callous and may hurt or even destroy others to get what they want.
  • High-functioning sociopaths often have a need for secrecy. They may have multiple affairs or be involved in criminal activities.
  • Genetic and environmental factors can cause high-functioning sociopathy. Abuse, neglect, and childhood trauma are some risk factors for this mental health condition.
  • Avoiding making deals with high-functioning sociopaths and talking to a therapist are necessary steps if you’re looking to set healthy boundaries and protect yourself.