Normal people tell small lies on a daily basis, generally to smooth social interactions. However, there are two kinds of people for whom lying is part of serious personality disorders.
There’s no agreement among professionals as to whether pathological liars truly believe their stories, but their intent is more self-aggrandizement than manipulation.
Most sociopaths and psychopaths are functioning members of society. With estimates that one in twenty-five people have APD, odds are you know several of them.
Some experts use the terms psychopath and sociopath interchangeably. Others make a distinction.
In getting what they want, sociopaths exercise no regard for the rights of others. They disregard laws and social norms. Their behavior is often erratic and they are prone to nervousness and fits of rage.
Sociopaths are capable of empathy in some situations, but psychopaths are almost entirely incapable of empathy.
MRI studies have shown significant differences in the brains of psychopaths.
They do not form true attachments to others, they do not experience love, and they do not feel remorse. They have no conscience at all.
Sometimes they commit heinous crimes that grab headlines. Most of the time, though, they blend undetected into society, often occupying positions of high power in corporations or government.
Protecting yourself from psychopaths is extremely difficult, and you will likely not realize you know one unless you are targeted.
They are bullies and social manipulators who contrive to bring others to ruin, and they do all this in plain sight while appearing normal—even likable—to others.
One of the creepiest qualities in a psychopath is how likable they are. Psychopaths are notoriously charming.
They often have piercing stares and glib, easy-going natures that the unknowing mistake for sincerity.
They will even perform small acts of kindness to appear caring. While they feel very little normal emotion, they study others and learn to mimic emotion.
But this is all a mask concealing an evil mind.
It’s impossible to catch the psychopath in the act of lying, at least through the normal signs.
Normal people exhibit the signs of lying because they have a conscience. They feel discomfort and shame about lying.
Psychopaths have no conscience and therefore feel no shame at all. They feel entitled to manipulate others, seeing them not as human but as tools or playthings.
The best defense against psychopaths is to be alert to them. But be warned. If you attempt to unmask psychopaths, they will easily convince others that you are crazy, and then engage in a “smear campaign” to ruin your social reputation.
Unfortunately, if you find yourself the target of a psychopath, the only thing you can do is walk away.
Johnston, Joni E. “The Pathological Liar’s Club.” Psychology Today. May 24, 2012.
Stout, Martha. The Sociopath Next Door.
Hare, Robert D. Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of Psychopaths Among Us.
Kiehl, Kent A. The Psychopath Whisperer. The Science of Those Without a Conscience.
Miller, Greg. “What It’s Like to Spend 20 Years Listening to Psychopaths for Science.” Wire Magazine. April 17, 2014.