Conventional wisdom tells us that sociopaths are exclusively male. After all, most depraved criminals spotlighted by the media are men; however, conventional wisdom fails us when we make this assumption.
Female sociopaths live among us and they can be just as destructive as their male counterparts. Let’s review what sociopathy is and how it develops. Finally, let’s look at signs you might be dealing with a female sociopath.
What is a Sociopath?
Female sociopaths are damaged and dangerous. Getting involved with one can lay waste to your life because they lack a basic decency that we expect in human relationships with others.
Female sociopaths don’t feel the same level of empathy that normal people feel. They have no qualms about walking over others to get what they want. Beyond having no qualms at violating other’s rights, they actually get off on wreaking havoc and causing others pain.
You could imagine their motto as “look out for number one regardless of who gets hurt in the process”. In fact, if people are hurt, all the better for a female sociopath.
Your average person expects that someone as malicious as a female sociopath will stand out. Maybe when you imagine a sociopath, you think of them as some kind of monster. To the contrary, sociopaths posses a wily ability to fit in and make their intentions invisible to the average observer.
Sociopath vs. Psychopath
There are actually three terms that are used interchangeably in popular culture: Psychopath, Sociopath, and Antisocial Personality.
While there are commonalities between these three terms, they are defined a little differently. “Psychopathy” is a term used in clinical settings.
Psychopathic characteristics were first recognized by doctors in the early 1800’s when they observed patients who looked “normal” but behaved in immoral ways and without remorse. The term “psychopath” was first coined around 1900.
The research of Robert D. Hare. has been instrumental in gaining a deeper understanding of psychopaths. He studied patients in a psychiatric institution and, as a result, developed the Hare Psychopathy Checklist. He wrote a fascinating book based on his research and Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us, along with Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work.
“Sociopath“ describes someone who has psychopathic traits; however, the conditions develop for different reasons. The sociopath develops traits through life experience, such as severe childhood trauma or by witnessing criminal behavior and incorporating that behavior as acceptable.
Psychopaths, on the other hand, are predetermined to have these traits as a result of genetics or a congenital condition.
Antisocial Personality Disorder
You may have heard of Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD). Psychopathy fits under the umbrella of APD. In other words, not everyone with APD is a psychopath. Approximately every 1 in 5 individuals with APD are psychopaths.
A personality disorder is a pervasive, enduring condition that negatively affects all aspects of a person’s life. This condition is outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders ( DSM-V). Those with Antisocial Personality Disorder have the following traits (they may not exhibit all, however):
- a callous disregard for the rights and feelings of others
- a low frustration tolerance, struggling to manage stressful situations
- repeatedly violate the rights of others
- involvement with law enforcement
- persistent dishonesty by lying, stealing, and conning others
- hostility and aggressive behavior, which sometimes leads to violence
- reckless and impulsive behavior
- failure to follow through on responsibilities and duties
- lack remorse for their immoral or unlawful behavior
Are You Dealing with a Female Sociopath?
There are certain characteristics that female sociopaths share. They are chameleons, easily manipulating others into believing they are something they are not.
They use female sexuality for their own gain. Female sociopaths “love-bomb” by building you up before dropping the ax. They lie easily and often. Their ability to create chaos and havoc is unrivaled, and they derive pleasure from seeing others suffer. They especially enjoy being the cause of your pain.
At first charming and demure, the female sociopath uses manipulative skills to blend in and seem “normal”. Don’t let the facade fool you, though. While she is engaging in stimulating conversation with you, she’s sizing you up and assessing your weaknesses. Those weaknesses will be used against you in the future, if she so chooses. They are expert at determining your most vulnerable qualities and using them for their own purposes.
Female sociopaths are formidable because most people see them as they choose to present themselves- a loving mother, a philanthropist, etc. In the meantime, they are cooking up plans to get what they want.
They are true connivers. Oftentimes, you won’t realize what you’re dealing with until your life and your mental health have been seriously damaged.
Normally female sociopaths can maintain their calm, cool composure; however, when caught in a blatant lie, their rage can be something to reckon with. If you expose what is behind their superficial veneer, you become enemy number one and their desire for revenge isn’t easily abated.
Women sociopaths are well-aware of the power seduction can have over men*. Female sociopaths have perfected the use of their sexuality to draw people in. They thrive off male attention, and will become incensed if rejected by a desired partner. Rejection means a loss of power and standing, in their eyes.
It’s common for female sociopaths to have many male friends because the attention is intoxicating. If she is able to use sex to get what she wants in the end, she will do so without any reservation.
According to Psychology Today’s article Love Bombing: A Narcissist’s Secret Weapon, “love-bombing” is “the practice of overwhelming someone with signs of adoration and attraction”. In other words, if a female sociopath love-bombs you, she comes on strong by lavishing you with compliments, gifts, seduction, or the like. When she whispers too many sweet nothings in your ear, her intentions become suspect.
Love-bombing may start out feeling pretty good-a nice boost to your self-esteem. Over time, though, this behavior starts to look and feel more predatory in nature. When a woman begins to fawn all over you, but it has a superficial quality or seems too extreme, it’s wise to step-back and analyze the dynamic.
Love-bombing is intended to garner your trust. Eventually that unquestioning trust may be used against you.
Because female sociopaths have lots of practice in the art of deception, they are able to pull the wool over others’ eyes quite easily. Female sociopaths are adept at deceiving others by using an array of strategies.
When you confront them on something they may flip the tables and blame you for wrongdoing. They may brush off your concern by making a joke, or they may simply change the subject. Another strategy for turning you away from the truth is gaslighting.
Gaslighting is a manipulative psychological tactic. When the female sociopath gaslights you, she is intentionally making you question your own sense of reality. She will use denial, contradiction, lying, and misdirection to make you question your own perception and judgment about what is real and what is false.
Destruction and Revenge
Behind their pleasant facade, female sociopaths are aggressive creatures. If you cross a female sociopath, watch out. She will become fixated on getting even to the point of trying to ruin your life. This may take form in trying to destroy your reputation or drive a wedge in your relationships.
Female sociopaths are territorial and will try to bring down any other woman whom she sees as a threat. Her ego does not allow her to be second to any competitor.
With female sociopaths, hurting someone isn’t a by-product of her actions, it’s the intention of her actions. Hurting you is her objective. It’s hard to imagine wanting to hurt someone for fun (if you aren’t a sociopath), but sociopaths actually derive pleasure from seeing others suffer.
If you suspect you are involved with a female sociopath, but you haven’t been a target of cruelty, think back to any incidents where she seemed to get a thrill out of someone in pain.
How to Deal with a Female Sociopath
If you suspect you are dealing with a female sociopath, I recommend you take the following steps:
- Don’t share personal information. Remember that sociopaths will use their knowledge of you against you. The less they know, the safer you are.
- Minimize contact. If you suspect the person you are dealing with is a sociopath, it’s best to keep your distance. If she is a person you have to deal with in a social setting or at work, be superficially pleasant but don’t allow yourself to get involved with her on a deeper level.
- Maintain objectivity. If the sociopath is sharing a story intended to invoke feelings of pity or sympathy for her, maintain an objective eye. That’s not to say that you are to be cold or unfeeling. Just make sure to avoid getting caught up in emotion.
- Disengage. If you are dealing with a female sociopath who is disrupting your life, avoid engaging with her by disengaging. Don’t engage in pettiness. Don’t allow her to push your buttons.
- Forgive yourself. If you’ve gotten caught in the web of lies spun by a female sociopath, don’t blame yourself. You were never a match for her skills, and you did nothing to bring on the problems she’s caused in your life.
- Seek support. Share your experience with people you trust. After the chaos of being involved with a female sociopath, you may doubt your own perception. Those who care about you can help validate your experience.
*Author’s note: This article was written from heterosexual perspective for simplicity; however, the dynamics are true regardless of sexual orientation.