Can an empath be a sociopath? (A complete guide)

In this article, we will answer the question ‘Can an empath be a sociopath?’. We will do that by defining empaths and sociopaths. This will follow up by describing signs to identify an empath and sociopath. We will move on to discussing the main difference between an empath and a sociopath. Finally, we will discuss the relationship between an empath and sociopath and the reason it continues. 

Can an empath be a sociopath? 

No. An empath cannot be a sociopath. In fact, an empath and sociopath have opposite traits. Usually, a sociopath attracts an empath in order to establish a dysfunctional relationship where they can have their needs fulfilled based on an empath’s compassion. 

Empaths

An empath refers to an individual who is sensitive and able to feel the emotional pain of other people.  People consider them to be a subset of Highly sensitive people (HSP). They have a good awareness of another person’s thoughts and feelings. They can put themselves in another person’s shoes and understand their perspective and worldview. It’s like empaths can hear the words and listen to the body language of other people including their tone of voice, posture, facial expressions, and even their silence. Such people are driven to help and heal others.  Usually,  they hold the other person’s feelings and help them process it together. 

How to identify an Empath

As mentioned earlier, an empath is a person who is able to identify the emotions, feelings, thoughts, and energy of other people quite easily. The following are a few signs to identify an empath: 

  • They can easily sense what others are feeling and the mood of the people in a room before they even know themselves. 
  • People often think that empaths are emotional as they can identify the feelings of people. 
  • Such a person looks out for other people especially if they are going through emotional pain and difficulties. They try hard to extend their attention and compassion to such a person. 
  • Being around a lot of people for a long can drain an empath. Because of this, they frequently need time alone to recharge after a lot of social stimulation and emotional overload. 
  • Empaths are usually approached by a lot of people who bring with them their problems and emotional load since they know that an empath will help them process it together. 
  • They have high intuition that helps them understand things based on instinct. 
  • Public places with a lot of crowds can overwhelm them. 
  • Usually, they are introverted in nature and prefer to work in small groups. 
  • They are good listeners. 
  • They share the pain of others. 
  • A lot of sensory information can overwhelm them. 
  • They are givers rather than takers. 
  • They make easy prey for narcissists, sociopaths, and Psychopaths. 
  • They find nature calming. 

Sociopath

A sociopath refers to a person who has characteristics of antisocial personality disorder. These people have difficulty understanding the feelings of other people. Often, they act impulsively and break rules. They don’t feel any remorse or guilt for their actions. Furthermore, they use tricks of manipulation to control their family and friends. Generally, their attitude is charismatic and charming enough to deceive people into thinking they are good individuals but in reality, they hide their internal intentions quite well. 

How to identify a sociopath 

According to DSM 5, a sociopath or a person with an antisocial personality disorder has complete disregard for other people’s rights and their feelings. For a diagnosis, 

such a person should be 18 years or older and should exhibit at least three of the following 7 traits: 

  • They frequently break rules and disrespect social norms and laws. 
  • They often lie and deceive people with fake identities for personal benefit. 
  • They usually act without a plan and without thinking of the consequences of their actions. 
  • They are aggressive in nature and usually get into physical fights that end up harming other people. 
  • They have complete disregard for their own and other people’s safety.
  • They don’t fulfill their personal or professional responsibilities. 
  • They don’t feel guilt or remorse for or having treated others in a bad way. 

Additional symptoms of antisocial personality disorder can include: 

  • Lack of emotional expression. This includes being completely uninvested in the lives of other people. 
  • Using humor, charisma, and intellect to deceive and manipulate others. 
  • Feeling a sense of superiority and strong, rigid opinions. 
  • Being unable to maintain relationships for long. 
  • Not learning from prior experiences and mistakes. 
  • Trying to control others using intimidation and threatening behavior. 
  • Threatening others with suicide but not making an actual attempt. 
  • Addiction to drugs and alcohol. 
  • Frequently getting into legal trouble due to criminal behavior. 

Such behavior is consistent in all areas of these people’s lives. It should disrupt their daily, social, and occupational functioning in order for it to be an official diagnosis.

Sociopath and Empaths

So, based on the above distinctions, we can say that an empath and sociopath are completely different people with opposing traits. Thus, an empath cannot be a sociopath. 

The main difference between the two is that a sociopath lacks empathy and uses other people for personal benefit. They are takers in a relationship. In contrast, an empath is highly empathic and in tune with the feelings of others. They are usually the providers in a relationship.

The relationship between an empath and a sociopath

Often, empaths attract sociopaths. Sociopaths are usually people with a personality disorder with an erratic thinking pattern. They target other people and put them down based on their imperfections to feel good about themselves. They negatively affect other people’s self-esteem and stress them out. This helps them to feel good about themself e.g. narcissistic personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, and borderline personality disorder, psychopaths, sociopaths are thought to be a few types of people who use empaths to their advantage.

As empaths are able to provide energy to others due to their kind and understanding nature, they are usually targets for sociopaths for establishing a dysfunctional relationship where they can benefit from an empath’s compassion and use it to their advantage by fulfilling their needs.

At the same time, an empath can detect that something is not right after interacting with a sociopath. As a result, they also make good enemies yet a source of attraction for sociopaths. They are a source of entertainment for them. 

Why the relationship continues between an empath and a sociopath

It is difficult for an empath to discover the fact that they are being used by a sociopath. This is because they usually strive to see the good in people, try to be non-judgemental and accept them for who they are. They often justify, make excuses, or give explanations for a sociopath’s inappropriate behavior.  They even try to help them but it rarely happens that such people want to change. 

The vicious cycle persists as an empath continues in a dysfunctional and dyadic relationship like this. However, both people are responsible for the imbalance.  The empath needs to realize that they have to establish boundaries and walk away before they get completely drained and used by sociopaths.

Another way their relationship can play out is that an empath takes a stand against a sociopath doing something inappropriate. Based on this, they challenge the sociopath who responds by being defensive and immediately shifts the blame on the empath. This emotional abuse and guilt displacement continues. 

Sociopaths also use gaslighting in their interaction with an empath. They abuse them by presenting information in a way that the target starts to doubt their perception and memory. The phases of their relationship include the following:

The Idealisation phase: The sociopath presents himself in the best way possible to attract the target

The Devaluation phase: He gradually transforms into a cold person who devalues the target and establishes a higher power in the relationship.

The Discarding phase: He reduces the target to an object of indifference, wins the game, rejects the connection, and moves on. 

FAQs: Can an empath be a sociopath?

How can empaths set boundaries?

An empath can set boundaries by learning to say no in a tactful and polite manner.

What does it mean to be emotionally drained?

Emotional exhaustion is a state of feeling emotionally worn out and drained due to stress from daily personal and professional life. It can be a sign of burnout as well. 

What are empaths?

An empath refers to an individual who is sensitive and able to feel the emotional pain of other people.  They have a good awareness of another person’s thoughts and feelings. They can put themselves in another person’s shoes and understand their perspective and worldview. Such people are driven to help and heal others.  Usually,  they hold the other person’s feelings and help them process it together.  

Why do empaths attract sociopaths?

Empaths attract sociopaths because they are able to absorb other people’s feelings. This draws sociopaths as they see it as an opportunity to get their needs fulfilled. 

What is the difference between a psychopath and a sociopath?

Psychopaths are manipulative, charming, live a more normal life, and are less engaged in criminal behavior. In contrast, sociopaths are more erratic, manipulative, don’t live a normal life, and are more engaged in criminal behavior.

Conclusion

In this article, we answered the question ‘Can an empath be a sociopath?’. We found that an empath cannot be a sociopath. In fact, an empath and sociopath have opposite traits. Usually, a sociopath attracts an empath in order to establish a dysfunctional relationship where they can have their needs fulfilled based on an empath’s compassion. 

I hope you found this article interesting. If you have any queries or comments, please state them in the comment section 😊

Citations

https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/sociopath#treatment

https://www.insightstate.com/spirituality/empath-vs-sociopath/

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