A female sociopath cannot be recognized by their looks, nor do they wear shirts that say, “I am a Sociopath.” To recognize a female sociopath, it is helpful to understand their personality disorder through diagnostic criteria in the DSM-5.1 This organized and evolving manual describes mental conditions, including normal and abnormal psychiatric behaviors. This article will highlight the personality traits of sociopaths associated with females.
What Is a Sociopath?
The term Sociopath has not been defined in the DSM as an actual diagnosis. Instead, the term sociopath is used interchangeably with cluster B personality disorders. Additionally, sociopaths are not specific to one gender; however, the DSM also provides information based on the prevalence and frequency of behaviors particular to each gender. Disorders, such as psychopaths share symptoms of sociopaths but are also not included in the DSM-5.
DSM-5 Cluster B Personality Disorders that are often called sociopaths include:
- Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD)
- Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)
- Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
- Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD), a disorder more prevalent in females
How Do Female Sociopaths Differ From Males?
In an article on Sex differences in Antisocial Personality Disorder taken from data from the, women reported experiencing more of the following:2
- Childhood emotional neglect
- Sexual abuse
- Parent with mental health disorders
- Parents with alcoholism or substance use disorders
- Ran away from home as a child
These abuses and life factors commonly continued into adulthood which as a result, sociopathic women had less social support and more need for mental health services. This can make women more vulnerable to risk of being beaten by a partner, married or living with an alcoholic, sexually assaulted, raped, or molested.
Signs of a Female Sociopath
The signs of a sociopath originate from personality disorder traits taken from the DSM-5 diagnostic listings. This list is not all-inclusive and the signs included are explicitly chosen to provoke thought for someone involved with a Sociopathic woman or possibly dating a sociopath. This article will not diagnose a female Sociopath.
Sandra L. Brown, M.A., an expert on the dynamics of “love” relationships involving a partner with ASPD, emphasizes the need for education in this area. She says, “… the public cannot avoid what they do not know, they cannot get help for what they cannot name.”3 If more help is needed after reading this article seeking further information, please consider therapy to gain more knowledge and support.
Here are 13 signs of a female sociopath:
1. Personality Disorder
Personality disorders are a common sign to Sociopathic women, whether diagnosed or not, as female sociopaths are more likely to be undiagnosed in society. According to Sandra A. Brown, MA, one in five people have a Personality Disorder, and one in one hundred has Antisocial Personality Disorder.3
Personality makes a person unique and affects thinking, feelings, relationships and behavior. Personality Disorders usually appear in early childhood, and traits remain throughout a lifetime. Diagnosing a PD should only occur with proper support documentation, interviewing, and testing by a Psychiatrist or Psychologist.
One should be careful of emotional manipulation at any time from anyone, and most definitely, if involved with a female Sociopath. Concerning a female sociopath, it may be helpful to view manipulation as a learned behavior in response to early trauma which female sociopaths commonly experience.1 It might be helpful to know that manipulative behavior is not always coming from an evil person trying to harm others. It may be a creative way to survive when exposed to tremendous childhood trauma.
3. Needs to Be the Center of Attention
With a history of sexual abuse and neglect, a sociopath’s childhood experience may have contributed to a need for attention seeking behavior as a source of validation and admiration. The female survivor of abuse may have received little to no positive reinforcement as she grew older. Inappropriate sexual attention in childhood is a source of shame and trauma and is a likely factor in developing a full-blown antisocial personality disorder. The life of Aileen Wuornos, a sex worker in Florida in the 1980s turned murderer is an example.
4. Seductive Behaviors
These behaviors might have been rewarded and encouraged and relate to the introduction of sex during the formative years. She may be influenced by the attention and responses elicited by men when dressing scantily or flaunting her body. She may have received affirmation and rewards for her behavior and may now be her only source of positive feedback through the flattery and desire of males.
5. Uses Physical Appearance to Gain Attention
Similar to the goals of seductive behavior, creating an eye-catching physical appearance may have more to do with shock behavior than seduction. In thinking about trends in green or purple hair, tattoos, and piercings, she may be using some such thing to define her individuality. Her earlier and inappropriate experiences have likely harmed her self-identity in childhood.
6. Extreme Mood Swings
These mood shifts are usually a sign of histrionic or borderline personality disorders, which are diagnosed 75% more for females than males. Mood swings could also be a symptom of bipolar disorder characterized by cycling episodes of mania and depression. It is also referred to as Manic-Depressive Disorder.
It is important to note that a person can have more than one trait or diagnosis and possibly have co-occurring diagnoses of bipolar and personality disorders. Mood disorders can be treated with bipolar medication management and cognitive and behavioral therapy for bipolar disorder.
7. Anxiety & Depression
These are common symptoms of borderline personality disorder as they can have many traits that produce mental instability. Those with BPD may often switch between loving you and hating you. This personality disorder is diagnosed 75% more often in women than men and is likely the most present disorder associated with a sociopathic female.
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8. Impressionistic Speech – Lacking Facts & Details
Criminals, who are also often sociopaths, are experts at speaking in vagueness. They can be charming and talk away but never say much substance or detail. This behavior might be a style learned to avoid responsibility as it provides a loophole for gaslighting. An example of this can be, “I already told you … don’t you remember?” Vague speech allows for more opportunities for manipulation.
9. Thinks Relationships Are More Intimate/Enduring Than They Are
If a female has traits associated with BPD, they likely can be overly clingy. This behavior comes from real or perceived fears of being alone or a fear of rejection. Setting reasonable boundaries in a friendship can create a firestorm of abandonment issues for the sociopath. In this case, it may be better to say “no” sooner rather than later to test their response.
10. Risk Taking
This often is evident in a person with thrill-seeking behaviors. They may not use good judgment regarding their safety or that of others. Another example might be that a female sociopath does not discriminate when having sex with multiple partners and maybe careless regarding using safety precautions.
Overt hostility may be seen more in men and manifest in violence. Rather sociopathic women harbor repressed anger, but they may ignore or hide it, which comes out in covert actions. This hostility may be harder to detect in a female Sociopath, but it’s important to notice. Another way to frame this is to watch out for passive-aggressive behavior. These behaviors can appear as simple as tardiness or constant forgetfulness towards the things you’re doing together or sabotaging relationships or work endeavors.
Impulsivity, or acting without considering consequences, is prevalent in sociopathic behaviors and proven in our Prison Systems. There you can find many sociopaths with impulse control disorder who acted without considering they might spend the rest of their life behind bars. For as many who are in prison, there are just as many that aren’t but could be. Mental illness often has a component of impulsivity regardless of other traits.
The truth can be just as easily withheld by leaving something out of the conversation (omissions). Lying ruins friendships/relationships because it erodes trust. A Sociopathic female is likely to be a liar. Remember, the best way to predict future behavior is to look at past behavior. If she’s lied once, she will likely lie again.
What to Do If a Woman You Know Is a Sociopath
Interaction with a sociopath can be confusing. Initially, do nothing but observe and study behaviors and then act in a way that is appropriate and healthy for you. If the relationship is casual, be careful and keep a safe distance. If the person is a wife, girlfriend, or best friend and you suspect they’re in denial of their behavior, you might seek help for yourself.
Five tips to help you deal with a sociopathic woman include:
- Be Informed – Sociopathy cannot be fully explored or understood in a few pages. Seek reliable, accurate, and current treatment information and help from other professionals. If you genuinely care, don’t give up hope for your friend.
- Set Healthy Boundaries – Know your limitations and mental health issues and say “No” when needed. It is also essential to know when you’ve done all you can.
- Protect Yourself – Don’t readily give them personal/financial information and pins.
- Look Past Their Disorder – Remember that this is a person, not just a diagnosis.
- Provide Empathy – Be the best version of yourself possible. Empathy is a gift missing in women who are sociopaths, and you can be a model for them to live by and follow. However, be compassionate within limits—it is also necessary to protect yourself and your loved ones from the damage that a sociopath can do.
How Can Therapists Help?
A sociopath likely sees you as the problem and would be angry and resentful of your concerns. In this case, the benefits of therapy could assist you in addressing your concerns and giving ideas on how to better care for yourself with these accusations. Relationships like this can make a person think they are losing their mind.
A sociopath is not likely to attend therapy unless they have come to the attention of authorities and are mandated to participate. They also need a reason to do so, such as getting their children back from social services. In most cases, Therapy is more likely to aid the partner in understanding what’s happening and why sociopathic behavior is negatively impacting them.
A Sociopath can be a person (male or female) that displays pathological and destructive behaviors identified in all types of relationships. It can be at work, at play, with friends, with intimate partners, and with children. Dysfunctional patterns develop in childhood and worsen with age if not recognized or helped. Sociopaths seldom realize they are the problem as they tend to find fault and cause outside of themselves. With knowledge of some of the abnormalities in the personality of females thought to be Sociopaths, you can provide better context to your relationships with them and avoid the harm they can cause.