* I generally write using the pronouns he/him when referring to narcissists, but females are just as likely to be narcissists or exhibit narcissistic traits. So please don't think just because article uses the word him or he that it could not be a woman in that same role.
For many people, dealing with sociopaths and psychopaths is a distant thought. In many people’s minds, it’s something that they are unlikely to come into contact with within their day-to-day lives. So what is a sociopathic stare?
It’s something you see in drama or crime series and movies, and that’s more or less where it is likely to stay.
However, that is far from the case. For one, terms such as psychopathy and sociopathy aren’t definitive psychological terms but informal characteristics that can describe a certain amount of the general population.
And it is a pretty sizable chunk of the population at that. Research has estimated that at least 1% of the population has traits that could classify them as psychopaths, and 4% of people have been shown to have sociopathic traits and tendencies.
This means that, if you come into contact with approximately 100 different people on a given day, at least 5 of those people could be considered sociopaths or psychopaths. That’s a surprisingly large amount of people!
Some people can go their entire lives without realizing that they have these traits.
But if you are looking to ensure that you don’t want these people coming into your life and potentially causing trouble, it is best that you at least understand the signs to look for in people before they can do that sort of damage.
This brings us to the main issue: It’s surprisingly hard to spot them at first!
Whilst there is a whole range of personality traits that can apply to sociopaths and psychopaths, these almost always take time to notice, after repeated contact with these people fully.
Which, for many of us, is a little too late if you are trying to keep them out of our lives.
Fortunately, there is at least one way to at least get a sense that there is something amiss about a person or if they potentially have sociopathic tendencies: Their eyes and how they stare.
In this article, we are going to cover what exactly a sociopathic stare is, how to spot it, and how they are often different from just general eye contact (or lack of it), as well as how it is different from other, similar traits that psychopaths also have.
Telltale Signs Of A Sociopathic Stare
Generally speaking, eye contact is an important part of unspoken language between different people. We often notice when someone is either not interacting with us through eye contact at all or if they hold eye contact for too long.
What exactly these responses to eye contact mean can vary wildly depending on the place and context and the sort of person you are having eye contact with.
The Unspoken Rules Of Eye Contact
Generally speaking, if someone is averse to giving more than a few moments of eye contact, we can infer that the person is likely to be shy or lacking in confidence or otherwise have trouble understanding and interacting with normal social cues (this can be the case for neurodivergent people, such as people with autism)
On the other side of the spectrum, a long stare that goes on for too long can be a sign of someone with antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), which includes a range of characteristics that often include definitions and traits that we would associate with sociopathy and psychopathy.
- Ultimate Guide to Personality Disorders
- Sociopathy vs Antisocial Personality: Key Differences
- 41 Manipulation Tactics Used By Narcissists, Psychopaths, and Sociopaths
People with ASPD often lack any strong or clear sense of right and wrong and show very little, if any, remorse for their actions and how they might affect those around them.
People with ASPD also tend to have trouble understanding and empathizing with how others are feeling at a given moment, which can often lead to strange or uncomfortable social interactions.
This last point has led to many confusing the traits that lead to how people interact through eye contact, as both a lack of eye contact and too much of it somewhat come from a similar place of not understanding how many unspoken social cues work.
However, it is important to note that these two forms of atypical behavior come from two very different places.
More often than not, a lack of eye contact means that the person in question lacks the same understanding of social cues, either due to a lack of confidence or simply struggling to pick up unspoken rules that aren’t verbalized.
Too much eye contact, if the person is ASPD, means kind of the opposite in fact, that they do not care for understanding social cues, as well as a lack of remorse for how these antisocial traits make those around them feel.
A Piercing Stare
This can be quite an unnerving experience if you are not prepared for it. As we have already discussed, how your eyes react can often be a sign of any personality trait.
How your pupils dilate, how your eyes focus, and how they react to stimuli around them can all reflect how a person feels.
With the stare of a sociopath or psychopath, you may find that many of the traits that make up normal eye movement aren’t there.
A sociopathic stare is unnervingly unresponsive to most of the normal reactions that you can see in normal eye contact. There is a generally flat response. Their pupils rarely dilate, if ever, when reacting to what they see.
And there is very rarely ever any sign of nervousness that you may find in other forms of prolonged eye contact
They’re certainly not likely to stop looking if you try to show nervousness. If anything, depending on the type of person they are, they may continue to stare at you blankly, with a flat expression that gives absolutely nothing away.
Whether it is simply to assert control in a social situation they do not understand, or for other reasons is almost impossible to say without knowing them better.
They say the eyes are a window into your soul. But as we’ve seen here, it is a window that carries a lot of strange rules and language with it. Rules we might not fully understand until we find someone who doesn’t play by them.
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National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
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The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 678678. Standard text messaging rates apply. Available 24/7/365. (Provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning—LGBTQ—young people under 25.)
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International Suicide Prevention Directory: findahelpline.com
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‘Find a Therapist’ Online Directories
- Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists
- GoodTherapy.org: http://www.goodtherapy.org/find-therapist.html
- American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy: https://aamft.org/Directories/Find_a_Therapist.asp
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