Psychology

Difference between Sociopath and Psychopath



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The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) notes that there are some differences between sociopaths and psychopaths, but classifies them together as Antisocial Personality Disorder.  The International Statistical Classification of Diseases And Related Health Problems (ICD) refers to Dissocial Personality Disorder.

Both disorders involve the following characteristics:

Failure to conform to social norms, by repeatedly exhibiting behavior that leads to arrest.

Decietfulness, conning, and lying for personal pleasure or profit

Impulsivity and failure to plan ahead

Irratibility and aggressiveness with repeated acts of violence or fighting

Reckless disregard for the safety of self or of others

Consistent irresponsibility, leading to inability to maintain a job, sustain a work discipline or to uphold financial responsibilities

Lack of remorse, manifesting in indifference to or rationalizing having caused the suffering of others, by mistreating, hurting or stealing from them


Lykken (1995) uses the congenital aspect of being born with the disorder to distinguish psychopathy from sociopathy. Sociopathy is viewed under this classification as one who is "socialized" into becoming a psychopath, rather than being born with the dysfunction. Stout (2005) extracts the following as being a function of sociopathic personalities.

Egocentricity; Callousness; Impulsivity; Conscience defect; Exaggerated sexuality; Excessive boasting; Risk taking; Inability to resist temptation; Antagonistic, deprecating attitude toward the opposite sex; Lack of interest in bonding with a mate.

The DSM lists the common psychopathic traits:

Glib and superficial charm; Grandiose sense of self-worth; Need for stimulation; Pathological lying; Conning and manipulativeness; Lack of remorse or guilt; Shallow affect; Callousness and lack of empathy; Parasitic lifestyle; Poor behavioral controls; Promiscuous sexual behavior; Early behavior problems; Lack of realistic, long-term goals; Impulsivity; Irresponsibility; Failure to accept responsibility for own actions; Many short-term marital relationships; Juvenile delinquency; Revocation of conditional release; Criminal versatility

Another way is to view the two factors of Episodic Aggression as assigned to psychopathy; and Organized Sociopathic Hatred as assigned to the sociopath. The traits indicate very different factors and behaviors between the two disorders. Most noteworthy are the evidence of genetic disorder, biochemical symptoms and psychological impairment, along with more violent and aggressive behaviors that are assigned to psychopaths. Psychopaths have abnormal temperaments while sociopaths may have normal temperaments.

Statistically, there are no official DSM or other terms for sociopaths, but most are male, with an increasing number of females. Absence of a father, sexual promiscuity, being born out of wedlock or with divorced parents and other abnormal or problematic socialization factors are the noteworthy factors with sociopaths. 

Finally, sociopaths may live their whole lives with few of the more devastating outcomes, but may also transition into becoming psychopaths. Sociopaths are not always benign individuals and can have serious elements of being sadistic and harmful towards others. There are explanations from past experience for sociopaths while psychopaths are considered to the the true "monsters" for whom there is no explanation. 

APSU "Antisocial Personality, Sociopathy and Psychopathy"

Allison Z Blog, "Psychopaths And Sociopaths"

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