The terms psychopath and sociopath are oftentimes used interchangeably. Many people falsely believe that these two terms are the same. Even some criminologists, police officers, forensic psychologists, and psychiatrist can tell that they are the same. The truth is that there is a big difference between these two.
The 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (2013) which was released by the American Psychiatric Association lists psychopathy and sociopathy under the title of Antisocial Personality Disorders (ASPD).
Psychopathy and sociopathy share many common characteristics, and that’s why they are often confused.
Some of the key traits that are common for psychopaths and sociopaths are a tendency for displaying aggressive or violent behavior, a disregard for the rights and feelings of others, a disregard for social laws, and a failure to feel guilt or remorse.
And what are the difference between them? Let’s look into more depth.
Sociopaths have a tendency to easily get upset and nervous. They have a short temper and are very volatile people. They also have episodes of rage since they are unable to control their emotions and they often tend to have emotional outbursts.
Sociopaths are usually not so much educated like the psychopaths and are likely to live on the margins of society. Sometimes, they can’t stay in one place for too long or hold a steady job.
Sociopaths are people who have a difficult time to form bonds and attachments with other people. It is almost impossible for them. Some of them can form a connection with some individuals, but they don’t have any regard for social norms and rules. So, sociopaths have a limited number of attachments and they usually struggle when it comes to relationships.
Other people view sociopaths as disturbed individuals. And because of their erratic behavior, they are much easier for other people to identify than psychopaths are.
Psychopaths, on the other hand, can’t form any type of emotional attachments or feel any sort of empathy or compassion. They are often aggressive in nature. They are the predators and other people are their preys – their objects of amusement.
Even though they can’t feel empathy, they are often very charismatic and charming individuals. These manipulators can quickly and easily make other people to trust them.
They mimic the emotions that other people feel even though they don’t feel anything. This is why many people see psychopaths as disarming and good-hearted individuals. They are also very educated, and they tend to have steady jobs.
Some psychopaths are so good manipulators that they have long-term relationships or even families without their partner even suspecting it.
And when it comes to psychopaths who are criminals, they tend to plan out every single detail and usually have many backup plans, so it is almost impossible to catch them in the act. Even if they are caught, they act calm, cool, and collected. This cold-blooded individual will never reveal themselves and their true deeds and intentions. Therefore, they are more difficult to identify than sociopaths are.
Another main difference between sociopathy and psychopathy can be found at the root of the disorder.
Namely, sociopathy is usually a product of some kind of a childhood trauma or emotional or psychological abuse. Sociopathy is learned, so that’s the reason why some sociopaths are able to feel empathy or compassion to certain extents.
Contrary, psychopathy is a result of genetics. It is a psychological defect that is responsible for the underdevelopment of the brain part that is responsible for emotions and impulse control.
Finally, sociopathy is more common than psychopathy, but psychopaths are considered to be one of the most dangerous human beings. Unsurprisingly, many serial killers are psychopaths.