Many people confuse the terms « sociopath » and « psychopath ». They are most often used to designate a person without a conscience. Societal definitions revolve around the person’s tendency to violence, anger, and absence of emotion. These terms are both used in crime shows, but what do they mean?
Indeed, the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably; still, there is no precise definition for any of the two.
First, we need to understand the antisocial personality.
Note that psychopathy and sociopathy are controversial ideas in psychology and do not appear in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders V. However, it mentions that « sociopath » and « psychopath » are terms used to describe people who are diagnosed with Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD). A set of socially unacceptable behaviours defines the ASPD. Symptoms include breaking the law, inability to maintain regular employment, manipulating and deceiving others also failure to develop stable relationships. Sociopathy and psychopathy can be seen as two different forms of ASPD. We can consider ASPD the term « big bucket, » like blue, and psychopathy and sociopathy, like smaller buckets, dark, and light blue.
Definition and characteristics of a psychopath
A psychopath is someone with ASPD. He behaves in an amoral and antisocial manner, cannot love others or build meaningful relationships in his personal life, demonstrates extreme egocentricity, and does not learn from experience. It is believed that psychopathy results from a specific biological and genetic configuration, and it is even detectable by brain scans.
Characteristics of a psychopath
- Cold and calculating
- Can mimic emotions
- Does not recognize the distress of others or pretend to care for them
- Maintains superficial relationships
- Unable to form emotional attachments
Definition and characteristics of a sociopath
Sociopath designates a person with ASPD who presents antisocial behaviours and attitudes such as manipulation, aggression, and lack of empathy for others. Sociopathy is usually linked to childhood trauma, such as physical or emotional abuse.
Characteristics of a sociopath
- Doesn’t care about others
- Hot-Headed who acts impulsively
- Subject to fits of rage
- Experiences difficulties in conforming to social norms,
- Sometimes forms emotional attachments
Sociopath is frequently subject to fits of rage
Psychopath vs Sociopath: understanding differences
Since sociopathy and psychopathy are two subsets of Antisocial Personality Disorder, it’s no surprise that there is some overlap between sociopaths and psychopaths. However, there are some essential differences.
- Moral compass: A sociopath is conscious that what he is doing is wrong, but in his mind, everything is rationalized and can be « mathematically » explained. A psychopath, on the other hand, does not see his actions as bad at all. The psychopath lacks consciousness. This means that a psychopath does not feel guilty, while a sociopath can feel guilty.
- Interpersonal relationships: Both sociopaths and psychopaths try to build stable relationships in their lives; psychopaths cannot do so. In contrast, sociopaths may have some meaningful ones.