How to Tell the Difference Between a Sociopath and a Psychopath

By December 3, 2018 Psychology

For some reason, a lot of people tend to assume that sociopaths and psychopaths are the same things but they are not. They might be very similar in a lot of ways but their differences really set them apart from one another.

Sociopaths are people who suffer from something known as antisocial personality disorder. They can on some levels show signs of caring, trustworthiness, and so forth. That being said, they are reckless, quite aggressive, and for the most part ‘lack a conscious.’ Their moral compass is not tuned in the same way that the moral compass of those without APD would be.

Now, while Psychopaths are similar they suffer from something known as psychopathic personality disorder. This disorder is one of the most difficult to spot. People with it also lack a conscious but on a deeper level than that of a sociopath. Psychopathic traits are much more innate than the traits of sociopaths. They are predisposed through their violent or chaotic upbringings.

Psychology Today noted as follows in regards to the difference between sociopaths and psychopaths:

Sociopaths tend to be nervous and easily agitated. They are volatile and prone to emotional outbursts, including fits of rage. They are likely to be uneducated and live on the fringes of society, unable to hold down a steady job or stay in one place for very long. It is difficult but not impossible for sociopaths to form attachments with others. Many sociopaths are able to form an attachment to a particular individual or group, although they have no regard for society in general or its rules. In the eyes of others, sociopaths will appear to be very disturbed. Any crimes committed by a sociopath, including murder, will tend to be haphazard, disorganized and spontaneous rather than planned.

Psychopaths, on the other hand, are unable to form emotional attachments or feel real empathy with others, although they often have disarming or even charming personalities. Psychopaths are very manipulative and can easily gain people’s trust. They learn to mimic emotions, despite their inability to actually feel them and will appear normal to unsuspecting people. Psychopaths are often well educated and hold steady jobs. Some are so good at manipulation and mimicry that they have families and other long-term relationships without those around them ever suspecting their true nature.

While society and Hollywood, in general, make both have a very negative stigma surrounding them most do not end up as serial killers or even criminals for that matter. Sure, in some ways they do present risks to society, they are for the most part seemingly harmless within reason. The psychopath is, of course, the ‘worse’ of the two as he or she would have the better ability to dissociate from his or her actions but once again, not all of them are violent.

Psych Central noted as follows on the topic of psychopaths vs sociopaths:

Up to 3 percent of the population may qualify for a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder. This disorder is more common among males and mostly seen in people with an alcohol or substance abuse problem, or in forensic settings such as prisons. Psychopaths tend to be more manipulative, can be seen by others as more charming, lead a semblance of a normal life, and minimize risk in criminal activities. Sociopaths tend to be more erratic, rage-prone, and unable to lead as much of a normal life. When sociopaths engage in criminal activity, they tend to do so in a reckless manner without regard to consequences.

While the idea of each might come across as scary they are not as frightening as they seem. Chances are, you know one or the other whether you realize it or not.

Image via The Power of Silence

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