What Is the Difference Between A Psychopath and A Sociopath?

Reviewed on 3/5/2021

Both psychopathy and sociopathy are types of antisocial personality disorders characterized by certain behaviors and attitudes, such as manipulation, deceit, lack of empathy, and aggression. There is some overlap between the behaviors and attitudes of a psychopath and a sociopath, but they are different conditions.
Both psychopathy and sociopathy are types of antisocial personality disorders characterized by certain behaviors and attitudes, such as manipulation, deceit, lack of empathy, and aggression. There is some overlap between the behaviors and attitudes of a psychopath and a sociopath, but they are different conditions.

While there is some overlap between the behaviors and attitudes of a psychopath and a sociopath, the terms do not refer to the same condition. 

Differences between psychopaths and sociopaths include the characteristics listed in the table below.

Sociopaths vs. Psychopaths
Sociopaths Psychopaths
Sociopaths tend to be nervous and easily agitated.  Psychopaths can mimic emotions and seem even-keeled
Sociopaths are volatile and prone to emotional outbursts, including fits of rage. Psychopaths are cool, calm, and unflappable in a crisis. 
Sociopaths are more likely to be uneducated, live on the fringes of society, be unable to hold down a steady job, or stay in one place for very long. Psychopaths are often well-educated and hold steady jobs.
Sociopaths can form attachments to particular individuals or groups, though it may be difficult.  Psychopaths are unable to form emotional attachments and view others as objects for their amusement. 
Sociopaths appear to others to be disturbed or erratic and are often easier for professionals to identify.  Psychopaths will appear normal to others. They are manipulative and can be charming and easily gain the trust of others.
Crimes committed by sociopaths, even murder, are usually haphazard and spontaneous rather than planned.  When psychopaths commit crimes, they tend to carefully plan every detail in advance and often have contingency plans in place. They are “cold blooded” and may be effective criminals. 
The cause of sociopathy is environment (“nurture”), such as childhood trauma and physical or emotional abuse. The cause of psychopathy is genetics (“nature”).

 

 

What Are Psychopaths and Sociopaths?

Both psychopathy and sociopathy are types of antisocial personality disorders characterized by certain behaviors and attitudes, such as manipulation, deceit, lack of empathy, and aggression.

What Traits Do Psychopaths and Sociopaths Have in Common?

According to the American Psychiatric Association’s fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), both psychopathy and sociopathy have some common behavioral traits, such as:

  • Disregard for laws and social norms
  • Disregard for the rights of others
  • Lack of feelings of remorse or guilt
  • Displays of violent or aggressive behavior

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Reviewed on 3/5/2021
References
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/wicked-deeds/201801/the-differences-between-psychopaths-and-sociopaths

https://www.psi.uba.ar/academica/carrerasdegrado/psicologia/sitios_catedras/practicas_profesionales/820_clinica_tr_personalidad_psicosis/material/dsm.pdf