Psychopathy and sociopathy are both anti-social personality disorders. While both these disorders are the result of an interaction between genetic predispositions and environmental factors, psychopathy leans towards the hereditary whereas sociopathy tends towards the environmental.
Psychopaths are born with temperamental differences such as impulsivity, cortical underarousal, and fearlessness that lead them to risk-seeking behavior and an inability to internalize social norms. On the other hand, sociopaths have relatively normal temperaments; their personality disorder being more an effect of negative sociological factors like parental neglect, delinquent peers, poverty, and extremely low or extremely high intelligence.
Anti-social personality disorder results in extremely violent acts. Though psychiatrists often consider and treat sociopaths and psychopaths as the same, criminologists treat them as different because of the difference in their outward behaviour.
|Predisposition to Violence||High||Varied|
|Criminal behavior||Tendency to leave clues and act on impulse.||Tendency to participate in schemes and take calculated risks to minimize evidence or exposure.|
|Criminal Predispositions||Tendency for impulsive or opportunistic criminal behavior, excessive risk taking, impulsive or opportunistic violence.||Tendency for premeditated crimes with controllable risks, criminal opportunism, fraud, calculated or opportunistic violence.|
|Social relationships||Unable to maintain normal relationships. Values relationships that benefit themselves.||Tendency to appear superficially normal in social relationships, often social predators.|
|Suffers from||Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD); lack of empathy or conscience, delusional.||Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD).|
Differences in Outward Behavior of a Psychopath and a Sociopath
Psychopaths often live at the fringes of society. They often tend to be extremely disorganized and are unable to maintain normal relationships with family, friends or co-workers. Unlike psychopaths, sociopaths can be almost obsessively organized and are normal in their social relationships, often forming symbiotic or parasitic relations. A sociopath would likely live an outwardly normal life and appear to blend in well with society; they may even be charming.
Psychopaths often find it hard to maintain a steady job and home.
Sociopaths often have successful careers and try to make others like and trust them. This is because they understand human social emotions quite well but are unable to experience them. This allows them to be master manipulators of human emotions.
A psychopath's outbreaks of violence are erratic and unplanned. After an erratic act, psychopaths can often be easily identified as they generally leave behind a trail of clues and a history of violent outbursts.
A sociopaths can plan acts of violence for years and may often be motivated by greed or revenge. Violent crimes by sociopaths are often controlled and often go undetected until after a sociopath is caught.
Video explaining the difference
Here's a short video of HLN's Dr. Drew explaining the difference between a sociopath and a psychopath:
Similarities between Psychopaths and Sociopaths
Sociopaths and psychopaths both face medical disorders that can be treated or alleviated if properly diagnosed. Treatment involves therapies and may involve proper medication. In fact, psychiatrists often don't distinguish between the two based on behavior; instead, they label a person with ASPD a sociopath if their mental condition is a result of mainly social conditions like abuse during childhood and a psychopath if the condition is mainly congenital.
The symptoms in both cases begin to establish and surface at approximately fifteen years of age. The initial symptom can be excessive cruelty to animals followed by lack of conscience, remorse or guilt for hurtful actions to others at a later stage. There may be an intellectual understanding of appropriate social behavior but no emotional response to the actions of others. Psychopaths may also face an inability to form genuine relationships, and may show inappropriate or out of proportion reaction to perceived negligence.
Treatment and Support