Psychopath vs. Sociopath

Psychopathy and sociopathy are anti-social personality disorders. While both these disorders are the result of an interaction between genetic predispositions and environmental factors, psychopathy is used when the underlying cause leans towards the hereditary. Sociopath is the term used when the antisocial behavior is a result of a brain injury or belief system and upbringing. In recent years, the term psychopath has acquired a specific meaning and the condition is now more widely understood.

Psychopaths are born with temperamental differences such as impulsiveness, cortical under-arousal, 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 behavior.

Comparison chart



Suffers from Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD); lack of empathy or conscience, delusional. Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD).
Origin of illness Psychologists generally use the term psychopathy to imply an innate condition of the individual. It's derived from the nature part of the nature vs. nurture debate. The term sociopathy generally implies that environmental factors, such as upbringing, have played a role in the development of the ASPD.
Predisposition to Violence High Varied
Impulsivity Varies; generally low High
Behavior Controlled Erratic
Criminal behavior Tendency to participate in schemes and take calculated risks to minimize evidence or exposure. Tendency to leave clues and act on impulse.
Criminal Predispositions Tendency for premeditated crimes with controllable risks, criminal opportunism, fraud, calculated or opportunistic violence. Tendency for impulsive or opportunistic criminal behavior, excessive risk taking, impulsive or opportunistic violence.
Social relationships Unable to maintain normal relationships. Values relationships that benefit themselves. May hurt family and friends without feeling guilty. Tendency to appear superficially normal in social relationships, often social predators. Can empathize with close friends or family; will feel guilty if they hurt people close to them.

Contents: Psychopath vs Sociopath

Differences in Outward Behavior of a Psychopath and a Sociopath

Social Relationships

Both sociopaths and psychopaths are capable of forming relationships. The neurology of psychopaths makes it hard for them to feel empathy. They value relationships that benefit them but do not feel guilty about taking advantage of close friends and family. Both psychopaths and sociopaths can be extremely charming but sociopaths are generally capable of empathy and guilt. To that extent, their relationships — at least with people they end up getting close to — can be "normal".

Psychopaths can be very manipulative and pernicious in their abuse of the people around them. Unlike sociopaths, they can be almost obsessively organized and give the appearance of normal in their social relationships, often forming symbiotic or parasitic relations.


Psychopaths 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.

Sociopaths often find it hard to maintain a steady job and home.

Violent tendencies

Even though psychopathy is characterized by impulsiveness, psychopaths are usually very meticulous in planning their crimes. Their crimes can go undetected for a long time. Violent crimes are rare; most psychopaths either take advantage of those around them without doing anything illegal, or engage in white collar crime such as fraud.

A sociopath's outbreaks of violence tend to be erratic and unplanned. They also tend to leave more clues.

Both sociopaths and psychopaths commit crime because they are motivated by greed or revenge. But psychopaths feel no remorse after their crimes because they lack the ability to empathize.

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

Antisocial Personality Disorder is a mental illness that can be managed with drugs and therapy.

The Mayo Clinic also has information on the illness and resources for support.

Psychopath vs Psychotic

It should be noted that psychopaths are not "insane" or mentally disabled. A psychotic person suffers a break from reality, characterized by delusions and hallucinations. This usually renders the individual unable to function normally. But psychopaths are not mentally disabled and do not lose contact with reality.


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Comments: Psychopath vs Sociopath

Anonymous comments (23)

July 13, 2013, 5:28am

The life of a sociopath, ultimately, is a sad one.

They can have all of the affect, and none of the true feeling. They do not understand their own anger, risk taking, or indifference / lack of empathy. Their rage may frighten them, as it is not generally in their best interest to physically harm another person because imprisonment and bankruptcy may result. They do not understand why they so easily distance themselves from those they categorize as friends and family. They do not understand why there is no substance to their outward presentation of "self" ... why they are so chamelionic - so easily able to change appearance, mannerisms, jobs, emotions like that ever-changing lizzard.

In the end, their existence is hollow and lonely, even in the midst of the family they convince themselves that they should "love."

They function ... move through life ... like automatons ... following an ingrained code of behavior and emotion scripted (plagiarized is more like it) from the lives of others, from media, from comic books.

Yet they know they are not original, merely copies of real people with real emotions, lives, ambitions, goals, friends, loving families.

And they frequently scare even themselves by what they do and realize they are capable of doing ... with utter disregard for others. Their cruelty is at odds with their own "code" and yet it is an immutable part of their personality and identity.

Yes, a sad and a lonely life, for they are strangers even unto themselves.

I know.

— 24.✗.✗.254

October 14, 2013, 9:24am

RE: A facebook commentor questioning comments of people thinking of labeling their ex or soon-to-be ex as a sociopath or psychopath-- I can totally see where you're coming from (people being bitter and wanting to insult their ex/ feel better about the relationship ending), however, with that said-- the issue is, if you're in a relationship with one of these type of people (particularly sociopath)-- you don't realize reality for what it is-- until the relationship ends, and things become clear to you. If you're swept up in this manipulative facade that /seems/ normal-- you don't realize until the image breaks. I know for me, I would just have this bad feeling-- ex: I felt like I was going crazy, like he'd tell me told me something, yet I was sure he didn't-- but I wasn't sure what it was-- until I got away.

— 35.✗.✗.26

March 19, 2014, 4:24pm

I lived with one for 32 years unknown to me. He is dead now but the damage he caused to his child and myself lives on.Sociopaths are very smart and manipulative people. If it feels wrong, it is ! Run dont walk away from them. They are very dangerous people. They will destroy you. Good luck

— 71.✗.✗.32

February 23, 2013, 1:14pm

Psychopaths, those born evil, can actually be extraordinarily successful - CEOs, Supreme Court judges, Presidents, Central Bankers, Media Barons, and leading academics whose ideas infect the thinking of whole generations. The key to understanding how you can have dumbass psychopaths who wind up in prison early on and intelligent ones who end up writing laws and running whole countries into the ground is that there are TWO bell curves. On one bell curve you have normal people. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle of this bell curve; of ave. intelligence and ability to empathise with others. Some humans are exceptional, while others are pretty dimwitted, but essentially kind-hearted. Then you have the psychopathic bell curve, which is totally separate. They all have no conscience. Most of them are middle-of-the-road psychos who leave a trail of destruction but generally keep getting away with it because of normies' complete ignorance of psychopathy. Some of them get caught and diagnosed early on because they have such poor impulse control and are so glaringly obviously not human. The most successful psychopaths, however, are a whole different kettle of fish. Placed at the far right end of this second bell curve, these super-dangerous types rise to the top and dominate society to the extent of trying to reshape it in their image. They have exceptional discipline. They too will kill, torture, rape, steal from and abuse people as they backstab their way to the top, but they generally keep such urges in check thanks to very well-constructed 'masks of sanity', from which they take regular much-needed 'vacations into filth', as Harvey Cleckley described it. That's why mega-rich far-right wing fundamentalist religious preachers in the U.S. get down and dirty with transvestite strippers over some crystal meth on the weekends: the rest of the week they are practically holding their breath playing the role of 'saintly people' to their families, underlings and church flock. These so-called 'successful psychopaths' present themselves as more normal than normal itself. It's very difficult to catch them out, but it can be done. Once they do reach the top, it's actually dead easy to spot them because they're so busy getting payback on the society of normal man - sending people to wars they create by profiting from arms sales to both sides; signing off on laws that make life as stressful as possible for their enemy (the normal population below them); drafting policy papers that dream up new ways of hurting people by torturing them - both fiscally through more and more taxes and, post-9/11, literally; pillaging the real wealth from economies through their zombie banks, and so on. Sadly, by the time they reach the top and become seen for what they are, the damage is already done and society has nowhere to go but down. By now they have eaten their way through the whole fabric of society like a parasitic cancer. Historically, normal people have dealt with it by overthrowing their corrupt leaders, but failure to understand why the disease keeps returning means that psychopaths will again rise to the top in future... unless we can somehow get this knowledge into the system.

— 77.✗.✗.112

April 1, 2014, 6:10am

I'm waiting for the judges ruling after a three year hellish divorce process with a sociopath/psychopath. He told me how things were going to be ( regarding the divorce ) from the beginning, a threatened to "do ANYTHING... to protect myself. And I do mean ANYTHING. Have I made myself clear ?" It's been a crazy scarey ride. I just hang onto Gods promises to free me from the damage this very sick man has caused for me and our three young adult kids. This sounds old fashion, I know; but his emotional abuse grew as his porn addiction grew. I had no idea what I was married to for 30 years. Lying, cheating, greedy, money laundering , arrogant narcissist with loads of secrets! He will likely try to kill me to avoid alimony. But I'd rather die than be under his control anymore. I'm free!

— 173.✗.✗.192

January 20, 2014, 11:40pm

I'm sure they are all around you; if they're doing it right, you won't notice.

— 24.✗.✗.175

December 29, 2013, 7:30am

" snakes in suits " :-)

— 101.✗.✗.252

May 22, 2013, 5:39pm

Greer Harper there are no such tests. Name one blood panel or any other test that measures the concentration of neurotransmitters in blood. This is a lie that pharmaceutical companies and certain psychiatrists working for them have been perpetuating through the MSM for decades.

— 131.✗.✗.91

March 18, 2013, 7:59pm

Is it possible to be a psychopath or sociopath but also have lots of empathy towards animals and "pure" people. I know someone who shows lots if signs of an extremely violent sociopath but cares a lot for animals and people he considers pure while not showing any concern for any person which isn't pure. He would, if not for the consequences torture, kill and possibly eat people who deserve it, if he believes he can get away with it, I believe this is more than possible. He has been in with a women he thought was pure, he ended it and is still hurting 4 years later. He fits the descriptions perfectly apart from the empathy for pure people and animals and had been in love like that. He is clever, very vengeful,very manipulative, can make people do anything he wants, very charming and polite and innocent to certain people and then the complete opposite with others, has no empathy for violence at all, people that have been raped ect unless he believes they are pure, he will feel more empathy for an injured animal than person, he believes that people aren't more important than animals. He lives on his own, has a drug habit, been sexually active from very young before puberty, extreme aggression but a nice guy if you are somewhat innocent. He is a nice guy, just don't get on the wrong side if him. He lives by his own moral laws and will judge people according to his laws. Treat people the way the treat you and other people. Will be nice until u cross him or others then will rip your head off lol.
I would have no doubt in my mind that he was a sociopath if he didn't show empathy for animals, pure people and hasn't been in love. What is this, I know he isn't normal there are things that aren't mentioned that no one normal would not be bothered by.

— 94.✗.✗.250

March 3, 2013, 11:49pm

Cookie, I have Been around with 2 social-path, both women had the same personality traits. Never took responsibility for nothing that happened in thier life. Both individuals would call you on the phone, then say hi.... Then take off talking for 2 or 3 hours, never taking a breath. I would lay the phone down come back 2 hrs later they were still talking about themselves. Or did them wrong! Neither one could keep a relationship, and even their own children pulled away from them.
Personally it was best to Just end relationship with both, I was not qualified to help. But I had to make sure they felt it was their decision.
This way I was in the clear...

— 32.✗.✗.200

October 7, 2012, 3:39pm

I've been studying and talking to Psychopaths and Sociopaths for a little over a year, what few are willing to out themselves behind a screen of anonymity at least.

Every time I think there's nothing one can say or do that will surprise or appall me I get proven wrong, from arguing against charity on the basis that it makes people dependent, to laughing at 9/11, at times their lack of empathy truly stands out.

But some of them seem well adapted and try to manage their disorder, and a few of them have codes of ethics they stick to. I think it's a mistake to write them all off as beyond the pale. It's almost like part of their soul is missing, but they aren't all bad people.

I think a big part of the problem is that they're left alone with their disorder, no one identifies them or tries to help them until they become criminals. If we learn to recognize the problem and gauge the extent of it early I think it's very possible to help them avoid dysfunctional behavior and find a healthy place in society, they may even be uniquely suited for certain lines of work, such as detectives, morticians, or actors.

— 67.✗.✗.54

July 29, 2012, 6:28pm

I know a sociopath that lost. Keep the faith and a strong head over your shoulders adn never carry what they have, malice intent.

— 67.✗.✗.162

July 6, 2012, 3:51pm

We have been pretty sure thay my neice is a sociopath...correct!! Her friends are made up of people that serve her a purpose. She is a huge thief, and will steal the shirt off your back - literally! As stated she commit her crime with a trace of proof left behind! Then while the people she has stolen from knows with 99% accuracy that she did it, they cannot have her charged because of the lack of the one measly percent - which is always the nail in the coffin %!! UGHH very frustraring! But, looking abck at her upbringing - It was totally environmental and not born that way! She was raised with the neglect and poverty as mentioned. However, her mother 'bred' her to be the way she is. She was very spoiled...Her bad behaviours were not corrected. ALL of her sisters belongings were at her disposal, even by the mothers force if the sister refused. The mother once accused the sister of stealing batteries out of something and demanded she buy new ones...However, if she knew this daughter well enough, she never stole a flower from a garden? But the neice, who was the one to look to in the 1st place? I went to bat for sister! Stating the obvious...The mother never demanded neice replace them or tried to fix the problem - She was 10 at the time? No one wants neice around...If we invite her for xmas, she steals all our xmas presents? If she does drop by unplanned, we split up being on each floor and my 2 kids (who have been her victims too) are follow her around at all times and keep her occupied, while we listen to everything going on. IT IS SO HORRIBLE!! I don't even have space here to get into what she has done to me brother (her father - that was forced out of her life by her mother)!!!!!

— 173.✗.✗.231

May 7, 2011, 7:37pm

You can not treat a psychopath. You can only help those who want to change. The lack of empathy gives them an edge over everyone else, they are not held by socal prodical like everyone else elevateing them above the common. They beleave themselves to be better than everyone else so why would they want to change? Because you think they need help? They dont care what you think, you are less then they are plus they really dont care who they hurt. So in short, the ability to treat a psycopath is a myth to help the little people sleep better at night.

— 75.✗.✗.169

February 23, 2014, 7:48pm

You might think you would like to meet a socio or psychopath, but trust me - you wouldn't. You think that you would be able to recognise them or outwit them, but you can't. For everyone who has had contact with one and has been ruined I highly recommend the book The Empathy Trap. It will teach you how to protect yourself. Have as little contact as possible or none at all if you can. If you have children with one meet them somewhere other than your house, write everything down, get witnesses to write you letters and don't let them know anything about your life. Stay safe. Good luck.

— 121.✗.✗.118

January 14, 2014, 12:51am

* waves hi*

— 166.✗.✗.29

December 22, 2013, 8:27am

Not all successful buisness men/women are psychopaths but of course a lot of them are ruthless, which is helped by the lack of guilt and remorse; classic signs of a psychopath.

— 94.✗.✗.219

October 29, 2013, 4:01am

i wonder how many people are actual sociopaths and psychopaths commenting anonymously
or are just schizophrenics who think they are that

a sociopath is not going to come to a site like this and if they think they are a sociopath and did well they're a bit dumb if they were a sociopath they would be intelligent enough to know police can find your IP if you commented anoynmously if you didn't use any proxy due to the fear they will get caught a sociopath wouldn't come here

and a psychopath is too head up butt to even think there is anything wrong with them so they don't understand and continue to live their life in a different way

— 124.✗.✗.104

July 31, 2013, 11:08am

Maybe more countries can learn something from that country of Australia

to not allow children to be hit by their parents

And to take legal action against bullies

— 120.✗.✗.105

May 14, 2013, 6:09pm

Thor: Sorry for taking you off of Venus and making you a king

— 70.✗.✗.151

January 13, 2013, 7:37am

saying youre a sociopath bunch of idiots a sociopath would never admit to it. Just attention grabbers, sociopath dont care for any one if theyre of no use.

— 174.✗.✗.102

October 23, 2012, 6:54pm

I find it really stupid that our legal system could free people like me. We know your laws, we know that it's wrong to commit atrochious acts of violence. That's one of the main reasons why we can pull up such a meticulously built façade. We simply don't care about your laws cause they stop us from getting what we want, and that's no reason to be giving us freebies.

— 205.✗.✗.66

October 23, 2012, 6:44pm

I'm a sociopath myself, and I find myself confused as to why someone would feel sympathy to us not being able to feel emotions like you. Althought we don't feel happy, pride or other positive feelings like normal people, it's also a life which enables you to get everything you want. My life is pretty successful and looks pretty normal to most people. I have a nice home, I own a couple of appartements in town and I started a small buisness when I was young which provides me with a generous revenue, but that's all people know about me. When I'm alone my disease allows me to indulge myself in my desires. I consume recreational drugs such as ectasy and heroine almost daily now. And from time to time I like to explore gore and violence, so I buy a ballistic gel torso and head and cut/smash it to pieces (deadliest warrior style) :). And then I can just clean up my drugs or violent mess and run my buisness and live my normal life like nothing ever happened. Sure we can't feel happy or guilty, but we're extremely good at getting what we want.

— 205.✗.✗.66


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