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.
|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|
|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.|
Differences in Outward Behavior of a Psychopath and a Sociopath
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.
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
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.
- The Neuroscientist Who Discovered He Was a Psychopath - Smithsonian magazine
- Hare Psychopathy Checklist - Wikipedia
- Letter from a psychopath sent to Jon Ronson, author of The Psychopath Test
- Sociopathy vs. Psychopathy - Kelly McAleer, Psy. D.
- Psychopathy versus sociopathy: Why the distinction has become crucial - Jack Pemment, Psychology Today
- Psychopathy - Wikipedia