What’s the difference between psychopathy and sociopathy?

Disclaimer  I have no degree in psychology, which means I’m just as full of shit as the next guy.  As such, this article should be given as much credence as some babbling lunatic on the corner, screaming nonsense at passing strangers.   – BN

What’s the difference between psychopathy and sociopathy?

masks, drama comedy

The short answer is: “It depends on whom you ask...”

Two sides of the same coin – both terms (psychopathy and sociopathy) fall under the larger heading of “anti-social personality disorder” (APD, or ASPD). Anyone who argues about the terms psychopath vs. sociopath must understand – what we’re really talking about is “APD”.

Regardless of whether it’s a psychopath or sociopath – the disorder “APD” refers to someone who has no conscience whatsoever. Zero. One who cannot empathize with others; has no “human connection”. They don’t love. These are often “the seriously bad guys”.

A sociopath is APD due to social influences (e.g. growing up in an abusive household, or one who’s become hardened after a prison sentence).

On the other hand, a psychopath is a person who was “born that way” where the APD is from the womb, through genetic or chemical predispositions.

Even though they lack empathy, APDs are extremely skilled at manipulating people through intimidation, blackmail, bribery, or any other resource available.

If you have something he wants, he’ll take it without asking. If he wants to hurt you, he will – quickly and with no remorse – now or ever. The only time remorse will come into play – is if he’s caught. Then he’ll regret that he got caught, but he won’t regret causing you harm.

APDs never feel any guilt – about anything / ever. They cannot understand the concept of “guilt” anymore than a blind man can understand the concept of “red”.

After researching this disorder for years, Canadian criminologist Robert Hare created a checklist of traits associated with, and indicative of, antisocial personality disorder (APD).  In order to score this chart correctly, one must have proper training, but in layman’s short hand terms – the more of these traits one possesses the more likely he is an APD.

Factor 1: Personality “Aggressive narcissism”

  • Glibness/superficial charm
  • Grandiose sense of self-worth
  • Pathological lying
  • Cunning/manipulative
  • Lack of remorse or guilt
  • Shallow affect (genuine emotion is short-lived and egocentric)
  • Callousness; lack of empathy
  • Failure to accept responsibility for his or her own actions

Factor 2: Case history “Socially deviant lifestyle.”

  • Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
  • Parasitic lifestyle
  • Poor behavioral control
  • Lack of realistic long-term goals
  • Impulsivity
  • Irresponsibility
  • Juvenile delinquency
  • Early behavior problems
  • Revocation of conditional release

Traits not correlated with either factor

  • Promiscuous sexual behavior
  • Many short-term (marital) relationships
  • Criminal versatility
  • Acquired behavioural sociopathy/sociological conditioning (a newly identified trait i.e., a person relying on sociological strategies and tricks to deceive)

For brevity’s sake, I refer to such people as “APDs”. More correctly one would say “people who are diagnosed with APD”. However what you won’t hear is “people who suffer from APD”.

Anti-social personality disorder (APD) is one of the few disorders that causes no discomfort to the person who has it. Most APDs are generally quite happy & comfortable; very content with themselves. In fact, APDs very often consider the rest of us as weak, “goody-two-shoes”, and unrealistic.

APD’s don’t consider themselves as having a problem. So they don’t genuinely seek help from a therapist or psychologist. In fact nearly always – the only time APDs do go to a psychologist is when they’re referred by court order – or at the very least – not of their own volition.

Because APDs never seek help, they’re a difficult group to study. Most studies of psychopaths/sociopaths draw from the prison population. However there’s very little research on APDs who function lawfully and are not mandated to go to therapy.

Studies estimate about 6% of the general population (about 1 person in every 17) meets the diagnosis of APD. But this number is iffy at best, and it could likely be more than 6%. Most APD’s are men, though some are women.  Aileen Wuornos and Casey Anthony are rare exceptions.

It should be mentioned APDs (whether psychopaths or sociopaths) are not always murderers, and they’re not always violent. Just like the other 94% of the population, APD folks have different motivations. Some might want to spend the rest of their lives mooching off others; others might prefer global domination. On the battlefield, psychopaths often make excellent soldiers, for their ability to kill without being nagged at by a conscience.

Even though APDs are not always violent, if you happen upon one – you should consider him extremely dangerous until you have reason to think otherwise.

APD is common among criminals of all types – from white collar swindlers to violent serial killers, and all points in between. However, some people with APD have been known to function in society without breaking any laws. The important thing with an APD person, is there’s no conscience to reign in whatever their desires might be.

They do not learn well from their mistakes. One of the only things that will reliably motivate a psychopath is money.

Psychopaths sleep unusually well most of the time. Why wouldn’t they? There’s nothing bothering them. Nothing to lose sleep over.


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