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Difference Between Psychopath and Sociopath

socio_pathPsychopath vs Sociopath

Anti-social personality disorders can take on many variations. The two main delineations are sociopaths and psychopaths. For better or worse, there are few differences between psychopaths and sociopaths. Some medical dictionaries even consider them to be synonymous. Both disorders cause one to engage in extremely anti-social behavior that includes acts of extreme violence. While psychiatrists often class sociopaths and psychopaths together, criminologists differentiate between them based on their outward behavior.

Outward Behavior of a Sociopath

  • Sociopaths tend to be extremely disorganized.
  • They are unable to maintain normal relationships with family, friends, or co-workers.
  • They are often unable to keep steady employment or housing.
  • They often live literally at the fringes of society. In a study of the homeless people who live in the subway tunnels of New York City, a disproportionately large number of them were classed as sociopaths.
  • Their outbreaks of violence are erratic and unplanned. Sociopaths are easier to identify and apprehend as they generally leave behind a large trail of clues.

Outward Behavior of a Psychopath

  • Psychopaths can be almost obsessively organized.
  • They can maintain normal social relationships. They may take care of aging parents or be married with children.
  • Psychopaths will often be very successful in their careers. Their need for organization is coupled with an ability to make others like and trust them. Because they intellectually understand human emotions but are unable to experience them themselves, they are masters at emotional manipulation.
  • They often live in a normal house or apartment, completely indistinguishable from healthy people.
  • Psychopaths will take years to plan out acts of violence and revenge. They are very difficult to catch because they will carefully plan each step of the act to ensure they will commit their crime undetected.

There are some similarities between Psychopaths and Sociopaths: Both psychopaths are sociopaths have medical mental disorders that can be treated or alleviated through therapy and medication once properly diagnosed. Their symptoms begin to be outwardly established at approximately fifteen years of age and are initially manifested by excessive cruelty to animals. As the disease progresses the main symptoms include: a lack of what society normally deems a ‘conscience,’ lack of remorse or guilt for hurtful actions to others, an intellectual understanding of appropriate social behavior but no emotional response to the actions of others, an inability to form genuine relationships, and inappropriate or out of proportion responses to perceived slights.

1. Sociopaths and psychopaths are both classed as anti-social personality disorders.
2. Both types of person enjoy cruelty, feel lack normal human emotions of guilt, and are unable to form emotional bonds with others.
3. Sociopaths generally behave in a disorganized, erratic manner.
4. Psychopaths generally behave outwardly normal but will engage in elaborate plots to manipulate or harm those around them.

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  1. the article states that “both … have medical mental disorders that can be treated or alleviated through therapy and medication once properly diagnosed”. this is contrary to most psychotherapeutic experience. whom or what are you citing here?
    marian c

  2. There are a few mistakes in your article.
    Sociopaths are obsessive and organized, while Psychopaths are disorganized.
    Psychopathy is not recognized as an actual mental disorder, while Sociopathy is.

    • Good lord you’re misinformed. Psycho and sociopaths are the same thing. Read some peer reviewed studies if you even know what they are.

      • @Gelgamark: Actually, I think Marcott is right. Can you please post links to the articles you are referring to? Because the studies I’ve read seem to more or less support Marcott’s statement – at least in regard to the the organization description.

      • This whole article is a mess. Where on earth did you drum up this information from?

    • Well I think that’s a matter of motive. Is is emotional? In which case disorganized for a psychopath due to sloppyness, attachment to the victim, and trophies taking. Then again it could be for an ego boost or for the thrill of targeting a group or type of people. In which case disorganized for a sociopath by possible rape, recklessness, and obvious fatuation with victims.

  3. I find that most of the enlisted differences between a psychopath and sociopath is accurate..except for two of the enlisted outward behavior distinctions of the sociopath is “extremely”disorganized, leaving behind a large trail of clues, and being easily identified and apprehended. For instance, serial killer Ted Bundy fits under the outward behavior-based profile of a sociopath, but he was not exactly extremely disorganized and he hadn’t quite left behind a large trail of clues that revealed his identity and apprehension. But to the exact, he was disorganized only to some degree. He was mostly organized, though his organized capacities had not reached to the level of being almost obsessive.

    Plus I want to add, that a sociopath has an abnormal level of temperament. On the other hand, the psychopath has a normal level of temperament. For example, a sociopathic killer would only kill in a sense of anger and resentment. Therefore, the crime scene will indicate that the offender carried out his or her acts of violence in a sense of rage. And a psychopathic killer would kill in a sense of vindictiveness. A violent psychopath will keeping a cool head and would only express their anger and resentment while being alone. Then after releasing the emotion of anger and vindictiveness, the psychopath will in the next step start to think and come up with a calculating, methodical, and meticulous plan of how and when to inflict harm upon their victim. While committing the murder, the psychopath is consistently cool headed. Because of the fact his or her plan is going along as wanted and expected to the outcomes of it in either getting revenge or to get rid of the person who is in the way from getting what he/she wants.

  4. I apologize for my spelling grammar mistakes in my previous reply above. I hope I didn’t confuse anyone reading it. I was a bit excited to share what I have found in research on this subject.

    • Don’t say, “I was a bit excited to share what I have found in research on this subject.” you dirty Plebeian. The correct tense is, “I was a bit excited to share what I had found in researching this subject.” Do you even english? Holy crap, buddy, someone got a 1200 on their SATs.

      • Who the hell are you to judge? She said her English wasn’t perfect. Shut up. Not only is she educated but she’s multi lingual. You didn’t invent the language so calm the fuck down.

    • No, it’s ok , I actually found it really useful and informative
      thank you

  5. I must also add in correcting myself, the example I used to back up my point is not exactly accurate on what I had mentioned on Ted Bundy’s outward behavior. The only accurate facts to this example in support of my point I’m trying to make is that Bundy, who fits mostly under the enlisted behaviors of the sociopath was not extremely disorganized in his acts of amoral and antisocial behavior, most of his outbursts of violence were a bit erratic but had been carefully planned before he acted it out, and also he left behind only some clues…not a lot of them. Several or more individuals who saw Ted Bundy did get a good look to provide a sketch of his face but the problem is he was also a chameleon. He changed his appearance at least a dozen times while he was evading law enforcement.

  6. When one tries to define something one tends to leave out the fact the human beings, even sociopaths and psychopaths, can’t be neatly fitted into molds! The author of this article using the standard webster’s definition of sociopaths and psychopaths but fails to take into considerations various levels of each. Strictly speaking the author is mostly right but sociopaths can by organized and psyhcopaths can be disorganized. Human beings usually learn from their mistakes and they adjust accordingly if they get away with it. Most sociopaths and psychopaths are caught early in their morbid career the ones who are dangerous are the ones who get away or escape close calls. It’s those folks, who learn from their mistakes, that go on to be the most prolific and dangerous serial killers. This applies to both sociopaths and pyschopaths in my opinion. Law Enforcement should always keep an open mind and never fully trust a profile. You can use it as a tool but never place an inordinate amount of faith in it. Good Day, Joe.

  7. sorry about the spelling and run-0n sentences. They are really typos but I hope you get what I ‘m meaning. Good Day.

  8. Borderline personality disorder is one of those diagnoses that can at times mask ASPD. Psychopathy cannot be treated with medications. Antisocial Personality Disorder cannot be treated with medications. Not all sociopaths or psychopaths are killers, many walk among us and are in high-ranking corporate positions. They are the corporate bullies whose acts cause millions or more in employee turnover, sickness, etc. Who are so good at the game of manipulation that they make sure they are covered in case you decide to go against them. With very little evidence or little more than their word, they can convince a panel of people that it is YOU who is the miscreant. You can have loads of evidence, witnesses, etc. but to no avail. Once these people get into positions of power, your best bet is to quietly look for another job or if that’s not possible, then try to not do anything to be noticed. Even mentioning that they are a sociopath or psychopath will make YOU look like the “crazy” one. They drive you crazy and then use your own inability to “deal” with the impossible against you. I work with and have unfortunate personal dealings with these people. It is not pleasant.

    • Good point… this is a discussion we have often. Did the electoral college support a psychopath or sociopath, or can one be both?
      It was a manipulative plan in the making for years… so definitely planned. No compassion for others. Idk. But yes, they can manipulate themselves to positions of power. ~ JJ

  9. I am, unfortunately, finding out that I am not only the mother but also one of the victims of one or the other above mentioned individuals. I thought @ first my oldest daughter had lost her mind when she informed me of some of her sister’s social ( illegal ) indiscretions. Needless to say the turmoil created by my youngest child and her collaboraters is still being dealt with through the legal system. If I hadn’t seen the evidence for myself I still would not believe it. Unfortunately this also involves my grandchilren in state custody & on & on. It’s true that you cannot stick all humans in the same mold. In fact, outside of an assembly line , I don’t think there’s much of anything, @ least organically speaking, that will fit in one mold. God bless & thanks, CAE,RN

  10. Psychopaths and sociopaths can’t be treated with medicine or counseling. The drugs might make them subdued for a while, but the psychopathy never goes away. Psychopaths can usually con therapists into believing that the treatments are wortking, but the psychopath merely uses this to his benefit. Obama is a good example of a psychopath, especially because of his lack of empathy, conscience, remorse, and his constant pathological lying. Very dangerous for the country.

    • Aaaannd you were doing fine until you started in on Obama. You completely destroyed any sense of validity to your opinions by revealing your ido conservative political views, nine of which are backed up by ANY fact. Nice going idi. Your boy Trump is doing great so far. Worst approval rating in history at this point of his presidency. Lol .

  11. The information you provided is very helpful. I have a male neighbor who concerns me very much, he is 66 retired was successful and is very intelligent. I am a married female also retired. Before my husband retired last year, I had contact the police. He would watch for me at times to go the mail box . He would come out of his house and approach me with obvious erection. (Kept clothes on) I would pretend I did not notice. Then when I would drive into my garage he would run over and seemed to enjoy frightening me by surprising me. I ignored this also. He would show up a lot of places I would go. Not necessarily approach me but again wanted me to know he was there. I realized there was a problem and would try to make a special effort to totally ignore him. That made him worse , one day he was blocking my path when I drive into garage. Made an execuse to borrow something. I felt trapped physically so I oblidged not wanting to upset him. Asking him to wait outside . When I retured he had entered my kitchen , retrieved a butcher knife from the counter and was rubbing the blade of the knife with his fingers. I stayed calm, not wanting to upset him, made small talk while handing him the bathroom scales he asked to borrow . He put the knife back where he got it from ever so slow and calm, my heart was beating so fast I was so afraid. He left. He made a comment he will return the scales in a few minutes. I told him I was leaving for an appointment and please leave it outside. I left the house locking the car doors before I backed out of my garage. I did not return until my husband was home. Very next day got into my car locked the doors backed out of garage to leave for the day to get away from him. He was waiting for me and blocked my car, pretending he had not noticed me backing into the street. He would not let me go forward or backwards I was completely trapped. I blew the horn which seemed like for ever mon stop. Trying to get the attention of a neighbor or anyone. They all work who live on my block . I picked up my cell phone to dial 911 for help. He saw this and let me leave but followed me for awhile. I drove straight to the police department which was near by. A officer took my statement and went to his house and gave him a verbal restraining order . The officer told me he will tell him to stay off my property and not to acknowledge me in public places or he will be arrested. He started showing up in public places saying “hi” I dud not respond. Contacted the officer again and he advised me to go to a certain location and he would be there to observe. The neighbor drive into the parking lot saw the officer and had not since bothered me. I had a hard time keeping my husband calm and not approaching the man. Do you think he is a socialpath ? He had left me alone the lady couple of months, especially since my husband had retired . I am fearful of him. Please advise.

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    • OMG, Glenda. I know your post is old but I had to respond. I hope you and your husband are safe and that this sicko is now in prison!!

  12. I honestly think that a psychopath wants to kill people but merely selectively. The difference is a sociopath kills people who go against him or simply to help his sadistic ego. A psychopath on the other hand believes in society, functionality, order, and when a little prick genuinely deserves to die. A psychopath may have a hard time recognizing that someone doesn’t deserve to die, or that killing is wrong. A sociopath knows its wrong, but goes for the kill anyhow to support whatever he gets out of it. Another thing you need to consider is a psychopath may enjoy targeting people for character traits that make them bad, while a sociopath targets whatever gives them a rush or a morale boost

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