In the media, psychopaths and sociopaths are often depicted as either being the same or the other, despite the fact that there are a number of key differences between the two. While there are some overlaps in regards to the signs of a psychopath or sociopath, these two conditions are quite distinct.
Without further ado, let’s dive right into some of the main differences between these two conditions:
Colloquially, a psychopath is defined as a person who is callous, unemotional, and morally depraved. The term itself isn’t actually an official mental health diagnosis and is more often used in legal or clinical settings. In psychiatry, a psychopath is officially known as a person with an antisocial personality disorder. These individuals are often described as showing patterns of manipulation and violence towards others.
In general, those with ASPD do not typically care if they have hurt someone or are engaging in impulsive behaviors. A person who is defined as a sociopath is actually also defined as having an antisocial personality disorder and cannot understand the feelings of others.
In truth, there is no clinical difference between a psychopath and a sociopath. Under the umbrella term of ASPD, there is no difference, though some clinical workers have defined a difference being that a sociopath engages in minor transgressions, whereas a psychopath may be described as physically violent. This is not always the case.
Signs of Each
Given that both are defined as the same disorder, there are a number of common signs that people may exhibit. These include, but are not limited to:
- A disregard for the safety of oneself and others around them
- A lack of guilt or remorse after mistreating others
- Not being able to maintain positive friendships and relationships
- Attempting to control others through intimidation
- Frequently getting into legal trouble or performing illegal acts
- Being cold and never showing emotions or investments in relationships
- Breaking rules without regard to consequence
- Becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol
- Lying and deceiving others constantly
These are not the only ways to potentially identify a person with ASPD, but these are some of the more common signs. Additionally, the following test may be helpful: https://www.mind-diagnostics.org/sociopath-test
In addition to psychopaths and sociopaths, there’s another related personality type that often comes up in discussions about mental health disorders: the narcissistic sociopath. This term refers to individuals who exhibit traits of both narcissistic personality disorder and sociopathic tendencies.
The signs of a narcissist sociopath often include a grandiose sense of self-importance, a need for excessive admiration, and a lack of empathy, combined with the manipulative and often deceitful behaviors seen in sociopathy. Understanding these signs is crucial for recognizing and addressing such complex personality disorders.
Those who are living with ASPD generally do not think anything is wrong. However, if you believe you or someone you know is living with ASPD, reaching out to a licensed professional can allow them to seek treatment.
Options such as psychotherapy, which includes talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, or medication are all common treatment plans for those who exhibit the signs of ASPD. It’s worth noting that treatment isn’t always successful and can take a long time even if it is. However, the person with ASPD needs to be cooperative during the treatment, as a refusal to participate will prevent any progress.
With this said, only a licensed professional can diagnose a person with ASPD, though they likely will not say if the person is a sociopath or psychopath. Again, violence is not an official indicator of one condition or the other, so speak with a healthcare provider if you have concerns.
At the end of the day, the only way to properly diagnose a psychopath or sociopath is with the help of a licensed professional. If you believe you may know someone who fits either category, it may be worth reaching out to a loved one and discussing whether or not they have seen any signs as well.
Despite the media depictions, psychopaths and sociopaths do not always become criminals, whether violent or not, but these conditions can be treated with the help of a professional.