Difference between Psychopath and Sociopath

Difference between Psychopath and Sociopath

I am sure you have heard of a famous name called ‘Ted Bundy’. This name became widely popular and talked about after he was convicted as a serial killer. He was an attractive, charismatic young man living in Seattle in the 1970s. He lured women to him with his charm. Dozens fell prey and were brutally beaten and murdered by his hands. He was so well-liked that he got away with it for quite some time. He was considered a sociopath. 

Sociopath is a term used to describe someone who can not understand other’s feelings and have the tendency to harm people and/or objects with no concern for the consequences. Such people may also use “mind games” to control friends, family members, co-workers, and even strangers. They may also be perceived as charismatic or charming.

Have you heard of Ed Gein? He is also known as the Butcher of Plainfield and has been an inspiration for several horror movie villains. Gein collected women’s bodies through grave-robbing and murder from around 1945 to 1957, when he was finally caught. He used the women’s remains to decorate his isolated Wisconsin farm and to make various items of clothing. This horrific criminal was considered a psychopath. 

Psychopathy can be thought of as a more severe form of sociopath with more symptoms. Therefore, all psychopaths are sociopaths but all sociopaths are not necessarily psychopaths. Some characteristics of psychopaths are – lack of guilt/remorse, lack of empathy, lack of deep emotional attachments, narcissism, superficial charm, dishonesty, manipulation and reckless risk-taking.

Psychopaths and sociopaths are two of the terms often used to describe people who project deviant behavior that disturbs the harmony of the society and the safety of people. Both these terms are not defined in the official handbook of mental health – “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders”, and doctors don’t identify people as sociopaths or psychopaths. A different term used in such cases is Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD).  

Even though psychopaths and sociopaths have some similarities, they are quite different. The main point of difference between psychopaths and sociopaths is the conscience (or the lack of it).

Conscience refers to the moral sense of right or wrong. It is the little voice within our minds that helps us identify what is wrong and what is right. You can identify whether a person is psychopathic or sociopath by checking whether s/he has conscience or not. A psychopath has no conscience – they don’t feel as though what they are doing is wrong or incorrect. S/he won’t have any moral qualms even if they have done someone incredibly criminal. On the other hand, sociopaths have conscience, but it is weak.

Also, it is more difficult to identify a psychopath than a sociopath. Psychopaths can be intelligent, charming, and good at mimicking emotions. They’re skilled actors whose sole mission is to manipulate people for personal gain. On the other hand, sociopaths are less able to play along. They make it plain that they’re not interested in anyone but themselves. They often blame others and have excuses for their behavior. 

While they might seem or sound quite similar, psychopaths and sociopaths are different and can be identified via their social behavior and study of conscience.

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