Sociopath VS Psychopath: Compare the 7 Core Characteristics To Help You Know The Difference

sociopath vs psychopath

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Where have you heard the terms Sociopath and Psychopath

Since the rise in popularity of crime documentaries and podcasts, it’s easy to be confused about the difference between a sociopath vs psychopath. With these terms casually used in various situations, it is easy to confuse one for the other or think they are the same condition. 

When we think of sociopaths vs psychopaths, we assume these are the same disorder. Unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion between sociopaths vs psychopaths, even though they are distinct conditions with crucial differences.

Most notably, in recent years, both have come up often when discussing true crime shows, documentaries and podcasts since they involve people whose actions can be considered unorthodox and extreme.

A Closer Look at Psychopathy - Common Features & Traits

As we dive into how to tell the difference between a sociopath vs a psychopath, lets first dive into what characteristics a psychopath exhibits.

When it comes to the standard traits of there’s a lot for us to explore. On their own, each of these does not equate a psychopath diagnosis, but when the symptoms present together in severity it may indicate some form of psychopathy.

Here are 7 key characteristics of a psychopath:
  • Lack of empathy
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Antisocial behavior
  • Surface-level charm
  • Narcissism
  • Cold-hearted, unemotional traits
  • Lack of guilt

One crucial difference between a sociopath vs psychopath is that the latter is that they are more likely to act without remorse when presented with choices and decisions, yet have a greater ability to assess risk and potential gains than an average person might. This observation means they use people for their benefit and feel no guilt about how they do so.

It is worth noting that psychologists have only just begun unearthing these standard features of psychopaths in recent decades – setting off an avalanche of more research still to be discovered.

Exploring Sociopathy – Common Features and Traits

Next, as we continue to identify the different behaviors of a sociopath vs psychopath, lets talk about what traits a sociopath has.

Exploring sociopathy, also known as anti-social personality disorder, can be a complex and challenging journey, as the characteristics and qualities of being a sociopath vary widely.

Some sociopaths display attributes of charm, charisma, intelligence, and good socio-economic status – on the opposite end of the spectrum display characteristics such as anger, bitterness, and lack of conscience.

Here 7 of the most common traits of a sociopath:
  • Lessened ability to empathize
  • Limited conscience and remorse for actions
  • Difficulty in maintaining more than a couple of close relationships 
  • Easily irritable, violent
  • Impulsivity
  • Concerned with personal gain, no matter the cost
  • Manipulative

Sociopaths, in contrast to psychopaths, aren’t always malicious – they could lack the understanding or capability to empathize with others due to neurological impairments or psychological distortions. 

Further research into these conditions and professional evaluation can show how to differentiate and understand each unique characteristic that defines sociopathy. 

Comparing a Sociopath vs Psychopath – Similarities & Differences

Although sociopaths and psychopaths can have similar behaviors, such as a lack of empathy or disregard for laws, sociopathy and psychopathy differ in several ways. 

Some of the characteristics listed overlap between the two conditions. Despite this, it is essential to understand that what differentiates sociopaths vs psychopaths can be the degree to which each condition experiences a particular trait.

For example, a sociopath has a limited ability to feel remorse and a lessened ability to feel empathy. A psychopath, however, cannot feel guilt, sympathy, or any sense of having a conscience about their behavior toward others. 

Another trait shared between both conditions is a lack of ability to maintain relationships. A sociopath may only have a few relationships they hold, but a psychopath often cannot keep any relationship.

The differentiation of relationship capacity may seem small, but the seemingly small subtleties between a sociopath vs a psychopath have enormous implications for the people who suffer from these conditions and those who surround them.

How to Distinguish between a Sociopath Vs Psychopath

Distinguishing between a psychopath and a sociopath can be tricky, even after looking through trait and characteristic lists. So let’s break this down into some generalizations to understand better what each condition could look like in real life.

In general, an individual diagnosed with psychopathy is more likely to be calculating and manipulative without feeling any remorse for their actions. Those suffering from sociopathy, on the other hand, tend to have outbursts of violent behavior due to their struggle to deal with overwhelming emotions.

Additionally, psychopaths often appear superficially charming, while sociopaths may appear volatile and unpredictable. 

With careful observation and examination, it is possible to distinguish between these two disorders. Therefore, it is vital to seek professional help if you or someone you care about exhibits behaviors or traits similar to those listed above.

Seeking Help for Someone with Either Disorder

Seeking professional help and guidance is always recommended when dealing with either disorder, as both can cause severe issues.

If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms discussed in this post, don’t hesitate to reach out to a qualified professional who specializes in treating those with sociopathic or psychopathic tendencies. Such specialized knowledge is essential to offer the most effective long-term help for those suffering from either condition.

Taking care of our mental health by continuing to educate ourselves and treat conditions like sociopathy and psychopathy can go a long way in helping those affected better manage their daily lives and promote a better quality of life. 

If you would like to speak to a professional about these conditions, get started here or contact us to schedule an appointment.

Picture of Sara Makin MSEd, LPC, NCC

Sara Makin MSEd, LPC, NCC

All articles are written in conjunction with the Makin Wellness research team. The content on this page is not a replacement for professional diagnosis, treatment, or informed advice. It is important to consult with a qualified mental health professional before making any decisions or taking action. Please refer to our terms of use for further details.

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