Sociopath vs. Psychopath: What’s the Difference?

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Psychopath and sociopath are people with two different diagnoses that refer to an antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). ASPD occurs in about 1-3% of the population. It is more common for men and prevalent in people with abuses in history. As two conditions have similar behavioral disruption, they are often confused.

The V edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published in 2013, set the key signs distinctive for both sociopath and psychopath:

  1. Violates law and neglects social norms regularly.
  2. Lies and cheats on other people at all times.
  3. Incapability to schedule and impetuosity.
  4. Biliousness and aggression, propensity to frequent fights.
  5. Lack of conscience and care for the well-being of others.
  6. Disability to comply financial debts.
  7. The absence of remorse.

Psychopath definition

Psychopathia is concerned to be a congenital disorder. Studies showed that a psychopath has a genetic predisposition caused by a brain deficiency in the part responsible for controlling impulses and emotions. As a rule, it is difficult for psychopath to create a reliable emotional attachment in communications with people. Instead, psychopath creates hypocritical, superficial, symbiotic or parasitic liaisons to manipulate the loved ones to get individual benefits. A psychopath very rarely feels remorse about his own actions and his neurology makes him incapable of empathy.

Strangely enough, a psychopath can pretend to be very attractive, reliable and a decent person with a stable job. A psychopath sometimes even has family and apparently seems to create a strong bond with a partner. Quite often psychopaths are well-educated. Once involved in some criminal history, the psychopath will do everything to minimize the risk of punishment. He carefully plans the case and thinks out all possible options of the situation.

In general, psychopath is a manipulative and charming person who can create the appearance of an ordinary life and minimize his participation in illegal activities.

Sociopathy definition

A sociopath forms a behavioral model on the bases of the influence of certain environmental factors, for example, the destructive family, physical or emotional rape, or a childhood trauma. Sociopath behaves eccentrically and unpredictably. Nevertheless, a sociopath is able to support a personal devotion to someone or even create ties with a group of like-minded people. Most often a sociopath does not have a good education, and belongs to the fringes of society. Such person is unable to stay at the one and the same work or the place of residence for a long time.

In everyday life, a sociopath acts thoughtlessly and impulsively and pays minimal attention to possible consequences. A sociopath gets mad effortlessly, and this is fraught with danger from violence. The sociopath is capable of sympathy and guilt. On the other hand, it is easy to predict the behavior of a sociopath.

Sociopath is rather eccentric, easily falls into a rage, unable to lead a normal life and create a lasting relationship.

Difference between psychopath and sociopath




Prevalence in population 1% 4%
Origin Defect of nerve pathways Environment and upbringing
Education and career Good education and perfect career Uneducated and do not stay long on one job
Behavior Controlled and calm Erratic, impulsive
Relations Incapable to create ties Possible
Risk assessment Very calculated and well-thought-out Spontaneous

Sociopath vs Psychopath: Attachments

Sociopaths are excitable. Sociopath finds it difficult, but possible, to create connections with people. The sociopath lacks imaginative insight and attachment for society, but will show compassion for those to whom he close to.
Psychopath is unable to form deep emotional connections or show compassion, although he can seem very attractive and charming. Psychopath is manipulative and easily gains people’s trust. He imitates emotions, despite the real inability to feel them.

Psychopath vs Sociopath: Risk assessment

Any crimes committed by a sociopath, including murders, are most often spontaneous, accidental and unintentional. A sociopath does not think about consequences of his actions and sometimes even can show faint regret. Sociopath leaves clues and evidence.

Psychopath commits crimes in cold blood. He lusts control, rejoices a predatory instinct, and attacks preventively rather than as a reaction to a struggle. A psychopath knows exactly all the risks and outcomes and does everything to soften not only the pain and fines, but the opportunity to be caught. Psychopath is dangerous because of the ability to abstract from committed actions, despite the sequences. Psychopathic killer perceives victims as impersonal objects which can be tortured and killed just for fun.

Is Psychopath Dangerous?

This means that while psychopathy and sociopathy involve cognitive depravation, these two differ in affected nerve pathways. Psychopath is devoid of fear; sociopath is not. Psychopath does not distinguish the right and wrong; sociopath does. But both are equally capable of destroying lives and bonds. It should be noted that psychopaths are not insane and they save the bonds with reality.


  • Blair, R. James R. “Neurocognitive models of aggression, the antisocial personality disorders, and psychopathy.” Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry 71.6 (2001): 727-731.
  • Boddy, Clive RP, Richard Ladyshewsky, and Peter Galvin. “Leaders without ethics in global business: Corporate psychopaths.” Journal of Public Affairs 10.3 (2010): 121-138.
  • Lykken, David Thoreson. The antisocial personalities. Psychology Press, 1995.

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