Psychopath vs Sociopath(The difference)

In this guide, psychopath vs sociopath as differences will be discussed.

The two words have been used interchangeably over the period of time and are often confused with each other.

Below is the explanation of both concepts and how they are similar and different from each other.

Society has conspired with Hollywood to bring into our collective consciousness, psychopath vs sociopath, two apparently attractive words in psychology.

For what science calls antisocial personality disorder, psychopaths and sociopaths are words from pop psychology.

In the literature on psychology research, these two concepts are not well defined, hence the ambiguity about them.

Nonetheless, there are some common similarities and differences between these two forms of personality.

Both sociopaths and psychopaths have a common history of disrespect for other people’s safety and rights.

Deceit and manipulation are central characteristics of both personality types.

Contrary to popular belief, a sociopath or a psychopath is not always a violent individual.

Some features are similar in a psychopath vs sociopath.

According to DSM-5, to label someone with antisocial personality disorder, three or more of the following symptoms must be present:

  • Regularly breaks or disregards the law
  • Constantly lies and deceives others
  • Is impulsive
  • does not plan ahead
  • violent and aggressive
  • Has little regard for the safety of others
  • Irresponsible
  • Cannot fulfil financial obligations
  • Lacks empathy, feelings of guilt or remorse

Most signs or symptoms are almost always seen before age 15 in both cases.

They’re well on their way to becoming a psychopath or sociopath by the time a person is an adult.

Characteristics of a Psychopath

Experts in psychology generally believe that psychopaths preferably are born which means that it is undoubtedly a genetic predisposition, whereas, sociopaths tend to be formed and shaped because of their community.

This is not to suggest that psychopaths may not still suffer from some kind of childhood trauma.

Psychopathy may be linked with variations in the physiology of the brain.

Evidence has shown that psychopaths have underdeveloped brain structures generally believed to be responsible for managing emotions and manipulating impulses.

  • In particular, psychopaths fail to form real emotional bonds with others. Rather, they create fake, superficial relationships intended to be exploited in such a manner that the psychopath profits most
  • Individuals are seen as pawns that can be used to pursue the interests of the psychopath. Psychopaths rarely feel bad for their actions, regardless of how much they harm people
  • Other people may often see psychopaths as charming and reliable, holding steady, normal jobs. Some even have family and friendships with that seem to be loving and caring
  • When a psychopath engages in criminal behaviour, they appear to do so in a fashion that minimizes the risk to themselves
  • They will plan criminal activity carefully to ensure that they are not caught, with contingency plans in place for all possibilities

Pop Culture Examples of Psychopaths

Following are the characters from different movies and TV shows that are either psychopaths or have traits of psychopaths:

  • Dexter
  • Patrick Bateman from American Psycho
  • Henry from Henry: Portrait of a Serial executioner
  • Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men

Characteristics of a Sociopath

Researchers generally believe that sociopathy is the consequence of environmental factors such as the upbringing of a child or teen in a very negative household resulting in emotional abuse, physical abuse, or any trauma in childhood.

  • Sociopaths tend to be more impulsive and erratic in their behaviour in general than their counterparts in the psychopath
  • While some sociopaths may also have trouble forming attachments to others, they may be capable of forming an attachment to a specific group or person having the same interests and mindset as them
  • In contrast to psychopaths, most sociopaths are not holding down long-term jobs or presenting the outside world with much of a normal family life
  • When a sociopath engages in criminal behaviour, unlike psychopaths they do so in a reckless and compulsive and often unplanned manner, with little regard for the threats or consequences of their actions
  • They may get frustrated and furious easily and quickly, leading to violent outbursts at times

These kinds of rash behaviours and activities increase the chances of being apprehended for a sociopath.

Pop Culture Examples of Sociopaths, following are the characters from different movies and TV shows that are either sociopath or have traits of sociopaths:

  • JD in Heathers
  • Alex Delarge in A Clockwork Orange
  • The Joker in The Dark Knight

Signs and Symptoms in Childhood

Psychopathy and sociopathy signs are generally visible in childhood and adolescence.

Many individuals who can be identified with sociopathy or psychopathy have behaviour patterns in which they violate other people’s fundamental rights or security.

As a child, they often break the rules or even laws and societal norms.

DSM-5 has a diagnosis for people with such traits in childhood known as Conduct Disorder.

Conduct disorder involves four problem behaviour categories:

  • Aggression against humans and animals
  • Property destruction
  • Deception or theft
  • Serious violations of rules or laws

If you recognize these symptoms in a child or young adolescent, they are at greater risk of developing Antisocial Personality Disorder.

Differences between Psychopaths and Sociopaths

  1. Imitating Human Emotions

A significant difference between a psychopath and a sociopath is imitating human emotions, psychopaths are exceptionally good at them.

A psychopath tries to mimic the actions of others in order to avoid being detected, appearing to be upset or angry when something goes wrong because they know that is the’ socially’ appropriate reaction.

Alternatively, when something occurs that would cause a normal person happy, a psychopath may behave euphorically or positively, yet in fact, the psychopath experiences nothing at all and has only managed to imitate certain reactions through watching others ‘ responses.

On the other hand, for example, the sociopath can realize that the robbery of a bank is incorrect.

He or she may feel remorse or guilt, but it won’t be enough to prevent him or her from doing it anyway.

While both the psychopath and the sociopath lack empathy, the psychopath cares less for others than the sociopath does and views people as objects to be used to his or her gain, rather than emotional human beings.

  1. Consciousness

Perhaps the most important difference between these types of personalities, psychopath vs sociopath, is whether the individual has a conscience.

In fact, our conscience is the only thing that stands on our side and warns us when we are about to do something wrong or harm others.

Although it may be low, a sociopath still has some sense of conscience and understanding of wrong; a psychopath does not have conscience at all.

Who is More Dangerous?

Both sociopaths and psychopaths pose a danger to society, as they often try to live a normal life while they cope with their disorder.

Yet psychopathy is probably the most dangerous condition because they feel much less guilt associated with their actions.

There is also a greater ability of a psychopath to dissociate from their acts.

A psychopath lacks empathy and they refrain from emotional involvement, thus any discomfort that others suffer is pointless to them.

Many well-known serial executioner were psychopaths.

Not all sociopaths or psychopaths are violent.

Violence is not an ingredient required, nor is it sufficient to label a person with antisocial personality disorder, but it is often present.

Psychopath vs. Sociopath: Cold vs. Hot

Although psychopaths are regarded as cold-blooded, sociopaths are viewed as hot-headed Sociopaths who are not interested in “playing nice.”

They are transparent about being in it for themselves and not worrying for anyone else.

They behave without thought, not making excuses for their actions, and passing the blame onto others.

On the other hand, psychopaths are more rational. They lie in wait, strategize their next steps carefully, and often use aggressive tactics to do whatever they want.

For example, if they are interested in making more money or receiving a promotion at work, they can formulate a plan to overcome any barriers that might conflict with their path, even if it means damaging the reputation of a coworker and forcing them to lose their job.

As far as the Psychopath vs. Sociopath argument is concerned, one is aggressive and goes off the roof while the other holds a cool head when exploiting his victims.

If animals can be termed as psychopaths or sociopaths, the psychopath is a python, waiting until he thinks it’s the right time to strike.

Sociopaths are more like raccoons, chasing their impulses without giving a second thought about their bizarre behaviour or who are influenced by that behaviour.

Understanding Sociopaths and Psychopaths

While TV shows and films turn sociopaths and psychopaths into brutal characters that are easy to spot, they are less visible in real life and do an outstanding job of mixing up as one of us into society.

Take Ted Bundy, for instance. He’s regarded as one of history’s most notorious and prominent serial executioners.

He was so charismatic and good looking, though, that he could wind in and out of the lives of people, attend law school, mingle with politicians, meet women, and have relationships, all without anyone knowing how evil he is.

While some people with an antisocial personality disorder may be aggressive, the overwhelming majority of psychopaths and sociopaths tend to use deception to get what they want.

At the end of the spectrum are cold-blooded executioners.

Most often, even if it means hurting someone to get it, a psychopath or sociopath is busy exploiting colleagues or family members for their own purposes.

Take the character Sheldon played by Jim Parsons from the sitcom The Big Bang Theory, for instance, which is the classic psychopathic behaviour.

Sheldon doesn’t think twice about who he’s hurting with his biting sarcasm and cool demeanour, especially in the earlier seasons, and he’s going to step on anyone standing in his way to get what he wants.

Assessing Psychopath or Sociopath

A simple test called the Hare Experiment is a good step in figuring out if someone is a sociopath or a psychopath and deciding what the difference is between a sociopath and a psychopath.

Named after Robert D. Hare, the founder of the Hare Psychopathy Checklist, it is a test given as a form for psychopathy diagnosis in 20 sections.

Also, a psychopath test is used for the diagnosis of psychopaths only.

Seeking Help

Individuals may be confused by the distinction in treatment options for sociopaths and psychopaths.

The point is that the patient needs to want to change and be open and willing to options for treatment.

Sometimes, an individual’s family and loved ones with antisocial personality disorder requires counselling and therapy to overcome the complexities of dealing with an APD patient.

Counselling will help them better understand the illness, provide them with an outlet for expressing their pain and anger, and provide them with the tools they need to deal with and handle the person with Antisocial Personality Disorder.


Psychopathy and sociopathy are various cultural terms used to describe antisocial disorder.

Psychopaths appear to be more manipulative, being friendlier to others, living a normal life, and reducing the danger of criminal activity.

Sociopaths tend to be more erratic, more susceptible to rage, and less able to lead a normal life.

They continue to do engage in reckless behaviour and in criminal activities without thinking about the consequences.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do sociopaths know who they are?

Sociopaths have a bit of conscience, they feel guilty after doing something wrong but that does not stop them from doing what they do.

They know who they are, they don’t know how to stop their impulses.

Does psychopathy runs in the family?

Psychopathy is a genetic condition and can run in families yes.

However, it can only be triggered by neglect, abuse or any other trauma.

What is one difference between Narcissism and psychopathy/sociopathy?

Narcissists are unaware of their personality traits and how they might be hurting others because of that but sociopaths or psychopaths are well aware of their differences from other people.

What percentage of psychopaths make executioners?

One per cent of the general population are psychopaths where 25 per cent of these offenders are male.

Please use the comment section below to ask any questions that you might have.


Better Help



Psychopath Or Sociopath: Know The Difference, Stay The F**k Away, And Always Check Your Back Seat (Psychopath, Sociopath, Psychopathy, Sociopathy Book 1)

Sociopaths and Psychopaths: A Crisis of Conscience and Empathy (What Makes Them Tick Book 1)

Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us

Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work

The Sociopath Next Door

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