Psychopaths and Sociopaths

By Stephanie Osuba

People often tend to use the terms psychopath and sociopath interchangeably while both disorders are listed under the category of antisocial personality disorders in the DSM-5, there are some distinctions. Shared traits between the two include: a disregard for the law, morality, and human rights; not feeling any remorse; and having violent tendencies.

The first major distinction is that psychopaths are born, while sociopaths are made. Psychopaths are a product of genetics and, from research, they have a physiological defect that leads to an underdevelopment of the part of the brain responsible for impulse control and emotion (the amygdala). Sociopaths, on the other hand, are a result of a history of repeated childhood trauma and physical or emotional abuse. Because of this distinction, sociopaths are capable of forming attachments and feeling empathy in very restricted situations. They are more emotional in that they are nervous and easily agitated. They are prone to emotional outbursts and exhibit fits of rage. Crimes committed by sociopaths are often spontaneous, messy, and unorganized.

Psychopaths are exceptionally dangerous. They are completely incapable of forming attachments to anything and have absolutely no remorse for the things they do. They simply do not feel. Psychopaths are excellent manipulators who mimic emotion to get people to trust them. They are often very successful, smart, and charismatic which leads others to believe that they are normal. Some psychopaths even have families and other long-term relationships with people who are unaware of their diagnosis. Crimes committed by psychopaths are meticulous, premeditated, and often have a contingency in place. Even the violent ones. Psychopaths make up at least 40% of all serial killers.

Source: Bonn, S. A., Ph. D. (2014, January 22). How to Tell a Sociopath from a Psychopath. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/wicked-deeds/201401/how-tell-sociopath-psychopath 

If you or someone you know appears to be exhibiting signs of psychopathy or sociopathy, the licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy can assist you. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/.

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