Difference Between Psychopath and Sociopath

Psychopath vs Sociopath

When we see something so horrendous like maltreatment of children, torture and inflicting harm on the others we are most likely to call the perpetrators of those crimes as monsters. Some of these people are driven by basic human drives like love, jealousy, greed, revenge or under the influence of a narcotic agent, or sometimes pure idiocy. But some of these acts cannot be categorized into a logical frame of the perpetrators mind set. Some of them are having features of deceptive, stealing, overly aggressive, impulsive, reckless, lacking remorse, etc. For the person who is over 16, we can call this the antisocial personality disorder (DSM-IV) or dissocial personality disorder (ICD-10). For those below the age cut off limit, it is known as conduct disorder. The terms psychopathy and sociopathy are considered as obsolete in scientific circles, as they are just variations of the above mentioned personality disorder, but if we are to consider them as two variants of the same dissocial personality disorder , we come up with the following.


A psychopath is a person who is having charming qualities, gain the trust of individuals; they exude confidence, with a good education and some with elevated IQs and tend to hold jobs. All their charms are a façade, and known as “the mask of sanity” according to Hervey Cleckley. Sometimes, even family members or partners of a long term relationship are unable to detect something “wrong” in them. Though not all psychopathic personalities form a Hannibal Lecter, the ones who commit crime that appears to be well organized with contingency plans in place to tackle problems. The aetiology is thought to be due to underdevelopment of the parts in the brain responsible for impulse control and emotions.


A sociopath is a person who is nervous and easily agitated. They have very poor social skills, and almost always uneducated and living on the fringes of society. They are loners and tend to live in parental homes. They have an attachment to a single person or a group, but do not care about the society as a whole. Others consider these people to be disturbed individuals. If they were to commit a crime it would be spontaneous and disorganized. Sociopathy is thought to stem from poor social interactions, child abuse and traumas.

Difference between Psychopath and Sociopath

Both these varieties share some common traits, such as complete disregard on the rights of others while looking for self gratification. They are devoid of remorse or guilt, and would disregard rules or laws at a whim, and would display violent behavior. While the psychopaths are educated with normal to high level IQs, the sociopaths are uneducated. Psychopaths would hold jobs, while the sociopaths are unemployed. Psychopaths are charming with a mask, while the sociopaths are not charming and people find them disturbing. Psychopaths are well organized, whereas the sociopaths would be disorganized, were they to perpetrate a crime. Psychopaths are thought to have a physiological aetiology, while the sociopath has external influences.

In summary, these two terms draw controversy as they are considered obsolete in some circles, but are used by some to describe two entities of variants of the same personality disorder. Also, not all of these individuals are criminals, but they share a common lack of empathy andremorse. What they differ in are the personal and behavioural outlooks.

  • Gabeharrisk

    I had a question about this for years. Thanks for clearing that up. One thing thou, when you say that “not all of of these individuals are criminals, but share a common lack of empathy” does that mean that a psychopath, or sociopath can live out there whole lives and avoid any criminal activity?