The Art of Deception: Psychopaths vs Sociopaths

Sorry for being MIA for close to a month. Some update cause, I love talking about myself (I really don’t but I am going to do it anyway.) I will be graduating college in December! Three cheers and five tears for me.

As many of you know, I am from the great state of South Carolina; I was born in Georgia, the state not the country but I claim South Carolina as my home state. Any who, here in America the presidential election is coming up (and I, like the rest of the world, am scared.) In honor of the election, I thought it would be fun to examine the similarities and differences between psychopaths and sociopaths, not that I am implying anything. One party vs another, one illness vs another to see who is the most dangerous, when at the end of the day both can kill.

Psychopathy and sociopathy are two terms of pop psychology  for what psychiatry calls an antisocial personality disorder.

There are some general similarities as well as differences between these two personality types. Both types of personality have a pervasive pattern of disregard for the safety and rights of others. Deceit and manipulation are central features to both types of personality (not I am not talking about politics, or am I?). Contrary to popular belief, a psychopath or sociopath is not necessarily violent.

The common features of a psychopath and sociopath lie in their shared diagnosis — antisocial personality disorder. The DSM-5, remember this is the psychology Bible in a sense, defines antisocial personality as someone have three or more of the following traits:

  1. Regularly breaks or flouts the law
  2. Constantly lies and deceives others
  3. Is impulsive and doesn’t plan ahead
  4. Can be prone to fighting and aggressiveness
  5. Has little regard for the safety of others
  6. Irresponsible, can’t meet financial obligations
  7. Doesn’t feel remorse or guilttrump_bully_1718483346

In both cases, some signs or symptoms are nearly always present before age 15. By the time a person is an adult, they are well on their way to becoming a psychopath or sociopath. So, what is the difference?

The big difference is that in psychology research, it is believed that a person is born a psychopath (a genetic predisposition), while a sociopath is created by environmental factors. Don’t get m600x39943e wrong, some psychopaths could have childhood trauma, but generally childhood trauma does not lead one to become psycho or sociopaths. Additionally, research has shown psychopaths have underdeveloped components of the brain that are responsible for emotion regulation and impulse control. Psychopathy might be related to physiological brain differences.


A psychopath for the most part has a really, really hard time forming real emotional attachments with others. There is no emotional connection in the brain. Instead, he forms artificial, shallow relationships designed to be manipulated in a way that most benefits the psychopath. I use he because the ratio of male to female psychopaths is 20:1. People to him, are seen as pawns to be used to forward his goals. Psychopaths rarely feel guilt regarding any of their behaviors, no matter how much they hurt others. Often they don’t even understand why or how their behavior was hurtful.

What should we look for, Lesley? Well it’s hard to say, because antisocial personality disorder the name itself implies that they are not social, however, psychopaths can often be seen by others as being charming and trustworthy, holding steady, normal jobs. Some even have families and seemingly-loving relationships with a partner. While they tend to be well-educated, they may also have learned a great deal on their own. So, really psychopaths are hard to spot right of the bat.

But… I thought psychopaths were dangerous? Yes and no. It does back to the whole, not everyone with a mental illness is going to grab a gun and go a killing spree. However, when a psychopath engages in criminal behavior, they tend to do so in a way that minimizes risk to themselves. They will carefully plan criminal activity to ensure they don’t get caught, having contingency plans in place for every possibility.

Let’s talk about my dear Sherlock for a moment. Researchers tend to believe that sociopathy is the result of environmental factors, such as a child or teen’s upbringing in a very negative household that resulted in physical abuse, emotional abuse, or childhood trauma. But…Sherlock’s family seems so nice, well…expect Mycroft, have you seen him? I love Mycroft though; he does care about Sherlock. Anyway, back to the point, not everything is 100 percent environment or 100 percent biological.


Sociopaths, in general, tend to be more impulsive and erratic in their behavior than their psychopath counterparts, hence why Sherlock shot a man without really thinking twice about it. While also having difficulties in forming attachments to others, some sociopaths may be able to form an attachment to a like-minded group or person again the undying relationship between Sherlock, the Woman, Dr. Watson, and Mary. Unlike psychopaths, most sociopaths don’t hold down long-term jobs or present much of a normal family life to the outside world, Sherlock- enough said. Simply said, you can spot a sociopath more easy than you can spot a psychopath.

Are sociopaths dangerous? Well… is Sherlock dangerous? …… Awkward silence… don’t answer that. When a sociopath engages in criminal behavior, they may do so in an impulsive and largely unplanned manner, with little regard for the risks or consequences of their actions. They may become agitated and angered easily, sometimes resulting in violent outbursts. These kinds of behaviors increase a sociopath’s chances of being apprehended.

So, who is more dangerous? Both psychopaths and sociopaths present risks to society, because they will often try and live a normal life while coping with their disorder. Most don’t even know they have a disorder. However, psychopathy is likely the more dangerous disorder, because they experience a lot less guilt connected to their actions. At least when Sherlock shot the man, he was cry…somewhat and he did it for… love… I think…

Another reason why a psychopath is more dangerous because he also has a greater ability to dissociate from their actions. Without emotional involvement, any pain that others suffer is meaningless to a psychopath. Many famous serial killers have been psychopaths.

Again, not everyone with depression is suicidal, so not every psychopath or sociopath is violent. Violence is not a necessary diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder but it is often present.

Psychopathy and sociopathy can usually be spotted in childhood. People who are later diagnosed with sociopathy or psychopathy have had a pattern of behavior where they violate the basic rights or safety of others as children. I am not talking about normal bullying but clearly putting basic morals asleep. They often break the rules or even laws as children. This type of children are usually diagnosis with conduct disorder. Conduct disorders involve four categories of problem behavior:

  • Aggression to people and animals
  • Destruction of property
  • Deceitfulness or theft
  • Serious violations of rules or laws

If you recognize these symptoms in a child or young teen, they’re at greater risk for antisocial personality disorder and/or psychopathy and sociopathy.

Psychopathy and sociopathy are different cultural labels applied to the diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder. Up to 3 percent of the population may qualify for a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder. This disorder is more common among males and mostly seen in people with an alcohol or substance abuse problem, or in forensic settings such as prisons. Psychopaths tend to be more manipulative, can be seen by others as more charming, lead a semblance of a normal life, and minimize risk in criminal activities. Sociopaths tend to be more erratic, rage-prone, and unable to lead as much of a normal life. When sociopaths engage in criminal activity, they tend to do so in a reckless manner without regard to consequences.

“I am a high functioning sociopath.” ~Sherlock



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