Sociopath or psychopath, so which is it?  We often see these two descriptions interchangeable among mainstream news media and entertainment arenas.  When I first began my study in criminology, I was initially confused by the terms and found that many individuals in the teaching area and general information found in college textbooks used each of these terms interchangeably.

Both psychopaths and sociopaths share some of the typical traits, such as lack of empathy, impulsive behavior, and inability to abide by social norms, but a sociopath is considered a mental disorder according the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV).  This disorder is listed as a personality disorder of the Cluster B (Anti-social) list, which also includes separate categories of borderline, histrionic, and narcissistic disorders.

The requirements for psychopathy differ slightly due to the Psychopathy Checklist created by Robert D. Hare and is implemented instead of the guidelines of the Anti-Social Personality Disorder.  However, psychopathy is considered a form of the Anti-Social Personality Disorder.

Psychopaths are often found to be suspicious and interpret all aggressive behavior to be against them, and extremely undeserved.  They are generally organized individuals, and often with successful careers and normal relationships.  Many of us know, or have at least come in contact with a psychopath during our lifetime.  When it comes to criminal psychopaths, they often plan their crimes well in advance, and sometimes, even years ahead of time.

Sociopaths are generally incapable of maintaining relationships and jobs.  They are usually disorganized and have a short fuse to commit violence or abuse against others.  The inability to plan for the future makes them excessively impulsive.  Crime seems a natural way of life for them.  Other characteristics include the lack of safety for themselves or anyone around them, promiscuity, and heightened levels of deceitfulness.

Here are six characteristics (sub-types) of sociopaths referred to from various studies and interpretations:


This type of sociopath is considered a form of the Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  These individuals usually do not want to be helped and do not care if anyone disagrees with them.  They are manipulative and exhibit absolutely no remorse for their actions.  There is nothing that will stop them from achieving their goal.


This type of sociopath feels that self needs justify the means.  They feel no shame in their actions, and often enjoy making fun of authority.


Lack of morality and no sense of guilt drive this type of sociopath to commit amoral acts.  They have a primitive sense of self and have no compassion to other people’s pain.  They enjoy torturing animals or watching animals kill each other.  By causing pain to others, they receive satisfaction in attaining what they want most.


This type of sociopath lacks the standard empathy and effectional attachment from lack of love and affection during the developmental early years, which leads to disaffiliated, disempathic, hostile, and cheated personality types.


This type of sociopath has a deep fulfillment of hurting or frightening others.  This gives them power and a strong sense of importance, dominance, and control.  Sadism can be one of the dysfunctions of this type.


This type of sociopath has been described as normal temperamentally and psychologically, but they have a strong connection to subculture norms, sometimes in a predatory nature.

Have you had a relationship with or has your path ever crossed one of these types of sociopaths?


More articles of interest:

Exploring the Missing Link in Psychopaths

Are There Two Varieties of Psychopaths?

Violence, Crime, and Psychopathic Offenders


Author Blog:
Crime Watch Blog:
Book & Crime Talk:
Books: Compulsion  Dead Game  Dark Mind  Dead Burn Silent Partner  Screenwriting

Views: 6257


You need to be a member of CrimeSpace to add comments!

Comment by Benjamin Sobieck on June 14, 2013 at 1:44am

This inspired a blog post of my own (with a mention of yourself, of course)

Comment by Jennifer Chase on June 13, 2013 at 6:08am

Thanks Ben :)  This is a common question I receive and I wanted to clarify in a blog post.  Thanks so much for your comment.

Comment by Benjamin Sobieck on June 13, 2013 at 5:54am

Great post, I learned a lot from this. It's true that the words are used without regard to what they actually mean. Similar but different.

CrimeSpace Google Search

© 2024   Created by Daniel Hatadi.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service