There isn’t a huge difference between the two, however one is more likely to kill you.
Both are a term used when describing someone who is “crazy”. The difference between a sociopath and a psychopath is like describing the difference between shell shock and post-traumatic stress disorder. A lot of science has gone into the research.
There are general similarities between the two disorders. For example both types involve the individual having a total disregard for the safety of others. Emotionally manipulating people is a feature you would gain with both mental conditions as well. However neither conditions mean the person is necessarily violent.
Psychopathy and sociopathy both have a shared diagnosis- antisocial personality disorder.
A person with this personality disorder may:
- Manipulate or violate the rights of others
- Lack concern, regret or remorse of other people’s distress
- Show disregard for normal social behaviour
- Have difficulty sustaining long-term relationships
- Struggle to control their anger
- Not learn from their mistakes
- Blame other people for their problems in their life
- Repeatedly break the law
In both cases some signs or symptoms are present before the age of 15. This then progresses them into becoming a psychopath or sociopath in adulthood.
Traits of Psychopaths
People tend to be born as a psychopath and likely to be due to genetics. However this doesn’t mean that they didn’t suffer from some kind of childhood trauma. Researchers have also found that it may be caused by underdeveloped parts of the brain. These immature parts of the brain tend to be linked with impulse control.
Like with sociopaths, psychopaths have a hard time forming real emotional attachments with people. Instead they form artificial relationships. These are manipulated in such a way that the psychopath gets the most benefits. They often use people to help forward their goals. They rarely feel guilt, no matter how many times they have hurt someone. Whether that be emotionally or physically.
From outsiders they are often seen as being charming and trustworthy. They also tend to be able to hold a steady, normal job. They may even have a family or a seemingly loving relationship with their partner. Psychopaths tend to be well-educated but do learn a lot by themselves.
Psychopaths do engage in criminal behaviour but do it in a way that minimizes the risks for them. Carefully planning their every move.
Traits of Sociopaths
Sociopathy tends to arise due to environmental factors. Such as a child’s upbringing in a negative household. Especially if this involves things such as physical or emotional abuse.
They tend to be more impulsive and erratic than psychopaths. Like the psychopaths they also have difficulties forming attachments. However some sociopaths may be able to form an attachment to a like-minded person.
Most sociopaths don’t hold long-term jobs and tend not to present much of a normal family to the outside world. And while they may engage in criminal behaviour it is more impulsive and largely unplanned. They tend to have little regard for the risks or consequences of their actions and are more focussed in the present than the future.
Sociopaths tend to be angered or agitated easily. This can cause violent outbursts.
Who to avoid?
Both types are a risk to society. However psychopaths experience a lot less guilt connected to their actions and also have a greater ability to dissociate from their actions. So any pain that is caused to others is meaningless to a psychopath. Although both psychopaths and sociopaths are not necessarily violent, it is often present.