People often confuse sociopaths with psychopaths, which is not surprising, since the two share characteristics of antisocial personality disorder . According to DSM-5, the main signs of antisocial personality disorder are egocentrism, lack of empathy, spirit of manipulation, hostility and impulsiveness (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).
Despite these similarities, however, there are some differences between sociopathy and psychopathy :
1. Psychopaths do not have a conscience
This is without a doubt the main difference between psychopaths and sociopaths . While sociopaths are capable of feeling remorse and guilt, psychopathic traits include a lack of empathy and a lack of guilt and remorse.
2. Psychopaths are manipulative and calculating
With their charm and charisma, psychopaths can be extremely manipulative and calculating. They are very good at maintaining emotional and physical control in order to organize their (criminal) behavior. Sociopaths, on the other hand, are less organized and are more likely to commit crimes spontaneously. In this sense, sociopaths are more “normal” compared to psychopaths.
3. Sociopaths are able to form relationships with others
Since sociopaths are capable of feeling remorse, they are also capable of forming deep emotional connections, such as with friends and family. Psychopaths are unable to do this because of their lack of empathy.
4. A psychopath’s brain is different from other people’s brains
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Interestingly, a psychopath’s brain is different from that of other people (Robinson, 2014). As you can see in the photo of the brain tomography, the prefrontal cortex (the frontal part of the brain), which is responsible for decision making, social behavior and personality expression, and the amygdala (small area in the middle), which it is responsible for emotions, they do not light up on a psychopath’s brain scan, which means that there is little or no activity in these regions.
This means that when “normal” people encounter violence, their heart rate increases and their hands start to sweat. A psychopath has an opposite reaction in which he is calmer. This helps psychopaths to engage in risky, and sometimes criminal, behaviors, as they fear no consequences.
5. Psychopathy is a more serious form of sociopathy
In short, psychopathy is a much more severe form of sociopathy. Thus, it can be said that all psychopaths are sociopaths, but sociopaths are not necessarily psychopaths.