What’s the difference between a sociopath and a psychopath?
Sociopaths tend to be nervous and easily agitated. They are volatile and prone to emotional outbursts, including fits of rage. They are likely to be uneducated and live on the fringes of society, unable to hold down a steady job or stay in one place for very long. It is difficult but not impossible for sociopaths to form attachments with others. Many sociopaths are able to form an attachment to a particular individual or group, although they have no regard for society in general or its rules. In the eyes of others, sociopaths will appear to be very disturbed. Any crimes committed by a sociopath, including murder, will tend to be haphazard and spontaneous rather than planned.
Psychopaths, on the other hand, are unable to form emotional attachments or feel real empathy with others, although they often have disarming or even charming personalities. Psychopaths are very manipulative and can easily gain people’s trust. They learn to mimic emotions, despite their inability to actually feel them, and will appear normal to unsuspecting people. Psychopaths are often well educated and hold steady jobs. Some are so good at manipulation and mimicry that they have families and other long-term relationships without those around them ever suspecting their true nature. When committing crimes, psychopaths carefully plan out every detail in advance and often have contingency plans in place. Unlike their sociopathic counterparts, psychopathic criminals are cool, calm, and meticulous.
I got this question again today — it’s actually quite a common question from clients struggling to wrap their heads around the senselessly destructive actions of people in their lives. And, it’s very worth understanding as the approach one has to take with these two types of individuals is VERY different.
While offering about the clearest description out there, this author’s information is slightly dated. More current research is suggesting that Psychopaths actually have the ability to grasp the pain of others — and then selectively tune such out to do the destructive things they want to do. (It almost goes without saying that this is NOT improving the picture being painted in the slightest…)
Read the whole article though — this guy gets it.