Psychopath vs Sociopath-What’s The Difference?

We hear the terms psychopath and sociopath thrown around in casual conversation a lot. But there are differences and similarities between the people deemed to be psychopaths and those that are deemed to be sociopaths. Read on to learn more.

Definition of a Psychopath-Psychopath vs Sociopath

According to William Hirstein Ph. D. who wrote What is a Psychopath? for Psychology Today in 2013, it was in the early 1800s that doctors began to notice that some patients who appeared outwardly normal actually had “moral depravity” or “moral insanity.” The patients had no sense of ethics or the rights of other people. The term psychopath was first used in 1900. It was later found that people who were described as a psychopath have a genetic trait to their behaviour. In other words, a psychopath’s behaviour can be hereditary.

It was later found that people who were described as psychopaths have a genetic trait to their behaviour. In other words, a psychopath’s behaviour can be hereditary.  The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree has taken on a much scarier meaning.

Definition of a Sociopath-Psychopath vs Sociopath

Hirstein also mentions in the article What is a Psychopath? that the term sociopath started to be used in 1930 in reference to the damage a psychopath can do to society. Currently, researchers have gone back to using the term psychopath for those individuals that are more dangerous and have a genetic link to their traits. Researchers tend to use the term sociopath for individuals that are less dangerous and have an environmental link to their traits.

How Do You Know?

Hervey Cleckley was among the first Psychiatrists to compile a list of criteria to help determine if someone is either a psychopath or a sociopath. Hervey Cleckley was born in 1903 and lived until January 28, 1984. Hervey became well-known within the Psychiatric world for not only his list of criteria but for his publication of a book about a patient with (a controversial diagnosis of) multiple personality disorder.  There are different lists available for researchers or psychiatrists to use to determine if a patient suffers from psychopathy or sociopathy. One list of criteria is called the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) developed by Robert Hare and colleagues. Another list is the Psychopathic Personality Inventory (PPI) by Lilienfeld and Andrews.  The list of criteria works in such a way that if a person matches enough of the criteria then the person is either a psychopath or a sociopath.

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What Makes a Psychopath?

Image result for brain Psychopath vs Sociopath Psychopath vs Sociopath

“The brains of psychopaths have been found to have weak connections among the components of the brain’s emotional systems. These disconnects are responsible for the psychopath’s inability to feel emotions deeply. Psychopaths are also not good at detecting fear in the faces of others.” (Blair et al., 2004)

What Else?

Psychopaths tend to have very controlled behaviour perhaps because of their lack of emotions. Psychopaths are generally highly manipulative. They are unable to form personal attachments and can be educated and hold down good jobs. If they commit crimes they will do so in an unemotional way with no regard for the feelings of other people, they will not feel guilt or shame and will leave little to no physical evidence of their involvement in the crime. Okay, now this is starting to freak me out. I was feeling better thinking that dangerous psychopaths are likely locked away. Hmmm, seems that might not be the case.

Sociopaths can show erratic behaviour fueled by rage and anger. They can also be impulsive and spontaneous and therefore leave clues behind if they commit a crime. Sociopaths can form attachments to people and tend to have a hard time holding a job due to their anger issues.


  • Both psychopaths and sociopaths have an antisocial personality disorder and there are four times as many sociopaths in our population than there are psychopaths. Thank Goodness!!
  • Neither can empathize with others.
  • Neither show any regard for the rules of society.
  • Neither will feel remorse or guilt.
  • Both have a violent nature.

Historic Psychopaths

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Pol Pot (
  • Ivan IV, also known as Ivan the Terrible of Russia- now come on, if the masses call you that you must be awful, and most likely responsible for many deaths. Ivan IV suffered from mental illness as he aged.
  • Pol Pot- leader of the Khmer Rouge and Prime Minister of Cambodia from 1976 to 1979. He was responsible for the deaths of 2 million of his citizens. Many died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge soldiers or were worked to death.
  • Heinrich Himmler- leader of the SS in Germany from 1929-1945. He is the man who ran the concentration camps and is, therefore, one of many responsible for the deaths of 6-7 million people.
  • Adolf Eichmann- a Nazi who was in charge of “all things Holocaust.” He was as responsible for the deaths of 6-7 million people as Himmler was. If you are curious about this evil man we suggest you watch the movie, “The Eichmann Show” available on Netflix. Adolf Eichmann was hanged for his war crimes in 1962.
  • Josef Mengele- the “Angel of Death” was a physician at Auschwitz who performed disgusting medical experiments on inmates of the concentration camp. He was responsible for the death of 400,000+ people. Mengele escaped Germany and lived in various countries in South America until the 1970’s when he died while swimming.
  • Adolf Hitler- the man who brought about WWII and the Holocaust. He was as evil as a psychopath can be. He was also a coward who committed suicide in April 1945 because he knew he had lost the war.
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Josef Mengele (

Compared to the men listed above, we know we are going to be more careful with the use of the terms psychopath and sociopath. They certainly exist out there but so far we don’t think we have either of them in our life. Thank you, universe. Thank you.


The Other Half



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