Sociopaths treat people like toys

The difference between sociopathy and psychopathy

Have you ever met someone who turned your world upside down? Who tried to destroy everything that is good in your life? Who was manipulative and good at it? We often blame ourselves when we meet these types of people. We tell ourselves that it is our fault that we tore down our walls and that we trusted these people. However, when you meet a sociopath or psychopath, they often hide their true character in order to gain your trust. Once they gain your trust, before you know it, your world will be torn apart.

The terms psychopath and sociopath are often used interchangeably, which creates a lot of semantic confusion as there are differences in each term. It is important to understand that the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) formally classifies both psychopathy and sociopathy as a disorder (ASPD). However, these terms are used far more frequently by the lay public than the ASPD designation. Here is a breakdown of all three labels and why some are used more often than others depending on the condition.

Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD)

Antisocial personality disorder is listed in the DSM under cluster B. Personality disorder group characterized by dramatic and unpredictable behavior. An anti-social personality fits the profile insofar as such individuals ignore or undermine the rules of society. Individuals with this personality disorder exhibit behaviors that violate the violation and rights of others or society. To formally diagnose ASPD, signs and symptoms must be present before the age of 15, although this diagnosis can only be made if the person is at least 18 years old. The following are signs and symptoms of Antisocial Personality Disorder:

  • Failure to comply with laws and norms through conduct that would result in criminal arrest or warrant criminal arrest
  • Lies, deception, and manipulation for profit or self-enjoyment
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Irritability and aggression
  • Openly disregards the safety of yourself and others
  • A pattern of irresponsibility
  • Lack of remorse for actions

Conduct disorder can be diagnosed in people with these characteristics when they are younger than 18 years of age.

Characteristics of a sociopath

Sociopaths are characterized by fleeting behavioral patterns. These individuals often show emotional outbursts and a lack of self-control. Sociopaths can bond with other people and generally enjoy being with other people, even though they do not respect the rules set by society. For people who are already genetically prone to these behaviors, sociopathy is triggered by certain environmental factors such as childhood problems, traumatic interpersonal relationships, or a history of abuse.

Characteristics of a psychopath

In contrast to sociopathy, psychopathic behavior results more from genetics or congenital injury (such as a head injury at birth) than from environmental factors. Psychopaths are extremely manipulative and can easily gain the trust of others, but they do not form bonds with others. People with psychopathic traits lack empathy and therefore do not feel remorse when they cause harm to another person. Their actions are often pre-planned and the crimes they commit are often highly organized and meticulous. Psychopaths are usually considered more dangerous than sociopaths because, due to their lack of empathy, they show no remorse for their actions. Both character types are depicted in people who meet the criteria for an antisocial personality disorder.

Warning signs of developing sociopathic or psychopathic traits

Children and adolescents may show warming signs of certain behaviors that lead to the development of psychopathic or sociopathic tendencies.

  • Aggression towards humans or animals
  • Violent outbreaks
  • Social isolation
  • Lack of empathy
  • Property damage
  • lying
  • theft
  • Serious violation of rules or laws
  • Bed-wetting and fire-setting (more found in psychopathy)

Like many other personality disorders and mismatching tendencies, long term psychotherapy is the main treatment for these mismatching behaviors. Because these are ingrained traits, treatment may not be successful in some people, especially those who are psychopathic.