Psychopath vs a Sociopath: What’s the Difference?

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Home » Blog » Psychopath vs a Sociopath: What’s the Difference?

Terms for mental health disorders get thrown around a lot but most people have a basic understanding of ones like depression or PTSD. What confuses many people is the difference between sociopath vs psychopath. While they may be used to describe different personalities, they actually have a lot in common and are often used interchangeably. 

When it comes to diagnostic criteria used by therapists and physicians, there is another term that conveys the mental health disorder that includes the behaviors of both mental illnesses. This is called antisocial personality disorder. Montare Behavioral Health in Tucson explores the definitions, similarities, and differences between sociopaths and psychopaths.

Definition of a Psychopath

Understanding the difference between a sociopath vs a psychopath begins with defining each condition. A person who is a psychopath has no real empathy for how others feel. They lack sympathy and can seem detached from the real suffering others experience, even if the psychopath causes it. It takes a skilled mental health expert to diagnose psychopathy because the individual may present as “normal” to others. Their lack of conscience can surface in acts of cruelty, including criminal acts. A person can develop psychopathy due to miswirings in their brain, genetics, a traumatic experience, or the environment in which they grew up. Someone can be referred to as a psychopath, but their clinical diagnosis is actually closer to an antisocial personality disorder.

Defining a Sociopath

The term “sociopath” is considered somewhat outdated. In fact, sociopath is not a diagnostic term. Typically, therapists diagnose someone with what was previously thought of as sociopathic behaviors instead as having an antisocial personality disorder.  A sociopath typically uses deception, charm, and other ways to convince people to act a certain way or give them what they want. They manipulate and deceive people without regard for their rights or feelings and do not feel guilty about it. 

Similarities Between a Sociopath vs Psychopath

Both sociopaths and psychopaths are considered to have antisocial personality disorder behaviors. The terms for either illness carry a great deal of stigma, perhaps more so than any other personality disorder. Additionally, many of those who have them are often portrayed as criminals or villains in a television show or film. The list of symptoms of both a sociopath vs a psychopath are mostly the same. 

Psychopath vs Sociopath: The Differences

While there are myriad similarities between psychopaths vs sociopaths, a few differences do exist. Some mental health experts consider sociopathy to be slightly less severe than psychopathy. However, the damage done can be just as painful and destructive for others. As well, psychopaths tend to plan their actions more often than sociopaths. People with sociopathy also may have a small bit of empathy, although not always, and they recognize the difference between right and wrong. Psychopaths have no sense of right and wrong and act without regard to morality.

Can Sociopaths or Psychopaths be Treated?

Psychopathy in adults is resistant to treatment, although some people can make progress if they invest in their care. Many therapists try to reach children and teenagers who have signs of antisocial personality disorder or psychopathy in an attempt to prevent them from becoming psychopaths. As for sociopathy, while it cannot be cured, the symptoms can be managed and minimized with the right treatment program. As with psychopathy, how much the individual participates in their treatment and attempts to make progress influences how well they manage their illness.

Types of Treatment 

People who have symptoms of antisocial personality disorders are not quick to recognize that they need help. However, they are oftentimes diagnosed by a medical professional following a consultation about abnormal symptoms they experience. The type of treatment will be recommended for someone who is a sociopath or psychopath depends on influencing factors. These include their age, offending history, and any co-occurring substance use disorders. Family and close friends can play a role in helping their loved ones recognize that they need professional treatment as well. Treatment options can include residential mental health programs, outpatient programs or different types of therapy.

Types of therapy that can help a person learn to manage some of their symptoms and improve their behaviors and attitudes include:

Individual Therapy: This provides a safe space to discuss the person’s emotions, behaviors, and sense of entitlement.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: CBT helps teach people to alter how they think, feel, and behave. 

Mentalization-Based Therapy: This helps the individual recognize and understand their mental state and how it negatively impacts those around them. 

Medications: While there isn’t a specific drug to treat psychopathy or sociopathy, some prescription medications can help reduce symptoms such as impulsivity and aggression. These meds include mood stabilizers and antipsychotic drugs. 

Contact Montare Tucson about Behavioral Health Treatment in Arizona

Do you know someone who acts in baffling and often cruel manners and can’t seem to have healthy relationships? You may be wondering about the difference between the terms sociopath vs psychopath. The traits of both conditions fall under the heading of antisocial personality disorder. The best course of action for anyone in this category is to pursue structured residential treatment. Round-the-clock care from mental health experts can help a person understand their mental illness and work toward improving their symptoms. Montare Behavioral Health of Tucson offers compassionate and effective treatment in our homelike residential center. We also provide prescription drugs to help alleviate symptoms of poor mental health. 

For more information, please contact us now, and let’s talk about how to help you or someone you love. No one should have to struggle with mental illness alone when quality help is available.