What is a Sociopath and How Do They Differ From a Psychopath?

Is it true that a sociopath is made and a psychopath is born? The differences between one personality disorder and the other are not easy to determine. However, in this article we will try to shed some light on the subject.
What is a Sociopath and How Do They Differ From a Psychopath?

Last update: 10 October, 2022

Sociopathy and psychopathy are sometimes used synonymously. However, both terms refer to two different conditions. In a few words, we could say that the sociopath is made, whereas a psychopath is born. Therefore, it’s convenient to treat each of these two concepts separately, because they’re not as similar as many people may think.

Both diagnoses do coincide in the fact that they’re both included within the category of antisocial personality disorder (APD). The MSD Manual defines it as follows: “a general pattern of disregard for the consequences and rights of others.” These are people who act in a particular way for the reasons we’ll see below.

Broken childhoods and sociopathy

Let’s start by understanding the mind of a person who is a sociopath. To do so, we will review the real case of a girl: Beth Thomas.

Several studies and research have been done on the subject. This girl, along with her brother, was sexually abused by her father. Beth ended up with foster parents, with whom she began to show very strange attitudes.

The girl hurt animals and her own brother (especially her genitals). She was almost always defiant and masturbated in public.

Beth was just a child whose childhood had been shattered by the violence her father had inflicted on her from an early age. This is the video of a very revealing interview with her.

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But could Beth Thomas have a normal life? The truth is yes.

As we mentioned at the beginning, sociopathy is made and can be treated. Beth is currently a nurse and leads a normal life. She has had to go to therapy to learn how to manage the challenging attitudes and behaviors she had with other people.

A sociopath is still a person who has a mental health problem, which can be treated to live in society without difficulties. All these behavioral problems, if treated from the beginning, need not be present in adult life.

Therapy is essential, and so is being aware of being a sociopath.

What is a sociopath like?

After this, we can explain that a sociopath is an emotionally unstable person who acts on impulse. This person does not plan on anything; nor do they plan on hurting another person nor an animal.

Most sociopaths are sociopaths because they have had traumatic childhood experiences, like Beth Thomas. Therefore, this shows how important childhood is in the development of every human being.

Psychopathy: When the brain is different

We’ve already talked about what a sociopath is like, but what happens in the case of psychopaths? In these situations, we find people who have different brains.

Some research and studies, such as the one by Brain Asymmetries in Psychopathy, have demonstrated marked differences in the brain structure of people who have been diagnosed as psychopaths.

There are also problems in the prefrontal cortex, which makes the brain different from the first moment a human being is born. Therefore, we could say that the psychopath is born; he or she doesn’t need to have a traumatic childhood, since it’s their brain that presents certain characteristics.

This is the main difference between a sociopath and a psychopath.

Cerebro de un psicópata es diferente al de un sociópata.
MRI images from different studies have certified that the brain of psychopaths is different in both its structure and function.

What does a psychopath look like?

Now that we know all this, we can determine that a psychopath is a person who has a marked absence of empathy. Therefore, he or she uses others for his or her own benefit.

This person is incapable of establishing real friendships. Moreover, he or she is aware of and plans every step he or she takes. There’s no cure, although cognitive behavioral therapy can be effective to some extent.

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Is a sociopath and a psychopath a murderer?

Due to a common lack of knowledge, sociopathy and psychopathy are often confused with people who are capable of committing murder. However, being diagnosed with these disorders does not mean that this person is capable of killing another human being. However, this does not mean that there are not cases in which it can happen.

Let’s take into account the impulsivity of the sociopath and the lack of empathy of the psychopath. This can lead them to kill in certain circumstances. However, not all sociopaths and psychopaths are murderers; nor do all murderers have either of these two disorders.

Sociopaths and psychopaths should not scare us. There are people who have neither of these two disorders and also manipulate, have very little empathy, are impulsive, and harm animals and people.

Knowing about these types of antisocial personality disorders helps us understand why some people act in a certain way.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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  • Ericksen, L., & do Nascimento, M. C. L. M. (2018). PSICOPATIA, INFÂNCIA E (IR) REVERSIBILIDADE. Revista FIDES9(1), 77-100.
  • Macedo, F. L., & Masnini, L. A. (2019). Psicopatia e sociopatia: uma revisão da literatura. Revista InterCiência-IMES Catanduva1(3), 52-52.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.