Are Sociopaths and Psychopaths Different?


According to the 5th Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, also known as DSM-5, released by the American Psychiatric Association, both sociopathy and psychopathy are Antisocial Personality Disorders, or an AsPD. They have a lot in common and are frequently used interchangeably, but there is some argument that they are clearly separate and disctinct.

Scott A. Bonn Ph.D. has an article over at Psychology Today that breaks down some of the differences between the two diagnoses. The most interesting point I found in his piece is the assertion that psychopathy is largely the result of genetics while sociopathy is more likely the result of the person’s childhood environment and experiences. In essence, it is “nature” versus “nurture”. This is not consistent with other professionals and is most definitely not yet a formal position of the mental health profession.

Regardless of how the disorder came about in patients, he puts forth that both sociopaths and psychopaths have these traits in common:

  • A disregard for laws and social mores
  • A disregard for the rights of others
  • A failure to feel remorse or guilt
  • A tendency to display violent behavior

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