What is the Difference Between Psychopath and Sociopath

The main difference between psychopath and sociopath is that not all sociopaths can be considered psychopaths, but all psychopaths are sociopaths. In other words, a psychopath is worse than a sociopath.

In general, both psychopaths and sociopaths suffer from an antisocial personality disorder (APD). Consequently, most people tend to use these two terms interchangeably. However, there is a distinct difference between psychopath and sociopath. Thus, sociopathy and psychopathy are considered to be two types of APD.

Key Areas Covered

1. Who is a Psychopath 
     – Definition, Personality, Common Traits
2. Who is a Sociopath
     – Definition, Personality, Common Traits
3. What are the Similarities Between Psychopath and Sociopath
     – Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Psychopath and Sociopath
     – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms

Behaviors, Psychology, Psychopath, Sociopath, Society

Difference Between Psychopath and Sociopath - Comparison Summary

Who is a Psychopath

A psychopath is a term that describes someone who has an antisocial personality disorder (APD). However, from a clinical perspective, all those who are diagnosed as sociopaths or psychopaths exhibit the characteristics of antisocial personality disorder (APD). Accordingly, they have no consideration for the feelings or the rights of others. Consequently, they often break the rules or engage in harmful actions which can disrupt the peaceful lives of others.

A psychopath does not have a guilty feeling or a conscience; thus, they cannot distinguish between what is right/wrong or ethical. As a result, they don’t feel remorse for any violent, harmful or wrong action they have committed. Difference Between Psychopath and Sociopath_Figure 1

Comparatively, psychopathy is a severe form of APD with regard to sociopathy. A psychopath has no conscience of guilt or empathy while a sociopath comparatively has a little conscience or little empathy or regard for the feelings of others. Therefore, psychopathy is a more severe form of sociopathy with additional symptoms. This is the basic difference between psychopath and sociopath.

Psychoanalysts observe that, unlike sociopaths, psychopaths are born that way, making it a worse form of APD, which is hard to be controlled or managed. Therefore, most psychologists refer to psychopathy as a genetic predisposition that produces more dangerous individuals.

Common Traits

The common traits of a psychopath include

  • Lack of guilt or remorse
  • Lack of close attachments or emotions
  • Narcissism
  • Superficial charm and dishonesty
  • Inability to alter attention from one task to another
  • Inability to plan future
  • Reckless risk-taking actions
  • High psychoticism —a theorized dimension referring to tough, aggressive or hostile tendencies
  • Manipulative behaviour
  • Violence

Difference Between Psychopath and Sociopath_Figure 2

Moreover, psychopaths usually get into trouble with the legal system of the country and approximately 94% of psychopaths are criminals under the criminal justice system.

Who is a Sociopath

Sociopathy is also a form of APD; however, compared to a psychopath, a sociopath has a weak or a little conscience and empathy. Thus, most psychoanalysts observe that, unlike psychopaths, sociopaths are a result of their environment, including their upbringing. 

Since sociopathy is a result of the environment and their upbringing, the causes can be identified and managed to some extent. Moreover, many researchers have found out that many sociopaths suffer from trust issues and inability to cope with others as a result of some negative cause in their upbringing.

Most sociopaths also need to be accepted and loved like normal people. However, their own behaviour makes them isolated from others, and eventually, they feel sad about their own actions.  It is also thought that sociopaths may be able to form some deep bonds (such as, possibly, with family) while a psychopath cannot.Difference Between Psychopath and Sociopath_ Figure 03

Moreover, sociopathy can be diagnosed only at the age of 18. Nevertheless, the symptoms become visible at the age of 15.  Some of these include

  • Lack of remorse
  • Violations of law
  • Lying and deception
  • Physical aggressiveness
  • Repeated irresponsibility in actions in the family environment
  • Reckless regard to the safety of other

What are the Similarities Between Psychopath and Sociopath

  • Both psychopaths and sociopaths have APD (antisocial personality disorder).
  • Psychopaths and sociopaths have a poor or no inner sense of right and wrong. Moreover, they can’t seem to understand another person’s feelings.
  • They are not necessarily violent; instead, they usually use manipulation and reckless behaviour to get what they want.
  • In both cases, some signs or symptoms are nearly always present before the age 15. Therefore, if not treated well, by the time they become an adult, they become stable in their personalities as a psychopath or a sociopath.

What is the Difference Between Psychopath and Sociopath


A psychopath is someone with APD who has no regard for the feelings of others; therefore, a psychopath is considered someone with no conscience. On the other hand, a sociopath is someone with APD, but one who has a limited and weak conscience, which makes him feel remorse. These definitions explain the main difference between psychopath and sociopath.


A psychopath doesn’t have a conscience or a feeling of empathy and guilt whereas comparatively, a sociopath has a weak or a limited conscience or a feeling of empathy and guilt. This is also an important difference between psychopath and sociopath.


Behaviour is also another difference between psychopath and sociopath. The harmful behaviour of psychopaths is comparatively worse than that of sociopaths. Nevertheless, the behaviour of both these showcases their disregard for the feelings of others or the lack of empathy. 

Genetic Disorder

While it is true that psychopathy is believed to have genetic components (perhaps caused by the underdevelopment of the parts of the brain that regulate emotion and impulsiveness), there are clearly other factors that contribute to the behavioural disorder.


Both psychopath and sociopath have APD; therefore, they have more similarities than differences. However, psychopathy is an extreme form of sociopathy. Thus, every psychopath is a sociopath but not vice versa. Hence, this is the main difference between psychopath and sociopath.


1. Hirstein, William. “What Is a Psychopath?” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 30 Jan. 2013, Available here.
2.“Psychopathy.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 7 Nov. 2018, Available here.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Killer Psychopath Actions 2” (Public Domain) via PublicDomainPictures.net
2. “2787832” (CC0) via Pixabay
3. “SocioPath” By Official GDC (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

About the Author: Upen

Upen, BA (Honours) in Languages and Linguistics, has academic experiences and knowledge on international relations and politics. Her academic interests are English language, European and Oriental Languages, Internal Affairs and International Politics, and Psychology.

Leave a Reply