Psychopath Or Sociopath – What’s The Difference?


Imagine not having a conscience. 

You would have no feelings of guilt, regret, shame or remorse. You would not be concerned about the well-being of anyone, including family members, strangers, and co-workers. The concept of being responsible for your actions does not make sense to you. You could do anything and feel nothing.

Jessica Page Morrell, author of Bullies, Bastards & Bitches, says, ‘Sociopaths have ice in their veins and, like the Grinch, possess hearts much too small.’

As writers, we often use sociopaths or psychopaths as antagonists in our novels. Follow this link for nine examples. So, we’re used to having them around. But what is the difference between a psychopath and a sociopath? Both suffer from antisocial personality disorder and the definitions are largely interchangeable.

This infographic from Psychologia explains key common traits and differences between psychopaths and sociopaths and includes some statistical data. Although the prognosis is unfavourable for both, a sociopath is more likely to respond to therapy than a psychopath is.

UPDATE: “Both suffer from antisocial personality disorder” is in accordance with the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) 2013 release where psychopathy and sociopathy are both listed under antisocial personality disorders (ASPD).

If you enjoyed this post, you will want to read:

  1. Personality Disorders – DSM-5 Resource for Writers
  2. Personality Disorders – A Writer’s Resource
  3. Shades of Emotion – Characters and their emotions

If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg or sign up for our online course.

by Amanda Patterson

This article has 6 comments

  1. La Tefy Schoen

    Informative thank you for the ckarification and the resources. Characterization of protagonists is easy forme but I struggle with believable villains.

  2. Anna Palm

    Hello, I hate to inform you that the infograph is slightly incorrect. Sociopaths display controlled behavior, plan their actions, know how to manipulate people and how to imitate certain emotions, like remorse and empathy, but they don’t truly feel these feelings. Psychopaths are more likely to commit heinous acts spontaneously; they’re typically less educated and many are artistic. Sociopaths aren’t necessarily violent (although, I definitely wouldn’t want to be friends with one); some may exist in your daily life and cease self-gratifying pleasure through ways other than violence and death.

  3. Taylor

    Uh…. these are entirely backwards…

  4. Season C

    Informative and useful. Unfortunately, there is no link to the article about 9 antagonists. Can you possibly add that please? Thanks.

  5. Writers Write

    Season C, Is this the article you are looking for? 9 Famous Anti-Social Fictional Characters https://writerswrite.co.za//9-famous-anti-social-fictional-characters

  6. Jameson

    Anna, I think the article’s intention is to generalize these folks. Of course there are always exceptions.

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