Archived: Psychopath vs Sociopath

Author: Devonie Cruz

Email: dcruz7@greeleyschools.ord


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Devonie Cruz 

Prof Dixon



Comparing and Contrasting Essay #3

Today when describing someone crazy often the words psychopath or sociopath come about, but what is a psychopath or sociopath? Well, they both are very uncommon disorders that most high-crime criminals have tendencies of. Although psychopaths and sociopaths are so often viewed as the same thing, they are quite different and can be differentiated through their tendencies, how each disorder develops, and how the disorders can affect actions in very high crimes. 

First, to understand what the differences are between a sociopath and a psychopath you have to understand a basic definition for each. A psychopath by definition is “a person suffering from a chronic mental disorder with abnormal or violent social behavior” (Dictionary). Psychopaths often have this disorder from birth and psychopathy makes them very prone to violence and leading others on through manipulation. A sociopath by definition is “a person with a personality disorder manifesting itself in extreme antisocial attitudes and behavior and a lack of conscience” (Dictionary). Sociopaths are developed with time and sociopathy often leads them to be impulsive and irrational. Each disorder is developed severely differently. 

The tendencies of a sociopath are being impulsive, lacking empathy, and rationalizing bad behavior, however, they are mostly characterized as being unconscious of their behaviors towards others. Sociopaths being unconscious of their behaviors towards others often shows when they are impulsive and hot-headed according to Purse. Almost everyone has some hot-headed behavior, however, sociopaths are set off easier than the average person. Not only are sociopaths set off easily but they tend to make impulsive decisions such as leaving evidence on crime scenes (Infographic: Psychopath Vs. Sociopath). This goes back to sociopaths’ lack of empathy because they are unable to take a moment to think about other people before they make an irrational decision. They also are oftentimes very quick to defend themselves and their actions (Purse). This once again leads to the idea that sociopaths lack empathy because they do not understand that what they did was wrong, they instead just continue to try and defend themselves. The lack of empathy shown by a sociopath lead back to the main thought they are unconscious of their actions and behaviors towards others. 

Psychopaths’ tendencies are violent, careless, and cause them to not form relationships, however, their most common trait is being manipulative. Psychopathic tendencies are violent. The violence comes because if they do not get what they want they tend to get very angry and turn to violence. Psychopaths are also very prone to being able to keep a job and a “normal” lifestyle (Purse). The “normal” lifestyle psychopaths can maintain is because they are manipulative enough to keep people and things in their life. Psychopaths are careless because they willingly hurt so many people while knowing that which causes them to often be labeled as “cold-hearted” (Purse). Psychopaths often get joy from manipulating others, they will continue to do something knowing that they have control over the situation when their victims are unable to leave the manipulation. Psychopaths fail to form real relationships with others (Purse). Because psychopaths are so manipulative they never can fully attach themselves to someone else. Psychopaths are attached to the idea of manipulating someone else and not the actual person themselves. 

The main difference between a psychopath and a sociopath is that a psychopath understands that they are manipulative and they like to have that control over other people while a sociopath is unaware and unavailable to other people’s emotions. This can cause a huge difference in the way that they may commit simple crimes. From each disorder’s descriptions, you could assume that a sociopath robbing a store would be something completely unplanned with no real reason. Maybe just the fact that they only have 5 dollars but want a 20 dollar item. This would cause them to more likely be caught and then when they were caught they might try and say that they only did it because they only had 5 dollars and needed what they stole, even if they did not. A psychopath would take a different approach and most likely plan out their robbery due to anger. They are more likely to get away with such a petty crime because they are more highly educated and thoughtful (Purse). If they were to have gotten caught they would most likely try and con their way out of the situation through charm and manipulation by bringing up that they have a normal life and have no need to steal. This can also be due to education such as a psychology class taken in a college setting by a psychopath. 

The making of a psychopath and a sociopath are very different. Although they both can become psychotic or sociopathic due to the genetics of their family it is not too common for sociopaths as sociopathy is usually due to trauma (Cossio). Sociopaths may only have this happen when a relative had anti-social issues that can slowly begin to get worse as part of the brain slowly shifts through generations of being anti-social  (Hill). A very large issue that can cause sociopathy is family issues growing up (Hill). This can mean any sort of abuse that is happening at home. More especially when children are awarded for the abuse at home. This abuse could mean any sort of praise and acts of normalcy surrounding it. The largest factor that would play into a child gaining a lack of empathy is moving from home to home. This could be leading to any sort of inability to connect to others (Hill).  Many children get abused in foster homes as well so it can be an issue of feeling like they lack to connect and feeling normality in the abuse. Although many things can happen to develop things such as sociopathy and psychopathy some things are uncontrollable by anyone that cause them to be the way that they are. There is a part of the brain that does not fully develop until you are an adult that helps control impulses (Hill). This is why many kids make impulsive decisions because their brain is not fully developed yet. This is sometimes just not developed and often time worsened yet more by trauma. Although a sociopath is made through trauma while being young and learning the habits of the people around them psychopaths are born that way and can develop worse tendencies through trauma (Cossio).

Charlotte Greig tells the accounts of Jeffrey Dahmer’s murders he gives as “By 22 August 1991 Dahmer had been charged with 15 counts of murder. His trial began on 30 January 1992. He pleaded guilty but insanely. The jury found him sane and he was sentenced to 15 consecutive life sentences”.  One of the most famous serial killers was a psychopath. Dahmer grew up with a seemingly normal family however from a young age he took interest in his father’s work. With Dahmer’s questionings about his father’s work, he had learned how to get bones off the flesh using acid. Dahmer then began from a young age dismembering dead animals and this led to him killing people. This psychopathy continues throughout Dahmers’ entire story because he uses the same tactic that is well thought out over and over again. Not only was Dahmer smart enough to keep going with the same techniques that work, he even got himself out of situations that could have gotten him caught so much earlier. One of the biggest times Dahmer did this was when one of his victims who already had a hole in their head escaped from Dahmers’ apartment and was spotted. The women who saw the victim called the authorities and when Dahmer came and saw what was going on he was able to play off the situation even though the victim was bloody and not healthy looking. He was not only manipulative and well thought out during all of those murders but even when he was being tried he made the smart and manipulative decision to plead guilty but also plead that he was insane. He was smart enough to claim that he was insane to get less time. Dahmer knew that in situations outside of the courtroom he could get himself out due to manipulation so he decided to try in the courtroom.

Another famous serial killer was Ted Bundy. He however was a sociopath. As his childhood was a bit rough because he was supposedly around his very violent grandfather often and that caused him to be shy and get bullied (Cossio). This kind of trauma and mistreatment is how a sociopath is made. Bundy continued his life being very manipulative using the psychology tactics that he learned in college. Bundy also was in a relationship in which he would shift very quickly. In her book, she mentions many things such as him locking her out for no reason, and then she would have to wait for him to let her in. He then would go back and act like nothing happened by being a loving boyfriend to her (Cossio). Ted Bundy truly showed his sociopathic behavior when he showed no remorse for the murders that he committed or the women whom he murdered. This is all sociopathic behavior because he shows no remorse and it is theorized that this is because of his childhood in which he might have gained his anti-social behavior. Bundy also made very impulsive decisions such as jumping out of a courtroom library’s window at his hearing for the murders. After Bundy made his great escape he not only impulsively lived in the mountains but found a home of sorority women in which he tried to murder. Bundy made the impulsive decision to bite one of the women and in doing this it gave more evidence which was used in the trial. Even after being put in a higher security correctional facility Bundy made the quick decision to break out of there through a vent in the ceiling. Bundy’s sociopathic behavior allowed him to get caught very quickly in the end. 

Although today many of us use the terms psychopath and sociopath in the same way, we are wrong. A psychopath is born with their disorder and they are aware that they can use their manipulation tactics to get what they want. Sociopaths on the other hand usually gain their disorder through the trauma they endure which instills their impulsiveness and lack of empathy for others. Through their differences, they are both mental disorders that most criminals have, they both are very different in the way that they affect the person who has them.

Works Cited

Dictionary, Oxford. “Oxford Languages and Google – English.” Oxford Languages, /google-dictionary-en/. 

Purse, Murcia. “How Sociopaths Are Different From Psychopaths.” VeryWellMind, June 15, 2020,  https:// Accessed 18, February 2022. 

“Infographic: Psychopath Vs. Sociopath.” Psychologia, Accessed 18, February 2022. 

Hill, Tamara. “8 Contributing Factors to Psychopathy and Sociopathy.” PsychCentral, 2017,

Greig, Charlotte. Serial Killers. Ebook Ed., Arcturus Digital Limited, 2017, y/11947956.

Cossio, Maria. “Was Ted Bundy a  Sociopath or a Psychopath?” StMU Research Scholars, 2020, Accessed 20, February 2022.