A lot of people are confused about the difference between a sociopath and a psychopath. Both are personality disorders, that are grouped together under the antisocial personality disorder. While psychopath is a term used by psychologists for those who exhibit certain characteristic traits, the same traits are described by sociologists as those belonging to sociopaths. Psychologists believe that such symptoms are hereditary, while sociologists believe that such symptoms develop over time, as a result of the environment in which one is brought up. Though the definitions differ slightly, there is no particular difference between the symptoms of a psychopath and those of a sociopath.
There are several reasons why people may exhibit sociopathic behavior. As mentioned above, it could be hereditary, wherein a family member may have suffered from a particular personality disorder. In such a case, the affected individual portrays certain innate behaviors such as anger and impulsiveness at a very young age. On the other hand, a sociopath may have normal behavioral traits as a child, which may slowly be altered over time due to the environment and different types of behavior he has been exposed to since childhood. A sociopath can also be the result of a mix of 'nature and nurture', part hereditary behaviors and part environmental situations.
It may be difficult to recognize a sociopath because such a person is overtly very charming, while sociopathic traits are present below the surface. You may have to dig a little deeper to recognize the symptoms. Also remember that the portrayal of just any one symptom cannot define a person as a sociopath. If more than one or two of the following symptoms exist together, a person may be characterized as a sociopath.
The Ability to Manipulate
Sociopaths are real charmers and have the ability to manipulate people they wish to use for any kind of personal purpose. With the portrayal of such behavior, it may be difficult to identify sociopaths.
Failure of Conformity to Social Norms
Total disregard for certain set norms by society is a symptom that will easily give a sociopath away. In fact, they often prefer to tweak and twist the 'rules' to suit themselves and their fancies. All this stems out of impulsiveness, and there is no particular cause for the antisocial behavior that sociopaths exhibit.
Sociopaths are known to be impulsive and unpredictable, wanting to do unimaginable things at the most unimaginable time, without any planning. They find it extremely difficult to resist temptation and wish to gratify their desires and urges instantly. They do not care about the consequences of their behavior.
We all have an ego, and some of us have a highly inflated ego. However, sociopathic tendencies include completely self-centered behavior and little capacity to love anyone, or even be emotionally attached to a person in their life.
Lack of Emotions
Not only do they lack emotions such as love and attachment, they have little regard for the feelings of others around them. Being prone to serious mood swings, they can easily be callous, rude, and snap angrily at anyone with no regard for the opposite person's feelings. Moreover, they don't even feel sorry for such behavior. They feel no gratitude for any favors done for them, neither do they thank others for their kindness under any circumstance.
Lack of Responsibility
Sociopaths are usually irresponsible towards themselves as well as others. They have often been defined as having parasitic tendencies, where they depend on others for their bread and butter and other comforts. No matter how grave the situation, sociopaths cannot be considered reliable enough to deal with them singularly or with the help of someone else. Moreover, they refuse to take responsibility for their own actions, and have the tendency to blame others or environmental situations for any kind of problem that has arisen as a result of their own actions.
Absence of Personal Goals
Sociopaths have no personal goals in life. As mentioned before, their parasitic tendencies keep them believing that it is possible for them to survive comfortably all their life. They lead aimless lives, from one day to another, without any direction.
Sociopaths also exhibit symptoms of pathological liars, where they constantly lie to cover up for certain behaviors. It is difficult to trust them and take their word at face value because of this untruthful and insincere behavior.
This is one of the signs of sociopathic behavior in children. Juvenile delinquency refers to criminal behavior by children who belong to the age group 13-18 years. The crimes may involve exploitation, aggression and manipulation, vandalism, drug and alcohol abuse.
Sociopaths fear commitment, which makes them often resort to infidel behavior. Their marital relationships are often short-lived. They also tend to portray promiscuous sexual behavior, where they have several affairs with a variety of people, and attempt to maintain several relationships at the same time, none of which they are committed to. Furthermore, they seem to feel great pride in such behavior and do not refrain from explicit discussions of their feats and so-called 'conquests'.
After learning about these symptoms, it seems surprising that for a person who cannot lead a life in a particular direction, it is so easy to be self-motivated to con and charm people for personal gain. Such individuals cannot differentiate between right and wrong because of a lack of conscience. Dealing with a sociopath is also often difficult since it takes a while before the symptoms are recognized. Trying to alter these symptoms is a big challenge as sociopaths are very resistant to change. Even so, therapeutic treatment has been given to them, but without much success.
Disclaimer: This PsycholoGenie article is for informative purposes only and does not intend to replace the diagnosis of, and treatment provided by an expert.