You may have noticed people around you describing another person as a “psychopath” or a “sociopath.” But what exactly do these two words mean?

In reality, there is no actual definition of these words anywhere. You can’t even find it in the latest edition of the official handbook for mental health diagnosis called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). As such, practitioners do not formally diagnose psychopaths and sociopaths.

Most practitioners agree that psychopaths and sociopaths share a somewhat similar set of characteristics. For example, these individuals have a weak internal sense of right and wrong. They also don’t seem to acknowledge or empathize with others’ emotions. 

But there are some distinctions between psychopaths and sociopaths too.

This article explores the definition and traits of a psychopath and how to determine whether someone is a psychopath. 

We will also discuss possible treatments to overcome it and how to differentiate between psychopaths and sociopaths.

Table of Contents

What Is a Psychopath? Definition & Meaning

The term “psychopath” refers to someone cold, devoid of emotion, and immoral. The word “psychopath” is often (albeit mistakenly) used to label someone with a mental health disorder; it is not a recognized diagnosis. 

Instead, it’s an informal terminology for a mental health condition known as antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). Furthermore, the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) does not include psychopathy as a recognized clinical condition.

Although psychopathy is not an official diagnosis, many characteristics of psychopathy overlap with those of antisocial personality disorder. In general, ASPD is a mental health condition that describes someone who is impulsive and violates rules. However, only a tiny percentage of people with antisocial personality disorder are considered psychopaths.

Discover Are You A Psychopath!

Take our free Psychopath test & know for sure

Signs of a Psychopath

 A psychopath’s behavior differs from person to person. Some psychopaths are serial killers and sex criminals. Others, on the other hand, may be influential leaders. It all hinges on their personalities and attributes.

It is critical to differentiate between psychopaths and individuals who exhibit psychopathic characteristics. Someone can display several psychopathic traits without becoming a genuine psychopath. 

Individuals with depraved characteristics do not always participate in unethical or violent behavior. Only individuals who demonstrate psychopathic tendencies and antisocial behaviors are described as psychopaths. 

Some typical features of psychopathy are as below:

  • Narcissism and an inflated sense of one’s own worth
  • Superficial charm 
  • Impulsivity with limited capability for delayed gratification and self-control
  • Callous and unemotional, lacking in genuine relationships
  • Lack of guilt and lack of empathy 
  • Behaviors that go against societal norms
  • Disrespectful or violating the rights of others 
  • An inclination to lie regularly
  • Manipulative and causing harm to others
  • Recurring rule-breaking behaviors
  • A pervasive disregard for safety and accountability

Discover Are You A Psychopath!

Take our free Psychopath test & know for sure

What Are Risks And Factors of Psychopaths?

Nobody knows what causes psychopathy. It could be most likely a combination of genetic, environmental, and interpersonal variables. Children of psychopaths, for example, have a higher chance of becoming psychopaths, indicating genetic factors.

Furthermore, certain early life events have been linked to an increased likelihood of becoming a psychopath. Poor parenting, punishment- rather than reward-focused parenting, and inconsistent parenting style seem to contribute to psychopathy.

Other risk factors for psychopathy include parents who abuse drugs or alcohol, parental divorce or separation, and child mistreatment or negligence.

Some potential risks of being with psychopaths:

  • They make you feel insignificant.
  • They seldom exhibit compassion and kindness.
  • They toy with your emotions.
  • They make you show your worst qualities.
  • They take on the image of a victim.
  • They want to be the center of attention and always talk about themselves only.
  • They have a tendency to lie or deceive others.
  • They gaslight people around them.
  • They avoid responsibility and never hold themselves accountable for anything.
  • They are desperate for approval and validation from others.

How To Overcome Psychopathic Traits?

It might be difficult to treat individuals such as psychopaths who have ASPD-like characteristics. A psychiatrist may propose a combination of psychotherapy and medicines as the treatment method.

While there is no evidence that medicine or psychotherapy can cure psychopathic traits, these treatments may help control some of the symptoms, such as impulsivity and violence.

The psychotherapy method might help psychopaths understand how the condition affects their lives. A mental health practitioner will work with them to create a plan for reducing the severity of the psychopathic symptoms.

If medication is prescribed as part of the treatment plan, a psychiatrist may prescribe medications to treat mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, or aggression. 

The possible medication options could be one of the below: 

  • Antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or bupropion 
  • Antipsychotics
  • Anticonvulsants

Bonus: What Are The Main Differences Between Sociopaths Vs. Psychopaths

While the terms “psychopath” and “sociopath” are often used interchangeably, they have distinct patterns of characteristics and behaviors.

Psychopaths lack responsibility and compassion for others. They show no remorse and have no empathy for others. They may appear caring to others. However, it’s their strategy to display an ordinary image to conceal their cold-heartedness or unlawful activities.

Sociopaths, on the contrary, may feel some empathy and guilt for their misbehaviors. They tend to have difficulty maintaining habits and routines in life. At times, they can become impulsive and overly emotional. While they may be aware that their behaviors are inappropriate, they will find methods to justify their reckless and destructive actions.

Psychopath FAQ

Some psychopathic traits include antisocial behaviors, lack of affection, manipulation, and narcissism. They are also impulsive and can be disrespectful to others. While such characteristics may suggest that someone has a high level of psychopathy, this does not imply that they are a psychopath.

Nobody knows what causes psychopathy. It could be most likely a combination of genetic, environmental, and interpersonal variables. Children of psychopaths, for example, have a higher chance of becoming psychopaths, indicating genetic factors.

Furthermore, certain early life events have been linked to an increased likelihood of becoming a psychopath. Other risk factors for psychopathy include parents who abuse drugs or alcohol, parental divorce or separation, and child mistreatment or negligence.

Psychopaths are selfish, uncaring, and exploitative individuals. They have a distinct communication style which is usually typified by emotional detachment and an inclination to dominate a conversation. When they sense that they are not in control of a conversation, they tend to change the topics to something they have a say in. Psychopaths may also display non-genuine emotional expressions while engaging in conversation.

Discover Are You A Psychopath!

Take our free Psychopath test & know for sure

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
WhatsApp
Telegram

16K shares