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The Difference between a Sociopath and Psychopath.

14.09.2015.

What Is a Psychopath? | Psychology Today 

First a bit of terminological history, to clear up any confusion about the meanings of “sociopath,” “psychopath,” and related terms. In the early 1800s, doctors who worked with mental patients began to notice that some of their patients who appeared outwardly normal had what they termed a “moral depravity” or “moral insanity,” in that they seemed to possess no sense of ethics or of the rights of other people. The term “psychopath” was first applied to these people around 1900. The term was changed to “sociopath” in the 1930s to emphasize the damage they do to society. Currently researchers have returned to using the term “psychopath.” Some of them use that term to refer to a more serious disorder, linked to genetic traits, producing more dangerous individuals, while continuing to use “sociopath” to refer to less dangerous people who are seen more as products of their environment, including their upbringing. Other researchers make a distinction between “primary psychopaths,” who are thought to be genetically caused, and “secondary psychopaths,” seen as more a product of their environments.

The PCL describes psychopaths as being callous and showing a lack of empathy, traits which the PPI describes as “coldheartedness.” The criteria for dissocial personality disorder include a “callous unconcern for the feelings of others.” There are now several lines of evidence that point to the biological grounding for the uncaring nature of the psychopath. For us, caring is a largely emotion-driven enterprise. The brains of psycopaths have been found to have weak connections among the components of the brain’s emotional systems. These disconnects are responsible for the psychopath’s inability to feel emotions deeply. Psychopaths are also not good at detecting fear in the faces of other people (Blair et al., 2004). The emotion of disgust also plays an important role on our ethical sense. We find certain types of unethical actions disgusting, and this work to keep us from engaging in them and makes us express disapproval of them. But psychopaths have extremely high thresholds for disgust, as measured by their reactions when shown disgusting photos of mutilated faces and when exposed to foul odors.

Author:

Psychotherapist & Specialist Stalking Consultant