Ask Counselor Shelley
Dear Counselor Shelley,
What is the difference between a sociopath and psychopath?
Counselor Shelley's Response:
There really is no difference . The terms psychopath, sociopath and antisocial are all bascially one in the same. The diagnostic term listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (DSM IV)* is Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD). The DSM IV describes this type of person as displaying "a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others." Additionally, to be diagnoised as having ASPD a person must consistently demonstrate three or more of the following characteristics:
1) Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behavior.
4) Irritability and/or aggressiveness
5) Reckless disregard for the safety of self and/or others.
6) Consistent irresponsibility
7) Lack of remorse
Many serial killers such as Ted Bundy and Charles Manson meet the diagnostic criteria for ASPD. However, someone does not have to be a murderer to be a psychopath. If you would like to see a typical sociopath in action, watch an episode of South Park and pay close attention to Eric Cartman.
Thanks & keep the interesting questions comming!
* See my February Clinic article for more information on the DSM IV.