Before I started learning more about psychopathy I, like the majority of people around me, thought that a “psychopath” was a psycho or a crazy, insane person. You give him some medication, and he can, hopefully, leave his mental problems behind.
A “sociopath”, on the other hand, was someone equally dangerous but normal-looking; someone who was much more cunning and who was intelligent.
I have no idea why I thought that all sociopaths were intelligent. Maybe because in the movies they are usually portrayed like that.
Now I know that what I called “sociopathy” is actually “psychopathy”. The experts say so (learn about this leading expert on psychopathy). That is the term they use for Antisocial Personality Disorder.
And the sufferers of this disorder are not necessarily smart, they just have a different perspective and that’s why we, the normal people (or the viewers if it’s a movie) end up feeling like total dumbasses when they are done with us. (It’s kind of like why left-handed people seem to be better in sports, if you know what I mean.)
Some people still prefer to use the term “sociopath”. It is usually those who still do not know much about psychopathy or who want to talk about this disorder to the general population and grab the attention of as many people as possible.
If you prefer this term you can substitute every word “psychopath” with the word “sociopath” in this blog. If that makes you happy. Because it is the same thing.
Now, some people insist that the differences do exist. They go to great lengths to elaborate on this distinction. If you turn to Google, this is the first answer you will get. It is, supposedly, how criminologists distinguish between the two terms.
Unfortunately, I think reading something like this can create total confusion in someone who is not familiar with the subject, and who is just looking for an exit out of a his current hellhole . Focusing on the differences between these two terms does not help people in any way to recognize or eliminate dangerous people from their lives.
And this is what I think is ultimately important. Not how we label it, not how we think about it, but what we do about it. For the victims of evil people, it doesn’t really matter if these “morally blind” monsters aquired their evilness at birth or through some unfortunate circumstance. The victims (or potential victims) only need to be able to acknowledge and recognize this evilness before it is too late. And both the psychopaths and the sociopaths can easily hide it behind a smile and a helping hand.
You know what I think? I think it’s usually the psychopaths themselves who confuse everybody. They are the ones who define it one way, and then another. They like to point out how a sociopath is different from a psychopath. Why? Here are my observations:
1. Because psychopaths always want to feel smarter then everybody.
Because, you know, experts are stupid. They have not figured it out- that’s why officially these terms are interchangeable. But, there is a difference and they will be the ones to explain it to everyone. Of course, they can’t really say that they know better only because it comes from their own inner experience!
2. Because they prefer to call themselves “sociopaths” and “narcissists” rather than “psychopaths”.
I notices this in all the forums. And, again, I draw my own conclusion on why this is so:
Just like I said in the beginning of this post, both terms come with pretty common misconceptions. Perhaps to them also, the term “psychopath” implies that something is wrong with their own psyche and it reminds them that they might be the “crazy” ones. If they say “sociopath” then they are still “odd” but they think that it’s in a “cool” way -that they are smarter then everybody.
3. Because the psychopaths are trying to confuse the public on purpose.
They do not want people to know what psychopathy is. They want to be able to exist under the radar. But how are they able to do it? Just think about it. Where can we find a lot of psychopaths? What are some of the most common professions they choose?
A lot of them are political leaders. A lot of them journalists or TV reporters. A lot of them are CEOs and bankers. And, believe it or not, a lot of them are psychiatrists. Do you now see what I mean? We outnumber them, but we are just sheep in their eyes. And, I’m sorry to admit that so far they have been kinda right about that..(sigh)
As a conclusion, if you really need me to define “sociopath” for you (it seems that everyone has their own definition, expert or not) then I will say that a sociopath for me is someone who Dr. Hare and others call a “secondary psychopath”, or a person who lost his/her empathy somewhere along the way.
For example, growing up in the ghetto, being in gangs or related to mafia can turn you into a sociopath. Also, unfortunately, endless hours of playing violent video games and having no social life.
Our modern society is producing a lot of sociopaths. I will write about this in my next post. Until then, take care of yourself and stay away from evil people, whatever you choose to call them.