Psychopaths and Sociopaths are often misunderstood by the wide public. “Sociopath” is a term people use, often arbitrarily, to describe someone who is apparently without conscience. In most cases, it’s a description blithely tossed out to label a person as being either hateful or hate-worthy. The same applies to the term “psychopath” which to many people suggests a sociopath who is simply more dangerous, like a mass murderer.
From a clinical perspective, people who are sociopathic or psychopathic are those who exhibit the characteristics of antisocial personality disorder (APD), typified by the pervasive disregard of the rights and/or feelings of others. Sociopathy and psychopathy are considered to be two types of APD.
I have to admit, that I myself used to be a Sociopath in the past, and people often wrongly marked me as a Psychopath. The truth is, that there is a huge difference between those two and that’s exactly what I’m going to focus on before I get into my personal experience as a Sociopath. So let’s make it clear, shall we?
The Difference Between Psychopaths and Sociopaths
The key difference between the two is the fact that Psychopaths are born, while Sociopaths are shaped by their past experiences. While psychopaths are classified as people with little or no conscience, sociopaths do have a limited, albeit weak, ability to feel empathy and remorse. Psychopaths can and do follow social conventions when it suits their needs. Sociopaths are more likely to fly off the handle and react violently whenever they’re confronted by the consequences of their actions.
|Pretend to care||Make it clear they do not care about how others feel|
|Cold-hearted behavior||Behave in hot-headed and impulsive ways|
|Fail to recognize other people’s distress||Prone to fits of anger and rage|
|Their relationships are shallow and fake||Recognize what they are doing but rationalize their behavior|
|Maintain a normal life as a cover for criminal activity||Cannot maintain a regular work and family life|
|Fail to form genuine attachments||Can form emotional attachments, but it is difficult|
Psychopaths and Sociopaths do at times suffer from emotional pain and loneliness. Most have lead hurt-filled lives and have an inability to trust people, but like every human being on the planet, they, too, want to be loved and accepted. However, their own behavior makes this extremely difficult, if not impossible, and most are aware of this. Some feel saddened by the actions they are unable to control because they know it isolates them from others even more.
While it’s common to think of sociopaths and psychopaths as being inherently dangerous, this is more a construct of a TV drama than a true reflection of the disorder. Violence, while certainly possible, is not an inherent characteristic of either sociopathy or psychopathy. The more a psychopath or sociopath feels socially isolated, sad, and alone, the higher his or her risk for violence and impulsive and/or reckless behavior. When psychopaths or sociopaths do become violent, they are just as likely to hurt themselves as others.
Development of the disorder
While it is true that psychopathy is believed to have genetic components, there are clearly other factors that contribute to the behavioral disorder. A well-regarded study into psychopathy suggested that psychopaths often have a history of unstable family life and/or were raised in poorer neighborhoods prone to violence. Many have had parents who were substance abusers and who failed to provide parental guidance or attention. This typically translates to unstable and failed relationships in adulthood and a fixated sense that you have been “robbed” of opportunities and advantages afforded to everyone else.
Sociopathy tends to be associated with harmful childhood experiences, including sexual abuse, physical violence, or parental instability. This differentiation may suggest that nature plays more of a role in the creation of a psychopath than a sociopath. This is supported in part by a 2014 review of studies in which as many as a third of people diagnosed with sociopathy essentially “give up” their antisocial behavior in later life and develop well-adjusted relationships – which is also my case.
Sociopaths have a conscience, albeit a weak one, and will often justify something they know to be wrong. By contrast, psychopaths will believe that their actions are justified and feel no remorse for any harm done.
Self-Functioning Characteristics of APD
- Attaining self-esteem from power, personal gain, or pleasure.
- Egocentricity or self-centeredness.
- Setting goals based on personal gratification with little regard to law or ethics.
Intrapersonal Characteristics of APD
- A lack of empathy for other people’s suffering or hurt or when confronted with the hurt or anger of people they have manipulated.
- The inability to have a truly mutually emotionally intimate relationship because of the instinct to control (by dominance or intimidation), coerce, or deceive.
Behavioral Characteristics of APD
- A strong tendency to disregard commitments, promises, and agreements, including financial ones.
- Difficulty in making plans, preferring to believe you’re able to nimbly navigate problems as they appear.
- It is not uncommon for someone with APD to be in repeated fights or assaults.
- Lying as a means to gain social entry or advantage, such as proclaiming yourself a decorated war hero when you have never served.
- Making decisions on the spur of the moment with little regard to consequence if an immediate goal is to be achieved.
- Persistent anger or irritability, even over small things, as well as mean, spiteful behavior.
- Reacting with callousness, aggression, remorselessness, or even sadism when confronted by the fallout of your actions.
- Risk-taking, becoming easily bored, and an ability to ignore personal boundaries and justify even the most outrageous of actions.
- The emotional manipulation of others—for example, pretending to be interested in someone simply to achieve a goal.
My personal experience as a Sociopath
Reasons for my Sociopathy
Since I was a child, I was regularly beaten by my parents when I did something they did not like, but I do not think that this has anything to do with my Sociopathy since I thought this was a normal practice until recently I discovered that many of my peers were not beaten a single time. The problem came when my parents split up and I was with one parent for a while and then with the other one. At the time, I didn’t really care since I was getting addicted to being on the internet as a result of not being able to settle in the real world. Slowly, I distanced myself from the world and when I hit puberty at the age of 13, that was when the development of my Sociopathy started.
Up until then, I was just a regular boy who did a bad thing here and there as all the other boys, but it never had any serious consequences. All had changed when I hit puberty before my entire class did. I began behaving too differently from them, I did not understand what kind of changes are happening to me and I was just too young and inexperienced to behave accordingly. Everyone in our class began distancing themselves from me and after I while I was left completely alone. My parents were disconnected, I had no friends and I was detached from the world. What would a 13-year-old kid do? The only thing they could do, live their life on the internet. That was when the “ThePro” persona was created and I loved it.
Escape from the reality
I was considered one of the most experienced gamers in multiple communities since I’ve spent so much time playing there. This went on for about two years and at the age of 15, it got to an extreme. Here I was spending about 16 hours a day behind the screen on average and when I got to school, I slept through those 8 hours. There were days when we had tests, I slept during them as well. Teachers or parents could do little since I was very aggressive and at one time I actually destroyed a closet with my fist. It’s safe to say, that this was the first real symptom of the disorder.
At one point I was actually going to a school psychologist and that’s when I realized how bad the whole system is since they did nothing really. All that the psychologist did was that she gave me some tests, talked to me a bit, and told me was that I have a higher IQ than the average person. Thanks for the ego boost, didn’t fix my problem though. To sum it up: I was mentally bullied during the last three years of primary school, my parents were too busy doing other stuff than to focus on my development and I spent most of my time online, so I had no real connections with people.
I should certainly mention that all my friends leaving me at the age of 13 felt like a huge betrayal and it’s probably one of the main reasons for my lack of trust. Add my mother leaving and also my first girlfriend cheating on me at the age of 14. From the age of 13 until the age of 15, my life was going constantly downhill. This was only the final push I needed to reach the heights Sociopathy since as I mentioned before, there were many other factors that contributed to me distancing myself from the rest.
The world through the eyes of a Sociopath
I did not know that I am a Sociopath at the time. Most people tried to justify my behavior with the fact that I was in puberty. But I know, that if I did not have a certain experience in high school, I would’ve probably remained a Sociopath to this day – I’m going to mention that experience soon. There are a few key points on my world view that I remember from being a Sociopath.
My personal traits as a Sociopath
- Discipline over all
- Never trust anyone – including self
- Always put yourself first, opinions of others come second
- Social Anxiety – Extreme shaking when stressed
- Inability to write fast (handwriting)
- An aggressive approach
- Avoidance of sexual interaction
- Extremely careful
- Hiding the emotional suffering
- Extremely low self-esteem even though showing the exact opposite
- Inability to understand my own emotions or the emotions of others
- A surprisingly high mathematical calculation accuracy
- Terrible memory
- Lack of concentration
How did I get rid of my Sociopathy?
As I said before, I had no idea that I was a Sociopath at the time. I only discovered it recently, while I was studying about psychopaths and sociopaths kinda just came with it. Even though I was not aware of my Sociopathy, I was very aware that something is wrong with me. And I wanted a change. I knew that no change is possible in the same environment, so I had to wait for high school. When I went to high school, everything has changed.
A choice? Maybe.
I began behaving very differently, as I planned. But the change wasn’t as easy as it seems. As a matter of fact, I used my fist during the first year in high school as well. Luckily, that was the last time that it had happened since after that experience my arm suffered permanent damage. I recovered from the wound, but to this day I have a little souvenir left to remember this incident. Ironically, just before this had happened I began programming, which I had to leave since I couldn’t use my arm for a few weeks. After that, I never recovered to programming with the same enthusiasm. As a matter of fact, I would say that’s the point where most of my productivity died together with my Sociopathy. Now the question comes… Was it worth it?
A different view on Psychopathy and Sociopathy
I’m not going to be completely closed-minded and just say that it’s all bad. In fact, that would be very selfish of me, since I know probably the best how many benefits it has. One of the most important and my favorite is productivity. When I had a goal, I kept going for it no matter what anyone said and no matter who tried to stop me. To state the truth, I mostly miss my old productivity and discipline since that’s the one thing that made me feel like myself.
Hate or admiration?
I have been trying for the past few years to get back on track, but it has never been the same ever since. I worked out 5x a week without any excuses, no exceptions, simply I did what I said no matter what the circumstances. People certainly viewed me in a wrong way, since I seemed to care only about myself, but the truth is – when I did this for a longer period of time people actually admired me for my passion and determination.
Lack of experience
It wasn’t that I did not care about others, I didn’t know how to care. Now I do. And now I care too much. I have tried putting myself back where I was, but I’m going to disappoint you. Sociopathy cannot be chosen, just as Psychopathy cannot be fixed. I became interested in Psychology because, after all this, I wanted to understand myself and others more. Now I do. But with great power comes great responsibility. I hope that you’ll see Psychopaths and Sociopaths from a different view thanks to my own input.
Keep your eyes open
But don’t get me wrong. Be careful around Psychopaths and Sociopaths since they certainly are dangerous. Noticing Psychopaths can be very hard, and you’ll most likely not recognize them until they show you their true face. Trust me on this one, I was in a relationship with one – it took me almost 2 years to find out that she was a psychopath. A psychopath can act very well, and as long as you’re useful to them, they’ll keep you. Sociopaths, on the other hand, are recognized very easily. They’ll most likely distance themselves from other people, behave aggressively, or just lack the ability to display emotions correctly.
In a Nutshell
Psychopaths lack emotions. If a psychopath is controlling you, you probably won’t notice. They’ll be able to explain away any strange behavior, and never get upset if you confront them. Their disorder comes mostly from their genetics. Curing them seems impossible since, how would you fix a car that has no engine, to begin with?
Sociopaths lack control over their emotions. A sociopath will have more of a temper, so you may be less likely to trust them from the start. They develop this disorder from unpleasant experiences, but as they experience a different view on the world, their antisocial behavior might change.
Have you met any Psychopaths or Sociopaths yourself?
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ThePro’s Fun Fact
ThePro has spent more than 10 000 hours on the internet during the years 2015 – 2017.