Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Sociopaths, Psychopaths, and Narcissists, oh my!

Here's a comment from a reader about the value of professional psychological diagnoses:
As you have diagnosed yourself as such I am not too worried however much your attempts at diagnoses you should have already figured out diagnoses are there for the pathetic people who cant understand what these things are. So they make up these diagnoses and things that should be corrected but if you think about it there is a DSM but no manual for whats normal no manual to counter it. Normalcy is what is socially acceptable and what is "Right" to these people. However there is no real right and no real wrong the only right there is is what us as an individual decide is best for ourselves. There maybe sociopaths in psychology but in reality its just another type of person their is no real disorder its a way of being.
I agree. Some people comment on this blog saying things like "sociopaths would never do/say x," which i figure are probably just arguments over semantics. For instance, one writer described the confusion over the terms sociopath and psychopath thusly:
Without getting into the politics surrounding the different diagnostic systems, people who were unaware of the need for precision and accuracy for research and assessment adopted a preference for using either ‘psychopath’ or ‘sociopath’ and came up with their own workable definitions. In other words, things got a little sloppy. I’ve even seen professionals use the term 'sociopath' but rely on the criteria specific to the concept of a psychopath. However, for researchers in psychopathy, ‘sociopath’ has a different connotation.

Which brings me back to the original question: the difference between a psychopath and sociopath. If you subscribe to the Hare criteria for a psychopath, then you see the conning, manipulative narcissistic liar and user as a psychopath, as long as he or she is completely lacking in remorse or empathy. The sociopath, however, is capable of guilt, caring, building relationships, etc., but only within a certain context. He or she will have loyalties to a specific group but not to society at large. They care nothing for social norms and will break them with impunity if it serves their purpose. So, on the surface, they may resemble psychopaths. However, they might genuinely feel remorse over harming someone within their group or family. They will have a moral code specific to that context: they might not lie, exploit, or manipulate within the group. Thus, they exhibit psychopathic behaviors in certain contexts but not all.
If these distinctions are accurate then maybe I am more sociopath, not psychopath. Or maybe we follow the DSM and say i have APD. Or maybe I'm a malignant narcissist? The labels are fuzzy, and ultimately they don't matter. I am who I am. I think what I think, feel what I feel, do what I do. I know I'm not typical. I don't care to debate the nuances of particular definitions or diagnoses, I just want people to know that they live in a world with people like me.


  1. Haha.

    Labels are nothing more than ways of manipulating the human psych with action and response simplicity.

    1. Or a way of identifying behaviour patterns.

  2. And the fact I complicated that statement did not help the poetic-appeal I was going for.

  3. I'm a Sociopath (diagnosed) and the description here could have been written about me.

  4. I am a mental health nurse and an empath(for the purpose of labelling).

    I like a few psychiatrists I know DESPISE diagnoses in all areas of mental health.

    I reject the DSM for on one hand over complicating diagnoses and sub divisions. On the other over simplifying when they clearly don't understand shit.

    To have changed psychopathy to A.P.D to avoid offending those experiencing psychosis is to patronise anyone with remote intelligence.

    I have worked with Antisocial P.D and it aint psychopathy. If narcissism is a character disorder then why not the rest of the cluster B disorders!!!!!.

    I hate labelling whether it's Schizophrenic or Sociopath. I argue every day at work...we are treating symptomolgy not diagnosis.

    In the U.K they are obsessed with the concept of personalisation yet run to the DSM as much as the MIMS or BNF.

    I watch misdiagnosis every day. I could get myself diagnosed with anything.

    I proved this by attending various private Psych's and got diagnoses from bi polar to cluster A,B and C. I'd never fake psychosis, I'm not that smart.

    Anyway...we all have symptoms and traits. What should concern us re ourselves and others is which symptoms(in ourselves and others) hinder us or help us. Which need treated/addressed/tackled. Which need nurtured.

    I am one of the biggest empathetic, concience burdened individual's I know. Yet I have spent enought time professionally and personally around those with minimal or nil concience, empathy and ''normal'' emotions.

    If I used certain antidepressants, betablockers etc. I could fake being without empathy and concience and act on that. I prob couldn't fool a smart sociopath. I have however fooled a(thinks he is smart)narcissist. I knew what I had to do and he well deserved it but my empath traits got in the way. I blunted them with an SSRI and beat him at his own game.

    I don't think I'm clever I just needed to do what I needed to do.

    I have used diagnosis several times here as it makes it simpler for me and the reader. I think it's imperative to understand each individual's traits but a waste of energy to focus on diagnosis.

  5. @ jane doh

    Educational post, thank you.

    1. Don't go to Vegas old women. screwed yourself. Gotcha by your own hand. Thanks.

  6. Very interesting. I definitely fit the criteria of a sociopath according to this post. These two terms are confusing in means of their similarities and differences. Some people say they are the same thing, there are about 1000 (or more) unofficial "definitions", this one I agree with the most for sure.

  7. labels for the most part are guidelines. As a Sociopath growing up i could never figure out why i was always "bad" or "wrong" but looking back now i like to think i never was i would like to think that i just didnt fit in with the social "norm".
    As i grew through my 20s life always seemed just a little wrong just a little of and that i could never get it quite "right" then i was assest and diagnosed! With the label came clarity! i found it very helpful! i no longer am the round peg trying to fit in the square hole i am the round peg that has found his piece and now slides nicely into the round hole! in others words i stopped fighting the world and started looking at it differently!

  8. Perhaps it's my fascinations in philosophy that leads me to say this, but labels when properly defined are profoundly important and powerful.

    The problem with psychiatric labels is that hardly anyone fits them perfectly and a lot of them are defined by presumptuous bigots who do shoddy research with tainted samples and have a variety of mental disorders of their own.

    Dr. Robert Hare and Dr. Sam Vaknin, I'm thinking of you, let that stroke your egos for a moment by reinforcing your sense of importance, if you stumble across this while googling your names you Narcissists. :3

  9. Sam was diagnosed a psychopath in the docu," I, psycho". Hare is probably a sub-clinical psycho as well. What better way to assess a psycho, than by being one?

    It takes a con-artist to spot another on-artist :p

  10. I like that definition. The only other I ever came across is that a Psychopath is born, while a Sociopath is made.

  11. Hi, this is my first time commenting. *waves*
    I always thought that I had sociopathic tendencies but I wasn't a full-blown sociopath. But reading this made me feel like it might be more than just a tendency, maybe I am a sociopath... I'd like to read more about this. Do you know about any other articles? If you do, please email them to me:

    1. r u stupid ?

    2. "r u stupid ?", said the sociopath.

  12. seeing as nobody can give an accurate definiton of the diffraces between a sociopath and a psycopath, why not label them both as the same thing? they seem so simalar people can not tell the diffrances, so prehaps there are no real diffrances? that would be a lot less complacated than the various systems for defenition that are used today. but i would argue narcissists are diffrent enough to be excluded from this label.

    1. That is very incorrect. There are HUGE differences between a psychopath & sociopath. Mainly the ability to feel guilt.

      My step-son is a psychopath. He uses people until either he no longer needs them, or until they wise up & walk away. He feels absolutely no guilt about that. The only thing he feels is anger & frustration because now he has to find a new target. The only person he cares about is himself. If you don't give him what he wants then he has no use for you in his life. For him, there is no distinction between his own parents & a perfect stranger... he'll lie to us the same, steal from us the same, etc. He does not care at all as long as he gets what he wants out of the interaction.

      He is also a pathological liar, most sociopaths are not. They lie when they feel it's necessary, he lies for no reason at all. Almost every single thing that comes out of his mouth is a lie. It is so stupid because it is often obvious that he is lying, he lies about things that are easily debunked. For example he told his friends last month that his grandfather died. I believe he did it for the sympathy, because he loves to be the center of attn & to know that he has successfully manipulated someone. He gets satisfaction out of it. One of his friends called us to offer their condolences. I had no idea what he was talking about. My step-son's maternal grandfather had scheduled heart surgery, but he most definitely didn't die. A sociopath wouldn't typically do something like that.

      The problem here is not that there aren't real differences between a psychopath & a sociopath. The problem is that people are uneducated on the two & often get them confused.

  13. what about narcistic psycopaths?

  14. So I don't really get the need for a long as you know yourself why should it matter what others might categorize you as? If you try using a label to help you learn about yourself won't you just be risking turning your whole personality into a lie? This honestly confuses me so please don't insult me for it. Also since for some reason people tend to question others reasons for commenting in places like this I just wound up on this site because of my curiosity after being told that my "messed up" morals could be a sign of being a sociopath. I don't actually care if he was right but the subject is really interesting to me even if it can be a bit confusing.

  15. Well, it would seem I am a psychopath if these definitions are correct. Always thought I was a sociopath, but no, I don't actually have links with other humans beyond the superficial desire for food and sex, so that snuffs sociopathy.
    And yes, I am narcissistic, I pathologically lie (almost rediculosly so) and I don't regret hurting and killing.
    As for being labeled, I love using my psychopathy as a 'grand revelation', to get a girl to believe they are my one confide.

    1. From what you've written here I believe your conclusion is acurate. You are most definitely a psychopath.

  16. The best I could tell with all my research is similar, but with more criteria. A psychopath lives outside perfect reality, basically slightly more insane while a sociopath is more calculating and aware of who/what they are.

  17. i like to fart alot does that make me a fartopath

  18. Psychological labels have been incredibly useful in my life. My father had always said I won't care and anything but I need to start to, even though I was caring as much as I could. The pressure for me to "care more" was taken off when I was labeled a sociopath. It's not that I won't or don't care. It's more that I can't. It's a simple way to describe an aspects or several aspects of a person. It's not the person as a whole but it give others, who generally cannot understand a base line to use. Something to foll back on and say "Thats why."

  19. Reading this, I identify thoroughly with the 'sociopath' label. Interesting.

    1. lmao the fact your response to possibly being a sociopath is "Interesting" says it all

  20. I disagree. My viewpoint is that of Robert Hare, a leading researching on the subject of psychopathy, and creator of the Hare Psychopathy Checklist.

    ASPD is a relatively useless DSM diagnosis. It focuses on outward, observable behavior, and spots "failed psychopaths" who have committed crimes and been caught.

    Psychopathy, however, is a syndrome focusing on internal traits. These include cunning and manipulative behaviors, lack of remorse, shallow emotions, externalization of blame, impulsivity, boredom proneness, and an irresponsible and parasitic lifestyle.

    Sociopathy and psychopathy are interchangeable terms. People who use the term "sociopath" often believe the origins of the conditions are environmental. People who use the term "psychopathy" tend to believe that the cause is intrapsychic or attachment-based (psychoanalysts) and/or believe the condition is predominately biologically-based. Hare believes psychopathy is biologically based, a matter of nature, not nurture.

    1. There was a story a while back of a psychiatrist whose brain scan and genetics looked like a psychopath's but he wasn't one.

      So if it's nature, not nurture how do you explain that?

  21. Lack of remorse - check
    Shallow emotions - check (except for anger)
    Externalization of blame - check
    Impulsivity - check (but only with regard to eating junk food, and I think I figured out a secret to fixing that)
    Boredome proneness - check
    Irresponsible and parasitic lifestyle - check (I've had over 40 different jobs.)

    Cunning and manipulative behaviors - this is where I'm not sure I fit. I have "people skills." I'm a great listener. But I never use them to take advantage. Instead I use them to keep people at a polite distance and avoid being taken advantage of.
    I really hate people, so I just don't want to interact. When I have to interact, I try to make it as pleasant as possible until it can be over and I can be alone again.

    I have only a very few aquaintances who I kinda like. I think they consider themselves my friends but I don't consider myself theirs. It's a very out-of-sight-out-of-mind kinda thing. If I hang out with them It's cool. But if I never hung out with them agian I wouldn't care.

    Sometimes I feel like I should try to be more manipulative, like I should try to target somebody and see what I can get out of them. I'd probably actually be good at it, and I'd certainly have a lot more money if I did.
    But then I think about what a hassle it would be and how much time I'd have to spend interacting with them to make it happen, and how much I would resent that, and it's just not worth it.

  22. You can't very well say the label "sociopath" doesn't matter when you are selling T shirts with that label on it.

  23. While I don't see a need to label people as "psychopath" or "sociopath," I do often wonder what any given author's definition is for a term he or she uses.

    To me, it seems that people who commit violent crimes are more often called psychopaths, while people who are manipulative and/or lie a lot are called sociopaths.

    But I still don't know if there is "officially" a difference.

  24. The real problem with symptomatic diagnoses is that they rely on subjective assessments that are rife with all sorts of ridiculous cultural and cognitive biases.

    For example: Ever since absorbing the results of positron emission tomography of "introverts" and "extraverts" (which I highly recommend to anyone who wants to get to the brass tacks of personality type) I can barely stand to read the silly blatherings that typify even so-called expert discussions of introversion, particularly when they lean heavily on the MBTI. Anyone who thinks there's such a thing as an extraverted thinker needs to read the PET results with an understanding of what it means to bypass the frontal lobe and send data straight to the emotional center of the brain, as extraverts apparently do.

    Introversion, extraversion, sociopathy, Asperger's/autism, and other neurotypes we understand so weakly represent concrete functional differences in the way human brain processes information. The problem with the DSM and most personality typologies is that they're more like literary genre criticism than science: Let's all debate what constitutes a mystery vs. a thriller! Or, better yet, hold a conference to update our Scripture of accepted tropes. For the umpteenth time.

    It reminds me of the well-established fact that intelligence tests and standardized personality assessments (particularly the Big Five, not the MBTI) are far more predictive of career success than hiring interviews or letters of recommendation, which are essentially useless. Nevertheless, most people persist in believing the exact opposite. Probably because they are uncomfortable thinking about themselves as mere things that can be studied objectively and predictively.

    Or, they're constitutionally incapable of juggling both an objective, introspective analysis of the self as a system and a subjective enjoyment of being the "person" that system experiences as self. Watching the slaughterhouse video ruins the hamburger for them.

    1. It depends on how you use the word.
      What if my brain looks introvert but I act like an extravert because rather than acting on impulse or in flow I have systematized human social relations enough that I do think these things out?
      There was a psychiatrist whose brain looked like a psychopath's yet he wasn't one.
      I think it's not nature or nurture but both or rather nurture imprinting upon nature. There are general expectations that are communicated about how people do things if they do them such as that when you're socializing you're not supposed to be analyzing and thinking about it. We use words like "let go", "relax", "chill" to communicate this expectation. But if you do analyze and get practiced at it enough it can be highly effective. Since this expectation is so widely held people with the introvert-typical, the more analytical brain will be unlikely to try to use it for that purpose but it's not impossible and so scan every person's brain and eventually you'd find an extravert with introvert-typical brain physiology.
      People are just things, but since people are essentially things that means there is no essential reason why people information has to be processed one way and other information another way. People process people information in a certain way and refuse to use other ways because of subtly and sometimes not-so-subtly communicated social conventions. It means ultimately that only through convention do brain structural and chemical differences wind up influencing people's social behavior, since only by convention do people treat and process "people" differently than "nonpeople".

  25. All narcissists aren't necessarily psychopaths nor sociopaths.
    Narcissistic & selfish aren't exactly the same thing.
    The problem is with LANGUAGE people literally don't know What they're saying, because they think what they're saying means something that it doesn't.
    And CAN be mutually exclusive.

    1. Also, The sociopath definition shouldn't be so broad, otherwise all of humankind becomes sociopathic

    2. And psychopaths and sociopaths (with variants of both, as well) are not necessarily narcissists, there is just a high rate of being both.

      It has been shown that typical people become sociopathic in their outlook and treatment of people who they put outside their empathy "circle", also people who were not raised in any form of society, like the children abandoned in the wilds and raised by other animals.Not to mention those institutionalised in militaries.

  26. I fit the description of a sociopath, but I am not a sociopath. I was nearly diagnosed as one, but I am not one. If this is sociopathy, then we are all sociopaths. I can't believe that is true. Those who are not what sociopathy describes, are in my opinion in many cases just weaklings. They are not empaths, they are dumbasses overrun with emotion. Hate to dissapoint you guys, but you are all goddam normal psycho weirdoes like any other human creature on this planet.

    Would like to tell you guys some Viking history. The name may really be a popular mislabeling, not all went on to these Viking raids making them Vikings, but they were all a part ofa millitarized society that claimed any free able man to be a sort of soldier expected to be able to bear arms, and fight with them. The old norse people tought theyr kids warfare and weapon handeling from they were 5 years old. The greatest honor for any man was to die in battle, and the way in wich he died was the most important factor in his life. The word between men that carried his name forward after his death was more important then the life he lived while living. This warrior culture embraced killing of your enemies, but also richly rewardin your friends. You were actually expected to kill anyone who served you an insult, or be socially outcasted as a 'niding,' a dishonoured weakling. This extended into the ywo dueling rituals called Holmgang and Einvig.

    It is clear and obvious that a large poluation once cultured the lack of empathy towards ones enemies. Where they all socipaths? I don't think so. They are were what many of us surpress in us daily.

    One good contrast displays how the rules have changed; Viking berserks compared with todays norms. These men or any given man able to display great fierce, fearless aggression was seen as gifted by the Gods. It is disputed if the berserks were on drugs to achieve this(mushrooms), but many historians claim that they in at least many cases were not(drugged). Stories tell that the berserks could be so geared up by aggression that they attacked trees, bit theyr shields and even killed each other while waiting for the battle to start. These men were greatly respected for theyr aggression, while we in contrast today view male aggression as a sign of sickness and maladaptation to society.

    Have we become more empathic as a result of Christianity taking a strong grip on great parts of the world and directing evolution away from loner warrior traits? Or maybe we have just become a victim to changing social noms that do not fit the average male? Men have evolved to be what they are over thousands of years of struggle that did not allow empathy its great place before suddenly now. Thus many men are are prone to aggressive behaviour that send them to prison.

    These men, and myself, we are all just human. A variety of humans that has evolved in times were our traits were wanted.

  27. You seem to be dealing with a soft diagnostic ideal... like that we live in a sociopathic world, or some people don't have emotions. In my experience with a sociopath, I can tell you that he literally doesn't feel things in the same way as most people. emotions seem to be sucked down in a way that one can almost hear it. But emotion is not necessarily the thing that distinguishes a human as different from other species. A human lives with a set of ethics. ethics come from conscience, conscience comes from emotions. A human can determine the difference between right and wrong and then ACT on it. In my experience, my sociopath can't get this far in any line of reasoning. Instead it becomes frustration. Then, he either hasn't got the attention span or he needs sex to alleviate the frustration, whichever comes first, no pun intended.

    My guess is that you will argue about whether we all have the same set of ethics first, so I say yes and no. Yes we DO have differing (lesser) ethics in daily life as individuals. BUT we also have archetypal ethics that seem to unite us as humanity. My sociopath knows these ethics and mimics them but he simply cannot ACT on them.

    When you think about your berserker, ramming trees and killing the guy next to him, do you stop and wonder what he goes home to? Can he stop killing? Can he choose to do what is ethically correct in the face of grievous political error? Can he truly feel a full range of emotions?

    This website seems to draw out a bunch of people that want to mythologize and demonize sociopaths and you never really see what one is. My sociopath does this too in assessing what he believes he is. But the truth is that he is socially immature, can't read emotional cues, has a really bad people chooser, is self destructive in his need for narcissistic supply- he chooses people that he can manipulate over people that care for him. Then he can't stick with anything meaningful long enough to build a future. Oddly, he can stick with the game playing. In the end, he comes across as a 10-15 y/o peter pan, lost in his own game. He is NOT mythological and NOT a demon, just pathetic.

  28. don't go on the forum it's riddled with herd mentality they discriminate against any sociopath that is not in the same group as them

    1. try or

    2. Who are you on the forum?

  29. To M.E.
    You say you don't care for a distinction between psychopath and sociopath as your desire is for people to know that there are people like you in this world....surely you can see then that if used interchangeably and not differentiating between the two, that it muddles the picture and taints your said desire.
    You also say that it isn't about labels and diagnosis,that "I am who I am. I think what I think, feel what I feel, do what I do."
    I too think like this, and have a desire to educate people on the topic, have my own blog as well and am a budding author.
    It annoys me when people use these terms interchangeably because we are not the same, we are painting a similar , but also quite different picture of ourselves and others like us in the world. Do you not, on a practical level know the difference of when you are dealing with a made sociopath, a born sociopath, a born psychopath and a drug induced psychopath? There are clear differences that I for one can deduct nowadays quite easily, we are not the same types of people, just as none of us are typical.

    You are seemingly by some of your articles here laying claim to the born sociopath territory, and you state sociopathy is genetic, are you unaware of the fact quite ordinary people can be made into sociopaths through extreme life experiences? They are quite normal at birth, but become that way because of neglectful and harsh environments. It is well published that the united states of america has an extra 1% of their population as sociopaths due to societal factors such as these,as compared to base rates world wide. Though of course this number can go up drastically when you look at war torn and famine effected places ect.
    I understand you have your own focus, but for an author, and basically self declared expert(not really knocking you here) you seem unaware/unwilling to see these things in an accurate light.


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