If you don’t already know, I am completely obsessed with Criminal Minds. I love the intense psychological component of the show, as well as Dr. Spencer Reid. On the show, they explore the minds of criminals (hence the name) to try and predict what they are going to do next based on their past behavior. If you haven’t seen I highly recommend it! All the crime show that are on today commonly mention criminals, especially serial killers as a “psychopath” or a “sociopath.” So what exactly is the difference? Well, both of these conditions suffer from antisocial personality disorder and lack of empathy.
How Are They Similar?
Well, both of these conditions suffer from antisocial personality disorder and lack of empathy and are quite violent. They also both demonstrate complete disregard to social rules and behavior standards and they fail to feel any remorse or guilt.
How Are They Different?
Psychopaths make up about 1% of the population and the origin of the illness is likely to be in their innate condition. Minnesota Study of Twins Reared Apart showed that psychopathy is 60% heritable. They are simply “that way.” However, don’t let this condition fool you, psychopaths are likely to be educated and to have a good career. The often exhibit controlling behavior and are highly manipulative. These people are unable to form personal attachments and take calculated risks. The are known to leave minimal incriminating evidence behind at the scene of a crime.
Sociopaths make up 4% of the population and the origin of this illness is likely to be linked to environment and upbringing. Research shows that there is a significant association between early institutionalization (establishing something as a convention or norm) and sociopathic behavior later in life. Unlike psychopaths, sociopaths are likely to be uneducated and unable to keep a job. They exhibit erratic behavior along with rage and anger. They are also impulsive and spontaneous. However, they are able to form an attachment to a particular individual or group. Crimes that are committed by a sociopath are typically spontaneous, hence the tendency to leave evidence behind.
Just because someone has one of these mental illnesses does NOT mean they are going to be a serial killer.
If you want to know more about these mental illnesses check out Psychologia!