• Tina Morlock

A Sociopath and a Psychopath Walk into a Bar

The question is—what's the difference between the two?

But before we get started, it's important to remember that not all sociopaths or psychopaths are serial killers, and even more than that, they don't all resort to violence. However, psychopaths and sociopaths have traits that can lead them along that path.

Many people use these terms interchangeably and have a hard time telling the difference between a #sociopath and a #psychopath. But before we talk about how they are different, let's first explore how they are similar.

  • Symptoms often present themselves in childhood.

  • The Macdonald Triad (or triad of evil) is sometimes present in both—cruelty to animals, bedwetting, and/or #pyromania past the age of five—in some of the more violent offenders, like serial killers.

  • Both are often diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder, yet this personality disorder often goes under-diagnosed because many #psychopaths and #sociopaths are unwilling to admit there's a problem.

  • Both are more common among males, yet there are females known to be psychopaths or sociopaths.

  • The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) doesn't recognize either as an official diagnosis.

  • They both have difficulties forming emotional connections with others.

  • They either have a weak or nonexistent ability to empathize with others.

  • Both have the potential to be huge risks to society and the people around them.

  • They tend to be pathological liars.

  • Both have a dislike for most forms of authority.

  • Neither tends to care much about the consequences of their actions.

But ... how is a psychopath different from a sociopath?

  • Many psychologists and researchers believe a psychopath is formed through genetics while #sociopathy is a result of their environment.

  • Psychopaths form artificial bonds with others while sociopaths tend to form bonds with like-minded people or groups.

  • On the outside, a psychopath appears to have a normal life while a sociopath is unable to hide his pathology, oftentimes not being able to hold a real job or sustain lasting relationships.

  • Psychopaths tend to be charming while sociopaths are a bit more disorganized and erratic.

  • A psychopath has a greater ability to detach themselves from what they've done and feel no guilt whatsoever.

  • When a psychopath commits a crime, they tend to do it in a way that limits the amount of risk, but a sociopath is oftentimes more erratic and reckless in their criminal behavior.

A narcissist, psychopath, and machiavellian walk into a bar. The bartender asks, "Who has the darkest personality out of you three?"The Narcissist says, "Me," the Psychopath says, "I don’t care," and the Mach says, "It’s whoever I want it to be."


"A Narcissist, a Psychopath and a Machiavellian Walk into a Bar." Fresh Perspectives on Psychometrics & Psychology. Psychometrics Forum Blog. June 23, 2013. https://psychometricsforumblog.wordpress.com/2013/06/23/a-narcissist-a-psychopath-and-a-machiavellian-walk-into-a-bar/.

Grohol, Psy.D., John. "Differences Between a Psychopath vs Sociopath." PsychCentral Blog. PsychCentral. May 20, 2020. https://psychcentral.com/blog/differences-between-a-psychopath-vs-sociopath/.

Mayer Robinson, Kara. "What's the Difference Between a Sociopath and a Psychopath?" WebMD Feature Story. WebMD. Accessed June 16, 2020. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/features/sociopath-psychopath-difference#1.

Ramsland, Ph.D., Katherine. "Triad of Evil." Shadow Boxing @ Psychology Today. Psychology Today. May 16, 2012. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/shadow-boxing/201203/triad-evil.

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