55 thoughts on “Sociopathy vs. Psychopathy

  • May 25, 2012 at 10:39 pm

    This concise and well written article makes me feel almost optimistic again that attempts at providing information about psychopathy and related conditions may not be a completely lost cause.Thank you from a directly affected reader!… ‘^L^,…..It’s wonderful to find there are a few who have bothered to do some research on this subject before hurrying to everybody’s rescue with opinions based solely on personal experiences and assumptions.It would seem the obvious thing to do to look to the foremost leading experts and researchers in the field, but that is not at all what people who write about psychopathy or sociopathy do.We see a growing number of “knowledgeable” laymen, and even a couple of psychologists, who write and publish books full of claims such as “Psychopaths and Sociopaths are the same thing”, “Borderline Personality Disorder is made up by the medicine and pharmaceutical Industry, in reality it doesn’t exist and people with Borderline Personality Disorder are sociopaths/psychopaths!”, or “Four in every 25 people are sociopaths/psychopaths”.Books filled with statements of this nature are bestsellers and reside at the top of ‘psychopathy text books’ hit lists for years and more are being written as we speak. Minorities have always been popular scape goats, it’s a marvelous way of diverging attention from one’s own responsibility in life and for the world at large. But temptation has proven too strong to make psychopaths the modern day version of ‘Demons’, ‘Vampires’, Witches’ and ‘evil incarnate’.”It’s all the psychopaths’ fault!”If only it was that easy. But life isn’t easy and was never meant to be. Writing books on psychology with scientific value isn’t meant to be done out of context, nor does the subject mean that anything goes as long as it makes people feel good.I don’t know about other psychopathy diagnosed individuals, but I can say for absolutely certain that I did not invent cancer, I never spoke with the Devil, I do not have scales but skin, and I’m not a robot without emotions.I did also not orchestrate the 9/11 attacks – as one currently very popular ‘psychopathy expert’ and author on the subject puts forth with the conviction of someone who knows because he has seen it with his own eyes.

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  • June 8, 2012 at 11:03 am

    After experiencing a horrible relationship with a man who I later realized had sociopathic traits, I did extensive research on the disorder and thought that I knew exactly what to look out for in the furture.After almost of 2 years without dating anyone, I decided to go through a dating service that does background checks, etc. Paid very good money to have an agency check out who these people were before I would even contemplate going out with them, I was still very hesitate to trust.Make a long story short, the gentleman, (which even makes it diffult to define him as that) had exhibited none of the charachater traits of the first sociopath. He was not controlling, had a great family, seemed to really have his crap together, etc.After unfortunately marring him later, did I see his true colors. It wasn’t until after our marriage did his true colors come out…where as the first sociopath you could just tell something was off. I spent my time in the first relationship trying to put my finger on him, and when I did, I got out. Only to be stalked and harassed and scared for my life. The guy whom I married, when I filed for divorce did not call me, did not stalk me, did not even try to attempt to rationalize with me to get me back. It was as though I was his prey and he was done with me. I often think in my mind if he was a true sociopath, and without getting into details, I knew he was capable of killing someone. But again, he exhibited different characteristic traits…for example; seemed less egostic, a bit of a loner, not as out going, and not looking to rule the world sort of speak. But his personality was so much more darker and cold. I beleive that my Husband is a Psychopath, and the boyfriend was definitely a Sociopath. In my opinion there is a difference. A Sociopath wants to be in control and is much more likeable and outgoing, where as a Psychopath is much more secretive and dangerous. Although the two are very charming, and likeable, Psychopaths are much more darker and sneakier. I would love to find someone to speak to on this and welcome any comments or experiences. As I write this I am still scared for my life from the Psychopath that I married but I also very careful. I am hoping to obtain any and all information on this subject; in hopes to educate myself more.

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  • June 16, 2012 at 1:11 am

    I feel like Bert has never met a psychopath or sociopath.I work with juveniles, who cannot get such a diagnosis, but consistently see those who I suspect as being psycho or sociopaths — who have not at the time of my treating them done any egregious harm to others — later go on to do great harm. Either by hearing through the grapevine of confidentiality violating peers in the field, or sometimes reading on the news, I’ve had several clients who’ve gone on to murder, rape, etc.

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  • August 23, 2012 at 12:05 am

    You have it backwards. Sociopathy/pscyhopathy exists on a spectrum with sociopaths representing the less severe, generally speaking, and psychopaths occupying the more impacted and impaired region of the spectrum. Sociopaths may rob you blind, destroy your good name, and visit upon one all sorts of personal misery. Victims will recall this person as either charismatic, phony, or both. A psychopath violates his or her “targets”. Their actions are LESS organized, more tragic, finite. Serial killers are psychopaths, not sociopaths. Just because the police may have a heck of a time solving a string of similar murders doesn’t mean that the person who committed those crimes is more “organized” or stealthy. However, much of how this personality disorder manifests is dependent on intelligence. The smarter the sociopath or psychopath is, the more damage he or she inflicts over longer periods of time relative to their lower functioning brethern.

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  • September 11, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    My son is a psychopath. He was adopted. I know the birth mother and birth father. I did not raise a sociopath. My other biological son and daughter who were raised the same exact way are normal. The mother is a psychopath. My son exhibited signs of being a psychopath early on. At age 6 a psychiatrist assessed him and asked me if he had been in trouble with the law yet – I laughed. He told me at that age they would break windows of neighbors houses and other such things when they had my son’s behavior type. As the years unfolded it became more and more difficult to keep him out of trouble. I was constantly called into his school. I found objects that he had stolen from people but I did not know whom. I tried to keep him supervised at all times. He was diagnosed as having oppositional defiant disorder. He victimized his sister, brother and even me. He was put on a variety of meds – some new and experimental but nothing did anything other than to sedate him (anti psychotics) He was constantly suspended from school and I tried to home school him but it was not effective for him because no punishment or restriction or praise or rewards would facilitate his work being completed. He eventually was put in special ed classes for students that had behavioral disorders that prevented them from being successful in school. It only served to hook him up with other like-minded persons. He met one particular person who turned 18 when my son was 16. He encouraged him to run away to get out from under my tight supervision. After running away my son, coached by this young man, committed his first crime. The other boy, being over 18, stood on the sidewalk and instructed my son what to do. My son was caught, arrested and I was charged 20k for restitution of his crime. I could go on and on about how his life has unfolded but it is all the things described under psychopath. I love him despite that he was born with this cursed gene that makes him who he is. It is the form of brain disease that no one feels sorry for. How can you? Most people have been victimized by a psychopath at one time or another in their life – how can you forgive them after they have so callously hurt you with no apparent remorse? How can you forgive them after you find you have been manipulated emotionally by them? How can you forgive the 1000s of lies?I hope one day that there is effective genetic cleansing, that they are able to isolate the gene that makes these people psychopaths and that they can cure them so they can know what it feels like to think with a normal brain.I have given up hope for anything else 🙁

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    • September 27, 2012 at 3:28 pm

      I am sorry for your pain. Because sociopaths and psychopaths are so different from most of us, we have a hard time even thinking about what life is like for them. All the language we use to talk about them has negative connotations. Although he might reject the notion himself, your son has a disability. He should not be punished for that, but he may need to be kept separate so he cannot harm other people. Perhaps you would find some solace in campaigning for that. A parallel with another genetic disorder may provide some illumination in how society should deal with psychopathic individuals. There is a genetic disorder known as Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome. Those who suffer with it have a compulsion to chew their fingers and lips to the point of doing very serious damage, and they also sometimes attempt to hurt others. They are immediately sorry for their actions, but they lack the ability to stop themselves. They must be restrained to prevent these behaviors. Psychopathic individuals hurt themselves and others, but in the opposite sequence — they tend to hurt others in ways that are ultimately dangerous to themselves. They, too, need to be restrained in as kind a way as possible, although, unlike Lesch-Nyhan sufferers, they will not appreciate the kindness. Through no fault of their own, the ability to feel the way others feel is quite simply missing from their makeup.

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      • April 8, 2013 at 9:54 pm

        I agree. An unhealthy brain is inherently difficult for a healthy brain to understand, and the language used to describe these individuals has such negative resonances that it is extremely tricky to reconcile the individual and the condition without casting them in a morally dubious light.

        There is no objective way of talking about them – even the word ‘unhealthy’ suggests that they are weaker, deficient, on some deep, evolutionary level that they are surplus to the tribe’s requirements, which is not right in this century.

        We need a new way of referring to these people if we are to more completely understand their conditions, though I suspect we will all be long dead before a thorough purification of the English language could be made possible.

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  • October 10, 2012 at 5:01 am

    Now, while this is an interesting comparison/contrast between Psychopath and Sociopath, the definition of each disorder presented in this site seems to contradict the facts mentioned several other articles I’ve been reading. Most seem to agree that the “charismatic and controlled” demeanor is more associated to Sociopaths, while the “impulsive and violent tendencies” is associated with psychopathy; however, in this article, the reverse seems true. Why is this?

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  • October 28, 2012 at 12:23 am

    I’ve always worked with a very short answer, which shows the difference in a fairly distinguishable way that most people can understand. It isn’t always true, but it gives a finer border.

    A psychopath has an obvious mental illness, but doesn’t always know what’s wrong or right. A psychopath will often show signs of some form of brain injury which affects their judgement, and such things as violent behavior or impulse actions.

    A sociopath is devious. They are very intelligent, and know the difference between right and wrong, but they don’t care. They know when they are lying, and will use whatever means necessary to get what they want.

    Some sociopaths will never do anything wrong, because they don’t have the same kind of impulse problems. They are well aware of their limits, and will often aim for specific goals, always trying to find the right way to tackle a situation. Normally, they don’t expect to gain fame by doing something. They prefer to think they’re getting away with something.

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  • December 28, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    Your distinction between psychopaths and sociopaths is right on target. While they may have some traits in common, they are two completely different animals.

    Psychopaths are predators who are born without a conscience and without the ability to feel empathy, love, compassion or remorse — for anyone or anything.

    Psychopaths experience the lack of these emotions and abilities as indication that they are superior, and they consider humans as nothing more than prey to be hunted for their own selfish needs. The psychopath considers life a game to be played and won. Inflicting harm — whether it be psychological, spiritual, physical or financial — is entertainment to them.

    Psychopaths establish relationships based on a hidden agenda from day one. Their only goal is to inflict harm. They are human predators who completely hide their real identities and move freely through society, wreaking havoc wherever they go, in a calculated, controlled and well-planned manner.

    No one is immune.

    Thank you for this clear explanation of the difference between psychopaths and sociopaths.

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  • January 8, 2013 at 1:04 am

    I checked a number of experts’ opinions on psychopathy vs. sociopathy vs. ASPD and I wrote about it in a section of my page on the topic.

    Very important subject and good to see so much discussion of it taking place here.

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  • April 8, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    Think the idea of empathy is somewhat vague and played up. The ability to empathize is not an absolute, it manifests itself as a spectrum. I’d imagine there are people who are poor at empathizing with others but who are not sociopathic or psychopathic – they’d be much quicker considered narcissistic. If we’re caught up with the issue of empathy then definitions will never be pinned down because surely it should vary, irrespective of whether the subject being considered is a sociopath or psychopath.

    I think the issue of environmental factors versus the innate, and the varying behavioral patterns form a much more accessible system of analysis.

    All in all, though, very good article.

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  • May 15, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    I consider Bundy a psychopath who clearly was devolving, quite possibly into psychosis, at the time of his last crimes and capture. I think fictional characters may offer more clear examples:Tony Soprano is a sociopath while Hanibal Lecter is a psychopath.

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  • May 15, 2013 at 5:22 pm

    I see Bundy as a psychopath who was devolving, quite possibly into psychosis, at the time of his last crimes and capture. I think fictional characters may provide more clear examples: Tony Soprano is a sociopath, Hanibal Lecter is a psychopath,

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  • July 31, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    Good grief. To those on here proclaiming to be psychopaths, or saying they think they’re a psychopath or a sociopath: If you are actually going around telling people you’re a sociopath or a psychopath, or are otherwise eager to label yourself as one, it is highly unlikely that you’re either.

    These personality types are very aware of the fact that if people knew what was really going on inside their heads, people would avoid them like the plague and they’d end up with no one to use, manipulate, and/or take advantage of, and so the LAST thing they would want is for anyone to know what they are truly like. That’s why they become so skilled at “acting normal.” Not because they want people to like them, not because they’re afraid of rejection or being ostracized, but because appearing “normal” is conducive to taking advantage of others.

    Beyond that, they typically don’t believe that there is anything wrong with the way they think and act, and would see no reason to seek out a diagnosis or treatment. Unless perhaps it was at the behest of someone they were actively using or leeching off of (or a court order), at which point they would go to therapy, play along, pretend to “get better,” and then go right back to being a callous, manipulative jerk.

    I’ll say it once more. If you’re going around declaring yourself to be a psychopath or a sociopath, there’s a slim chance in hell that you actually are one. Emotionally stunted or narcissistic leaning, maybe, but not psychopathic or sociopathic.

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  • August 1, 2013 at 9:29 pm

    I believe that a sociopath wants to hurt others, while a psychopath needs to hurt them.

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  • September 23, 2013 at 9:55 pm

    Sociopaths and psychopaths are both very violent and that was the only thing I knew about them. This article explained the differences but then again let me know that its hard to prove.

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  • February 4, 2014 at 10:56 pm

    Sorry, but by these standards, the majority of people are sociopaths to a degree. Who, truly, shows as much empathy for strangers as their do to those close to them?

    The ability to control one’s emotions is something we all learn from birth, some are simply better at it than others.

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  • October 2, 2014 at 12:09 pm

    I have been doing extensive research on psychopathy/sociopathy for a number of years, albeit on a completely independent basis.

    What I have theorized at this point I will summarize as briefly as possible here. I am deeply interested in collaboration on this given the impact:

    Psychopathy is the lack of development of moral reasoning and which manifests as a failure to develop moral reasoning – this is because empathy allows humans to spontaneously develop moral reasoning on their own. A psychopath operates based on ego alone and exists as an individual seeking to survive at all costs. This mechanism also invokes addictive behaviors. This can then become even more dangerous when the individual becomes addicted to power.

    Psychopaths, because they lack moral reasoning, are ruthless and thus well-suited to military leadership, for example. As an inately lazy species; we long ago decided that military leaders also make good political leaders (let’s think that one through again, shall we, please?). So psychopaths were given the opportunity to shape our entire society, and have.

    Sociopaths then, are people who develop empathy and at least some level of moral reasoning; but who abandon both, likely because they seek to follow in the footsteps of the societal leadership who insists that humans are like them – ruthless, competetive, and self-centered; or because they are forced to behave that way by society itself.

    Ego also plays a part here in that the sociopath also operates by ego; but it is often tempered by that nagging inner voice that is residual empathy and moral reasoning.

    There are then two forms of sociopaths these days; those who seek to emulate the leadership, and those who are forced to survive on the fringes of society. The former, those who seek to be like psychopaths, are usually economic leaders, entrepreneurs, etc. They are driven to become egotistical by their desire to live up to their perceived image of greatness. The latter kind of sociopath is driven to sociopathy by ego because they are forced to the fringes of society and must learn to survive at all costs. This causes the development of ego which then leads to sociopathy.

    The solution here seems quite simple: recognition of the disease of psychopathy, it’s status as direct cause of a form of sociopathy and also as an indirect cause of the other form (through their contribution to the state of society.)

    I am also of the opinion that psychopathy’s manifestation can be overcome by teaching moral reasoning. That is to say, that while psychopathy is merely a lack of empathy; it becomes a problem only because the individual is not taught moral reasoning or rather, that if the individual is taught moral reasoning, the symptoms of psychopathy as a malicious disease affecting society will not manifest.

    I do a Youtube show based on my work as a metaphorical representation of the two diseases. I call the pair of diseases zombieism. The show is called Zombie Apocalypse Diaries, and I call psychopaths primary zombies, and sociopaths secondary zombies. It’s not well produced, but the information is presented in a way anyone can understand it.

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  • October 12, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    I’m far from any kind of expert on the subject discussed here and I promise genuinely that I mean no disrespect or insult to anyone when I say this, but it seems to me that most of what is said about the differences between a psychopath and a sociopath just highlights the fact that we don’t definitively know, that there is a clear lack of understanding of ALL the contributing factors and influences that affect us outside and in. We know a lot about the outside influences and all the recorded research and evidence of human behaviours may indicate and suggest what the differences are, imply it, point to it and although the societal expression of it would appear to strongly support it, it doesn’t as a matter of fact actually and absolutely PROVE it. Medical research on the brain adds scientific weight to all the theories, but even together they do not ABSOLUTELY PROVE anything. Just because all the evidence suggests it, it doesn’t mean that it’s actual fact. How many innocent people have went to jail on that intellectually assumed premise!

    I think that the question though is actually more revealing than the answer in that, it highlights a profound absence of knowledge regarding the psychology of the human being. We’re ‘expert’ in the knowledge of our superficial outer psychology and how and predictably why we behave in the ways that we do and correct me here if I’m wrong PLEASE, but we know nothing, spiritually unprovable theory and claims aside, about our inner and natural psychology and its undeniably beyond profound affect and influence on EVERYTHING, FIRST! That we are a duel dimensional being is a Universal fact. We have an outer and an inner psychology as distinctly different and set apart is it’s possible to be and we know nothing of one let alone the inextricably physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual dynamic between the two. We have two distinct ‘beings’ to our human being and we only know how one of them works.

    I truly don’t mean to be disrespectful to anyone, especially psychologists and those that study human behaviours and who are in truth simply trying to understand how we work so that we don’t keep making the same mistakes all the time. But the simple truth is that for all their thousands of years of study and research and despite all of their efforts WE STILL ARE. The majority of the exact same mistakes EVERY generation made before us, WE, are still making the exact same ones now, World wars, country wars, civil wars, mass murder, serial murder, miscellaneous murder, rape, torture, slavery, poverty, starvation, discrimination, racism, sexism, greed, exploitation, need I write another page or three on all the rest. Every single generation, from the first to this here and present one now, made or are making the exact same mistakes. Think about the state this world is in and call me a liar. There is NO end to the mistakes unless or until we understand the outer AND inner psychology of how we work.

    I can say this because I’ve experienced both sides of my self now and understand implicitly my two distinctly different psychologies, my OUTER and INNER and of the two, I know which one that I, now, trust and believe in! When you understand your natural psychology you instantly understand your personal. The biggest problem for the human being is that they’ve become so personally locked into the ‘ego’ dimension of themselves that they’ve ‘forgot’ they even have another. We’ve become so superficially ‘one dimensional’ and without the other dimension to compare or contrast our ‘ego’ perception of self to, are near utterly convinced that ‘who’ we are is this ‘ego’ version of ourselves and yet, categorical proof of this other dimensions existence is emphatically manifest through our ego expressions.

    The two are so uniquely different and elementary poles apart. We have two sides to our story and we have two different ‘beings’ to tell it. One tells of the outside story the other tells of the inner, one gives a personal account the other a natural one, one is false the other true, one is wrong the other right, one is bad the other good, one is negative the other positive, one is made up and man-ufactured the other is REAL. However good or bad that a person is depends exactly on which psychology controls them the most. I WAS a psycho sociopath for most of my adult life and at my worst I was badness personified. When I learned to understand both sides of my self, however, I could perceive clearly then EVERYTHING that was personally wrong and bad in and about me and the reason that I could, was that I’d reconnected to my inner and natural ‘sense’ of self and could then ‘Feel’ EVERYTHING that was naturally right and good in me. I had instant polar contrast to compare one against the other and also additional ‘proof’ if needed that my other dimension was actually real and that I could consciously experience it. When you intuitively ‘reconnect’ and ‘Feel’ your natural self again the ‘righteousness’ of it is just simply and, naturally, undeniable. You absolutely know then what is right and what is wrong in you and even more profoundly significant than that, you intuitively know how to ‘fix’ it and make the wrong, right. I did exactly that and changed my personally bad and wrong side for my naturally good and positive one and I am NOW as far removed from that negative horror show that I used to be as is possible to imagine. I had to know both sides of my psychological story however BEFORE I could do that. The psychology of the human being is natural simplicity itself to figure out and when it’s understood there is NOTHING wrong, bad or unnatural that cannot be changed and made right in someone. I was a psycho sociopath in every sense but my far extreme. I seriously wanted to kill people and but for, I know now, an innate sense of self-preservation and getting locked up in jail for a long time, I would have done it. I satisfied myself though by just being as horrible, controlling, manipulative, sly and cunning, devious, physically, emotionally and psychologically violent to people as I could, but within societal rules. I was a bad man and if my life circumstance hadn’t altered my path I honestly believe that I would ultimately expressed myself in my far negative extreme.

    Whatever is contrary to nature is unnatural.

    If it’s unnatural it’s unreal, if it’s unreal it’s fake, fabricated, false, disingenuous, untrue, a lie, bad, wrong, negative.

    If it’s natural it’s real, if it’s real it’s genuine, unique, original, honest, true, good, right, positive.

    Just about quite nicely sums up the human being and its elementary and contrary duality I’d say! When you understand your natural inner psychology you instantly know both and can begin to change the false psychology that controls you. We ARE after all natural beings, first and foremost, but that are overwhelmingly personally controlled. I reversed this and now my positively natural being overwhelmingly controls my personal ‘ego’ one, simple as.

    I proved this can be done on my self and if I can do it ANYONE can, no matter how bad or wrong that they ‘think’ they are.

    Respect to all,

    Jaii.

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    • October 13, 2014 at 6:51 am

      This post is very interesting and quite true. I have found that inside each one of us is a natural connection that we feel to a universal law of reality and the closer we are to it the healthier, happier and nicer we are. I believe all mental health problems including psychopathy comes from unnatural false perceptions and beliefs.

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  • April 6, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    I read that at one time in our past sociopath was introduced as a solution to people getting psychopathic and psychotic mixed up, sounding the same.

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  • May 24, 2018 at 6:18 am

    I’m not an expert, but I always thought that because psychopaths are made out of a brain disorientation, their lawless or callous actions were ‘driven’ by compulsions to alleviate boredom, feed their narcissism and to act out a thrill – just for the sake of getting a buzz. Making sense of it all was irrelevant to them. To them it was all about the thrill of exploiting their unique talent for weeding out others’ weaknesses to then destroy, capitalise, exploit to satisfy that whim, desire, goal etc.

    Psychopaths love playing cat and mouse over time, creating chaos and sitting back to watch the damage they cause which also fuels their narcissistic urges – often the trigger for any actions they deploy to harm others. The notoriety they get from the chaos adds to the thrill and feeds their narcissistic traits too. The thrill is everything. E.g., Joanna Dennehy thrill of stabbing people she randomly selected walking along the road. Damage to others need not result in murder but just generating pain and suffering for the sake of it too (e..g, getting into a car and doing a chase down the motorway and creatring a multi-pile up of other vehicles whilst they dodge the damage and get away to speeding police cars). Psychopaths have no connection to anybody at all – not even family members – but their narcissism will and does act as a trigger to harm they create. They are dangerous to employ or be around simply because they don’t pick targets for a reason, they just pick targets or randomly select their victims of harm. Sociopaths are most likely to hire or promote psychopathic trait people in top business roles that involves ruthlessly cutting staff numbers, or involving callous acts of profiteering to make vast sums of money – even if it means conning investors or customers. Anything that erases the need to think about the people consequences.

    Sociopaths aren’t going to harm or exploit just for the sake of thrills or to alleviate boredom or live up to a deluded image they have of themselves. They just want to get what they want from the person they are victimising and who they pre-select, and will harm, perhaps even kill and cover their tracks to get it and will target individuals or just harm them to get them out of the way only because they block a specific path. Money is a chosen path, love rivalry another, career progress another. Random thrills for the sake or it is not nor is calculated pre-planning lasting years to reach an end goal where no players are yet involved.

    Sociopaths don’t harm those they get some benefit from unless getting them out of the way is more beneficial to a goal they have. Psychopaths will harm anyone and these might be incidental people who just happen to be part of a thrill. Both types are highly dangerous people and will create chaos, damage, destruction in one form or another.

    Narcissists are extremely selfish and everyone has a specific purpose – to provide them with narcissistic supply. They care for nobody and no-one but will put on a good act to pretend otherwise. Every goal in life is geared to support the high opinion they have of themselves to to fuel the illusion that they are entitled, better, superior. Like the other two categories, they are non-empathetic.

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