What Is Sociopathy?

Sociopathy is an informal term that refers to a pattern of antisocial behaviors and attitudes. In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), sociopathy is most closely represented by Antisocial Personality Disorder. Outwardly, those described as sociopaths may appear disturbed but can also show signs of caring, sincerity, and trustworthiness. In fact, they are manipulative, often lie, lack empathy, and have a weak conscience that allows them to act recklessly or aggressively, even when they know their behavior is wrong. 

Although often used interchangeably, the terms “sociopath” and “psychopath” have somewhat different meanings. Someone who is characterized as a psychopath has no sense of right and wrong and is generally bolder, more manipulative, and more self-centered than a sociopath. 

Who Is a Sociopath?

In recent years, several influential books have attempted to dispel the myth that most sociopaths are ruthless killers and criminals. On the contrary, they argue, the nearest sociopath might be a boss, a partner, or a parent. While sociopaths may not all be literal outlaws, however, a defining characteristic is a profound lack of conscience—a flaw in the moral compass that typically steers people away from breaking common rules and treating others decently. Yet this internal moral disconnect may be masked by a charming demeanor.

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