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Home » Ask the Therapist » I’m Not Sure if I Am a Psychopath or Sociopath

I’m Not Sure if I Am a Psychopath or Sociopath

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I Do Realize That I Have A Few Psychopathic Traits, However, I’m Not Sure If I Am A Psychopath Or Sociopath.
Recently I’ve started to question and compare my actions and thoughts to others. I’ve started to be more aware of myself. I first noticed that whenever I would be angry at someone in close with ( a partner, parent or best friend)my usual feelings that I experience for them disappear completely and it’s as if they’ve changed from the people I care about to the people that I hate the most. So I did research starting from there. I’ve then realized that I lack empathy, guilt, remorse, compassion, you name it. However, I feel empathy for animals, not for humans. This is what’s making me confused. Once I’ve hurt someone, mostly emotionally, I wouldn’t feel guilty, even after my feelings for them have returned (after calming down). I’ve also realized that I’m very manipulative and dominant, I hate it whenever I feel like I’m not in control. I become more aggressive. And once something doesn’t go my way, I play as the victim or I try to make the person feel guilty or pity me so that they can give in. I don’t lie often, mostly because I don’t feel the need to since I don’t do bad things, I don’t mind following the rules as I think that they’re fair and don’t interfere with my life. I do lie sometimes, whenever I need to, I always get away with it. I also have superficial charm, it’s much easier to do online, I’ve noticed that people would fall for me in a matter of days to even a few hours. I don’t think that I am very narcissistic because I do have insecurities but sometimes I would feel like I am better than others, but that kind of feeling disappears quickly. I’ve been told that I can be cruel at times, I do admit that I am, especially towards people I dislike. I also feel satisfaction in seeing them hurt. I have a partner and I do get tremendously jealous, to the point that it’s emotionally violent for my partner. I would like to add that I also get bored very easily. (From Canada)

I’m Not Sure if I Am a Psychopath or Sociopath

Answered by on -

A.

Thanks for sending in your concerns. Maybe the best place to start is with an adequate definition of the terms you’ve used: psychopath and sociopath. Perhaps understanding more about each of these will be helpful.

First is to understand that psychopath and sociopath are pop psychology terms that are manifestations of an antisocial personality disorder, which means that they share the common traits of disregarding others rights and safety while being deceptive and manipulative. In spite of how these personalities are portrayed in Hollywood, neither is necessarily violent.

The main instrument for diagnosing people with antisocial personality disorder comes from The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition ( DSM-5), which defines antisocial personality as an individual with 3 or more of the following traits:

  1. Regularly breaks or flouts the law
  2. Constantly lies and deceives others
  3. Is impulsive and doesn’t plan ahead
  4. Can be prone to fighting and aggressiveness
  5. Has little regard for the safety of others
  6. Irresponsible, can’t meet financial obligations
  7. Doesn’t feel remorse or guilt

To determine if your behaviors match this criteria here is a brief quiz that is not meant to diagnose but help you understand more about these concerns.

The place to look for understanding the origin of an antisocial personality disorder is in childhood. The pattern of behavior often begins with four different categories classified as conduct disorders and include: People with these symptoms are at greater risk for antisocial personality disorder.

  • Aggression to people and animals
  • Destruction of property
  • Deceitfulness or theft
  • Serious violations of rules or laws

The best way to find out more is to talk to a professional. A clinical psychologist can conduct a series of tests along with an interview to help determine what your symptoms mean. Since you list your age as 16 I’d recommend asking your parents to help set up a meeting.

Finally, your email and asking these questions is an important element, perhaps, the most important, in understanding your true character. Your desire to learn more about yourself and understand who you are is the hallmark of someone who wants to grow. Of all the things you’ve mentioned this is the strongest, and the most important for you to capitalize on going forward.

I’m Not Sure if I Am a Psychopath or Sociopath

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: http://www.dare2behappy.com/. He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2019). I’m Not Sure if I Am a Psychopath or Sociopath. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 21, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2019/09/10/im-not-sure-if-i-am-a-psychopath-or-sociopath/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 7 Sep 2019
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 7 Sep 2019
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