In college I came across a book called “The Sociopath Next Door,” written by Martha Stout in Barnes & Noble and it immediately drew my attention. I mean, don’t we all want to know if a sociopath or psychopath is living next to us, or even walking nearby?
And just a few days ago I found an article online called “How I discovered I have the brain of a psychopath,” written by James Fallon, a neuroscientist. The book was first published in 2005, and the article was written earlier this month.
So nine years later we are still fascinated with the topic of psychopaths.
Part of the reason could be the fact that we still don’t have many answers. Depending on who you ask, "psychopath" and "sociopath" are either interchangeable terms or completely different.
For example, according to the book “The Sociopath Next Door,” the terms “psychopath,” “sociopath” and “antisocial personality disorder” are used somewhat interchangeably.
Antisocial personality disorder is an actual diagnosable mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
It is briefly defined as “a pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others,” according to the DSM-5, although it is of course much more complicated than that.
There are other personality disorders that also share some traits of sociopaths and psychopaths, such as narcissistic personality disorder.
However, in society we tend to use phrases like “sociopath” or “psychopath” casually to describe someone who lacks a conscience, needs constant stimulation, tends to have social charm and a ”grandiose sense of self-worth,” according to Stout. They tend to lack empathy and affection, and engage in criminal behavior.
Ronald Schouten, MD, and James Silver, JD, are the authors of the book “Almost A Psychopath.” They argue that “psychopathy is a psychological condition in which the individual shows a profound lack of empathy for the feelings of others, a willingness to engage in immoral and antisocial behavior for short-term gains, and extreme egocentricity.”