I’m often asked why I use the term psychopath instead of sociopath. Within the primary literature there is as much confusion between the terms between each other and between the syndrome those words model and the official DSM condition of Antisocial Personality Disorder. According to the DSM, neither psychopathy or sociopathy are distinct disorders from ASPD. This is a shame as psychopathy and sociopathy are more “complex” than ASPD. These words represent a complex and seemingly infinite number of representations of a more multi-faceted syndrome. ASPD tends to focus on the criminal side of human nature whereas psychopathy/sociopathy focuses on a mindset that does not require criminality to the same degree for diagnosis. While it is true that many psychopaths and sociopaths have committed criminal acts, it is not true that many ASPD persons are psychopaths or sociopaths. There is clearly a difference. However, this does not explain my choice of the word psychopath for this blog and my discussions.
In actuality, at least according to the de facto standard for diagnosing the disorder, the PCL-R, there are only psychopaths. Much of the primary literature also uses this language. As a result, the terms psychopath and sociopath are, in essence, equivalent. However, there is a world of difference between the connotation between the two words.
People tend to think of psychopaths as unhinged being of destruction that have few boundaries in place in order to check their behavior. Of course, this is true for some psychopaths – but it is also true of some that do not meet the criteria to be considered a psychopath. We immediately think of the serial killer or the serial rapist when the word psychopath comes to mind even though most psychopaths are neither. For whatever reason, the connotation is slightly less negative with the word sociopath. There are also some minutia that go into either word. Psychopaths are a disease of the mind. Sociopaths are a disease of society. Even though these two words describe the same entity, the perception based on these words changes drastically.
So given that the word psychopath is so much more negatively charged, why do I use it? The reasons are many. First, the term is used for the PCL-R which serves as the official diagnostic. Second, the primary literature uses the term, generally, to describe what the PCL-R models. Third, there was no good way to inject sociopath into a title for this blog considering that I attempt to examine the unstudied interaction between transgenderism and the syndrome defined by both the PCL-R and the primary literature. Finally, I use it as a means to give false distinction to my perspective from that of the recent interest in sociopathy as evidenced by the popularity of excellent layperson books such as The Sociopath Next Door and Confessions of a Sociopath. In everyday speech, I really do use the two words interchangeably.
It is interesting how impressionable humans are when it comes to words. Two words that have the exact same definition can elicit vastly different emotional responses in those that hear them. Maybe as a psychopath I am relatively immune to that limitation. Maybe because I don’t get wrapped up in the emotional state of others and the state that is attempted for projection by others. As a writer, I know how to select the words to elicit the response I want. As a psychopath, I am immune to the feeling state from such words.