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Differences Between a Sociopath and a Psychopath

Describe the mental state of the sociopath and psychopath. How are they similar and how do they differ?
Articulate which of the two personalities presents the biggest threat to Homeland Security and law enforcement, and why?
Relate how an agent for Homeland Security could identify an individual as having a psychotic personality in terms of the sociopath and psychopath.
In a subject interview with a sociopath and a psychopath, which approaches would you use, respectively?

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1. Describe the mental state of the sociopath and psychopath. How are they similar and how do they differ?

Scott A. Bonn, Ph.D. (professor of sociology and criminology at Drew University, New Jersey, USA) has written on the differences between sociopaths and psychopaths from a criminal perspective. I will be using his article as a main reference because I feel that he has provided a comprehensive explanation in the shortest possible publication.

In an article, he wrote in Psychology Today (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wicked-deeds/201401/how-tell-sociopath-psychopath) in 2014, he states, "many forensic psychologists, psychiatrists, and criminologists use the terms sociopathy and psychopathy interchangeably."

Dr. Bonn wrote that the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), released by the American Psychiatric Association in 2013, lists both sociopathy and psychopathy under the heading of Antisocial Personality Disorders (ASPD).

The key traits that he states they share include:
- A disregard for laws and social mores
- A disregard for the rights of others
- a failure to feel remorse or guilt
- a tendency to display violent behaviour

Dr. Bonn claims that there are differences.

Dr.Bonn's explanation is as follows:

-tend to be nervous and easily agitated
-they are volatile and prone to emotional outbursts, including fits of rage
-they are likely to be uneducated and live on the fringes of society, unable to hold down a steady job or stay in one place for very long
-it is difficult, but not impossible, for them to form attachments with others
-many are able to form an attachment to a particular individual or group, although they have no regard for society, in general, or its rules
-they will appear to be very disturbed
-any crimes committed by a sociopath, including murder, will tend to be haphazard, disorganized, and spontaneous rather than planned

The cause is believed to be as a result of "nurture" (environment). Bonn explains that sociopathy is more likely the product of childhood trauma and physical/emotional abuse. He further elaborates that because sociopathy appears to be learned rather than innate, sociopaths are capable of empathy in certain limited circumstances but not in others, and with a few individuals but not others.

- They are unable to form emotional attachments or feel real empathy with others, although they often have disarming or even charming personalities
- They are manipulative and can easily gain people's trust
- They ...

Solution Summary

This solution will assist the student in understanding the differences between a sociopath and a psychopath and how they present themselves as a threat to Homeland Security or law enforcement, in general.