27 Mar What is the difference between a psychopath and a psychotic?
A Commonly Used (and Misunderstood) Term…
The news and media often confuse the two terms psychopath and psychotic, but they are very different, and the distinction is rather important. One reason people have trouble with the two is that we throw around the term, “psycho.” And, as you can see, both psychopath and psychotic both begin with “psycho.”
A person with psychosis is someone who suffers from delusions and hallucinations with no awareness of his or her “break” with reality (see Skye on the left). A psychotic person is not, by definition, a danger to himself or society. However, if that person thinks that he is being told to kill or harm others, then he will become a danger when he acts upon those delusions. In court, he (or she) will likely be found criminally insane and not responsible for his (or her) actions due to this delusional state.
Delusional Disorder is an example of a psychotic disorder. People with Delusional Disorder, have “non-bizarre beliefs that are not based in reality. For instance, they may believe that a famous celebrity is in love with them, even though they have never met that celebrity. (Compare that with a “bizarre” belief such as aliens have implanted a radio in my brain and are telling me to dance naked in public.)
Psychotic (noun: a person with psychosis. Adjective: suffering from psychosis): A danger to society? What do you think now that you know?
A person labeled as a psychopath lacks empathy or concern for other people, yet can often seem charming and highly intelligent (see Skye on the right). They are distrustful and cold-hearted when it comes to the welfare of others. These people are known to lie, murder, steal and/or torture (people and animals). These are the serial killers you see on the news. Very smart and in touch with reality, a psychopath has no moral convictions and may find a thrill in committing violent crimes, such as serial murders. However! you may have heard that many corporate executives meet the criteria for psychopathy – they are ruthless and will stop at nothing to succeed (in business). Hence, not all people with psychopathy are killers.
Psychopathy is also termed Antisocial Personality Disorder or Sociopathic, and has 10 general symptoms:
not able to learn from experience
no sense of responsibility
inability to form meaningful relationships
inability to control impulses
lack of moral sense
chronically antisocial behavior
no change in behavior after punishment
lack of guilt
Warning signs for the development of psychopathology early in life are frequent bullying and fighting, vandalism, torturing animals and setting fire to things. The main sign indicating a person is at risk for developing psychopathology is a lack of understanding of how their actions affect others.
Sound a little like a bully? Well, yes, psychopaths are the ultimate bullies. This is why efforts to stop bullying during the school years are extra important. People who bully need help so that they don’t grow up into psychopaths.
A study found that children who bully were four times more likely to have an Antisocial Personality Disorder (yep, psychopathy) as adults than children who do not bully. (Source: The Week, March 15, 2013)
Psychopath: A danger to society? What do you think now that you know?
Food for Thought…
Though the two words sound alike, their definitions are very different. One difference between a psychopath and a psychotic is that a psychopath lives in reality, a psychotic has broken from reality – meaning he (or she) imagines things that are not real to a “normal” person but seem very real to him (or her!). Another difference is that psychopaths are far more likely to be a danger to society.
Help! It’s so Confusing…
To make it easier for you to remember, imagine that a psychopath is walking a path of destruction. A psychotic can be robotic, not in reality. The next post actually provides an example of a psychotic disorder.
Do you know someone who can’t seem to relate to other people’s feelings?