Spot the Difference: Psychopath or Sociopath? The Donald Trump Example


The terms “Psychopath” and “Sociopath” tend to be used synonymously (and often not too seriously — phrases like “my boss is a psycho” is akin to saying “I’m OCD” when, in fact, you just like things to be clean.) If it’s not something you had to learn, using the words interchangeably is understandable. There is even disagreement and confusion within the academic and psychology communities. 

Some professionals claim that there is no meaningful distinction between the labels. Others consider sociopathy to be a sub-category of psychopathy.

Psychopathy certainly has a longer a history than sociopathy. It was originally termed “moral insanity” in 1822; today we have a formal assessment tool (the PCL-R) for diagnosing psychopathy, but not sociopathy. Earlier versions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) did include Sociopathic Personality Disturbance, the description of which confusingly included many of the characteristics of a psychopath described by Cleckley in 1941. 

Currently, neither psychopathy nor sociopathy are included in the DSM. Instead, many professionals use Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD) to refer to psychopathy and/or sociopathy. However, while psychopaths and sociopaths may fit some of the criteria for ASPD – notably, a disregard for the rights of others – only a minority of those with ASPD qualify as psychopaths or sociopaths. Depending on who you ask, while there is a lot of overlap between psychopathy and sociopathy (and ASPD), they are different disorders. So let me help you spot the difference, using Donald Trump as a basis for comparison. Why Donald Trump? Aside from the fact that, whether we like it or not, Trump is a hot topic right now, I have heard and read Donald Trump being called both a psychopath and a sociopath. For example: “Trump is the most perfect example I have ever come across of a malignant, and probably psychopathic, narcissist.”  — Sam Vaknin, Mental Health Expert

“If you Google ‘sociopath’ … that is the perfect description of Donald Trump” — Tony Schwartz, Donald Trump’s Ghostwriter

So which is it?

First of all, let me say that I have neither the qualifications nor the time and access to Trump to officially diagnose him. I’m also not fully convinced that “psychopathy” or “sociopathy” truly exist. However, if these terms are going to be used, it’s useful to know what is meant by them. It’s actually been a pet peeve of mine for a while. The worst cases I’ve seen are descriptions of psychopathy and sociopathy that are entirely reversed.

Let’s start by pointing out what psychopaths and sociopaths have in common:

  • A disregard for the rights of others

  • A disregard for laws or social conventions

  • Lack of guilt and empathy

  • Lack of ability to take responsibility for actions

  • Deceitful and manipulative behaviour

  • Impulsiveness

Even as a clinically untrained observer, one could argue that Donald Trump meets all of these criteria.

He routinely insults and degrades others. His immigration policy is in direct conflict with basic human rights. He doesn’t seem to care when he offends or deceives. He never apologises, whether for calling Mexican immigrants rapists or being caught in yet another outright lie. If you catch him out, he shifts attention or responsibility to someone else, and he is easy to anger.

There is another important similarity that can be observed between psychopaths and sociopaths: narcissism. Both psychopaths and sociopaths are narcissistic. But this should be distinguished from Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Like ASPD, you can be narcissistic without being a psychopath or sociopath. All sociopaths and psychopaths are narcissists, but not all narcissists are sociopaths and psychopaths.

Narcissism is characterised by:

  • self-admiration; grandiosity

  • being self-absorbed; ego-centric

  • exaggeration of achievements

  • a sense of entitlement and superiority

  • exploitation of others

  • delicate self-esteem

  • disproportionate anger in response to criticism or disagreement

  • lack of emotional insight and empathy

  • etc.

I bring up narcissism because there are a number of articles online that compare narcissism with sociopathy, but appear to really be comparing sociopathy with psychopathy.

Read more…

Due to the nature of independent content, VT cannot guarantee content validity.
We ask you to Read Our Content Policy so a clear comprehension of VT's independent non-censored media is understood and given its proper place in the world of news, opinion and media.

All content is owned by author exclusively. Expressed opinions are NOT necessarily the views of VT, other authors, affiliates, advertisers, sponsors, partners or technicians. Some content may be satirical in nature. All images within are full responsibility of author and NOT VT.

About VT - Read Full Policy Notice - Comment Policy


  1. Trump is the type of person that grows and thrives from the system we created. If that includes sociopathy then yes, we have created the perfect system for that to thrive. Narcissism , oh yea that too. It could be said, that Trump is a light version of the US itself.
    So far, neither has expressed any willingness or desire to change. The people here, care more about 50 cents per gallon, then they do human lives.
    A sick society produces sick people.

  2. Let’s simplify. Trump is a sack of dog shit with no consideration for anyone outside his bloodline. Whatever that is.

Comments are closed.