Difference between Sociopathy and Borderline Personality Disorder

Both sociopathy and borderline personality disorder are serious mental illnesses manifesting themselves in aggressive, erratic or harmful behavior. Sociopathy and borderline personality disorder sometimes overlap, and a person suffering from both of them is called a borderline sociopath. However, the two disorders are distinctly different and we will discuss it further in this article.


Sociopathy vs Borderline Personality Disorder
Behavioral therapy session in the Virginia Beach elementary school targeting sociopathy

Sociopathy is considered by modern psychotherapists to be a “milder “form of psychopathy. In general, a sociopath is defined as a person who doesn’t have any sense of what is right and what is wrong. Often endowed with high intellectual and creative skills, sociopaths tend to use these skills for committing harmful actions. Serial killers are often sociopaths, as they frequently admit that they see nothing wrong with what they are doing.

Borderline Personality Disorder
Abnormal brain structures found in the brain of the patient suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline personality disorder is a mental illness characterized by the disturbed sense of a person’s self and permanently unstable emotional condition. A borderline person has ever-changing moods and modes of behavior. Adult individuals with borderline personality disorder find it difficult to adapt in society, and interpersonal relationships may become impossible for them. For example, they cannot make friends or lovers easily. They tend to dramatize even simple matters connected to interpersonal relationships. They are drama kings and queens. Symptoms of borderline personality disorder include impulsivity, self-harmful behavior, a distorted sense of identity and persistent emotional spurts that cannot be controlled.

Comparison chart

Sociopathy Borderline Personality Disorder
A sociopath is emotionally detached A borderline person cannot control emotions
Aggression is proactive Aggression is mostly reactive
Sociopath lacks conscience and has questionable morality and ethics A borderline person has a conscience and a normal set of morality and ethics
A sociopath is able to understand  himself A borderline person lacks self-understanding

Sociopathy vs Borderline Personality Disorder

What is the difference between Sociopathy and Borderline Personality Disorder? Let’s compare them by how they connected with emotions, by vector of aggression, by the relation to conscience and by the ability of a diseased person to understand himself.

  • Sociopaths are characterized by a complete lack of emotions and empathy. Individuals suffering from borderline personality disorder, on the other hand, are able to feel emotions deeply, to the point that emotions get to be overwhelming and go out of control.  While sociopaths are always in the same mood, a borderline person’s moods are always changing. Emotions for a borderline person are intense and are easily triggered by rejection or negative criticism. One may compare an adult individual with borderline personality disorder with a child who is overwhelmed with too many emotions to handle.
  • Sociopaths are aggressive towards the outside world. Borderline people wouldn’t consciously harm others. The aggression for them takes self-destructive forms. A lot of dangerous criminals, including serial killers are sociopaths. There are no suicide tendencies among sociopaths. A person with borderline personality disorder, on the other hand, would rather commit suicide than consciously harm someone else.
  • Sociopaths cannot tell right from wrong. Moral and ethics do not exist for them. They do not see anything wrong in their harmful behavior. Persons with borderline personality disorder, on the other hand, have common moral and ethical standards and are able to sense what they are doing; they just cannot control their own actions.
  • Sociopaths are able to understand themselves and their motives. What they cannot understand is the emotions of other people and the impact of their actions on the feelings of others. Sociopaths do not ever “feel” they “hurt” someone else emotionally, yet they “know” that they do. People with borderline personality disorder, on the other hand, are perceptive as far as feelings are concerned, but due to the alterations in certain cortex regions of the brain, the interpretation of their and other persons’ motives is shifted, making it hard to understand and control their behavior.