Sure, it’s a bit strange and I agree that most people do not use either terms in any accurate way- it’s more of a way to say “this person is bad and evil and crazy” in most circumstances.
So initially there was an intention in the psychology, sociology, and criminology community (maybe I’m missing somebody but I think that’s it) to attempt to address the theoretical difference between how a person becomes a psychopath/sociopath. So these two theoretical terms were created to indicate that. Psychopathy indicates a person has these traits due to primarily innate, heritable causes, whereas sociopathy indicates that a person has these traits primarily due to environmental causes.
However, sociopathy doesn’t really get used in practice and doesn’t get used a whole lot in research anymore either (here’s one argument for why it should get to stick around). Psychopathy is the forensic term most often used, and it is the one that psychologists can assess for, so it’s the one that gets the most clinical and research attention. I hope that’s helpful!
Wouldn’t ‘antisocial personality disorder’ be what adult clients would be assessed for?
Great question! An adult client can be assessed for ASPD, but could also be assessed for psychopathy. Psychopathy is not a diagnosis, but because of its forensic and predictive value, the Hare PCL was created and is in high use today by psychologists to assess psychopathy. Psychopathy is usually thought of as a very small subset of ASPD, meaning that not everyone who meets criteria for ASPD will meet criteria for psychopathy, but everyone who meets criteria for psychopathy will meet criteria for ASPD.