Some Psychology terms

These are words that get thrown around around alot. So much that I think some people use them incorectly. So will someone please define and/or explain the following terms.

[li]Sociopath[/li][li]Psychopath[/li][li]Anal Rententive[/li][li]Anal (just plain)[/li][/ul]

I have a pretty good idea of what psychopath means, (people call me that all the time) but many of the people who use the term are dolts so I just want to make sure.

Are there any other lables that I sould be concerned about when applied to or the person who sleeps in the same bed as me?

Your title is “Some Psychology terms” (sic). None of your terms, however, are used in psychology. Sociopath and psychopath once were. They both refer to the same mental disorder which is now called antisocial personality disorder. It is an inherent trait, or developed very early in life, for which there is no cure. DSM-IV states that the essential feature is a pevasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood. This pattern has also been referred to as psychopathy, sociopaty, or dyssocial personality disorder. Individuals with this disorder frequently lack empathy and tend to be callous, synical, and contemptuous of the feelings, rights, and sufferings of others.

“Anal” is defined as of and relating to the anus. “Anal retentive” means constipated. You can deduct therefrom any appropriate related reference.

The term “anal retentive” is associated with Freud. (“Anal” is just a popular reduction of the term.) It’s a long story, but, briefly, Freud decided that sexual energy (libido) was centered at different sites on the body during different stages of development–first the mouth, then the anus and finally the genitals. This represented “normal” sexual development. However, for some individuals the transition from anus to genitals didn’t happen properly and they carry unconscious issues from that developmental stage into adulthood. This manifests itself in the sort of personality you usually associate with the term anal retentive–excessive neatness, need for order and control, etc. Freud also described an “anal expulsive” personality, which is essentially the opposite. Think Felix Unger and Oscar Madison.

Another commonly misused term nowadays is “antisocial”. People tend to use this in reference to those who are quiet, resevered, don’t have many friends or much of a social life. The correct term is asocial (according to my boyfriend’s father - who is a psychiatrist). Antisocial is more along the lines of what barbitu8 described - someone who has no care for or is against society.

Although DSM IV defines ‘antisocial personality disorder’ as a psychiatric ‘diagnosis’ there is much discomfort over such terminology. Where exactly is the boundary between a ‘diagnosis’ and pure ‘evil’ if such exists?

Yeah. I know a psychologist who calls those of his patients who have antisocial personality disorder “scumbags.”

I believe your correct answers appear above. However, these terms do appear in print rather frequently. I will give you my understanding of the terms, but of course, these understood meanings may not necessarily be the correct meanings.

I’ve heard that sociopath & psychopath are similar, but not the same. A psychopath is generally unconcerned with others’ perceptions of his antisocial behavior and makes no effort to appear “normal”. A sociopath attempts to appear “normal”, or to convince others that their understandably poor reactin to being disrespected and otherwise trampled by this person is unreasonable.

I presume you’ve met my ex-wife, then? :wink:

The correct definitions for Anal Retentive and Anal are given above. In common usage, these terms are often applied to excessively fussy, fastidious, or controlling people. Felix Unger from The Odd Couple was a mild version of such a personality, but most often it’s the micromanaging boss or the plastic-covers-on-the-furniture people who usually get the lable.


Remember, as Freud wrote it, Anal has two sides to it. We always remember anal retentive, but not its opposite, anal expulsive. Some definitions, a la Freud:

Anal: (2-3 years) transitions through anal expulsive to toilet training and anal retentive phase. Adult fixations include:
expulsive: messy, cruel, destructive, tantrums, lack of control
retentive: controlling, withholding, orderly, obsessive-compulsive

Thus while Felix was anal retentive, Oscar was a classic anal expulsive. Calling someone anal is too nonspecific, might as well just call them an asshole.

oops, Cher3 already said this! how lame of me!

Reply to barbitu8:

Yeah. I know a psychologist who calls those of his patients who have antisocial personality disorder “scumbags.”

Similar thing happened to me. I was talking about one of my clients to a Forensic Psychiatrist and said to him that I was struggling for a diagnostic category to enter in a referral form. He replied ‘In cases like this, we call them criminals.’


I’v had a pretty good idea of what the terms ment but the best place to fight ingnorance is in your own head.

Now if someone could tell me what DSM-IV was and how I missed the first 3 films I might know something.

Actually there have been more than three. And it is not “was” but “is.”

DSM stands for Diagnostic Statistical Manual and is the bible for mental therapists (psychiatrists, psychologists, and SDMB posters). It contains, inter alia, the findings that are necessary to arrive at different diagnoses. The current one is DSM-IV, but the prior one was DSM-3 Revised.

Are these really considered to be the same disorder? Were they once seen as two separate things? I’ve gradually built up a different concept of these things – is either valid? My impression was that sociopaths have neither a conscience nor normal human feelings, and don’t believe anyone else does either. They fake normal emotions and think everyone else is doing the same. They will kill causualy, for trivial reasons. They tend to be criminals; they steal and rape, as well as kill.

Psychopaths, OTOH, don’t kill casually, and are not likely to commit other crimes. They are driven to kill for reasons that would make no sence to anyone else, and are often ritualistic about either the killing or what they do with the body. Some seem normal most of the time, but have occasional psychotic episodes.

I’ve never understood what Freud was getting at with this anal stuff. Yes, some people are Oscars; some are Felixes, most are not at either extream. But what have bathroom functions got to do with it? Did Freud really mean that neither Oscar nor Felix would have much interest in normal sex, or am I misunderstanding him? I just don’t see why being either neat and fussy or a major slob would have anything to do with one’s sexual drive or preferences.

My DSM-IV is at the office and I’m home now, so I can’t be absolutely certain. But IIRC, both the terms “sociopath” and “psychpath” are no longer used, being replaced with antisocial personality disorder.


When you say “sociopath” and “psychopath” are no longer used, do you mean no longer used in the DSM, or no longer used by mental health professionals generally (in their writings, discussions, diagnoses, etc.)? And why have these words fallen out of favor?

If they are no longer used in the DSM, they are no longer used by mental health professionals because it is their bible. I would assume that they are no longer used because antisocial personality disorder covers them. A psychiatrist or psychologist board poster can give more details, if any more are needed.