Narcissists & Sociopaths

When I first started learning about narcissists, sociopaths, and psychopaths, I thought they were varying degrees of the same thing. Perhaps, psychopaths were a bit separate.

Narcissistic Circles 1

I have come to suspect though that they are each something completely different.

Someone can be more than one, but they need not be. My understanding shifted when I realized that there are two uses of narcissistic. The first is someone with traits related to narcissistic personality disorder. The second is anyone who thinks they are above or outside the usual rules.

All people with narcissistic personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, and psychopathy have the second. For each though, their reasoning, genetics, and brain dysfunction are different.

Here, I look at the symptoms for narcissistic personality disorder (narcissists) and antisocial personality disorder (sociopaths) according to the APA. The differences are striking.

TraitAntisocial Personality DisorderNarcissistic Personality Disorder
CallousnessLack of concern for feelings or problems of others; lack of guilt or remorse about the negative or harmful effects of one’s actions on others; aggression; sadism.
DeceitfulnessDishonesty and fraudulence; misrepresentation of self; embellishment or fabrication when relating events.
EmpathyLack of concern for feelings, needs, or suffering of others; lack of remorse after hurting or mistreating another.Impaired ability to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others; excessively attuned to reactions of others, but only if perceived as relevant to self; over- or underestimate of own effect on others.
HostilityPersistent or frequent angry feelings; anger or irritability in response to minor slights and insults; mean, nasty, or vengeful behavior.
IdentityEgo-centrism; self-esteem derived from personal gain, power, or pleasure.Excessive reference to others for self-definition and self-esteem regulation; exaggerated self-appraisal may be inflated or deflated, or vacillate between extremes; emotional regulation mirrors fluctuations in self-esteem.
ImpulsivityActing on the spur of the moment in response to immediate stimuli; acting on a momentary basis without a plan or consideration of outcomes; difficulty establishing and following plans.
IntimacyIncapacity for mutually intimate relationships, as exploitation is a primary means of relating to others, including by deceit and coercion; use of dominance or intimidation to control others.Relationships largely superficial and exist to serve self-esteem regulation; mutuality constrained by little genuine interest in others‟ experiences and predominance of a need for personal gain
IrresponsibilityDisregard for – and failure to honor – financial and other obligations or commitments; lack of respect for – and lack of follow through on – agreements and promises.
ManipulativenessFrequent use of subterfuge to influence or control others; use of seduction, charm, glibness, or ingratiation to achieve one’s ends.
Risk takingEngagement in dangerous, risky, and potentially self-damaging activities, unnecessarily and without regard for consequences; boredom proneness and thoughtless initiation of activities to counter boredom; lack of concern for one’s limitations and denial of the reality of personal danger
Self-directionGoal-setting based on personal gratification; absence of prosocial internal standards associated with failure to conform to lawful or culturally normative ethical behavior.Goal-setting is based on gaining approval from others; personal standards are unreasonably high in order to see oneself as exceptional, or too low based on a sense of entitlement; often unaware of own motivations.

Now, here is the odd part. After reading these lists, I believe I have known more sociopaths than narcissists. I need to think on that.

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