Narcissists and Sociopaths–likenesses and differences
My mother and first husband were narcissists, but my second husband was a narcissist and a sociopath. Many people who deal with a narcissist are also dealing with a sociopath because a predator can be both at the same time. There is a common saying that “not all narcissists are sociopaths but all sociopaths are narcissists.” The book
The Sociopath Next Door claims that 4% of the population is made of sociopaths, so if we add all of them plus the plain narcissists that could mean that an even higher percentage of the population is some kind of narcissist. Ouch! On the other hand, other sources claim that about 1% of the population is truly diagnosable. Either way, we want to avoid them!
Even though my blog is focusing on narcissism, this connection between narcissists and sociopaths means that I’m going to end up describing and talking about some sociopaths as well. So, I thought I’d post some information about the two disorders to compare them.
First of all, a personality disorder is a permanent or strong mental problem that invades all areas of a person’s life. Just being a jerk doesn’t necessarily make a person a sociopath. It has to be an ongoing pattern that affects people in more than one way. A personality disorder is a built-in dysfunction in the way someone acts, thinks and treats others, and can be nearly impossible to treat depending on the specific disorder.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder:
This page collects the standard “symptoms” from the DSM which is the guide book used to diagnose mental health problems. To be diagnosable, a person must have at least five of these:
- Has a grandiose sense of self-importance
- Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
- Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
- Requires excessive admiration
- Has a very strong sense of entitlement, e.g., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
- Is exploitative of others, e.g., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
- Lacks empathy, e.g., is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
- Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
- Regularly shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
Antisocial Personality Disorder
According to this page that has copied the DSM symptoms, a person with ASPD will match most of these criteria:
- Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest
- Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure
- Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead
- Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults
- Reckless disregard for safety of self or others
- Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations
- Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another
As you can see, people with both of these disorders are very selfish and uncaring. Anyone who has one of them is going to be unbearable to be around for any length of time. The narcissist will exploit you and the sociopath will deceive you–these are pretty similar issues. The narcissist lacks empathy and the sociopath lacks remorse for hurting others–again similar. When I think of the difference between the narcissists I have had to deal with and the sociopath, I always think of the narcissistic sociopath as far more physically aggressive and dangerous than the plain narcissist. The sociopath is like a far meaner narcissist. He is entitled, selfish and lacks empathy, but he’s willing to be more cruel about it. He is less interested in even trying to fit into society. But in many ways, a plain narcissist can sometimes have aspects of the sociopath because the same lack of respect for others is involved with both disorders.
If someone in your life makes people extremely miserable, chances are good that they might have one or both of these disorders!