What Is The Difference Between A Sociopath And A Narcissistic Sociopath?

Updated July 08, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Robin Brock

Personality disorders are sometimes hard to diagnose, as they often have different symptomology. However, three similar personality disorders are narcissistic personality disorder, sociopath, and psychopath. Those with labels sociopath and psychopath are challenging people to determine which category they fall into, as some of the behaviors coincide. However, there are similarities differences and types of narcissists, sociopaths,s and psychopath criteria and behaviors that are important to note.

What Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

A narcissistic personality disorder is a mental condition where people have low self-esteem yet an inflated sense of their own importance. Narcissistic people don’t have empathy for others and have attention-seeking behaviors and a need for deep admiration. Narcissistic people don’t have an easy time in their relationships, school, or work because of their extreme range of needs.

Being In A Relationship With A Narcissist

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Narcissistic people who don’t drive everyone away with their controlling, narcissistic behaviors tend to set limits with difficult benchmarks to reach. Dating a narcissist is hard because they are never completely satisfied or capable of having their expectations fulfilled.

Here is a checklist of narcissistic behavior:

  • Have an exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • Have a sense of entitlement and require constant admiration
  • Expect to be recognized as superior even when it is not warranted.
  • Tend to exaggerate achievements and talents
  • Tend to be preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, intelligence, perfect looks, or need the perfect mate. Narcissistic relationships are more about them than their partner.
  • Believe they are better than others and may only try to associate with those of equal status. It is often noted that there is a need for a narcissist to raise their self-worth.
  • They are challenging people to make and keep happy.
  • Narcissists are more interested in monopolizing conversations, belittles others, and look down on those they perceive as inferior.
  • Expect special favors.
  • Take advantage of others simply to get what they want in life.
  • Have an inability or just don’t care to recognize the needs and feelings of others
  • Think that everyone is envious of them

Dealing with a narcissist can be hard because of their inferiority complex, as well. Those with narcissistic personality disorder sometimes:

  • Get very angry when they are not recognized as important.
  • Have significant interpersonal problems
  • Easily feel slighted
  • React with rage or contempt
  • Have a challenging time controlling themselves, their actions, and their feelings
  • Secretly feel insecure, vulnerable, and humiliated.

While this checklist of narcissistic behaviors is not complete, it shares many of the same symptoms as narcissistic personality disorder NPD.

In addition, a narcissistic personality disorder is hard to treat.

What Is A Psychopath?

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A psychopath is a person who has a chronic mental disorder. They have abnormal or violent social behaviors. Psychopaths do things for their own selfish purposes, without care for others. They tend to be pathological liars, have an inability to feel guilt, are overly sexual and irresponsible, and are deceitful.

What Is A Sociopath?

Often the term used for a psychopath and a sociopath is used to define the same individual. Sociopaths are unable to understand the feelings of others. They tend to be rule breakers and have impulse control issues. Sociopaths don’t feel guilt or remorse for the harm they cause. A sociopath qualifies as such because they are typically not as violent in nature. However, a sociopath is more calculating in some ways than a psychopath.

Doctors label sociopaths as having an antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). Sociopaths qualify as such by their excessive patterns. The extreme symptomology is the singular difference between a psychopath and a sociopath. However, the differences are irrelevant in most cases.

How Are Narcissists Similar To Sociopaths?

Sometimes it is hard to differentiate between being a sociopath or a narcissist. Where sociopathic tendencies may have limits with difficult self-control, truth-telling, and empathy, narcissists who aren’t psychopaths may have a singular diagnosis. This is not always the case.

Sociopaths and narcissists are similar because they can both be smart and successful. Narcissists and sociopaths also share the commonalities of being abusive, dishonest, selfish, controlling, and unreliable. Sociopaths also share symptoms along with narcissistic behavior, including a lack of empathy and appropriate emotional responses. Sociopaths qualify as narcissists because they lack insight but are at the same time charismatic.

However, narcissists can improve with proper help, where sociopaths typically get worse over time when not treated properly. Sociopaths qualify for psychotherapy and cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) since these are considered the best course of treatment.

The main difference between a narcissist and a sociopath is how victimized you become when associated with a sociopath. A secondary difference between a narcissist and a sociopath is a narcissist is capable of making you feel good about yourself.

Is It Possible To Be Diagnosed As A Narcissistic Sociopath?

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Since there are few differences between a narcissist and a sociopath, it is possible to have a dual diagnose. This is more common when you get diagnosed separately or by two different doctors who disagree. The differences are few, and it is not always easy to determine which mental illness a patient may be experiencing.

The most important people to have help with diagnosing are those closest to the patient. At times, a couple may seek marriage or family counseling. The partner of a narcissist can discuss with a therapist the other symptoms.

For example:
A man and his wife attend counseling because they are having marital trouble. If it is suspected that the wife is dealing with a narcissist spouse, the counselor can ask critical questions to see if violence is a part of their relationship. While not all partners will be upfront about spousal abuse, a well-trained therapist can pick up on the body language of each party.

If a wife is trying to share her dealing with her husband, he may tense up or start when control is mentioned. However, if the question “has he ever been physical with you?” is asked, and neither party changes their disposition, the counselor may be more inclined to diagnose the husband as being a narcissist.

How Many Types Of Narcissism Are There?

There are seven types of narcissists ranging from the closet narcissist to the exhibitionist narcissist. The different types of narcissists are:

  • toxic narcissist
  • psychopathic narcissist
  • closet narcissist
  • exhibitionist narcissist
  • bullying narcissist
  • seducer narcissist
  • malignant narcissists

The distinctive qualities of narcissists ranging from toxic to those considered malignant narcissists are minor, compared to the exhibitionist and bullying narcissists. However, all seven types end with difficult people who refuse to be controlled. Narcissists who aren’t able to control someone does not want to waste their time associating with them; they would assume move onto someone who they can victimize.

Narcissistic abuse does exist, albeit much of it is mental abuse. This, again, is found in both sociopaths and narcissists. Narcissists learn how they can gain the response they want from their victims. They are calculative and spend time finding people they can manipulate the most; a sociopath who might leave may take longer to depart because they are less likely to have an emotional reaction or empathy. What drives them differs slightly, with social cues being a significant factor in a sociopath’s perception of the relationship.

How Can I Find Out What Is Wrong With My Partner?

If you are suspicious that you may be in a relationship with someone who has a mental disorder, it is best to learn more about each type. The subtle variations among mental disorders make them challenging to treat because there is not a single test that can help diagnose a patient.

With the knowledge you gain, you can decide if you have more of a narcissist spouse than a sociopath. From there, you can decide how you want to proceed. Some will choose to stay with their partner because they feel there is true love there. Others will leave because they recognize their relationship is based more on control than true passion. Narcissists, not all narcissists, however, are typically capable of true love, but you need to be able to decipher if your partner loves to control you or truly loves you.

Leave A Narcissist 8 Steps To Freedom

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If you want to get out of a mentally abusive relationship, there are eight recommended steps to take to get out quickly. They are:

  • Do not tell your partner that you are planning on leaving.
  • Make a well thought out plan.
  • Set aside cash to take with you so that credit cards cannot be traced.
  • Check your bank records to see if you have a digital trail or a noticeable spending pattern.
  • When you leave, do not go back.
  • Maintain a no-contact policy from the instant you leave.
  • Don’t go back or take your ex back.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to heal from the abusive relationship.

Yes, the behavior costs narcissists’ friendships and relationships. It doesn’t always have to be that way, however. If you find that you are with a narcissistic sociopath, it is best to sever ties as soon as possible. These types of relationships are not good for anyone to be in, and you should avoid them if possible.


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