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

Updated September 13, 2023by Regain Editorial Team

Personality disorders can be hard to diagnose because some of the symptoms overlap. For example, narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), also known as sociopathy, and psychopathic behaviors all share a lack of empathy as one of their defining traits.

This post will explore the similarities and differences between ASPD and NPD and whether a person can have both conditions.

What Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a mental condition where people have low self-esteem yet an inflated sense of their importance. People with narcissistic personalities lack empathy for others, crave attention, and have a deep need for admiration. Often, people with NPD have challenges in their relationships, school, or work because of their personalities.

Being In A Relationship With Someone Who Has NPD

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Are You Concerned About Others With Problematic Personalities?

People with NPD generally have controlling behaviors and high expectations that are difficult or impossible for others to reach. Since they perceive themselves as perfect, living up to their standards can be tricky. They often expect their partner to be perfect, too. Anything short of perfection might be a flaw in their eyes, and they are often overly critical of others. These behaviors can make it hard to date a narcissist.

If you aren't familiar with the disorder, you may not know how to spot someone with NPD. People with this condition are often able to exhibit charm in some situations, making it harder to see who they are. However, you will sometimes see their controlling tendencies, self-absorption, and lack of genuine empathy once you get to know them.

Here is a checklist of narcissistic behavior to watch for in someone if you suspect they have NPD. People with ASPD are also likely to engage in these behaviors:

  • Exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • Sense of entitlement
  • A need for constant admiration
  • Expectation of being recognized as superior even when it is not warranted
  • Tendency to exaggerate achievements and talents
  • Tendency to be preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, intelligence, perfect looks, or the perfect mate
  • Belief that they are better than others and a desire to only associate with those of equal status
  • Difficulty being happy
  • Monopolizing conversations, belittling others, and looking down on those they perceive as inferior
  • Expectation of special favors
  • Taking advantage of others to achieve a desired outcome
  • Lacking empathy for others
  • Belief that everyone is envious of them

In addition, those with a narcissistic personality disorder sometimes:

  • Get very angry when others do not recognize them as important
  • Have significant interpersonal problems
  • Easily feel slighted
  • React with rage or contempt when confronted or challenged
  • Have a difficult time controlling their actions and emotions
  • Secretly feel insecure, vulnerable, and humiliated

Narcissistic personality disorder can be challenging to treat. People with NPD and ASPD often will not seek treatment for their behavior because they don't believe it is unhealthy. In a relationship, it will likely be hard for them to apologize, accept blame, and admit when they are wrong.

Keep in mind that narcissistic behavior is a spectrum. Some have few symptoms, while the condition severely impacts others. If you are in a relationship with someone with NPD, consider whether the relationship is healthy. Your well-being matters more than a diagnosis of NPD. If the connection is toxic or unhealthy, consider seeking help from a trusted friend or contacting a mental health professional. It's important to trust yourself and do what's best for you, even when it might be hard.

What Is A Sociopath?

While many people still use the term sociopath, what they are describing is antisocial personality disorder. Those with this disorder will usually display the following traits and behaviors:

  • Inability to understand or empathize with other people
  • Lack of guilt or remorse when they cause harm
  • Manipulative behavior
  • Tendency to deceive
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Propensity for breaking the rules
  • Potentially violent
  • Lying for personal gain or selfish reasons
  • Controlling behavior
  • Using charm to deceive

As you can see, many of these behaviors overlap with NPD, and people with ASPD always have a high level of narcissism. However, some people with NPD do not display the same antisocial behaviors as those with ASPD. For example, a person with NPD is less likely to engage in violence or illegal acts and might be more capable of feeling remorse.  

What Is A Psychopath?

Psychopathy is not an official diagnosis in the current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V), a compendium of recognized mental disorders. However, many people still use the term psychopath in the media and popular culture. People who fit the description of a psychopath have similar traits as those with ASPD, which is an official diagnosis in the mental health field along with NPD.  

How People With NPD Are Similar And Different From Those With ASPD

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Sometimes it is hard to differentiate between someone with NPD and ASPD because the two conditions can look quite similar. Those with NPD and ASPD are similar because both they can be intelligent and successful. However, they also share the commonalities of being potentially abusive, dishonest, selfish, controlling, and unreliable. Those with ASPD can also exhibit symptoms of selfish behavior, including a lack of empathy and emotional response. However, not everyone with NPD has the same antisocial behaviors as those diagnosed with ASPD.

A significant difference between a narcissist and someone with ASPD may be the degree to which you are harmed when associating with the latter person. People with ASPD are more likely to be deceitful, calculating, and manipulative from the start of the relationship and might even get pleasure from harming others. People with narcissistic personalities, on the other hand, are less likely to hurt people purposely. Instead, any harm they cause is often a byproduct of their pursuing some goal or interest. In many cases, they care more about their needs and desires than about trying to hurt another person. In this way, someone with ASPD may be more challenging to be around and engage with, especially if you're in a relationship with them.

If you or someone you know is experiencing or has experienced abuse, the National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) and is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Is It Possible To Have A Dual Diagnosis?

Since there are often many similarities between those with NPD and ASPD, it is possible to have a dual diagnosis. A dual diagnosis is more common when someone is diagnosed separately or by two doctors who disagree. When diagnosing NPD or ASPD, those closest to the individual can help. The partner, family members, or close friends can tell the therapist which behaviors they've noticed, which may assist the doctor in deciding if ASPD, NPD, or another condition is the most appropriate diagnosis.

How Can I Find Out Whether My Partner Has NPD Or ASPD?

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Are You Concerned About Others With Problematic Personalities?

If you believe you are in a relationship with someone with one of these mental health disorders, your safety and wellbeing are the first concern. Next, an excellent first step is to learn more about each condition and consult a professional for guidance. The subtle variations among mental disorders can make them challenging to diagnose and treat, and no single test can help diagnose someone.

Only a doctor, psychiatrist, or clinical psychologist can make an official mental health diagnosis. Nonetheless, even if you don't have a diagnosis, you can still ask yourself whether your relationship is healthy and one you want to continue. Again, only you can decide what is best for you and your mental health.

Regain Can Help

Do you know someone with an antisocial or narcissistic personality disorder? Do you feel that you could have one of these conditions? Consider speaking with a therapist through Regain, an online therapy platform. You don't have to deal with this alone. Help is available. Once you register, you can video chat, text, or call your therapist for sessions, and you can message them at any time—whenever you're feeling down or need advice—and they will respond, usually within 24 hours.

One comprehensive review of studies on Internet-based psychotherapy found that online therapy is effective and a legitimate option for receiving help from a psychotherapist.   

Takeaway

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) and antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) share the same traits of lack of empathy, manipulative behavior, and feeling entitled. However, an antisocial personality disorder is more likely to lead to violence or illegal activity. These disorders are hard to treat because people with these conditions often do not see that they need help. However, suppose you are in a relationship with someone with one of these conditions. In that case, you can find support and relief by talking to a mental health professional at an online therapy platform like Regain.com.

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