It is not uncommon for people to wonder what the difference is between a narcissist vs a sociopath. After all, they are both terrible. So, which one is worse? And what are the key differences between these two personality disorders? Is it possible for someone to be both a narcissist and a sociopath?
Many people use the terms narcissist and sociopath interchangeably, because both narcissists and sociopaths are egocentric, manipulative and lack empathy. However, there are some keydistinguishing characteristics between the two.
Let’s take a closer look at the similarities and differences between narcissists and sociopaths.
What is a narcissist?
A narcissist is a person who suffers from narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), which is a mental health condition that causes people to idealize themselves and seek validation from others.
People with NPD have an inflated sense of self-importance, a need for constant admiration, and a lack of empathy for others.
Individuals with narcissistic personality disorder may:
- Have an exaggerated sense of self-importance
- Expect to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
- Exaggerate their talents and achievements
- Be preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
- Believe they are superior and can only associate with other people who are special or high-status
- Monopolize conversations and belittle or look down on people they perceive as inferior
- Require constant admiration
- Have a sense of entitlement
- Expect special favours and unquestioning compliance with their expectations
- Take advantage of others to get what they want
- Be unremorseful about exploiting or abusing others
This personality disorder creates significant problems in relationships, work or school performance, but individuals with narcissistic personality disorder typically don’t admit that anything is wrong.
Making matters worse, family members and friends often enable NPD behaviour by going along with it or making excuses for it. For example, they might cover up for missed work deadlines because the person “just couldn’t help it.” The result is that narcissists often don’t seek out the treatment they need.
What is a Sociopath?
The term sociopath gets thrown around a lot, but do you actually know what it means?
A sociopath is someone who has antisocial personality disorder, which is characterized by a lack of empathy and remorse, as well as manipulative and impulsive behaviour. Someone with this disorder will lie or cheat repeatedly without feeling guilty, and they are usually charming and glib even when they’re breaking the law.
Here are some signs and symptoms of antisocial personality disorder.
Lack of empathy – One of the main symptoms of antisocial personality disorder is a lack of empathy. This means that sociopaths struggle to understand the feelings and experiences of others. In some cases, they might not even be aware that other people have emotions.
This lack of empathy can make it difficult for sociopaths to form lasting relationships or to connect with others on an emotional level. It can also lead to them taking advantage of or harming others emotionally or physically.
Propensity for violence – Another symptom of antisocial personality disorder is a propensity for violence. This doesn’t necessarily mean that all sociopaths are violent criminals, but it does mean that they’re more likely to act out in aggressive or harmful ways.
Impulsivity – Sociopaths often act on impulse without thinking about the consequences of their actions. This impulsivity can manifest itself in risky behaviours like extreme sports, drug use, unsafe sex, gambling, and driving recklessly. It can also lead to criminal behaviour like theft, assault, and arson.
A history of legal troubles – If the person you’re suspicious about has been arrested multiple times or has been in jail for extended periods of time, that’s definitely cause for concern.
A history of lying or manipulating others – sociopaths are notoriously good at deception and often use it to get what they want.
Sociopaths can be difficult to spot because they’re often charming and intelligent. However, there are some tell-tale signs that something might be off. If you know someone who has a history of criminal activity, manipulation, impulsivity, or risky behaviour, they might be a sociopath.
Narcissist vs Sociopath – The Similarities
Both narcissists and sociopaths are egocentric, meaning they’re primarily concerned with themselves and their own needs. They’re also both charming, charismatic, and manipulative.
Both narcissists and sociopaths can be manipulative, callous, and unemotional, but narcissists are usually motivated by a need for power or admiration, while sociopaths are generally motivated by a need for thrills or excitement.
Narcissist vs Sociopath – The Differences
However, there are some key differences between the two. For example, narcissists are obsessed with power, while sociopaths are only interested in whatever will benefit them in the moment.
Narcissists are also more likely to experience feelings of anxiety or insecurity, while sociopaths tend to be more confident and self-assured.
In addition, narcissists tend to be more emotionally stable than sociopaths, who can be volatile and unpredictable.
Furthermore, narcissists are more likely to be paranoid and exhibit controlling behaviour, while sociopaths are more likely to be impulsive and violent.
Finally, while narcissists will go to great lengths to maintain their image, sociopaths couldn’t care less about how they’re perceived by others.
Narcissist vs Sociopath – Which is Worse?
There’s no easy answer to this question. Both narcissists and sociopaths can be incredibly destructive and dangerous.
One key difference between the two, however, is that sociopaths are more likely to engage in criminal behaviour than narcissists. This is because sociopaths lack empathy and are willing to do whatever it takes to get what they want, even if it means harming others. Narcissists, on the other hand, although often ruthless in their pursuit of power, generally prefer to stay within the bounds of the law.
Can a Person Be Both a Narcissist and a Sociopath?
It’s possible for a person to be both a narcissist and a sociopath, but it’s rare. These personality disorders often develop during childhood as a result of trauma or other environmental factors. If someone exhibits both narcissistic and sociopathic tendencies, it’s likely that they fall somewhere on the spectrum between the two disorders.
A person who exhibits characteristics of both disorders may be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder or antisocial personality disorder, depending on which symptoms are most prominent.
Narcissist vs Sociopath – Conclusion
There’s no simple answer to the question of which is worse: narcissist or sociopath.
Narcissism is characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance, a need for admiration, and paranoid or controlling behaviour.
Sociopathy is characterized by impulsivity, violence, and a lack of empathy or remorse.
Both types of personality disorders can be incredibly destructive. That being said, sociopaths are generally more dangerous than narcissists because they’re more likely to engage in criminal behaviour.
If someone exhibits both narcissistic and sociopathic tendencies, it’s likely that they fall somewhere on the spectrum between the two disorders. In such cases treatment will vary depending on which symptoms are most prominent.
No matter which type of personality disorder someone has, it’s important to get help if you think you or someone you know may be struggling with one of these conditions. If left untreated, both narcissism and psychopathy can lead to serious negative consequences for both the individual and those around them.
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Carla Corelli is an author, advocate, and survivor of narcissistic abuse. Having grown up with a narcissistic father, Carla experienced firsthand the profound impact of psychological and emotional abuse. Fueled by her personal journey, she pursued a degree in psychology and has dedicated herself to shedding light on the complexities of narcissistic abuse.
With over fifteen years of experience in writing and advocating for survivors, Carla is deeply committed to providing support, education, and empowerment to those who have endured similar trauma. Through her articles, Carla aims to offer a compassionate space for healing and growth, while advocating for greater awareness and understanding of narcissistic abuse.
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