Sociopath VS Narcissist – What’s the difference

Hi there Psych2Goers, this article is for informative purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. If you are struggling, please reach out to a qualified mental health professional.

Narcissism and Sociopath are two terms that are thrown around often in everyday life. Some even wonder, what is the difference? Both conditions come with a lot of stigma, so to understand how they differ, in this article, we will be looking at the differences between sociopathy and narcissism.

What Is Sociopathy? 

What is commonly known as a sociopath is actually a person with Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD). Sociopathy is not a medical term, and is most commonly referred to by its associated condition. People with ASPD tend to have frequent issues following rules and laws, have a lack of empathy towards others, and act impulsively (Cleveland Clinic 2021). Some other signs of ASPD include:

  • Lack of remorse after hurting another person
  • Reckless behavior
  • Chaotic and abusive relationships
  • Manipulative behavior
  • Disrespect towards others
  • Substance abuse

(Source: Cleveland Clinic 2021, and Mayo Clinic 2019)

ASPD is considered a cluster B personality disorder, meaning that the behavior is emotional, unpredictable, and dramatic (Mayo Clinic 2016). Approximately 1-4% of people in the U.S are suspected to have this condition, but can be hard to tell as people with ASPD often go undiagnosed (Plumptre 2021).

What Is Narcissism?

A narcissist is someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). People with this condition tend to think highly of themselves, lack empathy for others, and will constantly seek praise (Mayo Clinic 2017). Signs of NPD include:

  • Grandiose sense of importance
  • Manipulative behavior
  • Viewing others as inferior
  • Feel entitled
  • Arrogance
  • Will only associate with people they feel are of a high status

(Sources: Cleveland Clinic 2020, and Mayo Clinic 2017)

NPD is also a cluster B personality disorder. Approximately 5% of the population is believed to have this condition, but like ASPD, people with the condition is often undiagnosed as people with it do not typically seek treatment (Plumptre 2021).

How Are They Similar?

NPD and ASPD do overlap in many ways. People with either condition tends to lack empathy towards others and may take advantage of people to serve their needs. Those with either condition can appear charming and will use that aspect to win others over (Lancer 2018). In general, people with either condition will tend to focus on themselves first and use other people for their own gain. Relationships with people with either disorder, untreated, can be stormy and toxic (Plumptre 2021).

How Are They Different?

One of the biggest differences between the two conditions is how people with NPD care highly about how others view them whereas those with ASPD do not (Lancer 2018). People with NPD may work harder to keep marriages and jobs as they are more dependent on their status and need for approval (Lancer 2018). People with ASPD on the other hand, may leave anything in their life once it no longer serves its purpose to them. Overall people with NPD will work to keep gaining admiration whereas those with ASPD will drift around to fulfill their needs (Plumptre 2021).

How Are They Treated?

It is important to know that people with either condition are still people. They live with a condition that causes much stress to themselves and the people around them. While many people with either condition do not pursue any type of mental health treatment, or do so because they are forced, both conditions have options for treatment. Generally, either condition will require mental health professionals that have expertise in the specific disorder. Combination of medication along with psychotherapy are common to help manage symptoms of either disorder (Lancer 2018). 

While NPD and ASPD do have their similarities, they both are different conditions and come with different problems and treatments. Remember to reach out to a qualified mental health professional if you are struggling. Getting in touch with the right person can be a great first step to improving your quality of life. What are your thoughts on the topic? What are some more similarities and differences? What have you learned? Let us know in the comments!

References:

  • Cleveland Clinic. (2020, June 19). Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Traits, Tests, Treatment. my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9742-narcissistic-personality-disorder
  • Cleveland Clinic. (2021, May 12). Antisocial Personality Disorder: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment. my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9657-antisocial-personality-disorder
  • Lancer, D. (2018, January 6). The Difference Between a Narcissist and a Sociopath. PsychologyToday. www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/toxic-relationships/201801/the-difference-between-narcissist-and-sociopath
  • Mayo Clinic. (2016, September 23). Personality disorders – Symptoms and causes. www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/personality-disorders/symptoms-causes/syc-20354463
  • Mayo Clinic. (2017, November 18). Narcissistic personality disorder – Symptoms and causes. www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/narcissistic-personality-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20366662
  • Mayo Clinic. (2019, December 10). Antisocial personality disorder – Symptoms and causes. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/antisocial-personality-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20353928
  • Plumptre, E. (2021, May 26). Are Narcissists and Sociopaths the Same Thing? Verywell Mind. www.verywellmind.com/the-difference-between-a-narcissist-and-a-sociopath-5181518

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