Often times the terms narcissist, sociopath and psychopath get thrown around interchangeably. The three terms are often used for describing someone who lacks a conscious or someone who appears to have lost touch with reality. But all three psychological terms have distinct similarities and differences.
To know if you’re dealing with someone who’s a narcissist, sociopath or a psychopath you need know the differences to…
-To protect yourself from psychological abuse
-Know how to respond to manipulation tactics
-Learn how to separate yourself from a narcissist/sociopath/psychopath
Only by recognizing the different characteristics of each personality can you begin to move forward and heal your psyche.
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A note to readers: Not every person you encounter will display each of the signs of what makes a narcissist, sociopath, and a psychopath. While we like to label people within these three categories, it is possible to encounter individuals who do not fit neatly into a label and may in fact display multiple symptoms of all three.
A narcissist is someone with an extreme inflated ego. Their primary concern in life is with themselves. Narcissists are usually labeled as “self-centered” or “egotistical.” Their inflated sense of self leads them to a distortion in reality where they seek admiration from everyone they encounter. That exaggerated ego is often presented to others as charming or charismatic.
But because they’re only concerned with their own needs, they are unable to empathize with others needs. A narcissist will then use manipulation techniques like gaslighting or lovebombing to manipulate and control another person to receive what they want most.
Signs of a narcissist include:
-A sense of self-importance or entitlement
-Requires excessive admiration from others
-Fantasizes about power, success, etc.
-Believes he or she is superior over others
-Looks down on others they perceive as ‘inferior’
-Takes advantage of others
-Unable to handle criticism
-Uses manipulation and control tactics to get their way
It’s important to note that a narcissist will display only some of these traits and others will display all of them. According to research males are more likely to be diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. The disorder normally presents itself in early adulthood.
What do you think of when you hear the word “sociopath”? I always think of someone who is completely devoid of a conscious. Someone who disregards other’s concerns and purposefully hurts people for the pleasure of it alone. Sociopath is a term that’s thrown around with psychopath. Mainly because the two terms have similar qualities, but many people usually think the two are one in the same.
It’s estimated that 1 in 25 individuals are a sociopath. Honestly, I find this statistic to be terrifying if true. That makes a lot of people in this world who are without a conscious.
When someone is considered to be a sociopath they fall under cluster B diagnosis of personality disorders, specifically Antisocial Personality Disorder. Those with Antisocial Personality Disorder are often found in jails and prisons. Why?
One of the main signs of the personality disorder is a disregard or failure to conform to societal norms, including behaviors and laws. Many individuals do not receive a diagnosis of Antisocial until they become arrested and/or stand trial for the crimes they committed.
Because individuals with Antisocial lack remorse and a disregard for right and wrong, they very rarely will seek out help for the disorder.
To be diagnosed as a sociopath, one needs to exhibit three or more symptoms of the disorder.
Signs Of A Sociopath:
-Deceitful behavior (lying, stealing, etc.)
-Disregard for rules, law and right or wrong
-Uses a charming personality to manipulate others for personal gain
-Shows little to no respect toward other people
-Lack of empathy or conscious
-A tendency toward violence, aggressiveness and/or irritability
-Dangerous behavior with self and others
-Trouble keeping healthy relationships
-Doesn’t learn from past mistakes and risk-taking behavior
-Unable to handle responsibility
Although an individual would only need to meet three of the symptoms to be diagnosed, individuals often exhibit more symptoms. To be diagnosed with Antisocial Personality Disorder an individual has the be 18 years of age and also have displayed the signs of conduct disorder by the age of 15.
While narcissists are driven by a desire to meet their own needs or fuel their superiority, sociopaths are driven by a desire/need to control and/or manipulate. You can find sociopathic personalities in abusive and controlling relationships.
Compared to a psychopath, sociopaths are usually less organized in their crime and are prone to violent outbursts or rages. Those outbursts of rage often cause criminal behavior.
Take the sociopath Michael Mastromarino. Once successful and respected, Mastromarino was married with two sons and owned a dental surgeon practice. However, his drug addiction led to losing his medical license.
He then created the company known as Biomedical Tissue Services which flourished into a $4.6 million dollar company. But he and the company were hiding a secret: They were illegally obtaining tissue and body parts and selling them to medical companies to be received by individuals who needed them.
Mastromarino’s unsafe and illegal practices included the following:
-Not obtaining consent from family members
-Letting tissue deteriorate
-Selling tissue and body parts not tested for diseases such as HIV/AIDS
-Accepting tissue and body parts with cancerous cells.
Due to his companies unsafe practices, at least one women was diagnosed with syphallis after receiving a bone transpant and another individual was diagnosed with hepatitis C and HIV. So how does all his actions make Michael Mastromarino a sociopath?
Mastromarino’s risk-taking and criminal behavior led to the end of his dental career. Instead of learning from his past mistakes, he starts a company built off of lying and the manipulation of other people. He lacked empathy when it came to family members of the deceased, those who needed donations and essentially the human body itself.
The scariest part of all this real life story is that Mastromarino charmed his way through life and fit in well with society where no one suspected him of committing these crimes against other human beings. Hopefully this example of his crimes paints a better picture of the traits and criminal extents sociopaths will go to.
This is where it gets a little complicated. Often times psychopath and sociopath terms are used within the same circumstances because the two terms are very similar. However, if you look deeper at the traits and severity of the two terms you will notice the small details.
First off… Psychopaths are a severe form of a sociopath. While a psychopath can exhibit signs of being a sociopath as well, sociopaths may not always be psychopaths. But how does one become a psychopath?
Well simply put: Psychopaths are born and sociopaths are made. Psychopathic traits are considered to be a result of genetics, while sociopathic tendencies are the result of past trauma and/or similar environmental factors.
Signs of a psychopath:
-Superficial charm or charismatic
-Exaggerated sense of self-worth
-Lack of remorse or empathy
-Able to feel emotions, but on a very shallow or superficial level
-Doesn’t except responsibility for actions
-No long-term goals
-Lack of responsibility
-Lack of behavior control (gives in to impulses and cannot control them)
-Able to control emotions
-Takes part in criminal behavior
-Promiscuous sexual behavior
-Cannot form emotional attachments
Remember that both a sociopath and a psychopath are terms used under the diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder. Therefore, someone who’s considered a psychopath also needs to display conduct disorder before the age of 15.
Psychopaths have the ability to display superficial charm with little to no emotions. Emotions that are “chosen” to be displayed can also be switched off similar to a light switch. For example: A psychopath can go from screaming to calm and collective like they were never angry in the first place.
As mentioned above, sociopaths are less often organized with their emotions (easily irritable) therefore their criminal behavior is also erratic and disorganized. Psychopaths are the opposite. Because of their ease at regulating emotions their criminal behavior is well thought out. They are more likely to take part in criminal behavior that organized like premeditated murder (of course this doesn’t mean that all psychopaths are murderers).
The infamous serial killer Ted Bundy is a perfect example of what people consider to be a psychopath. If you’re looking for an in depth look of who Ted Bundy was read the book The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule because she was actually friends with him! Amazing read!
Now that you know the differences between a narcissist, sociopath and psychopath you can see it can be very hard to tell them apart. Many people display similarities of all three.
It’s especially hard to distinguish between a sociopath and a psychopath.
Amazingly, I have met and dealt with narcissist, sociopaths and psychopaths both personally and professionally. By far I believe a psychopath is capable of the most harm to themselves and other people.
Psychopaths are able to completely control their emotions, make no emotional attachment to anybody and completely lack remorse and empathy. This is a dangerous combination to say the least.
If you know someone who may be a narcissist, sociopath or a psychopath, you need to protect yourself both physically, emotionally and financially from them. All three personality disorders are capable of manipulation and control that damaging to other people.
Now, it’s your choice to continue a relationship with a narcissist, sociopath and psychopath!
What is a sociopath?
Antisocial personality disorder