Narcissist, Psychopath or Sociopath?
Excerpt from Randi Fine's Upcoming Groundbreaking New Book,
Close Encounters of the Worst Kind: The Narcissistic Abuse Survivors Guide to Healing

There is a great deal of false information on the internet about narcissistic personality disorder and its relationship to psychopathy. Many have asked me if their narcissistic abuser is also a psychopath or sociopath.

The confusion comes from the assumption that since psycho/sociopaths and narcissists are both empathy devoid and psychologically classified in the same cluster of personality disorders, they are one and the same. They are not.

All psychopaths and sociopaths are narcissists, but not all narcissists are psychopaths or sociopaths. The blanket diagnosis only works one way. Still the possibility exists that in addition to being a narcissist, your abuser may also be a psycho or sociopath.

Psychopaths and sociopaths fall under a broader class of mental illness known as “antisocial personality disorder.” Just as is true with all mental illnesses and personality disorders, symptoms of antisocial personality disorder can vary in severity. Sociopathy and psychopathy, the most dangerous forms of APD, are found at the extreme end of the spectrum.

Sociopaths and psychopaths have very similar characteristics and behavior patterns so the terms are often used interchangeably. Since there are many similarities between sociopathic and psychopathic behaviors and very few differences, the confusion is understandable.

Three subtle distinctions between sociopaths and psychopaths are:

Psychopaths are more calculating. Sociopaths are more impulsive.
Psychopaths are more prone to commit crimes and murder than sociopaths are.
Psychopathic behavior is innate--heredity and genetics are primary causes. Sociopathic behavior is learned—sociological factors and childhood trauma or abuse are the primary causes.

Traits and behaviors common to both sociopaths and psychopaths are:

They are highly destructive to other people.
They have superiority complexes.
They have a grandiose sense of self-worth and self-image.
They are master manipulators
They have no self-identity; therefore create different personas and disguises for each target.
They appear “normal.”
They are disingenuous.
They are unaware of social cues.
They have charming, charismatic personalities.
They appear highly intelligent.
They are calm, sometimes eerily so.
They are well-mannered and well-behaved
They are perpetual gratification seekers needing constant stimulation, pleasure and excitement.
They cannot form emotional attachments or maintain relationships, but may be good at faking them.
They lack empathy but are adept at mimicking appropriate emotions.
They are remorseless.
They are exploitative and violent.
They demonstrate predatory behavior.
They are sadistic.
They are cold and callous.
They are compulsive liars.
They are often successful in their careers.
They have no regard for societal rules.

Psycho/sociopaths share many characteristic traits and behaviors with narcissists. That is why distinguishing between them is confusing.

To truly understand the distinction, they must be examined under the entire antisocial personality disorder umbrella. When characterized in its entirety, antisocial personality disorder is much more dramatic and disconcerting.

Antisocial personality disorder is characterized as a prevailing behavioral pattern of disregard or violation of the rights of others. It is psychiatrically classified as a cluster B, “dramatic” personality disorder by the DSM-5 along with narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder and histrionic personality disorder.

Since many of the signs and symptoms of APD overlap with other disorders, it is not easy for practitioners to diagnose this condition. A single test to assess a person does not exist. Before any conclusions can be made, a comprehensive medical exam and mental health interview must be conducted.

A primary factor in diagnosing someone with antisocial personality disorder is the person’s age when their symptoms first began. An APD diagnosis requires that the person showed symptoms of conduct disorder before the age of fifteen.

Signs and symptoms of antisocial personality disorder appearing before age fifteen may include:

Cruelty to animals
Little or no regard for people’s feelings
Poor academic performance in school
Alcohol or substance abuse
Not motivated by either approval or reward
Suicide attempts
Criminal behavior
Explosions of anger

A true APD diagnosis cannot be made until the age of eighteen. The symptoms are typically most evident between the ages of twenty and thirty.

Signs and symptoms of antisocial personality disorder in adulthood may include:

Disregard for right and wrong
Failure to conform to society
Antagonizing and manipulating with callous indifference
Criminal behavior, recurring difficulties with the law
Persistent lying or deceit
Using charm or wit to manipulate others for personal gain or pleasure
Intense egocentrism
Sense of superiority
Repeatedly violating the rights of others through intimidation, dishonesty and misrepresentation
Child abuse or neglect
Significant irritability and agitation
Lack of empathy for others
Lack of guilt or remorse about harming others
Risk-taking or dangerous behaviors
Exploitation of others
Poor or abusive relationships
Failure to learn from the negative consequences of their behavior
Violent and aggressive behavior
Motivated by greed or revenge

A person is not required to have all the above traits. The American Psychiatry Association lists specific criteria for mental health professionals to use in making an APD diagnosis.

Jeffery Dahmer, Casey Anthony, John Wayne Gacy, Gary Gilmore, and Drew Peterson are infamous anti-socials who exemplify this disorder.

If you are now more confused than ever about what makes your abuser tick you are not alone. Narcissists are complex people. You will probably never fully understand the workings of his or her mind, and that is okay. The process of healing from this type of abuse is more about learning to accept it than understanding it.

Author's Bio: 

Randi Fine is a Narcissistic Personality Disorder abuse expert, Life Issues Counselor, radio show host and author living in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

As a Life Issues Counselor, Randi specializes in (but is not limited to) helping others work through issues relating to relationship codependency, narcissistic personality disorder abuse, emotional boundaries, letting go of the past, and letting go of unhealthy guilt.

Love Your Life, is an online journal she writes to spread light, love, and healing to the world. Her blog is read in 180 countries around the globe. She hosts the blog talk-radio show, A Fine Time for Healing: A Sanctuary for Your Emotional Well-being. On her popular show she interviews the top people in their fields, discussing self-help and spiritual life-skill topics that heal and enhance the life experiences of others.

Randi Fine is a deeply spiritual person, following an enlightened path of her own design. It is a connection that she faithfully trusts to guide her in every aspect of her life.