‘Narcissistic Sociopath:’ Symptoms and 5 Coping Strategies

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Narcissism and sociopathy are distinct psychological and behavioral characteristics, but sometimes they occur together.

If you have someone in your life who has traits of narcissism and sociopathy, it can be difficult to deal with them.

They may seem to consider themselves more important than you, and they may not seem to understand or care about your feelings.

Their behavior may not be a choice they make. Instead, they may have a type of personality disorder that affects how they interact with others.

There is no formal diagnosis of “narcissistic sociopath” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5and edition (DSM-5). It is the benchmark that clinicians use when identifying mental health issues.

Instead, the words “narcissistic” and “sociopath” are associated with two personality disorders:

Personality disorders are conditions that exhibit unhealthy thought patterns and behaviors. They are so named because they are the extremes of traits that most people have to some degree. These traits can be diagnosed as a disorder if they affect relationships or other people in harmful ways or to a greater degree than expected.

There are 10 personality disorders in total, grouped into 3 groups. NPD and ASPD are in Group B, or the “erratic and dramatic group”.

A person with narcissistic and sociopathic traits may not have a mental health diagnosis, or they may have NPD or ASPD, or both.

Narcissism is excessive self-interest and self-admiration. A person can have narcissistic traits without having NPD.

It is when narcissism affects many areas of life that it becomes diagnosable. The DSM-5 states that a criterion for a diagnosis of NPD is that a person has at least five of the following signs:

  • exaggerated sufficiency
  • obsession with success and power
  • belief in their own special status
  • need for excessive admiration
  • sense of entitlement
  • Exploiting others for success
  • lack of empathy
  • worry of envy
  • arrogance

Not everyone with NPD acts the same. There are several types of this condition, the two main ones being:

  • manifest (obvious)
  • hidden (hidden)

Overt NDP is what you might expect to find related to narcissism. People of this subtype tend to be attention-seeking, charming, and arrogant. Meanwhile, people with hidden NPD tend to be frail, oversensitive, and chronically envious of others.

A mental health professional diagnoses personality disorders. It’s more than just checking items in a list. It is an in-depth process that looks at how a person is functioning over a long period of time, not just their current state.

Sociopathy refers to the characteristics of people with ASD. In addition to a trait having more than 18 years, an ASPD diagnosis requires at least three of the following:

  • break the law
  • to be deceptive for fun or personal gain
  • behave impulsively
  • act aggressively
  • in defiance of security
  • ignore responsibility
  • having little or no remorse for hurting another person

There should also be a history of conduct disorder before age 15, and antisocial behavior is not the result of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

“Sociopath” is a term some people use to describe people with ASD. Many people confuse sociopathy with psychopathy, but they are not quite the same thing.

“Sociopath” versus “psychopath”

The terms “sociopath” and “psychopath” have different meanings, although people often use them interchangeably. While the word “sociopath” describes someone with ASD, “psychopath” describes someone with particular characteristics rather than a specific diagnosis.

The two terms have common features as well as differences. For example, they can lead to behavior contrary to the law, but in different ways. The problematic behaviors of sociopathy are impulsive, while the misbehavior of psychopathy is more calculated.

Some people with ASPD have features of psychopathy, but not all. The researchers estimate that only a third of people with ASD also meet criteria for psychopathy.

NPD and ASPD are distinctly different conditions, but there are some similarities in common characteristics.

A study 2018 featuring 2,149 participants who completed personality and psychological trait assessment interviews revealed a strong overlap between NPD and ASPD.

For example, both exhibit a lack of empathy. Additionally, disregard for the feelings or needs of others is both a “narcissistic” and a “sociopathic” trait.

People with either condition tend to be suspicious and find it hard to forgive. They can be superficial, prone to exploiting others for their own gain.

However, if the person has a criminal record, is physically aggressive, and has a history of getting into trouble when they were young, they are more likely to have ASPD because they are not symptoms of NPD. Other “sociopathic” traits not generally shared by the NPD include impulsive behavior and deception.

People with NPD seek admiration much more than those with ASPD. The preoccupation with envy is another way to distinguish the two. It is a narcissistic trait but not a sociopathic one.

Coping with narcissistic and sociopathic traits can be difficult, and people with NPD and ASPD are sometimes unlikely to engage in treatment.

Most often, those affected by someone with NPD or ASPD are those seeking treatment for themselves. For example, they may experience anxiety or depression resulting from poor treatment.

Additionally, they may seek treatment to learn more about why they are more likely to engage in relationships with people with narcissistic or sociopathic traits.

If you’re dealing with someone with narcissistic and sociopathic traits, these tips may help.

Empathy and insight

Understanding a little about the causes of NPD and ASPD can help you cope if someone in your life is living with these issues.

It is essential to remember that NPD and ASPD behaviors are not choices an individual makes. They are not deliberately trying to hurt you.

Researchers believe that genetics and the environment contribute to personality disorders. For example, research from 2021 suggests that genetic factors may play a role in the development of ASPD. Additionally, research from 2019 and 2020 indicates that childhood experiences can affect ASPD and NPD, respectively.

NPD and ASPD can arise from adverse events in early childhood, such as trauma caused by dysfunctional family relationships. Therefore, the narcissistic or sociopathic behaviors you see are not because of you. They were there long before you met.

Self-care

Prioritizing self-care is key. A person with narcissistic or sociopathic tendencies probably isn’t capable of nurturing your emotional health.

But you can take care of it by making yourself a priority. Here are some ways you can support yourself:

Self-representation

It is necessary to defend yourself and your needs, but in a way that will not cause more conflict. A calm response and rational detachment can help keep a situation from escalating while you set boundaries.

It can be a good idea to choose your battles in particular scenarios. Sometimes walking away from conflict is the best form of self-representation. If a situation is dysfunctional, you don’t have to participate.

Outside help

You may feel alone in your situation, but you are not. Even if none of your friends share your experience, there are people you haven’t met yet who do.

Support groups, both in person and online, can connect you with others like you.

A therapist can also help you deal with any stress or anxiety you may be feeling. Taking care of your mental health is as important as managing your physical well-being.

People with narcissistic and sociopathic behaviors can be difficult to deal with. This is especially true if the person in your life is a spouse, family member, or someone in your household.

It helps to remember that the things they say and do are because their brains are wired differently than most people. It’s not because you did or said anything wrong. Their behavior is not your fault.

Although the person in your life may never be supportive of your emotional or mental health, you can take care of yourself and stand up for yourself to have the better life you deserve.

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