Narcissist, Psychopath, or Sociopath: How to Spot them?

Did you know the key difference that every psychopath is narcissistic or sociopath but not every narcissist is a psychopath

When someone does anything wrong to us, we jump to a label that person a Narcissist, Sociopath, and Psychopath which is understandable as our feelings of hatred and disappointments can really drive our motives as it is a human tendency.  

Narcissist, Psychopath, or Sociopath
The first thing to remember is that the words Narcissist, Sociopath, and Psychopath are often used interchangeably in common speech to describe a person who is manipulative, selfish, pathologically prone to criminal or violent behavior, and who lacks empathy or any regard for the feelings or interests of others and feels absolutely no remorse or guilt for his/her crimes.

These words are usually used in relationships and at the workplace when someone seems rude, or when people are difficult to be around. It’s easy to toss off labels such words especially if the person seems to be totally full of himself/herself or has no remorse for the way their actions might affect you.

But, have you ever thought how accurate are those labels and what’s the real difference between them? Do they share some similarities?

Narcissism, Sociopathy, and Psychopath are 3 distinct psychological disorders so, understanding them may make it easier to deal with someone who seems to be one or the other.

According to experts, Narcissists, sociopaths and psychopaths fall under the cluster B personality disorders:

  1. Narcissistic Personality Disorder: A pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, with a lack of empathy.

  2. Antisocial Personality Disorder: A pervasive disregard for the law and the rights of others. (Psychopaths and Sociopaths)

What’s the difference between a psychopath and a sociopath?

Sociopaths and psychopaths share a number of characteristics, such as lack of remorse or empathy, guilt, a disregard for laws or social conventions, along with an inclination to violence. A core feature of both is that they are manipulative in nature.

Sociopaths are usually less emotionally stable and lack patience, giving in much more easily to impulsiveness and lacking detailed planning.  But, psychopaths are much crueler and will plan their crimes down to the smallest detail to avoid any kind of detection.

To make it simple, multiple licensed clinical psychologist believe that psychopaths are born, and sociopaths are made.

The terms (Narcissist, Sociopath and Psychopath) or conditions are too often used interchangeably which is not right as you will find in the specific Core Characteristics described below: 

  1. Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Such people always have a habit of demanding constant attention and approval for anything, and never take your needs and feelings into consideration. Someone who always believes that they’re better than everyone else and should be treated accordingly. If such characters are in your life than you could be dealing with a narcissist.

Narcissist, Psychopath, or Sociopath

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The following traits may help you to identify a narcissistic personality in your life, to protect yourself from their clever plays, and establish healthier boundaries:

  1. Get easily jealous (making baseless assumptions of their accomplishments)

  2. Don’t maintain healthy relationships

  3. Preoccupation with power and beauty

  4. Fantasizes about self-success and wealth

  5. Fragile self-esteem

  6. Follow unrealistic or unattainable goals (Obsession with power, wealth)

  7. Exaggerated sense of self-worth

  8. Arrogant attitude

  9. Lacks empathy but at times, feels remorse

  1. Requires constant need for admiration

  2. Crave for self-importance

  3. Envy towards others doing supposedly better

  1. Sociopath: A person with Antisocial Personality Disorder and according to multiple researches, it can only be diagnosed at the age of 18 or above. People who are Sociopaths have a conscience, although it’s not very strong. For instance, they know stealing money is wrong, and may even feel some guilt or remorse, but it won’t stop them from doing it because of their behaviour. However, the following must be present before the age of 15 for the diagnosis:

  1. Repeatedly breaking the law

  2. Pervasive lying and deception

  3. Physical aggressiveness

  4. Disregard for own safety and others

  5. Consistently irresponsible in work and family environments

  6. Lack of remorse

  7. Arrogant

Narcissist, Psychopath, or Sociopath

  1. Psychopath: Considered to be the more serious form of sociopathy or a mental disorder with various symptoms. Experts say that these are heartless people who are organized in their criminal thinking and behavior and are able to exercise strong emotional and physical control, without any fear, even under situations and circumstances that most would find threatening or horrifying. Also, a psychopath is always well aware of the fact that what he or she is doing is wrong, but doesn’t give a shit.

The traits of Psychopath include:

  1. No guilt and remorse

  2. No empathy

  3. No emotional attachments

  4. Narcissism

  5. May have superficial charm

  6. Always Dishonest

  7. Always Manipulative

  8. Reckless risk-taking

  9. Don’t value any relationship

  10. Often harm others or himself/herself

The more dangerous ones to the society

According to experts, both psychopaths and sociopaths present risks to society. They pretend or often try to live a normal life while coping with their mental disorder. Psychopathy is known to be the more dangerous, as they experience no guilt and have no emotional involvement, and any pain that others suffer is meaningless to them. Many famous serial killers have been diagnosed with this mental disorder.

Experts also say that both psychopaths and sociopaths are very capable of committing horrible crimes, however, a sociopath is less likely to commit against those people they care about. Sociopaths and psychopaths may have some common traits, but sociopathy is generally considered less severe than psychopathy.

Symptoms to Psychopathy or Sociopathy in Childhood

Experts say that clues to psychopathy and sociopathy are usually present in childhood. Most people who can later be diagnosed with sociopathy or psychopathy have had a pattern of behaviour where they violate the basic rights or safety of others as they often break the rules even laws and societal norms as a child.

Multiple Psychologists call these kinds of childhood behaviours a conduct disorder that involve four categories of problem behaviour:

  1. Aggression to people and animals

  2. Destruction of property

  3. Deceitfulness or theft

  4. Serious violations of rules or laws

  5. Sexually abusive

If you recognize these symptoms (and the specific symptoms of conduct disorder) in a child or young teen, they’re at greater risk for antisocial personality disorder.

Narcissist, Psychopath, or Sociopath

Causes of Narcissistic and Sociopathy

Till date, the exact cause of narcissistic and sociopathy is not clear but many psychologists and researches believe that genetic factors may predispose some people to the disorder.  Further, factors like childhood neglect or abuse, poor maternal-child bonding, may all be contributing risk factors.

How to Deal with Narcissists, Sociopaths, and Psychopaths

Dealing with narcissistic, sociopaths and psychopaths can be difficult for anyone, especially when it’s someone you don’t know. You cannot really say what is going on in their mind.

Here are some ways you can deal with such people

  1. Keep them away from alcohol and drugs as it will worsen the situation

  2. Prescribed medications and therapies must be given

  3. Don’t leave them alone but don’t force them to stay with you either

  4. Counselling


How to get rid of such people?

If you are dealing with such people and want to get out of a mentally abusive relationship, here are some recommended steps from our experts: 

  1. Do not tell your partner that you are planning on leaving

  2. Plan out everything carefully

  3. Don’t leave your bank records, cash, credit cards with them

  4. When you do leave him/her, never go back

  5. Maintain a strict no-contact policy

  6. Give yourself some time to heal from the abusive relationship


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