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Narcissist or Psychopath? What Are the Differences?

Uploaded 8/2/2010, approx. 3 minute read

My name is Sam Vaknin, and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.

What is the difference between narcissists and psychopaths?

We all heard the term psychopath, or sociopath, but these are the old or colloquial names for a patient with antisocial personality disorder.

It is hard to distinguish narcissists from psychopaths. Psychopaths may simply be a less inhibited and less grandiose form of narcissists.

Some scholars have suggested the existence of a hybrid, psychopathic narcissist, or narcissistic psychopath if you wish.

Indeed, the committee of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual No. 5, the next edition, they are considering to merge these two personality disorders and to subsume them under a general heading of personality disorder.

Still, there are important nuances setting these two mental health afflictions apart.

First of all, as opposed to most narcissists, psychopaths are either unable or unwilling to control their impulses or to delay gratification.

Psychopaths use their rage to control people and to manipulate them into submission.

Like narcissists, psychopaths lack empathy, but many of them are also sadistic. They take pleasure in inflicting pain on their victims or in deceiving them. They even find it funny.

Psychopaths are far less able to form interpersonal relationships. Even the twisted and tragic relationships that are the staple of the narcissists are beyond the pale and the scope of the psychopath.

Both the psychopath and the narcissist disregard society, its conventions, its social cues, and social norms.

But the psychopath carries this disdain to the extreme, and he is likely to be a scheming, calculating, ruthless and callous career criminal, as opposed to the narcissist.

Psychopaths are deliberately and gleefully evil, while narcissists are absentmindedly and incidentally evil.


In my book Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited, I have written, as opposed to what Scott Peck says, narcissists are not evil. They lack the intention to cause harm.

As Millon, Theodore Millon, notes, certain narcissists incorporate moral values into their exaggerated sense of superiority. Here, moral laxity is seen by the narcissist as evidence of inferiority, and it is those who are unable to remain morally pure who are looked upon with contempt by the narcissist.

So narcissists are simply indifferent, callous and careless in their conduct and in their treatment of others. Their abusive behavior is off-handed and absentminded, not calculated, remediated, like the psychopaths.

Psychopaths really do not need other people at all. They are completely self-enclosed and self-sufficient.

Narcissists, on the other hand, are addicted to narcissistic supply. They need attention, admiration, adulation from others. They are dependent on other people for their constant supply and for the regulation of their own self-worth and self-esteem, self-confidence.

In an isolated island, as castaways, the psychopath will thrive. The narcissist will dwindle and die.

Millon and Davis write, with the egocentricity, lack of empathy and sense of superiority of the narcissist, cross-fertilize with impulsivity, deceitfulness and criminal tendencies of the antisocial, the psychopath.

The result is a psychopath, an individual who seeks the gratification of selfish impulses through any means, without empathy and without remorse.

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So, Is My Narcissist a Covert Narcissist? Nonsense vs. Scholarship

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Narcissists and Codependents: Same Problems, Different Solutions

Codependence and narcissism are pathological reactions to childhood abuse and trauma. The codependent has a realistic assessment of herself but a fantastic view of others, while the narcissist has a fantastic view of himself but a penetrating view of others. The codependent seeks validation to restore a sense of reality, while the narcissist seeks narcissistic supply to enhance his grandiosity. Inverted narcissists are a subtype of covert narcissists who team up with classic narcissists to obtain vicarious supply. The overwhelming majority of narcissists have codependent traits and are dependent on other people for their sense of self-worth, self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-image.


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Narcissists require constant validation and attention, and their sense of entitlement clashes with their dependence on others for self-worth. Lone wolf narcissists who withdraw from society can become dangerous due to their unquenched hunger for narcissistic supply. Schizoids, on the other hand, are indifferent to social relationships and have a limited range of emotions and affect. Psychopaths lack empathy and disregard others as instruments of gratification, and they are often criminals. When narcissism, schizoid disorder, and psychopathy converge, it can result in extremely dangerous individuals.


The Music of the Narcissist's Emotions

Narcissists have emotions, but they tend to repress them so deeply that they play no conscious role in their life and conduct. They deduce the existence of emotions in others and themselves by gathering data and analyzing their meaning and significance. Narcissists and psychopaths are aware only of their cognitions and do not experience emotions, making them emotionless thinking machines. The author proposes considering narcissists and psychopaths as the first true forms of artificial intelligence.


Your Empathy as Narcissistic Injury: Narcissist Never Learns, No Insight

Narcissists reject empathy and intimacy because it challenges their grandiosity, and they become paranoid and aggressive when someone tries to be intimate with them. Narcissists lack empathy and access to positive emotions, leading to a truncated version of empathy called "cold empathy." Narcissists are self-aware but lack the incentive to get rid of their narcissism, and therapy is more focused on accommodating the needs of the narcissist's nearest and dearest. Cold Therapy is experimental and limited, as it removes the false self but does not develop empathy or improve the narcissist's interpersonal relationships.


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Confessions of Inverted Narcissists - Part 1 of 3

Inverted narcissists are codependents who depend exclusively on narcissism and crave to be in a relationship with a narcissist regardless of any abuse inflicted on them. Narcissists react to competition with pathological envy, and inverted narcissists tend to feel envious and resentful towards their partners. Narcissistic personality disorder is the inability to love oneself, and it is about having a profoundly negative self-image. Survivors of child abuse may develop a kind of codependence or narcissism, and they may experience intense envy and competition towards others.


Narcissist: Psychotic?

Narcissists are not full-fledged psychotics, as they are aware of the difference between true and false, real and make-believe, and are in full control of their faculties and actions. Narcissists are efficient instruments for the extraction and consumption of human reactions, and they resonate with their audience, giving it what it expects, wants, and demands. Narcissists are hypersensitive and hypervigilant, alert to every bit of new data, and continuously rearrange their self-delusions to incorporate new information in an egosyntonic manner. Narcissistic Personality Disorder is insufficient grounds for claiming a diminished capacity or insanity defense, as narcissists are never divorced from reality and crave it to maintain the precarious balance of their disorganized, borderline psychotic personality.

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