Let’s start with the obvious. I am not a mental health professional. I have no training to diagnose a Sociopath or a Narcissist. My interest is completely personal. Over the last couple of years, I have been in a few situations where terms like sociopathy and NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) have been tossed around. A couple of weeks ago, I ran across an article in Psychology Today written by a self-described Sociopath, “Confessions of a Sociopath.” There was so much in that article that reminded me of a few situations I have experienced including that she is a religious sociopath. In one of my situations, I had heard the person described (not cynically) as NPD. So, I began to wonder; what is the difference between a sociopath and a narcissist? But as with so many things, my mind moved on. That is until now.
I ran across an article, “How to Spot a Narcissist,” from Psych Central. Just as when I read the other article so much of this resonated with my experiences. This was especially true when I read, “Narcissistic Personality Disorder Symptoms” from the same site. Both Narcissism and Sociopathy seemed so similar.
It, in some ways, seems to be important that we understand these issues because according to the Narcissism article as many as 1 in 100 people have NPD. According to the Sociopathy article, however, as many as one in 25 people are sociopaths. I don’t know if these numbers are correct and after finishing my reading it seems likely that there are more Narcissists than Sociopaths. Either way, it seems we will all, at some point, have to deal with both of them and for some of us, we will deal with them in significant roles in our lives.
Researching Narcissism and Sociopathy
Finally, I did what we all do in this computer age to get information, I Googled, “What is the difference between a sociopath and a narcissist?” The first few articles really didn’t seem to provide much clarity for me. However, the article “Narcissist or Sociopath? What’s the Difference?” from Lisa E. Scott’s website provided some helpful distinctions. In all, there seems to be a ton of overlap and I encourage anyone who suspects they are dealing with these personality types to read these articles. In some ways, it seems that the behavior of a Narcissist and a Sociopath can be very similar. The difference seems to be their motivation. This article provided the following distinction:
A Narcissist sees others as a means to validate his existence. The less validating you are, the less use you are to a Narcissist.
A Sociopath views others as entertainment. The less entertaining you are, the less use you are to a Sociopath.
If this is true, then I think there are likely more Narcissists than Sociopaths. The comments of the article provided the idea that Narcissists are a subset of Sociopaths. I believe this idea has a lot of validity. However, the validation versus entertainment distinction may be too simple. With the people I have in mind, I do not believe their motivations can be so easily divided.
This essay is from our Anastasis Series where we resurrect articles from the past that are either still relevant today or can be easily updated. This piece was first published on August 19, 2013, and has been lightly edited and updated.