The 5 differences between narcissism and psychopathy

Narcissism and psychopathy are two pathological personality traits that share certain characteristics such as selfishness, the tendency to manipulate others, or lack of sensitivity and empathy.

We live and coexist with narcissistic people and individuals who exhibit obvious psychopathic traits, but it is often difficult to recognize which is which based on their behavior. This is why it is important to know how to distinguish them.

In this article we tell you what narcissism and psychopathy are, And we discuss the main differences between these two personality tendencies.

Narcissism: definition and characteristics

Narcissism is a personality tendency or pattern of behavior characterized by the fact that people believe in the right to everything and are very arrogant, selfish, have an extreme need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. Narcissistic people tend to spend a lot of time fantasizing about power and success, and may become obsessed with their appearance.

however, behind this appearance of control, there is an incredibly fragile ego that is easily hurt by criticism.. The narcissist usually cannot handle any form of criticism and tends to look down on others to validate their own superiority.

There are different classifications and types of narcissistic people. We will discuss the three main types here.

  • Related article: “Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Causes and Symptoms”

1. Classic narcissist

Classic narcissists are outspoken in their need for constant attention and always brag about themselvesThey seek compliments and believe they deserve special treatment. They are visibly bored when the topic of conversation revolves around themselves, and they don’t like sharing the spotlight with others.

However, even though they consider themselves superior to most people, they desperately need to feel important and to be admired. They are generally the type of narcissistic person who is easier to deal with because they tend to have higher self-esteem.

2. Vulnerable narcissist

Vulnerable or fragile narcissists feel superior to most people they know; however, as introverts as they are, they tend to avoid being the center of attention. They often try to reach special people instead of seeking special treatment themselves.

They may try to pity or manipulate others by being too generous to gain the admiration and attention they need to allay their deep-rooted insecurity. They have extremely fragile egos and are more likely to passively-aggressively attack if they feel offended or abused.

3. Malignant Narcissist

Evil narcissists are highly manipulative and exploitative. These people have much less empathy than the other two main types and may also have sociopathic or psychopathic traits. They have a sense of cruelty that sets them apart from the other two types of narcissists.

The main goal of evil narcissists is to dominate and control, and they use deception and aggression to achieve this, showing a lack of remorse for their actions. In addition, they can be swept away by the suffering of others.

Psychopathy: what is it and what are its characteristics?

Psychopathy is an antisocial personality disorder and is usually diagnosed at age 18 or older, although for diagnosis it must be present before age 15. Psychopaths are aware of right and wrong, although it is not particularly strong. They know that committing an illegality like theft, for example, is a mistake, and they may even feel a little guilt or remorse, but that does not stop their behavior.

Traits of psychopathy include: lack of guilt or remorse, narcissism, lack of empathy, superficial charm, dishonesty, tendency to manipulate, recklessness, and lack of attachment and affection. Psychopaths make up about 1 percent of the general population, and several studies have shown that about 20 percent of executives in large companies also have psychopathic traits.

Psychopaths are callous, but they can be charismatic and persuasive. They manipulate and deceive others with your charisma and intimidation, and can effectively mimic feelings to present themselves as “normal” to society. In addition, the psychopath is organized in his criminal thinking and behavior and is able to exercise strong emotional and physical control, showing little or no fear even in threatening situations.

Psychopathy does not understand morality; psychopaths can lie, deceive, steal, hurt others, and even kill without feeling guilty, although they may pretend to bother them. Psychopaths observe others and try to act as they do to avoid being discovered.

For example, watching a violent scene in a movie causes most people to react with a high heart rate, faster breathing, and even anxiety. However, the reaction of a psychopath is the opposite and they show no emotional reactivity.

Differences between narcissism and psychopathy

Although narcissists and psychopaths may share certain personality traits, such as lack of empathy, lack of remorse and responsibility for their actions, their tendency to manipulate others, or both conditions, they are more common among men, there are notable differences between them.

Then we highlight the most important differences between narcissism and psychopathy.

1. Original differences

Narcissism is a personality trait or tendency based on the interplay between genetics and the environment.. Variables such as parenting style in parenthood, overestimation or underestimation of the child from an early age, are factors that favor the appearance of this trait.

It seems, however, that psychopathy is a trait that permeates from birth. There are surveys that have detected antisocial patterns up to 5 week old babies. The insensitivity traits of 2 and 3 year old children may serve as a predictive marker of psychopathic traits in adulthood.

In addition, several studies have identified children aged 6 to 13 with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and diagnosed with behavioral problems (such as difficult opposition disorder or conduct disorder) that end in by similar traits in adult psychopaths.

2. Emotion differences

Narcissistic people can be euphoric, anxious, depressed, etc.., Depending on their environment and the stimulation they receive from outside. However, people with psychopathy show a very attenuated range of emotions, as they do not experience symptoms of depression or anxiety, and their ability to arouse is practically nil.

3. Differences in the tendency to sadism and revenge

People who suffer from narcissism tend to be sadistic and tend to take revenge when they feel offended. Hurting others can make them feel more powerful and feel like they are in control.

Psychopaths, on the other hand, tend to be more selective and do not exhibit sadistic tendencies in general.. When someone tries to offend a psychopath, he either reacts indifferently or walks away from the situation. And if they consider something unfair, they may demand revenge, but it will always be controlled and meticulously prepared. A psychopath can also torture someone to test their limits, but the goal is not to hurt for the sake of hurting and its function is more incidental.

4. Differences in fear of rejection and failure

Narcissistic people have a great fear of failure, of rejection and not being sufficiently considered good for a task. However, psychopaths are generally courageous and laid back, and generally do not have feelings of fear or anxiety in situations that involve some risk of failure.

5. Other differences

Narcissists have a special characteristic that often causes the displeasure of those around them, and that is their tendency to dramatize and communicate their feelings in an exaggerated way. If something has bothered or moved them, they will soon make it public and demand redress, as they feel very comfortable in the role of victims.

To psychopaths, instead, they don’t like drama too muchOn the contrary, they are bored and have no problem showing their indifference and coldness in situations where they don’t care what other people think of them. However, the ease with which a psychopath manipulates and exploits others using ploys and false appearances is a problem when it comes to knowing his true intentions.

Bibliographical references:

  • Brown, RP, Budzek, K. and Tamborski, M. (2009). On the meaning and extent of narcissism. Bulletin of Personality and Social Psychology, 35 (7), 951-964.

  • Cooke, DJ, Hart, SD, Logan, C. and Michie, C. (2012). Explain the construction of psychopathy: development and validation of a conceptual model, the global assessment of the psychopathic personality (CAPP). International Journal of Forensic Mental Health, 11 (4), 242-252.

  • Paulhus, DL and Williams, KM (2002). The dark triad of personality: narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy. Journal of Personality Research, 36 (6), 556-563.

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