The Difference Between A Sociopath And Narcissistic Sociopath?

By Sarah Cocchimiglio

Updated March 26, 2020

Reviewer Wendy Boring-Bray, DBH, LPC

We have all heard of the term sociopaths, and some people may have even had an encounter with one at some point in their lives. While it may be common knowledge that encounters with a sociopath may not often be pleasant, many people may not know that there are different types of sociopaths - sociopaths and narcissistic sociopaths. If you are struggling with having a sociopath or narcissistic sociopath in your life, this article can help you understand the types of sociopaths better and provide suggested ways for you to help them (and yourself).

There Are Key Differences Between A Sociopath And A Narcissistic Sociopath
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What is a Sociopath?

In short, a sociopath is someone who exhibits antisocial behaviors and attitudes and violates social norms. Their behaviors may include manipulation and deceit, and a sociopath may often lack empathy and a strong moral compass. They often act recklessly or aggressively, without regard for right and wrong.

It's possible for sociopaths and narcissistic sociopaths to get treatment and lead healthy, happy, and productive lives. We're going to talk about what defines sociopathy and narcissistic sociopathy, including signs and symptoms, and later we'll go over some ways for you to help someone you care about, who has been diagnosed with one of these conditions.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) are excessively grandiose. Individuals with this disorder have an extreme need for admiration from others. They also have a lack of empathy and sympathy for others. Narcissistic personality disorders begin in early adulthood, and a variety of different events can trigger it.

Narcissistic Sociopaths

There are a lot of similarities between a sociopath and a narcissistic sociopath. Sociopaths are narcissistic; however, people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) may not necessarily be sociopaths, although they have very similar traits and characteristics. In many cases both narcissism and sociopathy become linked, and that's where the term "narcissistic sociopath" comes into play. Sociopathy is scary enough, and narcissistic sociopathy takes it to a whole new and higher level.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with having a healthy self-image of oneself and being self-confident. However, a narcissistic sociopath has an unusual love for oneself. This type of self-love is abnormal.

Just like sociopathy, narcissistic sociopathy is more common in men than women. It also occurs more frequently in younger people than older people. According to the National Institutes of Health, narcissistic sociopathy is more common in black men and women, as well as Hispanic women. Also, it often occurs in people who are either divorced, widowed, separated-rather than among those who have never been married. Despite the statistics, however, the disorder can affect people of any race, gender, class, sexual orientation or religion. It doesn't discriminate.


Signs And Symptoms of Sociopaths and Narcissistic Sociopath

Sociopaths and narcissistic sociopaths display different signs of their condition. Below are some explanations of these symptoms.

  • Grandiosity - Narcissistic sociopaths have a high grandiosity- meaning they have an unrealistic sense of superiority to others. They may believe themselves to have superpowers. They might tell lies about their lives to others. Some sociopaths might even perceive themselves to be like that of a god.
  • Manipulative - Both sociopaths and narcissistic sociopaths have this trait in common. They can manipulate others for their benefit. They are also good at finding people who are too trusting and vulnerable. They lure their victims in with their charm, and they can even fake problems and emotions to get their victims to sympathize with them. A lot of people can fall into their traps and end up getting hurt by them.
  • Lack of sympathy and empathy - Both sociopaths and narcissistic sociopaths lack empathy and sympathy for others, even those who are closest to them. They only care about themselves and won't do anything for others- unless they benefit from it somehow.
  • Require excessive admiration - Narcissistic sociopaths require excessive admiration from others, even more so than sociopaths. They also tend to feel envious of others, and, in some cases, they feel as though others are envious of them, even when they are not. They can also be quite arrogant and proud- merely because they think that they are better than others. They also love the spotlight and require lots of attention from others.
  • Charismatic and charming - Like sociopaths, narcissistic sociopaths are also incredibly charming and charismatic. It's is their way of reeling people in. Once you fall for it and they have succeeded, they begin to show their true colors; by then, it's usually too late for the victims.

There Are Key Differences Between A Sociopath And A Narcissistic Sociopath
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Sociopath vs. Narcissistic Sociopath

You might be wondering what the difference is between a sociopath and a narcissistic sociopath, due to the fact that they have similar traits and characteristics. In fact, there are few differences between the two. Here's are some ways to distinguish the sociopath from the narcissistic sociopath.

  • Crimes and danger - A narcissistic sociopath won't necessarily harm others or commit serious crimes. The number of sociopaths in prisons is much higher than that of narcissistic sociopaths, mainly because sociopaths disregard the law and don't care about it; their impulsive behavior makes them dangerous. Narcissistic sociopaths only become aggressive when they feel injured psychologically.
  • Conversations - A narcissistic sociopath talks only about themselves and doesn't care about the other person. On the other hand, a sociopath doesn't talk much about themselves, as they want to talk about you to get to know you better.
  • Are they aware of their behaviors? - A narcissistic sociopath is likely to be unaware of his or her actions and behaviors, whereas a sociopath is entirely aware of his or her behavior and actions. This is because sociopaths most likely planned their actions so that they can manipulate the situation.
  • Winning and losing - A narcissistic sociopath isn't bothered about winning or losing. They are more concerned about others admiring them. For sociopaths, it's all a game, and they only care about winning against others.
  • Boredom - A sociopath gets bored quickly and is always seeking new thrills whereas a narcissistic sociopath doesn't require stimulating activities all the time.
  • Awareness of the effect on others - A narcissistic sociopath isn't always aware of the effect that they have on others or how annoyed others get because of them. However, don't underestimate them; if they find you to be a threat to them, they will act out. A sociopath, on the other hand, is utterly aware of the effect that they have on others.

Causes of Narcissistic Sociopathy

The origins of narcissistic sociopathy are unclear. However, genetics could be a possible cause. Other factors may include child abuse and neglect or even over-pampering in childhood. As children, narcissistic sociopaths can also pick up and learn ways to manipulate from their parents and other family members.


How to Deal With a Narcissistic Sociopath

Dealing with narcissistic sociopaths can be difficult for anyone, especially when it's someone who is close to you. Read on for some tips on how to deal with someone with NPD.

Keep them away from alcohol and substances

Without being judgmental, you can try to help those close to you by getting them to limit their use of alcohol and other substances. If your loved one already has a problem with either alcohol or drugs, then you will need to get them admitted to a rehab center. These substances can aggravate their condition.


There are medications that can help with treating narcissistic sociopathy. However, some medications such as antidepressants, antipsychotics, and mood stabilizers can especially help with treating their symptoms. In order to receive these medications, they will eed to seek the help of a medical professional.

Offer support and encouragement

These are the most critical factors when helping anyone who is suffering from a mental health condition. Encourage them to have a healthy diet; encourage them to get exercise and do some therapeutic activities that will help them. Provide support, and do not be judgmental- as this can trigger them.

How BetterHelp Can Help

Outside of the above, one of the most effective way to get someone help is through therapy. Psychotherapy is necessary for narcissistic sociopaths. To receive this therapy, you can utilize online counseling. One of BetterHelp's nearly 4,000 licensed therapists can help and may use cognitive behavior therapy, which can allow the patient to recognize his or her behavior. It will also help them with accepting criticism and setting realistic goals.

Once you have found a mental health professional to help your loved one, it is vital to give the professional a full breakdown of the patient's history, any traumatic events, and family history, if possible, so that the expert can do an evaluation and determine the cause of the illness. You should also continue to make notes of the patient's behavior and symptoms and share it with the therapist.

A therapist can also assist you in handling the narcissist in your life and can coach you on how to react in certain situations. They will teach you how to deal with your loved one- in a healthy way, and they can also help you begin a road to recovery from any pain you have experienced. Below are some reviews below from other people with similar experiences who have benefitted from BetterHelp's counselors.

Counselor Reviews

"Aria has a gift of understanding and reading into peoples emotions. It is rare to find counselors that utilize a strengths based approach, while also encouraging clients to look inward. Working with her the last 2 years has allowed me to tap into my own feelings, as well as challenge a lot of my negative thought processes and question them."

"Kelly has shown me how to be accountable for my thoughts and how to navigate them in a healthy manner. Though the knowledge was somewhat there she has a way of helping me understand what or why I'm going through what I am. I appreciate all the time we've spent together so far and look forward to learning how and being a healthier version of myself through our sessions."

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

What is the difference between narcissists and sociopaths?

You've heard the term "narcissistic personality," and you've heard the term "sociopath." Knowing the difference between a narcissist and a sociopath can help you determine who is who. Many psychological disorders can have overlap, and there are many sociopaths and narcissistic people who don't fit the definition, but here is the basic difference between a narcissist and a sociopath.


When you think of people who may qualify as narcissists, you may imagine someone with a big ego. Someone with a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is described as someone who doesn't care about others, thinks of themselves as the best person in the world, and who always needs that validation. Narcissists are more interested in feeding their ego than making true friends.

Narcissism is a spectrum, too, with many types of narcissists around. Not all narcissists are going to exhibit narcissistic abuse. You may be in a relationship with a narcissist who is quite nice to you. These are known as covert narcissists, closet narcissists, or another term. There may even be people who have just the right amount of narcissism for it to be healthy. For example, narcissists who aren't toxic may just be people who have high self-esteem.


A sociopath is someone who has antisocial personality disorder. They are much more destructive, having no regard for the law or for norms. Sociopaths can be self-destructive as well, and they are people who may do everything sporadically. They never make any plans; they just show up. A sociopath may be aggressive and get into fights. They may have a hard time being in a relationship as well. Narcissistic relationships were already a challenge, but sociopathic relationships are even tough, and rarely last over a year.

Both sociopaths and narcissists have many similarities. They are all cunning, manipulative, and have a high self-worth. Many people may say that the differences are really irrelevant. Many sociopaths can have a narcissistic personality, too. However, some narcissists may not have a sociopathic tendency. Some narcissists aren't as calculating and cunning as a sociopath.

Of course, many people have both. There is a form of narcissism that has both, along with paranoia and other symptoms, and these people are considered malignant narcissists. Malignant narcissists are even tougher to deal with.

What is the definition of a narcissistic sociopath?

We know what narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is, and we know what a sociopath is, so what is a narcissistic sociopath. When it comes to narcissists, not all narcissists may be sociopaths. However, a narcissistic sociopath is one who has traits of both.

Someone who is a narcissistic sociopath may be hard to live with, and dating a narcissist who happens to be a sociopath can be a challenge. Someone who has both tend to be someone who has a big ego who will exploit people, but they have a self-destructive side too. They may get arrested, get into fights, and have a hard time dealing with the law. They hit the checklist of narcissistic behaviors, as well as the behaviors of antisocial personality disorder. Dealing with a narcissist is bad enough, but dealing with a narcissistic sociopath is a tall order altogether.

What is a sociopath's weakness?

Ultimately, a sociopath's weakness tends to be themselves. Someone who is a sociopath may have a disregard for rules, which may land them in prison. Sociopaths can have a hard time paying bills, making it difficult for them to find a home. Many sociopaths know how to manipulate and lie, but depending on the sociopath, they don't know how to weave a lie for very long, and when their house of cards falls, they won't be able to pick themselves back up.

Of course, this all depends on the sociopath. High-functioning sociopaths may have fewer weaknesses, knowing how to play the system while gaming it.

Who is more dangerous: psychopath or sociopath?

You may wonder which is worse: a psychopath or sociopath? Well, before we answer this question, we need to define what these two terms are, and figure out the similarities, differences, and traits of both these terms.

Neither of these terms are verified by psychology. With sociopathy, it's instead defined as antisocial personality disorder. Both are quite similar, in that they're manipulative. Both can be narcissistic people and have everything on the checklist of narcissistic people. However, there are two main differences between the two.

A sociopath is someone who may have a conscience, but it's weak. A psychopath, meanwhile, has no conscience at all. Also, sociopaths are much more hot-headed. They can get into fights a lot more and end up being arrested multiple times because of that.

So, it's hard to say which one is more dangerous. A sociopath may be more dangerous because of their temper, but a psychopath's disregard for people is no laughing matter, either. The labels sociopath and psychopath are quite similar, with all things considered.

What makes a sociopath angry?

Everyone gets angry for a different reason, and a sociopath is no different. Their fuse may be set off by quite a few things.

Perhaps the biggest reason a sociopath may be angry is because of criticism. Someone who is a sociopath has many angry symptoms, along with narcissistic personality. Therefore, if you do anything to hurt their ego, they may go berserk.

How can you tell if someone's a sociopath?

Ultimately, it's up to a professional to diagnose someone with antisocial personality disorder, but there are a few ways that you can tell if someone is a sociopath. Here are a few of them.

  • If you've ever been hurt by someone and they don't have any remorse, they may be a sociopath.
  • They are hot headed, especially if you bruise their ego. Many sociopaths are narcissists, and there are many types of narcissists, ranging from docile to violent. Most sociopaths are violent, and due to the narcissism, it costs narcissists a lot, including their freedom if they hurt someone.
  • The sociopath is self-destructive, getting into DUIs, not paying their bills, or having a hard time keeping relationships.

Of course, these are just some symptoms of low-functioning sociopaths. Many sociopaths may be people who are higher functioning, and due to their craftiness, they can pass as normal people.

What are the 7 symptoms of a sociopath?

While antisocial personality disorder is complex, there are seven main symptoms you can use to identify a sociopath. These include:

  • They have no empathy. It's difficult for them to see from another perspective, especially when they hurt someone. When they do hurt someone, they may not care at all, which could make them a danger. If you're in a relationship with a sociopath, especially with one who is a narcissist, they may not care about you. Of course, not all narcissists are sociopaths, and if your spouse is a sociopath, this is different to your spouse than a narcissist.
  • They have a hard time with relationships. Few sociopathic narcissists can improve, and every relationship they have ends up falling apart. This tends to be because they cannot form bonds very well, which means they may just use their partners.
  • They're irresponsible and impulsive. A sociopath may forget to perform adult activities such as paying the bills or even doing basic chores. Also, a sociopath may have a difficult time planning things, instead doing it all sporadic. Now, we all have cases where we behave like this, but for a sociopath, it's all the time.
  • A sociopath can be a good manipulator. They're people who will try to manipulate the world for their gain, especially if they're high-functioning. Not all sociopaths are these smooth-talking, suave people who will seduce you, but many of them are, so watch out.
  • A sociopath may be aggressive. Not all of them will be people who will fight you with their fists, but instead many may use their words to hurt you. They can be very hostile, especially when they feel like they've been hurt in some way.
  • They can be liars. To them, lying is an easy way to avoid trouble or confrontation. Not all sociopaths' lies are blatant. Some will stretch the truth a little because they know that it'll be harder for people to notice.
  • A sociopath may be very self-destructive, especially if they're lower functioning. A sociopath is known for drug abuse, gambling, sporadic sex, a life of crime, and any other destructive behavior. To them, it's a thrill, especially when it involves a law being broken.

What are the three steps to identify a sociopath?

If you want to find someone who labels sociopath and psychopath quite well, there are three mains steps you can use. These steps are not foolproof, as some sociopaths are tricky, but these three main steps can help you identify them. They are:

Listen to their Words

A sociopath, particularly one who is high functioning, may be extremely positive and tell you the words you want to hear. They may tell you how beautiful you are, how great you are, and everything under the sun, but they're faking it.

You can tell, because they'll then shift to negative words when they're mad. They may always put the blame on you, telling you how useless they are.

These two extremes will happen a lot, and it all depends on what they want. If they want to butter you up, they'll be positive. If they want to guilt trip you, they'll be more negative.

How They Make You Feel

Another way that you can tell whether or not you're talking to a sociopath is how they make you feel personally. You may feel uneasy over a sociopath, and sometimes, you should trust your gut. Especially if you feel fearful over this person and feel like they can hurt you when they have the chance. However, you may feel pulled towards them due to their charm and them taking advantage of a situation you're in. Make sure you avoid that whenever possible.

How They Behave

Look at their behavior. This is a great way to figure out if someone is a sociopath. A sociopath is one who will not see any compassion in how they see others and will watch people suffer without a care in the world. The sociopath is usually someone who lacks empathy. Watch how they behave around others, and see if they are someone who doesn't show any compassion for people when they are hurt, or who doesn't feel remorse when they hurt someone.

These three steps can help you spot a sociopath, and then move on from them as soon as possible.

What do sociopaths think about?

A sociopath tends to think of where they can get the next thrill, or how they can improve themselves in their own way. As the cliché goes, sociopaths tend to only think about themselves and no one else.

Can a sociopath fall in love?

A sociopath can often appear to be in love, but they're usually using the person for their own gain. The love they feel is quite superficial and once they've used their partner, they will end up tossing them to the side.

Do sociopaths have friends?

Many sociopaths, especially the high-functioning ones, can appear to have many friends. They surround themselves with company due to their charm. However, the sociopath may not like any of their friends, and may just be using them for their gain. The sociopath is the epitome of the fake friend, and they will betray their friends if it means they go up in the world.

If you want to know if you're friends with a sociopath, the best way to do so is to think about how much they've done for you. Have they been empathetic whenever you're having a problem, or did they ignore you? Does the friendship go both ways? Or do you have to make an effort?

How do I deal with a sociopath?

When you have to deal with a sociopath, remember that you won't be able to change them. No matter what you say or do, you're not going to be the one who helps them. They're people who need professional help. Some of them can benefit from psychodynamic psychotherapy, but the problem is that most people who are sociopaths are not going to admit they need help.

If you do have to deal with one, make sure to come prepared. Your first step with dealing with a sociopath or narcissist: to raise your self-esteem as much as possible. You can find many books about this, such as Darlene Lancer's Dealing with a Narcissist: 8 Steps to Raise Self-Esteem and Set Boundaries with Difficult People.

By having high self-esteem, you can learn how to avoid taking the sociopath's words personally and letting them manipulate you. If you are in a relationship with a sociopath, it's important to get out of it as soon as possible. This is something that you may want to talk to a professional about, as it can be hard to leave an abusive relationship.

Avoid talking to them whenever you can, and if you have to, make sure your relations with them are online.

You can find plenty tips in the world of psychology blog universe, so read all of them and come well-equipped as possible.

Is Joker a psychopath or sociopath?

While the Joker is a character who has had many depictions, most depictions of him would make him a psychopath, not a sociopath. The Joker has no conscience. He's someone who gets what he wants, even if it means that a lot of people die in the process. He lives in a society where everyone is expendable to him, even people who he considers close. Of course, being a comic book villain, his behaviors are highly exaggerated and you should take the Joker as an example of what a psychopath really is.

Are sociopaths dangerous?

Sociopaths can be dangerous for quite a few reasons. For sociopaths who are lower-functioning, they may get in trouble with the law or with other people a lot. A sociopath may drive drunk, putting themselves in danger of others. They may get into fights, hurting others, especially if you're in a relationship with them. They may display narcissistic behaviors, making it difficult for them to care about others.

Some sociopaths are higher functioning. This means that they less likely to get into legal trouble, but they are still quite dangerous, as they like to play others. For example, if you learn more about narcissistic behaviors, you'll discover that they'll do whatever they can to improve their ego, and if you bruise it, they may try to ruin your life in different ways.

Do sociopaths cry?

Many sociopaths may cry, but they're faking it. Sometimes, it's easy to tell, because they may do something to indicate that they are not crying genuinely. For instance, they may cry while wiping each eye one at a time, not realizing that tears come from just one eye.

Of course, some sociopaths may cry a little if it's something directly close to them. They are narcissists, and narcissists learn to cry when it affects them directly, and when they can benefit from it.

Do sociopaths love their family?

Many sociopaths do not love their family, and may even resent them, but many sociopaths are different. There are some who may love their family in their very own way, and see them as an extension of themselves. Ultimately, it's hard to tell if a sociopath loves their family, or if they're just pretending.

What is a high functioning sociopath?

Many sociopaths are actually high-functioning. Just like autism, there can be a spectrum. Low-functioning sociopaths are people who may be highly destructive to themselves. They cannot keep a job for too long. They may burn through relationships. It's common to see them in prison. These are just a few examples.

A high-functioning sociopath, meanwhile, knows how to game the system. They can be highly manipulative and calculating. High functioning sociopaths qualify as narcissists, and they will do anything they can to be on top. If you are dealing with a narcissist, they may be a person who is a high-functioning sociopath. If your partner is a narcissist or high-functioning sociopath, definitely seek help.

Do sociopaths get angry easily?

Every case is different, but many sociopaths are known for their volatile behavior. They can get angry easily and explode should something not go their way. Many narcissists, sociopaths, and other people of a similar disorder to get mad quite easily. You may be in a relationship with a sociopath who might leave you whenever they're upset enough, and this can be frustrating, as it feels like you're walking on eggshells.

Are sociopaths born or made?

Do sociopaths qualify as someone who was made from nature, or nurture? If you look this question up, people will divide the difference between a psychopath or sociopath. You may hear that a sociopath is made, while a psychopath is born.

A sociopath does indeed come from abuse or a tough life, but there may be a genetic predisposition as well. Like many instances, it's usually a combination of nature and nurture that leads to a person being who they are. Most narcissists and sociopaths have a bit of both.

What is a sociopathic personality type?

A sociopathic personality type is known as antisocial personality disorder. If you want to know if you or someone you know has a sociopathic personality, here are a few traits to consider.

  • Sociopaths don't respect laws or norms. They don't mind lying and they don't feel guilty when they hurt someone.
  • A sociopath can be aggressive, and they will hurt others at times.
  • You may think a sociopath is more calculating with their safety, but they usually don't consider their own safety.
  • A sociopath can be irresponsible, always making excuses as to why they haven't paid their bills.
  • They may have a self-destructive lifestyle. They could drink, use drugs, and do other activities to damage themselves.

These are a few traits that sociopaths have. Obviously, someone may have a couple of tendencies by not be a psychopath or sociopath. If you're unsure, then perhaps it's time to get a diagnosis by a professional.

How common are sociopaths?

If you're wondering how many people are a true psychopath or sociopath, they do make up a small percentage of the population, but the number is still big enough. While statistics may vary, the most commonly cited one is one per every 100 people. There may be more people who have sociopathic traits or people who are both sociopaths and narcissists. There's a good chance you know someone who is a sociopath.


Sociopathy and narcissistic personality disorder are serious mental conditions, and it can take a serious toll on you when someone you love is suffering from either of these. It is important to understand what their condition is, and, hopefully, this article has given you ways to help them, as well as information on how to protect yourself. With the right tools, you can enjoy fulfilling relationships. Take the first step.

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