Narcissist, Psychopath, or Sociopath: How To Tell The Differences

Narcissist, Psychopath, or Sociopath: How To Tell The Differences

Narcissist, Psychopath, or Sociopath: How To Tell The Differences

He is a charming, thoughtful man who gives to his community. A charismatic man whose grandiosity and great tales of victory command awe.  He adores himself and needs continuous validation of his importance. Cadres of loyal subjects do his abusive, selfish, and unethical bidding. Many within his inner circle to avoid cognitive dissonance have reinterpreted his actions that were at odds with their beliefs to ‘facts’ that they need to maintain cognitive harmony.  They live in fear of his displeasure and need to be in his good grace for their self-worth.

The above could be the profile of a narcissist, psychopath or sociopath.

How to tell the difference between a narcissist, psychopath or sociopaths?

The video contributed by my follower and friend Pete does an excellent
job explaining in simple language the differences between a
narcissist, a psychopath, and a sociopath. Overlap in signs and
symptoms occur among these disorders and even in normal people without
these disorders. That leads to confusion and the interchangeable
misuse of the terms. Here is what you need to know to understand the


According to Dr. Ramani,   a narcissist has a disorder of self-esteem. A narcissist feels entitled, continually seeks validation and focuses on other people’s view of them. When a narcissist harms others, they will usually feel remorse in the form of shame more so than guilt.

Psychology Today stated the hallmark of narcissistic personality disorder is a triad of “grandiosity, a lack of empathy for other people, and a need for admiration.” (Psychology Today )   Fifty-Seventy percent of narcissists are men.  It is also common for adolescents to temporarily display narcissistic traits as part of healthy development. It does not mean they will become narcissists.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder:

A pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy as indicated by 5 or more of the following:

  • Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (exaggerates achievements, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited power, success, brilliance, beauty or ideal love
  • Believes her or she is “special” and can only be understood by similarly special, high status people
  • Requires excessive admiration
  • Has a sense of entitlement
  • Is interpersonally exploitative
  • Lacks empathy
  • Is envious of others or believes others are envious of him/her
  • Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

All psychopaths and sociopaths are narcissists. Unlike narcissists, psychopaths and eventually sociopaths feel no remorse–no guilt or shame– when they harm others. Psychopaths are believed to be the hand of nature while sociopaths are thought to be nurtured. Both constructs fall under the DSM category of Antisocial Personality Disorder.

Antisocial Personality Disorder

A pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others, occurring since age 15, as evidenced by 3 or more of the following:

  • Failure to conform to social norms as evidenced by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest
  • Deceitfulness
  • Impulsivity
  • Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults
  • Reckless disregard for the safety of others
  • Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial commitments
  • Lack of remorse, as being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt others
  • The individual is at least 18 years of age


Psychopaths are narcissists who feel no shame or guilt in harming others. They do not think about consequences. Studies suggest their response to negative stress is suppressed. They don’t fear danger or regret bad things as most people do. They may even derive pleasure from other people’s pain.

Many psychopaths are criminals such as serial killers. The diagnosis requires a Psychopathy Checklist.

Many psychologists believe there is no cure or effective treatment for psychopaths.


Sociopaths are narcissists. They learn from their environment to feel no shame or guilt when they do bad things. They learn not to think about or fear consequences. They are products of their environment or experiences. Prisons have high rates of sociopaths; one study showed as high as 70% in the prison population vs. up 3% in the general population.

Theoretically, in the early stages, a willing sociopath may be treatable with timely and appropriate intervention.

Narcissist, Psychopath, or Sociopath: How To Tell The Differences

Source of Image: Pinterest


Author: Angela Grant

Angela Grant is a medical doctor. For 22 years, she practiced emergency medicine and internal medicine. She studied for one year at Harvard T. H Chan School Of Public Health. She writes about culture, race, and health.

13 thoughts on “Narcissist, Psychopath, or Sociopath: How To Tell The Differences

  1. Thank you, Angela. The said clinical psychologist is the best yet I think I’ve seen explaining these conditions.

  2. So this time you’re willing to go with Anglo-Saxon based definitions/descriptions/diagnoses of these………mental….um……disorders? The DSM? Lmfao, oh privileged angry black woman. Ugh!

      1. Since we talked about mental health, illness, disorders, already many times , privately as well as in several LinkedIn groups, you already know my take on the matter. So the answer is, NO.

        Um……..just for you to know…….I made it a habit to hugely restrain myself when it comes to sarcasm. Why is that? As a saint I wouldn’t want to hurt too many tender souls. But you already knew this as well.

  3. That was an interesting article. I have interchanged some of those words in the past, but it’s good to know exactly which symptoms go with certain disorders. There have been times where I cared too much about the approval of others, but I’m learning to stop caring. I’ve certainly seen most of those traits from others before.

    1. Ty, I thought she explained the differences well. Healthy people have similar symptoms. What makes a specific constellation of symptoms pathologic vs. normal? It has to do with frequency, severity and the degree to which the symptoms disrupt daily life.

      Curtis, caring is part of what makes you human. You can care about people and not become focused on their approval of you or what they think about you. I learned to care too much about what others think of me, makes me miserable and susceptible to other people’s whims.

      1. Same here. I’ve seen those behaviors from healthy people and those that fit the arbitrary definitions of “sane”.

        Thank you. There were several times where I cared too much about the thoughts of others and it lead to disappointment. I also felt horrible if I argued against people even if I knew they were wrong.

          1. I see. I’ve been tempted to argue with people when it’s a topic that I know about and I’ve wanted to win against them. Would it really be worth it though? Part of it stems from finding it hard to insult people.

            1. Wow. Interesting. You’re certainly a better person than me in that regard. I need to keep a note of that about not trying to insult others even though I rarely ever do so.

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