Saturday, October 14, 2006

Are narcissists psychopaths?

Are narcissists psychopaths (i.e. Suffering from Antisocial personality Disorder)? I'm not knowledgeable enough about psychopathy to have a set opinion, but I tend to lean toward the view of the increasing number of those who see no real difference between these disorders.

The reason I lean that way is because I feel narcissists are capable of ANYTHING. The basic mentality seems the same, that of a predator. The psychopath is after the same thing as the narcissist. Our stereotype of the psychopath though just pictures him as going about it in a different way than the stereotypical narcissist.

A well-kept secret: Con artists, predatory priests, rapists, serial killers, wife beaters, incests, child abusers, animal abusers, bully bosses in the workplace, ruthless dictators, religious false messiahs (e.g., Jim Jones) - all are generally narcissists doing their thing. In different ways. But all are predators who view others as objects. All are sadistic. All are after the same thing.

Some say that narcissists have a conscience and psychopaths don't. I'm not so sure about that. In fact, I don't think a lack of conscience is exclusive to either of these types. Otherwise, for example, how could the vast majority of Europeans have gone along with, and been complicit in, the Holocaust? They weren't all psychopaths, were they? Anyone can turn their conscience into an unconscience anytime they want. They just conveniently unknow that what they're doing is wrong. That's just unforgivable, not psycho.

The difference is that the mentally deranged have their conscience and empathy permanently shut off, toward EVERYONE. I mean the entire human race. To paraphrase Jesus of Nazareth, they are the ones who will even hand their own child a poisonous snake when the child asks for food. That's exactly what a narcissist does (even a doting one), and don't try to tell me that anyone who does that has any conscience.

I think differences between narcissists and psychopaths may be an illusion. It's easy to see how authorities could be mislead.

We get most of our knowledge about Antisocial Personality Disorder from studies of violent criminals in prison. Researchers and psychiatrists know much more about them than they know of patients they see in clinics on the outside. So, they aren't going entirely on self reports of criminal psychopaths. They can compare the self reports of prison inmates with fact to detect lies.

For example, this article tells of a Canadian researcher who studied criminal psychopaths. If for example, the prisoner said he loves his family, the researcher checked to see how often he had contacted them. If he'd had no contact with them, the researcher noted the information as evidence of lying, not evidence of love for his family.

That doesn't happen when the narcissist on your coach says he loves his family. In narcissism, psychiatrists are relying on the self reports of pathological liars trying to pass for normal.

Of course they claim to have a conscience! But that's no reason to believe that they do.

Narcissism is fundamental to Antisocial Personality Disorder. Even calling NPD a "milder" form of it doesn't make much sense to me. You don't judge the severity of mental illness by the legality of the conduct it causes, let alone the severity of the criminal sentence involved.

What? A person is a just narcissist till he murders someone? Then he has a more severe disease than he had yesterday?

In that article Psychopaths Among Us, we learn from a leading researcher, Robert Hare, that the vast majority of psychopaths commit no criminal offense and many more have but haven't been caught. They are all around us.

...we now understand that the great majority of psychopaths are not violent criminals and never will be. Hundreds of thousands of psychopaths live and work and prey among us. Your boss, your boyfriend, your mother could be what Hare calls a "subclinical" psychopath, someone who leaves a path of destruction and pain without a single pang of conscience.

That estimate of hundreds of thousands is for Canada! Imagine what it would be for the United States or the European Union!

They're the charming predators who, unable to form real emotional bonds, find and use vulnerable women for sex and money (and inevitably abandon them). They're the con men like Christophe Rocancourt, and they're the stockbrokers and promoters who caused Forbes magazine to call the Vancouver Stock Exchange (now part of the Canadian Venture Exchange) the scam capital of the world. (Hare has said that if he couldn't study psychopaths in prisons, the Vancouver Stock Exchange would have been his second choice.) A significant proportion of persistent wife beaters, and people who have unprotected sex despite carrying the AIDS virus, are psychopaths. Psychopaths can be found in legislatures, hospitals, and used-car lots. They're your neighbour, your boss, and your blind date. Because they have no conscience, they're natural predators. If you didn't have a conscience, you'd be one too.

So, the distinction between narcissism and psychopathy is pretty hazy. Is it real? Frankly, I doubt it.


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At 5:34 PM, Blogger La Diabla said...

Wow! I just read similar things really recently myself - about psychopathy and N-ism being the same or related.

My mother's 3rd husband (when I was 14-18 yrs old) was diagnosed as a sociopath by mental health professionals. Sociopathy is also psychopathy, if I'm not mistaken. now we've thrown N-ism in there with it. I'm really going to have to read about this link between them!

The more I read about this stuff the more it makes sense and yet the more it becomes confusing.

At 8:04 AM, Blogger Louise said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 5:14 AM, Blogger Louise said...

This "Witness Protection Program" stuff takes awhile to get used to...

I definitely think that NPD and psychopathy could be linked. Why else could someone say they love us, then do everything imagineable to show the opposite? There is something truly wrong with that.

About 3 years ago, I remember thinking about Nsis and it hit me- to understand her, I'd have to be as crazy as she is. That made me feel worse for her, but explained the "WHY?" that kept pestering me.

At 8:50 AM, Blogger La Diabla said...

Louise, you've mentioned getting in an N's head a couple times and I think you're order to understand them we have to think like they do.

Reminds me of cops...They say there is a fine line between law enforcers and criminals because of a cop's ability to think like a criminal.

Anyway, the thing I notice is I can try to think like they do but it doesn't last. It dissipates. It almost takes Herculean efforts on my part to be able to put my mind into that state of altered reality. In other words, I can't maintain that type of muddled thinking because my brain just doesn't work like that. So, I will always be a step behind these a-holes.

At 10:01 AM, Blogger Louise said...

Oh yeah; trying to "get there" works on your psyche- for awhile this summer, I started to wonder about the motives of others in my extended family. Were they REALLY sincerely nice, as I had always believed, or were they simply acting that way to put me off guard? Were they "reporting back" to my Nsis via phone or email after they asked me how things were going with her?

One younger cousin and I talked one day recently- he told me EXACTLY what he thought of her decade-long disappearing act and the impact it had on my family, as well as on our deceased grandmaother. I know this conversation will go nowhere within the family; I trust him 100%. But it also made me realize that because of the situation with my sister, I was SCARED to trust my own instincts. Not a good thing, and one that has taken awhile to readjust.

At 11:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you guys have ANY idea how many of these men are in the music business?
You would be blown right out of your Keds. No joke, no word of a lie. VIRTUALLY EVERY MUSICIAN has this disorder up his atonal ass.
Building a New Paradigm was a smal price to pay to avoid all losers, all the time.

At 11:48 AM, Blogger Louise said...

My husband was a stringer for Variety out on Cape Cod while in college and met many entertainers- television/movie, theatrical and musical. Some of the stories I've heard were just unbelieveable- one that sticks out was an especially obnoxious jerk who recorded many gold albums. This was back in the 1970's. Yet other performers were sincerely nice and "regular folk".

At 1:45 PM, Anonymous dandelion said...

Multiple themes here...

First, N's vs. psycopaths. Could there be a distinction based on the importance of self-image? Except for the times I've been most pissed off at them, I would not put the N's in my life in the same category as psycopaths. Something seems to hold them back from total callousness--they need to maintain a self-image of being a good person / mother / husband, so there are lines that they don't cross, even behind closed doors. And when they do cross that line, they go through all those cognitive contortions to justify their actions to themselves (i.e. maintain their self-image). The fact that it's so important to justify themselves seems to me to be evidence of a shred of conscience. From what I gather about psychopaths, they just don't care.

As for thinking like them: if you were raised by an N and took in their life view, you grew up believing that you don't exist--your thoughts/feelings/ideas are not important. You don't have empathy for yourself because your N parent didn't either. You are as clueless about yourself and others as your N parent because you threw your instincts out the window--your feelings never helped you figure things out but in fact made your life worse. I didn't really "grow up" emotionally until my 30's.

But I have found a situation where it has served me well to think like them. After a couple of years of being emotionally abandoned by my husband, I stopped trying so hard and started distancing myself from him. Now I've come to the point where I think about him the way he must have thought about me those couple of years--I vacillate between thinking of him as an enemy and him not being that important to me. I remember characterizing his behavior back then in almost the same terms--he was either indifferent or antagonistic towards me. Some days are harder than others, but this will work for me until the kids are grown.

At 2:30 PM, Anonymous GH said...

Great thought Dandelion! You're right, the N's I've known likewise have that demonstrated knowledge of right and wrong. Indeed, it seems almost all their cruelty, contortions, etc. can be explained by the compulsive need to project away any hint that they might have done something wrong.

None of us likes screwing up, of course. But we're all human -- despite our best intentions, we all fall from grace at one time or another. Being able to recognize, repent, and make amends for our mistakes is part of, well, being alive I guess.

But at least for one N I've had to deal with, the faintest suggestion that he might have made a mistake seems to trigger first an anxiety attack, then a desparate campaign to project away fault for the error. Very often through the delightful blaming the victim technique.

I like what you say, too, about how being raised by an N makes it hard to have empathy for yourself -- it seems downright revolutionary to think your thoughts/feelings/ideas have value! Friends have often told me that I have a rather tough inner critic -- no one is harder on me than I am. I always just said I had high standards. Now that I am exploring the concept of Narcissism, I'm beginning to see how much of my inner critic is really just an adoption of the N-parent's (and other N's) voice telling me over and over that I'm not good enough.

It sounds like you've found a manageable balance -- it's so tough with kids involved! I can only imagine how hard you must work to make sure they don't grow up with a distorted self-view as a result of your N-partner.

At 9:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

there really does seem to be a noteable difference between blatant Ns and Ns that are more covert. It seems anyone can point out a blatant N because of how transparent and overblown they are. The more subtle ones are the ones that take up more brain space and really affect us the most. The "big" ones make us mad, the others make us crazy and miserable.

At 10:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

kathy, why do some Ns thrive on an audience to perform for and other Ns hide what they're doing?

At 11:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The stories I could share about the dramas I was dragged into against my will (but which I played my part in most enthusiastically) by the bored, amoral and psychopathic musicians I've known would make your nose hair fall out.
Thankfully I know for certain that we are all going to the same place evntually. Even losers deserve the experience of living their dharma out fully, every derelict thing they do to people a step toward the same goal as all of us, to be whole and forgiven humans.
Meantime, kick' em in their asses straight out of your life. There are others lined up to learn what we already have. And so it goes.

At 1:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think there are moral narcissists and immoral ones and that can make a world of differnce in the methods they imploy to get what they need, admiration. You can't depend on either when the chips are down because a moral narcissist will see you as weak and dispicable and an immoral one will get pleasure out of kicking you when you're down. Neither one will kill you because of their narcissism though they may certainly enjoy making you think that they are going to kill you.

There are also degrees of narcissism and those of the 'nth degree thrive best on drama and turmoil. The more moral ones thrive more on subvertly controling others and gaining admiration from communities of people rather than the emotional feed of being the center of attention. The subversive ones have the power to hurt you more because you will be led to believe that they truly love you but when bad things come into your life, they will drop you like a hot potatoe with no understanding of how uncompassionate they are. They know how to fake a normal relationship but they don't have the substance of it.

They are to be pitied not hated but always garded against. They are damaged beyond knowing that they need repair.

I grew up with a narcissist dad and a inverted narcissist mother. I grew up to be a co-narcissist and my sister a highly moral narcissist. I have hurt all of my life from it but I got the better half. I can love and have empathy and compassion. My sister lives in a world with no confidants and the shallow admiration of many. She has never truly experienced life at all. She can't even recognize or embrace genuine love when it is offered to her because true love accepts all imperfections and she must always remain perfect. She was the good daughter and I the bad. I never thought I'd be thankful that it fell to me that way but today, I truly am.

At 10:40 AM, Blogger Kathy K said...

Not sure what you mean by "co-narcissist" so I can't comment on that. It sounds like you are calling the semblance of morality, or a show of morality, morality. (See "The Narcissist's Style" on the main website.) An N wears a different mask in every environment. She will usually appear highly moral in certain environments. I knew one who used to ask me what the "moral" thing to do would be in this or that situation and then go do it to impress everybody with how moral she was. But that was her Dr. Jeckyll mask. Mr. Hyde didn't even try to put a moral face on anything she did. That's because there were never any witnesses in the enviroment where she let him out at a victim.

As for hatred, if you mean an emotion by that, it passes. If Ns get hated for their hate, they just do. It's natural, in our genes to do that. I don't judge people for their feelings. But I will be the first to say that we should repair our damaged relationship with ourselves so that that pain/hatred passes. Because hanging on to it is bad for us. It means we have not yet repaired our relationship with ourselves. It takes time, but it does go away. That is natural too. In fact, as one commenter said (and I have also said) our problem is usually the opposite = we tend to get over our hatred and soften so that often the N can return and sucker the victim again. So, repressing strong emotion is often a bigger problem than just facing and dealing with your emotions. When that N returns REMEMBER how angry you were! Never forget it!

The passing of that strong negative emotion leaves NOTHING, no feeling whatsoever for someone who can't treat other people like human beings. They are the subhuman ones, not those they treat as the subhuman ones.

That's actually the traditional definition of "hate" = the simple REJECTION, abhorrance, of another person. Not an emotion.

At 9:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Kathy,

Co-narcissist is a fairly new term, I think. It is used to describe persons who have been damaged by narcissistic parents but aren't narcissists. I was conditioned to live as an extension of someone else and not by my own direction. I accepted manipulation as love and was primed for relationships with narcissists. It has been a long hard journey for me, always thinking I was the one that needed fixing. I do need healing but I'm not the dangerous one. You are right and I haven't healed myself yet. Much of this is new to me. I am in the midst of separating from my birth family and it is a hard process. I'm not a young woman. I wish I would have been able to figure it all out sooner.

I'll try to get you a link for a good article on co-narcissism.

At 10:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Kathy,

A good article on co-narcissism is, "Co-Narcissism How We Accomodate to Narcissistic Parents, by Alan Rappaport, Ph.D.

At 9:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do people with NPD have self- awareness and know they are evil?

Because someone I suspect of having this personality disorder(I can't decide whether he is a sociopath or a narcissist but he is certainly one of them)referred to himself as inhuman when I put him on the spot, and seemed to be proud of it. He seems to revel in being evil. Sometimes I get the impression he feels blessed to be a sociopath.

He also told me he was a god and I know he wasn't joking. He is the most depraved person I have ever had the misfortune to meet in my life. He says he is going to settle down and start a family soon. I genuinely feel sorry for his wife and children to be.

At 9:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If NPD and APD really are the same condition, would that mean that Sociopaths are created the same way Narcissists are: by rejecting their true self like their narcissistic parent did and replacing it with a false grandiose alter ego?

And would that mean sociopaths are motivated by wanting attention like narcissists are?

At 8:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just A Small Foolish question,
If Ones mind..was to think logically...but on...writing it down EXCATLY or....eplaining it. and...anyone else...could not understand that train of thought or alike.
That Same Mind...constantly thinking ........"unaltered"...say like if using one for basic things such as movement etc etc, but another that...uncontrolled or 'unaltered' ..entire different minds, but at the same time.

Would that Mind/Individual...Narcissist?

I Would like any replies or ANYTHING further
please feal free to send me an email to:

At 7:47 AM, Blogger Lil said...

VIRTUALLY EVERY MUSICIAN has this disorder up his atonal ass.

Yes, musicians are 'god's gift' to the rest of us poor losers, LOL.

At 3:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

From what I gathered, most of psychopaths have narcissistic traits, so here narcissism is only a feature that you often find among psychopaths but this very trait is not specific to them. from some stories I have read here, it seems to me that the commenters were describing psychopaths and not 'just' narcissists.

At 4:18 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

anonymous, you're wrong about one thing. Psychpathy is well defined, and all (but your usual flat-earther in the crowd) agree that all psychopaths are malignant narcissists. You can't diagnose psychopathy in anyone who is not a malignant narcissist.

What's debatable is the question of whether all narcissists are psychopaths. Most people assumed the answer is no. They viewed psychopathy as a more severe form of malignant narcissism.

But during the past few years that opinion has been getting harder and harder to defend. This is still under debate, but many now think that viewing them as distinct diseases was a mistake we made in the past by a simplistic view that fails to appreciate how malevolent a narcissist is - even if he never commits a violent crime, it ain't because he wouldn't if tempted and thought he could get away with it.

That's the question as it stands: all psychopaths are narcissists, but are all narcissists psyopaths? Are psychpathy and NPD the same disease?

At 11:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

from what I gathered malignant narcissism was a kind of subdominant of psychopathy, as if the narcissists were a subspecies. Please Kathy can you explain ' flat-earther in the crowd ' to me as English is not my native language and you use that in your answer to me.It sounded offensive ? What could advocate that malignant narcissists = psychopaths to me is when i read that psychopaths don't intgrate consequences, comparisons, legends, myths, references,alternative, dreams...I was amazed to discover how criterion differ from countries ( Canada, New Zealand , US and Germany) and also over the past 20 years. So as you said here, psychology is not to be regarded as a pure science. Still, psychopaths can't make the difference between right or wrong, so can't narcissists do that too? I wonder.Psychopaths have all suffered in their childhood from ill treatment,abuse, humiliation rejection from their environment/ society, what about Narcissists?They must act out all their desires or fantasies, breaking the law without realizing it and when faced with anxiety make an impulsive decision, do narcissists do that too?
Sorry for my poor English, so frustrating when you feel you can't make it as clear in another language. I forgot! what about the similarities between sadistic personnalities and psychopaths or even narcissists?

At 12:33 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

A "flat-earther" is just slang for people who cannot be persuaded by reason or evidence - that small minority who always go against whatever is generally accepted scientific opinion or theory. Because of them, you never get 100% consensus. It isn't an offensive term. It's no compliment either though.

People who don't know right from wrong don't know enough to hide it when they do something wrong. So sneaking around is proof that you know what you're doing is wrong.

Narcissists and psychopaths do sneak around. They are cunning and sly about it. Insane people aren't.

People who can't control themselves don't behave like angels while there are witnesses present...and immediately become a werewolf in the dark where they can get away with it.

That's what narcissists and psychopaths do, and it is proof that they can control themselves.

Insane people can't control their urges. If they go off and become violent, they'll commit the crime in broad daylight on a busy street full of eyewitnesses.

Insane people don't pass for normal, either. Everyone can tell they're screwy. But Ns and psychopaths have expert facades. They behave sanely whenever they want. They cunningly pass for normal. In fact, they create an elaborate false image of themselves that is often the exact opposite of what they really are.

2 + 2 = What does that prove?

Proof, proof, proof of pure malice of intent AND sanity.

Insane people don't behave at all like Ns and psychos do.

That's why the law in the US does hold psychopaths and people with NPD as responsible for any crime they commit. They are judged as sane, just as a drug addict who commits a crime to get drugs is held accountable: the addiction is no excuse here.

That is American jurisprudence. In the trial the prosecutor has to prove the premediation and cunning. Otherwise the perpetrator could get off on an insanity plea.

Ns and psychopaths are mentally ill, but not insane. They are accountable for what they do. At least here, under the law, they are.

At 12:39 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

PS, The leading expert on psychopathy (by far) is the Canadian doctor Robert Hare. He and others have abundantly proved that not all psychopaths came from abusive homes. That is another finding that only your rare "flat-earther" disputes today. Some psychopaths came from what Hare characterizes as "wonderful homes."

Hare describes the psychopath as simply someone without a conscience. That is not the same thing as not knowing right from wrong.

Why would Ns and Ps go to such great lengths to pretend to be "good" people if they don't know the difference between right and wrong?

At 2:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Kathy for your answer.The more I read about psychopaths and narcissists the more I see that the epidemiology and terminology vary not only from one country to another but according to criterion used. I read about Hare's psychopathy chelist ( 20 items) which dates back 1980's, there is also the Diagnostic interview schedule and many others. I guess it was hard enough for me to consider myself as a victim of a malignant narcissistalthough when the therapist put a name to the hell i have been through i felt a bit relieved. It was not just in my head. There was something wrong with this guy but I could not put my finger on it and name it which is quite important I think. The therapist advised me to read books from Marie-France Hiridoyen, a very famous psychiatrist in France who has studied a lot moral and emotional destruction.I don't know if her books have been translated in English. They are brilliant I think. Reading her book, in her descriptions of the malignant narcissist you can see someone who is clearly psychotic.

At 8:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have accepted that my father and stepmother have narcissism. My stepmother is worse than he is but it really hurts to stay involved with these people. They used me and my brother when we lived with them and we were literally slaves. My brother finally moved to a different state, and when I was taking care of my father's mom (I was seperated at the time), I decided to live with my mom and stepdad. Since then, they have treated me and my brother as outsiders, because we don't live with them, "we're not part of their family" in my stepmother's words. My stepsisters still ask who I am on the phone even though they have caller id! I have washed my hands of them for good and there's nothing I can do to make them see how much it hurt me. Let God deal with them, that's all I have to say.


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