Narcissist, Psychopath, or Sociopath: How to Spot the Differences

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12:04   |   Jun 25, 2018


Narcissist, Psychopath, or Sociopath: How to Spot the Differences
Narcissist, Psychopath, or Sociopath: How to Spot the Differences thumb Narcissist, Psychopath, or Sociopath: How to Spot the Differences thumb Narcissist, Psychopath, or Sociopath: How to Spot the Differences thumb


  • [percussive electronic music riff]
  • (Kyle) What is the difference between a sociopath, a psychopath and a narcissist?
  • Here to answer this intense question is doctor Ramani. Help us out here.
  • (Dr. Ramani) Well, it's, you know, again, there's a lot of overlap,
  • but the fact is a lot of people are using these terms interchangeably.
  • (Kyle) And should they be?
  • No, they shouldn't, they're different things. Okay.
  • One rule of thumb to remember right off the bat:
  • Every psychopath is narcissistic, but not every narcissist is psychopathic.
  • Makes sense? There's your key difference.
  • A narcissist is somebody who lacks empathy,
  • is grandiose, is entitled, is constantly seeking validation, is arrogant.
  • It's a disorder of self-esteem and they have trouble regulating their self-esteem.
  • But when a narcissist does a bad thing, they feel a fair amount of guilt and shame.
  • More shame than guilt, frankly, because they're concerned about how other people view them.
  • Shame is a public emotion.
  • So they don't like being viewed negatively in the public eye or by other people--
  • that's where the shame comes from.
  • But they'll feel a little bad, like if they cheat on their wife,
  • "uuuh, I probably shouldn't have done that."
  • (Kyle) Yeah.
  • A psychopath's a different animal. They're all of those things except: no guilt/no shame.
  • They don't feel remorse when they do something bad.
  • (Kyle) [whispered] Wow.
  • So they're, they're great
  • serial killers,
  • (Kyle) Oh!
  • hired assassins.
  • People who are gonna go in and literally sort of gut a business. These are your guys.
  • They're like I don't, I don't care who gets hurt. They'd say that and they'd mean it.
  • Okay, where narcissist is like, "I hope no one gets hurt." Okay?
  • The difference between the psychopath and the sociopath is the one where most people get confused
  • because the sociopath is a lot like the psychopath -- they do bad things and they don't care. Okay?
  • Here's the key difference: a psychopath is born and a sociopath is made.
  • (Kyle) [expresses understanding] Mmmm
  • Okay, that's the key.
  • So a psychopath in fact, we know in the research on psychopathy--
  • which has also been called Antisocial Personality Disorder in our diagnostic manual--
  • these are people who are actually believed to have slightly different autonomic nervous systems.
  • Our autonomic nervous system is actually that part that holds our sympathetic nervous system,
  • which is our fight-or-flight system.
  • So when our autonomic nervous system, for a normal person, gets charged up,
  • which it would if we broke a rule, if we did something
  • embarrassing or rude, if we ran through a red light-- our heart starts racing,
  • (Kyle) Uh hmmm
  • we sweat, our pupils get wide,
  • we look around because we're afraid of the consequence.
  • A psychopath doesn't have that same kind of arousal.
  • That's why they're able to lie on lie-detector tests. That's how they get away with it.
  • They don't have that same kind of arousal.
  • So where you or I may go on a roller coaster, feel that sense of excitement,
  • we need to get that arousal in a good way. We don't like feeling it when we do something wrong.
  • They don't feel it.
  • (Kyle) So do they get stressed?
  • No, not in the same way.
  • (Kyle) So if they're driving,
  • (Dr. Ramani) Mm-hmm
  • because if I'm driving and I see police sirens coming behind me.
  • I mean it is a full-on, "Oh my gosh, I can't believe I'm gonna get pulled over."
  • (Dr. Ramani) Oh, yeah, you're not a psychopath.
  • But a psychopath would see that and go, "Oh, I'm gonna get pulled over."
  • Well, this could be, they could have a dead body in the trunk and they wouldn't, they wouldn't show that.
  • And so they pull over, they get the ticket and they don't...care?
  • No, they don't care.
  • (Kyle) And they pay the ticket?
  • And believe it or not they'll even probably get an attorney to get him off or say yeah,
  • you know my understanding of your state laws is you can't really be doing this and they'll be cool as can be.
  • And this is, this is a difference in their... makeup?
  • They're actually, how their nervous systems are wired and their brains are.
  • There's actually been interesting research done with PET scans
  • where you can see brain function and what they've shown...
  • (Kyle) Just a clarification, not "pet" like dogs and cats, P. E. T. scans.
  • No, that's positron emission tomography, scans of the brain, which show brain functioning, if you will,
  • and what they see is that the, the section of the brain that serves empathy,
  • that doesn't naturally light up in them.
  • And you can actually teach them to be empathic for a minute but it doesn't last.
  • A lot of psychopaths who commit violent crimes end up in jail and the ones who commit more like
  • white-collar crimes, I guess they end up as multi-billionaires because they're willing to do
  • really, really rough stuff in their business and get through, like, a cartel leader or something like that,
  • call for the killings of other people.
  • Now, their interesting counterpart are the sociopaths.
  • Psychopaths are born. They tend. . . their belief is that they may very well have. . . this might be genetic.
  • In fact psychopaths often have fathers who have lots of antisocial tendencies.
  • Now how much of it is learned, how much of it is genetic
  • it's a little bit harder to suss out. But we do see that there is that difference in your true psychopath.
  • They also tend to be, have really glib, shallow charm, they tend to be really intelligent.
  • That's why they get away with stuff. If they were really. . .
  • (Kyle) So they've learned behavior to assimilate into society. But there's...it's all a façade.
  • (Dr. Ramani) Oh, yeah
  • It's all a façade, they're SO charming.
  • (Kyle) So if they're born this way
  • would a three-year-old, then, not get stressed out if it got scared?
  • (Dr. Ramani) Might not
  • (Kyle) That's incredible.
  • So what we see when we diagnose Antisocial Personality Disorder,
  • which is sort of our diagnostic equivalent to being a psychopath. In order to get that diagnosis
  • you have to have shown a pattern prior to the age of 15 of things like:
  • truancy, violence towards other kids, stealing, skipping school,
  • (Kyle) And not felt bad about it
  • torturing animals, setting fires. They just do it.
  • They don't care and that before the age of 15. So it's a long-standing pattern
  • That's what makes us call them a psychopath or having antisocial personality.
  • Now, this is different than sociopathy.
  • (Kyle) Yes, okay.
  • Sociopathy, they look a lot like the psychopath. The difference is they were made.
  • So this...some examples here...the kid who grows up in a really, really, really, really rough neighborhood
  • and learns criminality to get by or learns to be a bully or like
  • you know gets involved with sort of like the wrong kids and uses a lot of muscle
  • because that's survivalism,
  • but they...it's not necessarily always comfortable for them. They just learn it.
  • It's the person who grows up with a father who teaches them the business
  • and teaches them how to break the rules.
  • (Kyle) They, but they, they don't,
  • they, would they feel, would they start sweating and have their heart race if they got pulled over?
  • They might. They may not feel so good about... they'll be a little bit more uncomfortable with it
  • but in time they'll learn it and that, that.... What it's almost like, they,
  • they get trained in not being as aroused by it.
  • Listen, if you broke enough rules, if you lived under certain
  • conditions of lawlessness long enough, you'd adjust to that "new world order", if you will.
  • (Kyle) Um hmm, um hmm.
  • That's what the sociopath does and so they're the person who someone who said,
  • "He was actually a great kid until he got to high school and then it seems like he got in with the wrong kids."
  • That feels more like the sociopath.
  • (Kyle) [whispered] Wow.
  • (Dr. Ramani) Okay, that's almost like a training that might happen from
  • within the family, within their community, within even the job they get.
  • Some cases even, within some form of military training.
  • Have you had sociopaths and psychopaths as clients?
  • Not really, no. They don't tend to come in for therapy. They don't see any benefit to it.
  • The only time you would tend to see psychopaths or sociopaths
  • come into therapy with any consistency is if they were court-ordered. So...
  • I thought you were gonna say couples therapy.
  • No God no, no. No, it's because they're court-ordered
  • so the judge will make that a condition-of-release kind of thing
  • or they're within prisons and jails and getting some treatment in there.
  • This is so incredibly fascinating to me. If a psychopath goes to jail
  • he
  • isn't upset about going to jail?
  • Um, in some ways it becomes a cost of doing business.
  • You know, but it's also--they, no. They're not happy about it. There was....
  • Psychopaths, and to some degree sociopaths, don't think about consequences.
  • That's why they pull really penny-ante silly crimes like holding up a liquor store.
  • Basically, "I need a hundred fifty bucks. Here's a liquor store. It's open. Let's go get the money" kind of thing.
  • So it's like they act first and think later.
  • So they often don't plan in terms of consequences.
  • That's why they have a tendency to lie, cheat, steal and they tend to have very inconsistent work histories--
  • because they, they're not able to hold a job.
  • (Kyle) Yeah, of course.
  • They use aliases.... It's definitely like, it's more of a griftery kind of a space.
  • So, we've talked in previous videos about how to cope while dating a narcissist.
  • If you find yourself dating a sociopath or a psychopath
  • is there any coping or you just got to get out?
  • You're in trouble. It could be actually be a very dangerous relationship.
  • (Kyle) Sounds like it.
  • Yeah, in fact you know, even with the narcissistic piece,
  • um, I do, I've done research and work in the area of domestic violence,
  • or what's also called intimate partner violence,
  • most people who perpetrate domestic violence
  • are either narcissistic or psychopathic and so, so there's a danger there.
  • In other words, they will dispose of you if you get in their way.
  • I want to share a story with you to get your feedback.
  • This was told to me by a friend and she said in college she dated a guy for a year
  • but the guy started to get
  • just a little weird and they broke up.
  • For the next year he courted her and
  • did everything she wished he had done the first year - showed up on time, brought her gifts, blah blah blah.
  • They started dating again. He was perfect for a year. He...they went to Thanksgiving at her family's house,
  • he was perfect to her parents, just became the perfect man for her because
  • he knew what she wanted. And after a year, on their one-year anniversary
  • he broke up with her and said, "I've been playing you this whole time because I wanted to crush your heart.
  • (Dr. Ramani) Yep.
  • I, I am not actually behaving this way." Or, "This isn't real,
  • I've been faking it for a year just so I can crush you."
  • Would that be a psych....
  • That's more psychopathic, you know or sociopathic is more likely, you know, um.
  • But if they have no empathy then-- why would they want to hurt somebody?
  • Because, because, empathy, empathy is not, empathy is a positive emotion.
  • Okay, wanting to hurt someone is a very antagonistic emotion.
  • Wanting to hurt someone at some level might even give them a little pleasure-- power for sure.
  • It's, it's interesting to me that someone can not be empathetic
  • but then want to hurt somebody because to me you would have to have the empathy
  • in order to even know what it's like to hurt somebody.
  • (Dr. Ramani) No, there's a difference between empathy and understanding:
  • (Kyle) Oh, that makes sense.
  • (Dr. Ramani) It's like that's why psychopaths make great salesmen, because they understand the person,
  • they can read a person and immediately say I got his vulnerability. I'm gonna make him buy a car.
  • (Kyle) [whispered] Got it
  • Psychopaths are great salesmen. Salesman for cars, timeshares, all that, all of that stuff
  • where they're upselling and almost taking advantage of someone sometimes,
  • making them take on more money and cost of something than they really should.
  • But no, no, no, it's that he was able to be superficially charming
  • Psychopaths and sociopaths and narcissists make great chameleons.
  • They're definitely able to change the situation
  • to get what they want and
  • psychopaths in particular and sociopaths are, they, they view the world as an instrument to fulfill their desires.
  • (Kyle) Mmm
  • That's really what they're about, which is what...
  • it's awful because they're going to often discard a partner when they don't have much use for them
  • or expect them to have a very specific role, so, they may have married her and she may have had their kids,
  • now, she's gonna have to put up with their affairs because they want something else and too bad
  • if you don't like it, this is the new world order and I will destroy you in court. It's that kind of thing.
  • That is insane.
  • (Dr. Ramani) Yeah, it's chilling.
  • I want to leave it right there.
  • I have learned more about sociopaths and psychopaths than I ever thought possible.
  • Make sure you check out as well our discussion about narcissism with Dr. Ramani
  • Thanks again for being here.
  • For more information on all things mental health, make sure you go to medcircle.com
  • There you can curate your own list of your preferred mental health topics.
  • It will be delivered to you exactly when you need it.
  • I'm Kyle Kittleson. Thanks for watching.
  • [percussive electronic music riff]

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Narcissist, psychopath, or sociopath? Here's how to spot the differences.
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What is the difference between a sociopath, a psychopath, and a narcissist? Here to tell us is leading psychologist and author of "Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Narcissistic Relationship" Dr. Ramani Durvasula.

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