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Psychopath vs Sociopath vs Narcissist: 15 Subtle Differences to Tell Them Apart

You hear the words sociopath and narcissist being used to describe someone. But are you sure you know the differences between a sociopath vs narcissist.

sociopath vs narcissist

You’ve probably thrown the words, narcissist and sociopath, around when describing someone who you think may be one. But, do you really know the meaning and differences between a sociopath vs narcissist? 

Calling someone a narcissist is pretty loaded and not a label you want to give someone, especially if you’re unsure of the definition. I used to have a boss who I couldn’t stand, and I spent a lot of *work* time trying to figure out what they are. Hm, he must be a sociopath… no, no, maybe he’s more obsessed about himself than anything else… so… he’s a narcissist? 

Neither sociopaths or narcissists are uncommon personalities, whether they’re people we’re friends with, colleagues from school, or work. They’re everywhere. But, it’s important to know what both mean and their differences.

[Read: The narcissistic sociopath and the traits that make them so dangerous]

Sociopaths are people who have an antisocial personality disorder, whereas narcissists are people who have an extreme admiration of themselves. Though they may exhibit similar signs, they’re two very different things.

15 ways to tell the difference between a sociopath vs narcissist 

If you’ve been trying to figure out which is which, you’ve come to the right place. Here are the differences between a sociopath vs narcissist. Sometimes, the line is blurred. 

#1 Sociopaths cut and run. When it comes to relationships, sociopaths and narcissists differ greatly. Narcissists cannot maintain long-term relationships, and they usually end badly. However, sociopaths will simply end the relationship once their mind games and tactics have been discovered. [Read: Are you dating a sociopath? The 8 disturbingly obvious signs]

#2 For narcissists, it’s about being admired. They’re not really focusing on the idea of being a winner, in their heads, they want to be admired and adored by everyone else. That’s how they view success. But for sociopaths, all they want to do is win. 

#3 Narcissists will work hard. They only reason why a narcissist will work hard is for validation. If they’re getting credit and recognition as being the best, they’re hard workers. Sociopaths, on the other hand, will try to do as little as possible. [Read: How to survive the power of the narcissistic duping delight]

#4 Both are against following the rules. Do you think they would be where they are today if they followed social rules? Exactly. For both sociopaths and narcissists, they never stick to the rules. A narcissist simply doesn’t see them, and sociopaths break the rules for personal gain.

#5 Narcissists love themselves. They’re not interested in what’s going on in your life or the struggles you’re facing. They want you to listen to them and only them. They love themselves, and you’ll notice this right away. But for sociopaths, they get as much information from you and use it against you.

#6 Narcissists aren’t aware of other people’s feelings. A narcissist doesn’t realize how their behavior affects others. They don’t notice how their behavior angers and frustrates other people. But sociopaths are fully aware of their emotional effect on people. [Read: Are you being gaslighted? 14 signs someone’s messing with your head]

#7 Sociopaths will take you down. Here’s the thing, sociopaths are extremely dangerous. They’re aware of everything they say and do, unlike narcissists. See, narcissists are severely insecure, but sociopaths are into playing long-term mind games. They strategize and spend their time finding out how to destroy you.

#8 Sociopaths are cool, calm, and collected. Narcissists can’t handle socializing with empathetic people and will lose their minds. But sociopaths are completely cool and calm; they have it together. Their main goal is to collect as much information from people as possible and use it against them when the time is right.

#9 Narcissists will bully you. To validate themselves and hide their insecurities, narcissists have no problem degrading you and bullying you. This is because they see you as a threat and is done to hold their position. If they supported you, it would be a disaster in their world. 

#10 They both are poor team players. There are some similarities between sociopaths and narcissists; one similarity is they both make poor team players. Narcissists lack strong social skills, and cannot accept when their needs aren’t met. Whereas, sociopaths always manipulate the situation to avoid doing work or getting what they want. [Read: How do narcissists control you so subtly?]

#11 Sociopaths can alter based on their needs. With a sociopath, they’ll be able to adapt to situations very quickly and will show you how they want to been seen based on what suits them at that time. If they need to be seen as responsible and trustworthy, then they’ll act accordingly. But the minute the agenda changes, they’ll change.

#12 Narcissists will talk about them. And only them. Sure, they’ll hear what you have to say, but they’ll find a way to bring the topic back to them. They can only talk about things they know or are interested in, and usually, every topic is, well, about them. 

#13 Both can’t apologize. Well, at least they have this in common. When it comes to apologies, neither will give you a genuine apology. Narcissists won’t even be able to fake it. But sociopaths will tell you what you want to hear if it benefits them, and keeps the ball moving. However, you’ll never get a sincere, heartfelt apology.

#14 They both change themselves for others. They’ll change their stories and behavior depending on who they’re talking to. For narcissists, it’s for attention and validation they’re higher than anyone else. But for sociopaths, this happens to make you second-guess yourself. [Read: How to stop selfish people in their tracks – before they hurt you]

#15 Both lack empathy. Well, you kind of saw this coming. When it comes to empathy, neither has that quality in them, which is what makes them sociopaths or narcissists. Sociopaths see how they affect others, but don’t care, while narcissists are unable to see anything from a different perspective.

[Read: Characteristics of people who lack empathy and suck your energy out]

Now that you know the difference between a sociopath vs narcissist, you have a better idea of who is who. Do you have a sociopath or narcissist in your life?

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Natasha Ivanovic
Natasha Ivanovic is an intimacy, dating, and relationship writer best known for her writings on Kiiroo, LovePanky, Post Pravda, and more. She's the creator and ...
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