We hear the words ‘psychopath’, ‘sociopath’, and ‘narcissist’, liberally thrown around in the media and in movies these days.
While the usage has become very common, each of these terms defines a set of characteristics of that particular trait.
For example, hyperactive or restless and fidgety people are often dubbed psychopath, sociopath, or narcissist, but none of them applies to them just because of that habit. And yes, there are some features common to all three, but also some clearly defining differences as well.
This is the main difference between Psychopaths, Sociopaths and Narcissists:
One thing most agreed upon is that all three personality types have the ability to be very charming and beguiling. They also tend to be very self indulgent and vain. Psychopaths most of all, have a trait that lends itself to disguise very well.
Psychopaths are always inherently deceptive. They appear warm, friendly, and inviting. They are usually confident and are skilled in manipulation, and so end up holding positions of some authority and sometimes office.
Their mental prowess is often on par with their interpersonal skills, but all this is always a facade. Beneath the thin veneer of normalcy, psychopaths tend to be deeply antisocial and lack empathy up to a disturbing degree.
What makes them dangerous is their lack of inhibition stemming from this lack of emotional resonance. A few theories state that the psychopath tendency comes from a lack of development in areas of the brain related to empathy and identifying with people around us.
Psychopaths are also most likely to be dangerous to people around them, because of this very lack of inhibition, and cold and detached air.
Sociopaths are easier fish, to some extent.
Sociopaths cannot disguise themselves as well as psychopaths do, and their antisocial behavior is their most defining characteristic. They tend to suffer from social anxiety, because of deep rooted ‘not fitting in’ fears which actualize themselves.
A common trend is that they eschew higher education, choosing to opt for technical or vocational careers where they can earn a livelihood and not have too much social interaction. Some of them live on the fringes of society, or go almost uneducated altogether.
People around them tend to recognize their discomfort and uneasiness. However, a difference remains that crimes by sociopaths tend to be crimes of passion and impulse, unlike psychopaths, who will happily plan a killing spree, without seeing ‘what’s wrong about that’.
Now Narcissists, are the very epitome of shallow and vain. Their entire universe revolves only around them and their indulgences, and they often demand that everyone close to them revolve around their needs and wants, too.
The legend of Narcissus is of a Greek man who saw his reflection in a pond and fell in love with his own reflection, eventually drowning in the pool.
These people also have the ability to be very charming and appealing, but of all three types, narcissists tend to be the most emotionally toxic for the people in their lives.
Narcissists are extremely manipulative, using guilt and love and jealousy in measured amounts to make sure that they remain the centre of attention and affection. Their partners and parents or children often have no idea how deeply they have been manipulated, or abused.
So what unites all three personality types?
For one, their lack of true human connection.
Of all three, sociopaths are the most emotionally stunted, but still capable of a honest attachment, in rare cases. Psychopaths and narcissists are always on an ‘agenda’, so to speak, for their own betterment.
They all also have low inhibition and unstable tempers, and quick to perceive insults to themselves.
An important thing to remember is that there are variants among these three types as well.
For example, there are sociopaths who are socially outgoing, and psychopaths who recognize their own harmful tendency and seek to control it. There are also narcissists who know their behavior affects those around them, but in a lot of cases, the guilt makes their personality more unstable, rather than less.