Psychopath vs Sociopath vs Narcissist: What’s The Difference?

Last Update on September 15, 2023 : Published on March 31, 2022
Psychopath vs Sociopath vs Narcissist

From your workplace to your social circle, you meet so many different personalities, each unique in their own way. Some are selfish, some empathetic, while others are simply hard to read. It can be just too easy to write these personalities off as psychopaths, sociopaths, and even narcissists.

While many of us may use the above terms interchangeably, there are some common traits that these personalities may share. For example, a narcissist may have sociopathic traits while a sociopath may show some psychopathic traits.

However, the similarities end here. There are many differences between these personalities. But how can one know the difference between a psychopath vs a sociopath vs a narcissist? How to identify when you meet either of the ones?

Let’s take a look at what a narcissist, a psychopath, and a sociopath, and how they differ from each other.

What Is A Narcissist?


Narcissism is a personality trait that can be described as having a grandiose sense of self, a non-existent sense of empathy, a pattern of self-importance behavior, an inflated sense of entitlement, or an inability to accept criticism.

A narcissist is someone who primarily struggles with a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). However, many people without being diagnosed with NPD can share narcissistic personality traits.

Any narcissist would rather not seek mental health treatment as they believe they don’t have a disorder or a condition that needs treatment. Narcissists think very highly of themselves but they do feel shame or guilt when they are called out for their selfishness.

Narcissists, since capable of experiencing certain feelings and emotions, don’t generally break the law or consciously commit any crime or violence against others. A narcissist lacks empathy and self-awareness which makes them unable to care for others, compassionately.

Narcissistic traits may include:

  • Being very conscious of their appearance, wealth, and achievements
  • Enjoying talking about themselves and avoid asking about others’ feelings
  • Needing constant reassurance, compliments, and attention from others
  • Belittling others with who they feel threatened
  • Being unaccepting of criticism
  • Having an extreme sense of entitlement
  • Taking advantage of others for their benefit
  • Lacking empathy and not understanding others’ struggles and experiences
  • Being manipulative and controlling

Also Read: There Are 7 Types Of Narcissists That You Need To Know About (And How To Spot Them)

What Is A Sociopath?


Unlike narcissists, sociopaths do not struggle with a psychological disorder and neither is sociopathy a formal diagnosis. Nonetheless, sociopathy is often linked with antisocial personality disorder and its symptoms.

An antisocial personality means having a set of personality traits that include a tendency to be impulsive, irritable, aggressive, reckless, and presenting a callous treatment towards others. People with antisocial personalities also struggle with a lack of empathy.

However, that’s the only difference between a sociopath and a narcissistic personality. Sociopaths tend to be more impulsive and disregard rules without paying attention to the welfare of others. Sociopaths are more calculated and enjoy playing with others to get what they want. They are also not above employing manipulative tactics either.

The difference between sociopaths and narcissists is that a sociopath rarely expresses remorse or guilt and can have violent tendencies, unlike a narcissist.

Also Read: Psychopath vs Sociopath: What’s The Difference?

Sociopathic traits may include:

  • Feigning emotions and pretending to be warm and charming to get what they want
  • Being deceitful
  • Having a non-commital attitude
  • Inability to care and be affectionate
  • Constant impulsivity
  • Lack of empathy
  • Constantly blaming others for their actions
  • Trying to control others using manipulative tactics
  • Not learning from their mistakes or going through with discipline
  • Getting into fights or having violent tendencies
  • Having shallow or superficial relationships with others

What Is a Psychopath?


Psychopathy is a neurological and psychological disorder where a person usually shows poor impulsivity and lack of control. Their behavior can be seen as callous and unsympathetic which can result in criminal tendencies. A psychopath can be more violent than a sociopath but can be equally conniving and calculating.

However, psychopaths do lack the charm of sociopaths but they enjoy playing with others’ emotions and can use manipulation to entertain themselves.

Contrary to popular beliefs, not all psychopaths are criminals, however, it is easy for a psychopath to commit crimes as they lack self-control, empathy, and show blatant disrespect towards boundaries and the law.

It is easy to get confused between a sociopath and a psychopath however, the major difference between them is that while sociopathy can be born out of environmental factors such as childhood trauma or poverty, psychopathic tendencies are inborn.

Psychopathic traits may include:

  • Having no empathy toward others
  • Having no regard for the law
  • Inability to process punishments
  • Lack of understanding towards anxiety, causing others to feel nervous around them
  • Not feeling guilty for their actions

Personality Disorders In Children

When we talk about the difference between sociopaths, psychopaths, and narcissists, a proper diagnosis cannot be made until a child turns 18. Some of the traits don’t even develop until the age of 25. While a child can’t be diagnosed with narcissism, psychopathy, or sociopathy, they can be diagnosed with ADHD, conduct disorder, or other disorders.

Being a parent or a guardian, you can seek counsel and learn more about personality disorders and their impact before concluding. When addressed early, narcissistic, psychopathic, and sociopathic traits can be managed without doing much damage to a child’s psyche.

Can These Personality Disorders Be Treated?

Personality disorders can be treated using cognitive-behavioral therapy and dialectical-behavioral therapy. These therapy approaches can help to understand and identify symptoms and come up with effective ways to cope with the related symptoms.

Medications can also help in the treatment and can help reduce symptoms like depression, suicidal ideation, and anxiousness caused specifically by personality disorders.

If you or your loved one is showing signs of being a psychopath, a sociopath, or a narcissist, then you can support them and suggest getting the right diagnosis and help.

Wrap Up

While there is more research needed, the difference between sociopaths, psychopaths, and narcissists is clear. Before we come to any conclusion it is important to understand the difference between the impact of narcissistic personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder on a person.

Narcissistic behavior can be attributed to NPD while sociopathic behavior can be attributed to antisocial personality disorder. Sociopathic tendencies are commonly born out of environmental factors and influences while psychopathic tendencies can be regarded as inborn, regardless of external factors and influences.

Understanding what a psychopath vs sociopath vs narcissist is can make all the difference in getting the right diagnosis, help, and treatment. I hope this article was helpful. For more, you can write to us at or DM us on social media. You can also share your thoughts in the comments below.

Take care.

About The Author

Swarnakshi Sharma
Swarnakshi Sharma

Swarnakshi is a content writer at Calm sage, who believes in a healthier lifestyle for mind and body. A fighter and survivor of depression, she strives to reach and help spread awareness on ending the stigma surrounding mental health issues. A spiritual person at heart, she believes in destiny and the power of Self. She is an avid reader and writer and likes to spend her free time baking and learning about world cultures.

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