Have you ever encountered someone who seemed too good to be true, manipulative, and always had an agenda? Chances are, this is one of those people in our lives who could be narcissists, psychopaths, or sociopaths. In this topic, we’re going to help equip you with the knowledge and skills on how to spot them and identify which category they belong to.
But why is this important? It’s because people use the terms narcissist, psychopath, and sociopath interchangeably. But these are all different, and learning the distinction can help you protect yourself better.
We all go through life believing that most people are trustworthy, or at least harmless. But the reality is that certain people carry more negative traits than we thought, and those traits can even lead us to ruin. We need to know if we’re dealing with one of these three types of destructive individuals so that we can shield ourselves and our loved ones from their attacks.
These three types of destructive individuals make great chameleons. That is, they can manipulate situations to get what they want. And they generally won’t care about the consequences to other people as they don’t have empathy.
Psychopaths and sociopaths, in particular, even view the world as simply something they can use to get whatever they want in life. They’re the types of people who can easily break up with their partner when they see them as useless or expect them to adhere to their expectations but are unable to fulfill them.
Moreover, psychopaths and sociopaths usually don’t seek therapy. They don’t even see any benefits in it. And the only time you might see them going to therapy is when the court makes it mandatory for them to do so.
Here’s another interesting thing. Psychopaths, and to some extent sociopaths, tend to just throw caution to the wind. They act on impulse and don’t bother thinking about the consequences of their actions. So, it’s no surprise that they often end up being dishonest, deceitful, and even resort to theft. And guess what? All this makes it hard for them to hold a steady job.
So now, let’s talk about identifying the narcissist. The truth is that all psychopaths are narcissists, but not all narcissists are psychopaths. You see, unlike psychopaths, narcissists still feel a good amount of guilt and shame when they do something wrong.
Their shame outweighs their guilt because they care so much about how others perceive them. It’s like they’re terrified of being seen in a negative light, whether by the public or by individuals. But they do have a little bit of remorse, you know? Like, if they betray their partner, they might admit, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t have done that.’
But they won’t sympathize with them. This is because narcissism is all about lacking empathy. It’s about having this big sense of self-importance, so they’re acting entitled, constantly needing validation, and being super arrogant. It’s a self-esteem disorder.
In several studies about domestic violence, researchers discovered that those who are abusive to their partners are either psychopathic or narcissistic. So there’s danger in dating a narcissist.
Now, let’s discuss the defining traits of a psychopath. As they say, a psychopath is born, but a sociopath is made. This makes psychopaths a different caliber compared to other destructive individuals. We mentioned earlier that they share traits with narcissists, except they have no guilt and no shame.
They don’t feel remorse when they do something bad. They’re like; it doesn’t matter to me who gets hurt. They’d say such things and completely mean it. This is why they make great hired assassins, serial killers, and people who get involved in gun-for-hire activities. They do bad things and they don’t care to the point that they have the determination to tackle the most challenging tasks, even confronting a cartel leader.
Moreover, they possess the ability to make decisive calls that may involve the elimination of others without any hesitation. Moreover, when a psychopath is locked up, their frustration is not so much about being in jail itself. Their real concern is the missed chances to carry out their shady deeds, all because they’re stuck inside a cell.
One reason why psychopaths exhibit such harrowing behaviors is because of their biological makeup. Based on several studies, genetics play a role because these individuals are believed to have fathers with plenty of anti-social tendencies. And they also have slightly different autonomic nervous systems. As you know, the autonomic nervous system includes our sympathetic nervous system, and this is responsible for that fight-or-flight response.
So for the average person, when their autonomic nervous system gets activated, like when they break a rule, act rudely, or run a red light, their heart rate goes up, their pupils dilate, they start to sweat and they become all vigilant. It’s because they’re afraid of the consequences. But here’s the thing. Psychopaths don’t experience the same level of bodily response.
This is why it’s easy for them to fool those lie detector tests. And get this. Researchers have found that the part of the brain associated with empathy doesn’t naturally activate in psychopaths. Sure, it’s possible to teach them empathy. But the concept doesn’t stick around to them for long.
Psychopaths also have this interesting mix of superficial charm and high intelligence. It’s pretty crazy how they can blend into society and avoid detection. But don’t be fooled by their charm. They’ve got some dark intentions. See, they understand human psychology.
But unfortunately, it’s often for all the wrong reasons. They’re like masters at manipulating people, and they’re so good at it that they can even excel in sales. This is because they know how to spot someone’s weaknesses and take advantage of them, especially when it comes to selling things like cars and timeshares.
Psychopaths are just so good at upselling to the point that it’s easy for them to take advantage of someone. It’s like they know how to charm people on the surface and they end up taking more money from their customers than they really should.
That said, the diagnostic equivalent of psychopathy is having antisocial personality disorder. To get this diagnosis, someone needs to show a consistent and long-lasting pattern, starting before the age of 15, of behaviors like skipping school, setting fires, being violent towards others, stealing, and avoiding school while having a complete lack of remorse or guilt. They just don’t care or feel empathy for what they do to others.
As mentioned, they share similarities with psychopaths. But the biggest difference is that they were made or developed their toxic behaviors through their environment growing up. To understand the idea better, imagine a 12-year-old kid who suddenly finds himself orphaned. So, he moves to the slums because he thinks it will be easier for him to survive there than in the city. But that area he moved to is a rough neighborhood.
It’s where he learns criminality to get by, hangs around the wrong kids in hopes of eating, and uses a lot of brute force towards others. That’s what he learned was key to surviving. So he does it to other people as well. He disregards society’s rules because he wasn’t taught those things. What he was taught was to keep beating up other people if he wanted to eat every day. To them, if they broke enough rules and lived in lawlessness long enough, that now becomes their new world.
What’s interesting is that they often are the people you least expect to be sociopaths. Think of those who are known as geniuses in school but ended up in jail because they soon found themselves in the wrong crowd. Chances are they’ve become sociopaths.
That said, it’s clear that sociopaths don’t have empathy. And what’s disturbing is their constant desire to hurt someone. But why is that? Empathy is seen as a positive emotion, whereas the desire to cause harm is inherently antagonistic and they thrive in that. And you know what else? At a certain level, this desire to cause harm can even give sociopaths a sense of pleasure and power. And they will not want to let go of that.
Here’s an example to show you what sociopaths are like. Imagine being in a relationship with this guy back in college. Everything seems fine at first, but then he starts acting all weird and you go, ‘No thanks, I’m out.’ So you break up with him and move on with your life. There’s radio silence between you two for months. But then out of nowhere, he comes back into your life and starts courting you like crazy.
He began doing all these nice things, including those on your dating wish list that you showed to him early on in your relationship. He also began showering you with gifts, and even showing up on time whenever you decide to meet (which is not like him at all). At that point, you start thinking, ‘Maybe he’s changed. Maybe I should give him another chance.’ And guess what? He turns into the perfect boyfriend! Seriously, he’s like the epitome of perfection. You can’t help but fall for him all over again. It’s like a fairy tale, right? Well, not so fast.
On your anniversary, he drops a bombshell and breaks up with you. And to make matters worse, he says those heart-wrenching words: ‘This was all a facade. I’ve been playing with your emotions because I wanted to crush you for breaking up with me.’ At that moment, everything clicks into place. He knows what you want in a relationship because he’s smart and intelligent.
So he played the perfect boyfriend to get back in your graces out of his twisted desire for revenge. What’s more, he knew exactly how to charm and manipulate you into giving him another chance. And you did. Now that he’s accomplished that, all that’s left is his ultimate goal, which is to break you. And he just did that without remorse.
It’s horrible, right? But that’s the way sociopaths are. Now that you know what these sociopaths are like, as well as psychopaths and narcissists, it would do you well to avoid them. But if you can’t, at least put some boundaries to protect yourself.