So, you suspect your partner, ex, family member or friend is a narcissist or even worse, a sociopath, and all of your friends just nod their heads in agreement because they really have no idea what either one really is, much less the difference between the two. Even you aren’t so sure of the difference. All you know for sure is that when you read the descriptions of an abusive narcissistic or sociopathic relationship on the Internet, the accounts are all rather eerily familiar.

Even though you have probably heard your friends and family tell you to just “forget about it” and “move on”, you know that having answers and being able to put a name to your experiences will bring you some relief and help to free you up to move forward and permanently detach from the toxic relationship.

So how do you tell the difference between a narcissist and a sociopath?

In the Diagnostic And Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), which is the guidebook used by mental health professionals for diagnosing mental disorders, there is no disorder called sociopath or sociopathic disorder. The closest equivalent is Antisocial Personality disorder (ASPD). ASPD and Narcissistic Personality disorder (NPD) are categorized under a group of disorders called Cluster B Personality Disorders. This group consist of four disorders: Antisocial, Narcissistic, Histrionic, and Borderline.

Cluster B personality disorders are characterized by personality styles that are impulsive, dramatic, highly emotional and erratic, making a healthy relationship an impossibility.

Both narcissists and sociopaths cause harm and do damage to their spouses, partners, family members and friends and for this reason knowing whether you were involved with a narcissist or sociopath doesn’t change the outcome or diminish the damage, but for those who are still curious about learning what the differences between the two disorders are, here are some ways to distinguish between them.

All sociopaths are narcissists, but not all narcissists are sociopaths. Sociopathy is associated with a lack of conscience and a pervasive pattern of disregard for the rights of other people which commonly manifests in criminal behavior.

Narcissistic Personality disorder is associated with a lack of empathy and a pervasive pattern of conflictual relationships, grandiosity and an excessive need for attention and admiration.

There are many similarities between narcissists and sociopaths; however, their underlying motivation for their behavior is what distinguishes them from each other.

Narcissists need to be regularly validated by others and sociopaths do not. For this reason, sociopaths are more likely to fly under our radar completely undetected.

Let’s start off with the similarities.


1. Both are very charming and charismatic.

2. Both tend to be very intuitive and skilled at observing and reading people.

3. Both are egocentric and self-interested. Me, Me, Me and Mine!

4. Both do not take accountability or blame for their actions but will gladly accept the credit for anything positive.

5. Both have an inflated view of themselves. They both have a sense of entitlement and believe they are more important than they really are.

6. Both believe they are never wrong.

7. Both lack empathy, guilt, and remorse.

8. Both lack insight into their emotions and are incapable of self-reflection.

9. Both can convincingly mimic the emotions and behaviors of others, but do not actually feel or think the same way as emotionally healthy people.

10. Both exhibit a high need for power and control.

11. Both will use social media to intentionally cyber-abuse and emotionally fluster a former spouse or lover.



1. Sociopaths will deliver an insincere but convincing apology if it benefits their agenda, a narcissist will not.

2. Sociopaths will appear more humble and less of a braggart. Narcissists are more oblivious to how they seem to others and will often boast about their achievements ad nauseum.

3. Sociopaths upon meeting you will try to pick your brain and ask you a lot of questions. Narcissists will focus the conversation on themselves and their interests.

4. Sociopaths are manipulative and calculating and will exploit others to further their agenda. Narcissists use others who they feel are hindering their agenda.

5. Sociopaths ignore social norms and boundaries not only out of a sense of entitlement, but to manipulate situations to further their interests. Narcissists also feel a sense of entitlement, but will ignore rules and social norms more from a place of self-importance.

6. Sociopaths are more interested in winning and in being right at all costs. Narcissists are interested in winning but more from a need to feel admired and unique.

7. Sociopaths are more prone to boredom and more likely to be adrenaline junkies. Narcissists may or may not need excess stimulation.

8. Sociopaths will set a trap months in advance if they perceive you are obstructing their plans, and patiently wait to take you down. Narcissists are less calculating but will lie, intimidate or destroy you if they perceive you as hampering their plans.

9. Sociopaths will manipulate others so they can gain financially by doing as little work as possible with the least amount of effort. Narcissists don’t mind putting in the effort and working hard if it leads to admiration and accolades.

10. Sociopaths are more likely to abruptly abandon you if their cover is blown and their manipulation tactics are no longer effective. Narcissists will have a pattern of overlapping relationships that end very poorly.

narc vs socio (2).png

Remember, human behavior isn’t black or white. It is as varied as the number of people on the planet. Some people may exhibit traits from both categories, but the majority of their features will fall into one category more than the other.

For this reason, it’s useful to think in terms along the lines of a continuum of behavior and traits or a spectrum instead of trying to pigeon-hole an individual’s behavior neatly into one of the two categories.

The mild or subtle narcissist is pretty easy to spot by just taking a quick glance at their Facebook page. They are the validation, attention seeking, look at me, at least one selfie per day, aren’t I wonderful, my children are the best, my life is better than yours, my dentist is the best, like, like, like my posts. They view social media as their own reality show that they, of course, are starring in, and truly believe in their own importance.

But as you move along the continuum to the right, a cursory Facebook check will not yield such obvious and observable signs and clues. Individuals who are very high on narcissistic traits moving into sociopathic terrain are much less oblivious about how others perceive their behavior. They require less need for admiration and are less apt to take to social media to seek approval and significance. Since they are more cunning, they are more likely to use social media as a vehicle to scout out new potential targets by studying their target’s pages and posts.

Both narcissists and sociopaths cause damage and do a lot of harm to their partners, family, and friends. Having an unofficial diagnosis doesn’t really matter much in the scheme of things. But having a term to describe the irrational, crazy-making, unpredictable, malicious and exhausting behavior you experienced can provide some answers and free you up to move forward.

Nevertheless, both narcissists and sociopaths will seek to exploit, control and dominate you without the burdensome feelings of remorse or guilt. Domination and control do not allow for genuine connection, healthy bonding or lead to emotional reciprocity.

Ultimately, your mental well-being and happiness are what counts and the longer you remain in a relationship with a narcissist or sociopath, the more at risk you become of being diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and PTSD or C-PTSD.

breeheadshot1Bree Bonchay is a Los Angeles based licensed psychotherapist who believes relationships are the currency of life. She’s dedicated to helping people to heal from break-ups, recover from toxic relationships with narcissists and sociopaths and to never settle for a life less than the one they dreamed of. She is a Blogger, Advocate, Facebook Toxic Relationship Recovery Forum Administrator, Radio Guest Expert, and is the Author of the book, I Am Free.

Front cover graphic                                                                    Click Here To Order

Suffering from narcissistic abuse? Join Narcissistic Abuse & Toxic Relationship Recovery & Support Forum on Facebook by clicking the link.

53 thoughts on “Narcissists vs. Sociopaths: The Similarities & Differences

  1. I am currently in love with a person who I believe is a narcopath but blames his behaviors on his alcoholism. I appreciate the knowledge of this wesite. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Based on this, My daughter has been in abusive relationship for over 10 years. Our family believes he is a narcopath. He blames his behavior on alcohol. I also appreciate in site from this article.


  2. Yes. Sociopaths are narcissistic. Narcissists aren’t sociopaths. Sociopaths are parasites. Their entire world is a lie. Their agenda is sucking dry the wallet, heart and soul of several targets simultaneously.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. My narc sociopath ex is very careful with his FB page and photos. He hides everything true about himself and posts very little. He is at work in the background, though. He smears me constantly by sending messages to everyone I know, and he sends nasty messages to anyone who defriends him or refuses his friend requests, as well as anyone who says something slightly negative about him or “likes” a comment that insinuates he has a problem.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you that was very helpful. I have been struggling with the fact that my ex girlfriend sure exhibited classic Narcissist behaviors but was still somehow different than the male Narcissists I have encountered. The key difference seems to be in the level of manipulation which sounds like it is more prevalent in the sociopath. She was much more straightforward. I am great. I am entitled to feel that way. Your job is to acknowledge that and worship me. If you don’t I will get angry.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you — this was incredibly helpful! I identified some time that my father is a narcissist (no question there!), but have been having difficulty pinpointing exactly how to articulate the differences between him and my ex-husband. This clarification that “All sociopaths are narcissists, but not all narcissists are sociopaths” answers so much; the points of distinction are also very useful.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I think I am with someone who is more of a sociopath, but has a few narcissistic traits every once in a while. He’s not as brazen as some of the descriptions though. I honestly think his Dad is the more severe case. My partner knows his Dad has done some pretty messed up things, but his way of coping was to differentiate himself from his Dad through his lifestyle and values… but I think he also suppressed everything and never dealt with it. So I’ve got this partner with whom I have so much in common, who is a victim of his Dad’s behaviour, but who is also wreaking havoc on my mental health. In many ways I can’t see myself ever having a chance to rehabilitate mentally if I stay with him, but I also don’t know if I can handle the break up either.

    He seems at times, like a less severe case than described here, but that’s almost what makes it harder for me, because then I doubt myself and think ‘he’s not that bad, it’s just you’. He’s also so subtle that I would sound absolutely crazy to anyone if I described how he works. Sometimes I even question whether my recollection of things is really how things went. I’ve also found myself displaying some of these behaviours now, maybe as a coping mechanism, but I feel like my motives are completely different. Despite that, he could easily tell a counsellor that I am abusive to him.

    I’m glad to have found your website. I gives me a bit of validation, but then again it also puts me in a position where I’ll feel stupid if I don’t put an end to our relationship. I don’t think I really have anyone that will support me either. I’m not close with my parents, and they are not what you would call supportive people. They aren’t manipulative, but maybe emotionally neglectful is a better way to describe them. And so , I’ve grown to stop going to them for any support so that I am not disappointed. But that has lead to a pretty lonely existence. Anyway, I guess I am just commenting so I can say this all to someone and it’s not just circling in my head over and over…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sad Lady, actually the subtly of their actions is the most damaging because they are so subtle and cause you to doubt yourself and question reality. I understand that it is even harder to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it.
      But your mental health is directly correlated to your physical health. You can’t minimize the importance of your mental well-being. Sounds like you lack a good support system. You might feel more empowered if you had a stronger support network. Start small and build a support system. It will also make you feel less lonely and isolated. I know you already know that your loneliness and lack of support is keeping you in the relationship.
      It’s that “better than nothing” kind of rationalization. So make small steps to improve your support system and loneliness. It will strengthen you and put you on a path to a happier place.


  7. my ex is a real sociopath……dad died when she was young and led her mother a merry dance.CLUBBING AT 12 sex at 12 truancy from school all the time ,expelled at 15 for the final straw of super gluing a teacher to his chair.
    I can remember thinking to myself , Im so glad she has changed from her old ways…..BUT…she hadnt changed , she had just got so much better at mask making. IT was only after the final discard and moving the new victim in the same day , did things start to come to light…….Carefull folks , they can be so good at hiding everything.
    It was all there ,triangulation , phone stalking that i took as love ,lies , manipulation ,letting me do all the work while she managed to dodge it all.THEY WILL DO IT ALL…….YOU JUST WONT SEE IT

    Liked by 1 person

  8. My ex-partner enlightened me with the most exquisite charm and I immediately thought that it was too good to be true. There were so many moments that I questioned her intentions and motives, but I was on a romantic high and sooner than not an addict to this emotional drug.
    The high was short and then I would crave another hit-only to realize how could something so good, be so, so wrong.
    Please note that I have never taken recreational drugs and have no real understanding of what it feels like to be an addict, but I feel that after this 2.5 year situation…this is a place that I would not wish upon anyone.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. This post is more about a friendship issue rather than a relationship issue. I had this friend. She would brag about how different boys had a crush on her and she hanged out with cool people. She was so concerned about her image and how others perceived it. She would talk about her problems and have no concern about other people. She would use me. However, even when i helped her. She would viciously and verbally attack me. She would say hurtful things about a family member and call him or her names. I think she wanted to hurt me where it hurt the most and it was intentional. She was so direct. When you confronted her, she would twist words you said in past and make you feel guilty. And eventually she would say “sorry” but divert the attention to the problem. I have decided to cut my friendship with her. But she would still call and email and pretend nothing happened time to time. I would not respond to her calls or emails. She never got the message. Not only that, i don’t think she even felt the consequences. A year and half later, she has attacked my friend. I think she called her swear words and said awful thing about her fiancé, now husband. After five years about the incident, she met me. Then she kept calling my landline number. My mother answered the phone and would say “that I was not home.” She never got the hint. She kept calling to speak to me. Eventually my mom would tell her politely that “(my name) was hurt what happened a while ago, I think you should give it some time.” She just said “okay” and hung up. I never heard from for three years. Then she sent me an email recently. She said “I am sorry about what happened. Lets hang out.” I have decided to reply and state “it is okay, i forgot about. it is actually a good thing, because I became a stronger person.” Then she would email and write “are you married. I am married.” I never replied back. She would send me a Facebook message a month later and stated “I hope you can forgive me.” I finally wrote that ” i really forgive you my from heart, and you have to stop apologizing. I kind of sensed maybe the apology is not sincere. It may be a way so she could hang out. Maybe she wanted to use me again or was just bored. If someone is sorry they would not take 8 years to apologize and even if they did, they would say more than “i am sorry.” I also wrote to her that “I have my life and you have your life, we don’t have anything in common.” She wrote back and said “we have things in common. BTW are you married, I am married.” I did not reply. Then unfortunately i met her in a coffee shop. I was with a friend. She would call me and say “Hi (my name), are you married.” I was so shocked. She is in her 30s and still has no social skills. My friend told me that she has no emotion in her face. I kind of realized that she may have some sort of personality disorder. I did not study psychology. Only took few courses. But it looks like she may be a narcissist or have some traits or even some sociopath tendencies. At least some personality disorder. I never put two to two together till a friend hinted something out.


    1. Yes your old friend was/is a narcissist. I am married to one. And they are so clueless. They need narcissistic supply. And you were a good source for her. Narcissistic supply is like a person who is an audience for them to feel paid attention to. Most don’t care who it is they just want someone good at making them feel important or special and better. It hurts to be hurt by someone who doesn’t hurt when they hurt you. Being alone in your hurt as if the person who hurt you wasn’t even there. Support and maybe counseling sometimes just so you feel in touch with reality and not the crazy one is sometimes needed even if you already left the relationship.


  10. Helpful article, thank you for writing it.

    Interesting point re: sociopath will seek maximum financial benefit with minimal effort, etc. Ending “relationship” with a woman which was ambiguous – at one time, talked marriage, then “not ready for commitment,” then “can’t make decisions until financial disputes with ex were resolved …” After years of patience, finally said “What am I?” Got attacked for being selfish, needy, etc. – everything you’ve written about.

    In any event – – – there was an occasion, a long time ago, when the question of whether I being “played’ came up. I was assured I was not – “if that was the case, I’d be all in for getting married, etc.”

    It has since occurred to me “No, that’s not true . . . if you were playing me, you’d do the absolute minimum required to keep me on the hook, as long as you thought it beneficial to keep me on the hook.”

    Which was pretty much what she did, right up until events led me to finally say “What is this?” and the mask fell off.

    Again – thanks for writing this article & the others – they’re helping.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. These people are pure evil. My relationship with this person was literally like a car crash! I thank God the relationship is over and I’m peace. Life is truly amazing without these types of people in it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. These people are pure evil. My relationship with this person was literally like a car crash! Life is truly amazing without these types of people in it.
    Peace out 🙂


  13. These people are pure evil. My relationship with this person was literally like a car crash. Life is truly amazing without these types of people in it. Strive to find the things that make you happy and best of all, be with God. You will have your life back in no time.
    Peace out 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. What do sociopaths want? My girlfriend, my now x girlfriend is brilliant, beautiful, an MD, charming, an introvert, and miserable. She said our relationship was the best she ever had. She wrecked it. She has zero empathy but says she oozes it. Nonsense! She says she wants personal growth. More nonsense. She dreads commitment. Is terrified of it. But what does a sociopath want? She hates to draw attention to herself.


  15. One of the things that bothers me most about the Narcopath in my life is the “Score Keeping”. I never keep score on money, jobs, housework or on anything else that I can think of. But he sure does. In his view, he does everything/I do nothing. He saw me mopping the bathroom and asked if i had spilled something. I said “no, it just needed to be done.” His comment to that was, “’bout time you did something!” Really?!?!
    Also, if your Narcissist / Narcopath flies into rages, look up Narcissistic Rage.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. My DH is a classic narcissist. Except he doesn’t care for social media that much and doesn’t want people criticizing him so he doesn’t post much. He is more private than I guess most narcissist. To keep people from finding out he isn’t as amazing as he thinks they believe. It’s hard sometimes dealing with someone not capable of self reflect, humility or remorse. But it has worked out. He wants to be viewed as a good guy so that helps. He raised our kids telling them they are the best every day before we left to school or work because he believes they are because they come from him. Even if in the house he walked around pious and self entitled. He is extremely faithful even if for the wrong reasons. He loves bragging how he isn’t like other guys. I could go on and on about the pros and cons of being married to my NPD guy. I never heard of the word Narcissist when I met him. Being needy and young (18 and on my own) I didn’t think to leave. I learned how to nip his verbal and emotional abuse in the bud. I had a very bad temper myself years ago and I learned he didn’t like being embarrassed so being unhealthy myself I used it. But all that was many years ago. And I love him. Differently than before. I appreciate my life. I have amazing children who have grown to be wonderful people that are kind, loving and are loved by anyone who meets them. And cool, so cool. And my husband might have only been with me because of what other people thought of me but I didn’t know that then. Now, I know he needs an audience and I don’t mind sitting in the front row watching him perform. We all need love. I have great friends and family where I get my support from. And my family legacy is my motivation and brings me such joy. I wouldn’t give that up for anything.


  17. very good article…everyone needs to learn about these types…I and family have been dealing with one in the family who has written 2 books of lies and continues to cause problems, see my links via my about. me icon…hope everyone learns how to protect themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. What do you do when you find a person with clear narcissistic tendencies, starting to copy your posts in social media, specially your photos? If I posted a picture of my family, he’d post a similar one (down to pose and background), if I posted a picture of my son on his first trip alone, he would do so of his son a few days later; if I went on a trip with my family, he apparently went on an even better one, he even copied my landscape and sunset pictures!!! And all this happened after I blocked him in all my social media (a couple of mutual friends saw the similarities of his posts compared to mine and alerted me).
    I’m having a hard time reconciling all these facts but certainly feel better and at peace that I cut all contact with this person and the mess that is his life, even though he wants the world to believe that he’s the God-given gift to mankind and keeps bragging about his so-called perfect family and kids.
    Thank you for your comments!


  19. I’m so sad. A month ago my boyfriend broke up with me after 5 years. He said to me I have anger issue ( which is true ), i always want to be in control, i seek attention, he feels i lied to him, and he’s scared of me. Also, that he is in depression because of me. I’m so so lost. I had never seen things like that. What that it means ? That I’m narcisist and a sociopath? I know I have problem with my anger but I struggle to myself to control it, and it’s hard. But about the other things…I will say that’s not true ? But what if they are ? About the control thing, he act very childish and i just want to help him to achieve something because he always needed help and i was there for him. I don’t feel better to be in control, actually, i don’t even know when i’m act like i’m in the control. And i don’t feel like i need attention. I just want his attention, and this is my. He says that I struggle to have other man attention, but I don’t, i had never speak with a guy that it’s not our friend in ages. And here comes the part where he tells i’m lying. On the last year of our relationship, we had a distance relationship. And he believes that when i’m not at him, i go out and do things. I tell him everything !!! My life is so boring here without him. I have just a friend here, and he’s a guy and they were best friend until he started to be jealous. I don’t do anything, i just go out in the neighbourhood for one hour per day because i save all my money to visit him. I don’t want to be a bad person. After the broke up i realise i need to be a better version of myself for me. But how do i help me ?


  20. It is important for people who are getting a divorce from a narcissist to understand that the courts are totally unequipped to deal with the lies and behavior of a narcissist. The best thing to do is find a professional to help
    steer yourself and your children through the process of dealing with the narcissist. I know of a case where the narcissist stole thousands of dollars from his wife and children and then took them to court and claimed the children stole from him. He had not seen his children for four years. The courts did nothing to address this and it cost the wife even more money in lawyers fees. .




  22. It’s helps me to read about this stuff. Ive been in a relationship with a sociopath for a year and a half now. He’s very abusive and manipulative with me. I pray I can get out of this mess once and for all asap.


  23. I just read over this article and have a few questions that I would greatly appreciate your feedback on. I’ve been in an on and off relationship with a person I believe portrays lots of sociopathic traits. After reading this article, there are several things he does that mimics a sociopaths behavior but there are others that don’t quite add up. For example, one of the points mentioned is that a sociopath will abruptly abandon you and I can speak with experience that I’ve definitely called him out and blown his cover and yet he has never been able to abandon me. I’ve found myself walking away and it’s not long before I hear from him again. This man has a bit of a loner personality, he isn’t social media junkie, doesn’t really like to hangout in crowds of people. In most cases, he doesn’t want to be in control but he does seem to be portray that behavior around me, though I do have a bit of dominant personality. He has never been abusive in a physical manner or abusive with words but emotionally I think he can try to win the situation due to his lack of guilt or lack of conscience. To give a bit more background, he has virtually no contact with any of his family. When invited to family gatherings he is physically there but mentally I don’t think he wants to be. I’ve pointed out to him before that I believed he was a sociopath and he didn’t react negatively to my saying this. Do you think a person with this type of behavior can be helped? In other relationships it has been easy to walk away and not care about what is going on in their lives but in this scenario knowing he isn’t in contact with his family and has few friends. I find myself worrying about his overall well-being, never having anyone around. I care a lot about him (I do question if this is one-sided) though I’ve felt like he does act in such ways that he can’t fake the caring aspect.


  24. Some of these traits, I wonder now if I am turning npd he always says I’m a sociopath but he is definitely a narcissist, or do I just have like Stockholm syndrome or something??? Eeeeek!


  25. People who suffer from major depression also suffer from the numbing of emotions, both positive and negative. And you can’t selectively numb. It’s possible you have narcissistic traits but you asked what would I do? I would seek help from a qualified therapist. I will not approve this comment so don’t worry. Just concentrate on finding help.


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