Narcissists with Aspergers?

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There’s been much written about the relationship between Aspergers syndrome and narcissism, mostly about the way they are often confused with each other (or misdiagnosed as the other disorder) due to the belief that people with Aspergers lack empathy (which is not true). I wrote about this false belief in my article, “People with Autism Do Not Lack Empathy!”

People with Aspergers may SEEM unempathic, because they are not always very good at expressing emotions or knowing how to react when other people share their emotions with them. But an Aspie’s lack of appropriate social reaction to the emotions of others doesn’t mean they can’t FEEL the emotions around them. In fact, some may feel other’s emotions MORE keenly than neurotypicals, and they can be easily overwhelmed, which may cause them to withdraw from the situation and partly account for why they may seem less engaged emotionally or uncaring about the feelings of others.

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Narcissism as an Autism Spectrum Disorder?

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Psychology Today had an interesting article comparing narcissism to high functioning autism (Aspergers) and at least one psychologist thinks they may be the same disorder!:

Khalid A. Mansour (the British Arab psychiatrist), has proposed in an article in the Pan Arab Journal of Psychiatry (link is external) that narcissistic personality may merit classification as an autistic spectrum disorder.

Dr. Mansour writes, “There is now significant level of agreement that emotional processing problems like: lack of empathy, poor self-awareness, self-centredness, poor reciprocation of emotion, poor ability to maintain emotional relationships, anxiety and anger outbursts are more or less central features of autism (10, 50,51).”

Interesting. When I first read the above paragraph, I though Dr. Mansour was writing about severe narcissism. His description fits both narcissism and autistic spectrum disorders. Hmmm.

Dr. Mansour similarly quotes from the ICM-10 listing these features of autism:

–Self-centeredness; inappropriate to developmental level and cultural expectations
–Poor self-awareness, poor ability to develop remorse or learn from mistakes
–Poor empathy or appreciation of others feelings
–Poor ability to reciprocate emotions.
–Hostile dependency on safe relations.
–Failure to develop emotional relationships appropriate to developmental level and social norms
–Treating people as objects or preferring objects over them
Again, this list certainly sounds a lot like narcissism.

Dr. Monsour concludes: “… it is noticeable that people with NPD, do not show a major degree of functioning problems in stress free environment or when they are supported (except that they are perceived as “not pleasant characters” to deal with). However under stress and without support they can become quite dysfunctional in a way not far from what we usually see in Asperger’s syndrome. “

I don’t buy it. This is the opinion of one psychiatrist. While it’s true that on the surface these two disorders may appear similar, the mechanism behind the behaviors are vastly different–in fact, almost the opposite. For the narcissist, their lack of empathy and failure to engage the emotions of others is due to their inability to feel the emotions of those around them, but they can FAKE empathy fairly well, even if they choose not to. If they are trying to obtain supply, they can be pretty good at it. Their social skills are not the problem–their inability to feel other’s emotions are. They are like actors in a play. In contrast, a person with Aspergers or high functioning autism DOES feel the emotions of others around them strongly, but lacks the social skills necessary to be able to convey this to others effectively. Unlike the narcissist, people with Aspergers are very bad actors.

But the question was, can Aspergers and narcissism occur together?

aspie_narcissist

But we’re talking here about comorbidity. The question I’ve raised is whether Aspergers and Narcissism can be comorbid with each other–that is, can someone have BOTH disorders?

The answer appears to be yes. I found this on Yahoo Answers, from a man who claims to be both a high functioning autistic AND a sociopath:

[…] people with Asperger’s can be sociopaths and or narcissists as well. “CO-MORBID” is the medical term used to describe a disability or group of disabilities that exist another disability in a single individual at the same time. It is possible to be autistic and have cerebral palsy or have aspergers and diabetes. Likewise it is also possible to have both Aspergers and mental disorders including sociopath and narcissism. Asperger’s does not exist in a bubble that protects it from co-morbid disabilities and mental defects.

I have High Functioning Autism and I also have antisocial tendencies I must always keep properly managed. I see my psychiatrist regularly. I take my medications as needed and I have trained myself to always be mindful of my darker instincts to insure they do not express themselves in disastrous ways. I have high functioniong autism but; thanks to early intervention by family, doctors and others I was made keenly aware of my antisocial ways and taught how to manage them in ways that kept everyone safe. It is the single most difficult thing I do in life to keep my antisocial ways well managed but; having seen the monster I become when enraged is motivation enough to keep me always vigilant.

There’s no reason why the disorders couldn’t exist together. Personally, I’ve never known anyone with both disorders, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Using a fictional example, I’m going to speculate here what the behavior of a narcissist with Aspergers might be like.

The Case of Mark F.

Depressed Forty Year Old Man Drinking Alone

Mark F. always had trouble making friends. In grammar school he was bullied due to his inability to fit in with others or show empathy. He was socially awkward and never seemed to know the right thing to do or say. Mark not only was unable to show appropriate reactions in social situations, but rather than suffer in silence and wonder why others didn’t understand or like him (as most Aspies do), he didn’t care about the feelings of those around him. He was easily hurt by the bullying, but reacted in rage due to these narcissistic injuries to himself. He’d lash out at those who injured him and didn’t care if he hurt someone else.

As Mark grew older, he had difficulty keeping a job, not only because of his inappropriate, almost schizoid affect that was very offputting to those around him, but also because he deliberately caused pain to others with his frequent insensitive insults. Due to his Aspergers, Mark lacked the social skills to be able to effectively use the more subtle narcissistic “tools” such as gaslighting or triangulation against others, but he was very good at blame-shifting and projecting his character defects onto those around him. Lacking the social skills to know what behaviors were appropriate, he’d “go off” on those in authority, and was frequently fired from his jobs for insubordination, gossiping openly about his coworkers, missing work due to debilitating hangovers (more about this in the next paragraph), and starting fights.

Mark never married. Though good looking, due to his poor social skills and openly hostile attitude (he was unable to mask his anger, resentment and envy of others), his dates never developed into relationships. No woman would stay with him longer than a few weeks. He had no friends and resorted to frequent drinking to cope with his loneliness.

As you might imagine, Mark was miserable. He constantly felt victimized. He was frequently depressed and wondered why he couldn’t get others to cooperate with his need to use them for supply. In his frustration and envy of all those around him for their “better social skills,” Mark tried to self-medicate by drinking heavily and his frequent drunkenness only served to exacerbate his rages and cause his work attendance to be poor.

Having both disorders would be a recipe for extreme misery. Mark’s behavior is just one way narcissism comorbid with Aspergers could manifest itself. An effective narcissist must possess good social skills to be able to charm others into trusting them and to use their “bag of tricks” in an effective way, and therefore an Aspie with narcissism wouldn’t be particularly dangerous, just very unlikeable. Therefore, I don’t think it would be probable that an Aspie could be a “malignant narcissist” but they certainly could be suffering from NPD. A person with both disorders would have zero charm and therefore not have many opportunities to use others the way a narcissist with good social skills could. My feeling is substance abuse would be a huge problem for such a person, in their attempt to make life more bearable. For those not resorting to substance abuse or alcoholism, severe depression or even suicidal ideation could result.

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11 thoughts on “Narcissists with Aspergers?

  1. Sonds like *man-sour* is – like a lot of Norms – trying to ‘make a name for himself’ by attributing ***yet another*** species of evil to autists. Regardless of what happens, though, he will get *some* small measure of notice from his own milieu at the least.

    More grist for his *social* ‘mill’ – more social currency – increased social capital.

    Narcissism seems to be ‘extreme Normalism’ in at least some ways – and while it might well be possible for some autists to have a measure of Narcissism, individuals like that person you mentioned having ‘both’ issues are probably nearly as rare as ‘white ravens’.

    The two things – autism and NPD – do not play well with one another. In most cases, they seem to be *mutually exclusive* which makes me wonder about that individual’s precise *diagnosis*.

    That said, however, it’s altogether ***easy*** for most Norms to find convenient brushes so as to more-effectually dominate autists, with Narcissism being one of a number.

    Meanwhile, however, the Normie(s) are indulging in their own situational narcissism – “I’m better than you “. But one problem.

    Given that *only the unconscious is real, and only the social world matters*, (as per folk psychology) then the seeming ‘NPD’ of Normdom is altogether justified!

    After all, they DO have the correct social ***instincts***, and autists do not. This is a mixed blessing, in reality – for while lacking those instincts results in being labeled (truthfully) as ‘subhuman and defective’ – I’m not so sure having those instincts is a good thing.

    ” what profit is there in gaining the world if you lose your soul in the process?”

    No thanks – I’ll stick with my *evil*, as you Norms name it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dennis, this is a fantastic comment–and you made an incredibly important point. I hope you won’t mind if I use this comment for my next blog post? It’s that good. Please let me know.
      Yes, it does seem the group of “ultra-normals” (those would really be white collar psychopaths though), are trying to lump people with autism in with the “evil narcs and sociopaths.” And narcissism itself (not the DSM) now seems to include elements of ASPD (which is worse than narcissism and if you think of narcissism as a spectrum disorder, ASPD is at the top, narcissism starts in the middle) Narcissists can be needy and self-pitying, and neither of those are psychopathic traits.

      But why the Powers That Be would want to stick people with autism into a category that includes “successful people” is something I cannot comprehend. Not trying to imply that people with high functioning autism or Aspergers can’t be successful, because many have been. There are tons of people in the performing, visual and literary arts who have Aspergers. They fit in less well in most corporate environments, where they are probably not going to get very far unless their dad is CEO or something…

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  2. My suspicion is that by casting a group of *instinctually recognized* individuals (by Normies) as ‘the manifested evil in nature’, the *social dominators* – a group that includes ‘w.c. psychopaths’, but is not limited to them – are able to 1) create a semi-homogenous coterie of devoted followers ; 2) cause these followers to do whatever the s. dominators want (in short, increase the s.d’s ‘reach’ and ‘presence’; and finally, 3) accentuate the innate tendencies toward a ‘form’ of psychopathy in their coterie(s).

    The premise is simple: to be ***the god***, one must have worshipers; and the best worshipers are those that think ***just*** like ‘the god’, but are vastly less *capable*. Such individuals will do their master’s will with no instructions needed; they will do so regardless of costs (of ALL kinds); finally, said master can turn his back on them with impunity, knowing that his slaves do not merely know their place, but will keep that place, also.

    In doing this, they vanish as separate beings, and the master becomes ***more widespread*** – and in the limit, said master achies what Normdom names “omnipresence.”

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  3. I feel extraordinarily lucky to have found your article, as I was getting a little frustrated by the fact that everyone else writes about how not to confuse ASD with NPD. Thank you for writing this — you’ve answered so many questions!

    I have a friend who I strongly suspect has Asperger’s due to a number of things (including eye contact). But recently, I’ve been wondering whether he might not have NPD as well. He is strongly narcissistic — that is, he is irritable in the extreme (he feels easily slighted, and the tiniest slight will set him off into giving me the silent treatment), he is a very angry young man, he turns into a drama queen if you don’t give him enough attention… can be haughty, arrogant, disagreeable.

    All this, though, is just one side of him – the other side of his character is so infinitely sweet, kind, giving, caring, generous…little-boyish, always, so you feel that when he’s being mean he’s just a kid behaving badly…

    Or is all that likely to be ASD without NPD?

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  4. Pingback: Asperger’s Syndrome vs Narcissistic Personality Disorder | Aegyo Kawaii's Neurodiversity Blog

  5. I was in a long-term relationship with someone that I am quite certain was both autism spectrum and NPD. He got his autism diagnosis in his forties. Both of his parents were teachers who worked with him extensively to make sure he had better behavior, but, not knowing what was wrong with him, and being personally narcissistic, they were unwilling to seek a diagnosis for him as a child and teenager. Thus, he was able to learn to do things like gaslighting. He learned early on that was a good way to get by. People with NPD and AS who have had early childhood coaching from narcissistic parents survive well in environments where being heavily political is useful, and their inherent sadism is rewarded and even protected. (He is a public middle school teacher.)

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    • I’m actually surprised to hear this. I didn’t think Aspie traits mixed well with being in public office or a position that requires a lot of contact with other people, even for narcissistic Aspies.

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      • They can make adequate teachers if their contact is limited to lectures about their interests. He doesn’t interact, so much as “talk at”. His yearly supervision is two hours of lecture. He’s apparently very entertaining and good at acting (like Darryl Hannah). He stays in one classroom all day, and talks about his obsessions with film and history, which is easy for him, because they’re his aspie interests. He also had a terribly womanizing father who taught him to rotate girls–the girlfriends do his grading. He’s fairly good looking, or he probably wouldn’t have the leniency he has about his job.

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  6. i have a theory since i recently broke up with a combination Asp. and Narc. (less than one year) that maybe his parents NEVER understood that they gave birth to a child with Asp.(in the 1940s). Innocently and directly, they parented him in a way to make up for his social traits that were less desirable- praising him (highly intelligent) and encouraging him to be an athlete (natural). His parents thought they were doing the right thing – focusing on believing that their approach would make him feel good about himself. So, let’s say this man was an Aspie but never could contact those feelings within about himself and accept them because his parents never could, then it is very easy to understand how he could grow into a person with a Narcissistic Disorder – running away from himself (yes, his weaknesses, social vulnerabilities) the rest of his life and building his life on a false persona – his “greatness.” He literally never found out who he was…how sad.

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  7. ooh! I found something that fries my eyebones! (pogo comic strip)

    Look at the very bottom of http://ownshrink.com/narcissism/elliot-rodgers-manifesto-analyzed/

    The article describes someone ‘in the grip of Narcissism’ who – as per Normdom’s obsession about autists in general – was most definitely not an autist. That isn’t the point, by the way.

    What IS the point is a comment supposedly written / uttered by the individual in question – where he basically SAYS ‘I am the God’!!!

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