The Narcautism spectrum!

So. Why not take the idea described in my last article to even more absurd extremes. Yes, it’s the Narcautism Spectrum!

This invaluable tool for study was tweeted to me by a blogger, Don “Dr.” Depresso, who was inspired to send it to me because of the article I posted earlier tonight.

All kidding aside, the chart does make sense, but I’m trying to figure out how “malignant narcissism” is where it is on the chart. I think it refers to the fact that MN’s have a high level of cognitive (“cold”) empathy–they KNOW how you feel, and use it against you. It looks like the “intersection” would be where non-narcissistic neurotypicals (most people) would be. The Schizoid is a complete droid–no empathy (either warm or cold) and no social skills.

Narcissism and autism–they go together, like rama lamma lamma ka dinga da dinga dong.


Manic Chart: Narcautism Spectrum
Narcautism Spectrum = intersection of narcissism and autism spectra, shown across two dimensions of empathy. Low affective empathy (not caring how people feel) is related to narcissism, while low cognitive empathy (not knowing how people feel) is related to autism. Chart not drawn to scale.

The idea to draw this chart came from reading the article “Do You Think of Narcissism as an Autistic Spectrum Disorder?” in Psychology Today.

Thx 4 reading,
Dr. Depresso


Don Depresso, you rock my world!


What’s up with this crazy idea that narcissism and Aspergers are the same thing?


As a person with Aspergers who has been a victim of narcissists all my life, the difference seems pretty clear to me, but to some people, including mental health professionals, high-functioning autism (Aspergers) and narcissism are seen as the same disorder!

A thread on Wrong Planet, a forum for people with autism and Aspergers (a high functioning form of autism) discusses the confusion, with people on both sides of the Aspergers=Narcissism fence. Cited there is an article from Psychology Today, which quotes Sam Vaknin who believes narcissism is an autism spectrum disorder! The British psychiatrist Dr. Khalid A. Mansour concurs.

Clearly, some people don’t understand much about high functioning autism/Aspergers. Yes, I believe it’s possible for a person to be both a narcissist AND on the autism spectrum (an example might be Mark Zuckerberg, creator of Facebook, especially as he was portrayed in the movie “The Social Network“), but they are two vastly different disorders.

Appearances are only skin deep.


I understand where the confusion comes from. On the surface, the two disorders can appear similar. People on the autism spectrum may seem as if they lack empathy because they do not express their emotions well, which of course includes showing empathy. They also sometimes blurt out inappropriate or hurtful things, not because they mean to, but because they honestly don’t know any better: they have great difficulty reading social cues. They can appear selfish and sometimes get angry or upset when their routines are interrupted or they are forced to pull themselves away from their solitary pursuits to engage with others. They can also violate the boundaries of others. All of these surface behaviors may look a lot like narcissism.

But appearances are only skin deep, and this is where any similarity ends. Lack of empathy seems to be the most commonly mentioned “characteristic” of both Aspies and narcissists. But in actuality, as far as empathy is concerned, a person with autism/Aspergers is the polar opposite of a narcissist. A narcissist cannot feel empathy, but can act as if they do. They are good actors and can fake emotion they do not feel. They can lie well; Aspies cannot lie or lie very badly. People with Aspergers and high functioning autism are great at picking up the emotions of others around them and are even sometimes overwhelmed by other people’s emotions (which sometimes makes them withdraw and that can make them seem like they lack empathy). They can be bad at expressing empathy because of their inability to read social cues or know what to say and do. Therefore, Aspies can feel empathy but often act as if they do not.


Narcissists can say hurtful or damaging things because (a) they don’t care how you feel; or (b) because they want to hurt you. People with autism/Aspergers say hurtful things too sometimes, but it’s never intentional and they do care how you feel. If they are told they said something hurtful, most autists/Aspies are consumed with guilt and will sincerely apologize. They blurt things out because they sometimes do not know it’s not appropriate to do so.

Aspies and autists hate to have their comforting routines interrupted because repetition is something that grounds and relaxes them. A low functioning person with autism will sometimes perform repetitive movements or repeat a phrase over and over. This is how they cope with too much stimuli coming in. If they are interrupted, a low-functioning autist may fly into a rage or have a temper tantrum. Disengaging and switching gears is impossible for them.

At the higher end of the spectrum, an Aspie or high functioning autist may not repeat the same word or action over and over, but they have their hobbies and obsessions which they pursue with a single-minded intensity. They tend to hyper-focus on whatever interests them. If they are interrupted from whatever their mind is focused on, they may snap at you or become very annoyed. They can switch gears if they must but they hate doing it.

A narcissist may also snap or become annoyed, but not because they have difficulty switching gears but because they are just plain selfish and don’t want to do something that might please someone else besides themselves. Think of the narcissistic husband playing a video game. His wife comes into the room and asks for some help opening a stuck window. The husband flies into a rage and tells her he’s busy and to do it herself. It’s not because he’s that engrossed in the game or even cares about it that much, it’s because he doesn’t want to put himself out for his wife. For an Aspie or autist, the game engages all of their senses and their mind is extremely focused. They simply can’t pull away from it.


A person with autism or Aspergers can and do violate the boundaries of others. Again, this is because they can’t read social cues well enough to know when they are violating someone else’s boundaries. A narcissist knows full well when they are violating boundaries, but they simply do not care.

A forum member on Wrong Planet sums up the confusion this way:

To me it’s as absurd as comparing the small narcissistic child recklessly driving a car, to a person trying to cross the street in a wheelchair, and saying they have a lot in common because they both have a set of wheels.

I think mental health professionals and others who believe narcissism and Aspergers are on the same spectrum need to dig a lot deeper before they make such sweeping generalizations. They are not the same disorder at all and are certainly not on the same spectrum. Aspergers/high functioning autism is a neurodevelopmental deficit and really a type of learning disability; narcissism is a moral deficit.

For further reading, please see my article, People with Autism Do Not Lack Empathy!
Also see The Spectrums of Autism and Narcissism.

Sociopath vs. psychopath: is there a difference?


I’ve been using the terms psychopath and sociopath interchangeably on this blog, even though I’m aware there are differences between the two. I was curious enough to Google what the difference is, and came across an article in Psychology Today that explains how they are alike–and how they differ.

How to Tell a Sociopath from a Psychopath
By Dr. Scott Bonn

Many forensic psychologists, psychiatrists and criminologists use the terms sociopathy and psychopathy interchangeably. Leading experts disagree on whether there are meaningful differences between the two conditions. I contend that there are clear and significant distinctions between them.

The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), released by the American Psychiatric Association in 2013, lists both sociopathy and psychopathy under the heading of Antisocial Personality Disorders (ASPD). These disorders share many common behavioral traits which lead to the confusion between them. Key traits that sociopaths and psychopaths share include:

A disregard for laws and social mores
A disregard for the rights of others
A failure to feel remorse or guilt
A tendency to display violent behavior
In addition to their commonalities, sociopaths and psychopaths also have their own unique behavioral characteristics, as well.

Sociopaths tend to be nervous and easily agitated. They are volatile and prone to emotional outbursts, including fits of rage. They are likely to be uneducated and live on the fringes of society, unable to hold down a steady job or stay in one place for very long. It is difficult but not impossible for sociopaths to form attachments with others. Many sociopaths are able to form an attachment to a particular individual or group, although they have no regard for society in general or its rules. In the eyes of others, sociopaths will appear to be very disturbed. Any crimes committed by a sociopath, including murder, will tend to be haphazard, disorganized and spontaneous rather than planned.

Psychopaths, on the other hand, are unable to form emotional attachments or feel real empathy with others, although they often have disarming or even charming personalities. Psychopaths are very manipulative and can easily gain people’s trust. They learn to mimic emotions, despite their inability to actually feel them, and will appear normal to unsuspecting people. Psychopaths are often well educated and hold steady jobs. Some are so good at manipulation and mimicry that they have families and other long-term relationships without those around them ever suspecting their true nature.

When committing crimes, psychopaths carefully plan out every detail in advance and often have contingency plans in place. Unlike their sociopathic counterparts, psychopathic criminals are cool, calm, and meticulous. Their crimes, whether violent or non-violent, will be highly organized and generally offer few clues for authorities to pursue. Intelligent psychopaths make excellent white-collar criminals and “con artists” due to their calm and charismatic natures.

The cause of psychopathy is different than the cause of sociopathy (1). It is believed that psychopathy is the result of “nature” (genetics) while sociopathy is the result of “nurture” (environment). Psychopathy is related to a physiological defect that results in the underdevelopment of the part of the brain responsible for impulse control and emotions. Sociopathy, on the other hand, is more likely the product of childhood trauma and physical/emotional abuse. Because sociopathy appears to be learned rather than innate, sociopaths are capable of empathy in certain limited circumstances but not in others, and with a few individuals but not others.

Psychopathy is the most dangerous of all antisocial personality disorders because of the way psychopaths dissociate emotionally from their actions, regardless of how terible they may be. Many prolific and notorious serial killers, including the late Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy, and Dennis Rader (“Bind, Torture, Kill” or BTK) are unremorseful psychopaths. Psychopathic killers view their innocent victims as inhuman objects to be tormented and violated for their amusement.

Contrary to popular mythology, most serial killers are not mentally ill or “evil” geniuses. See my related article:

tedbundy ed_gein
Although both were deadly serial killers, Ted Bundy was a psychopath who gave a good impression and knew how not to get caught; Ed Gein was most likely a sociopath who acted more impulsively, was more disorganized and didn’t give a very good first impression. Though both men’s crimes were equally heinous, Bundy’s eyes seem “colder” than Gein’s.

Although the traits of a psychopath more closely resemble those of a person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) than those of the more impulsive, disorganized sociopath, both are actually described here as variations of ASPD, not NPD. Once again, if ASPD is really “NPD on crack” then it follows that NPD and ASPD are both on the same spectrum, with ASPD (and psychopathy/sociopathy) at the top of the spectrum. If this is in fact the case, people with NPD, even malignant narcissists, may border on psychopathy, but would not actually qualify as true psychopaths.

Here’s a little graph I devised to illustrate where all the Cluster B disorders may fall on a spectrum. These are just my guesses and are not based on psychological research, just my instinct and gut feelings.

Click image to enlarge.

F*ck. Why do I have to post yet another Sam V. article?


Because I’m an obsessive Aspie nutcase.

No, actually…because it’s about Narcissism and Aspergers and why these two disorders sometimes get confused, even by professionals, even though they’re not really anything alike. It’s because Aspies cannot SHOW emotion or empathy appropriately, not because they don’t FEEL it.

I’m compelled to post anything I see that talks about both these disorders since these are the two I have the most interest in, for obvious reasons.

Misdiagnosing Narcissism: Asperger’s Disorder


Asperger’s Disorder is often misdiagnosed as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), though evident as early as age 3 (while pathological narcissism cannot be safely diagnosed prior to early adolescence).

In both cases, the patient is self-centered and engrossed in a narrow range of interests and activities. Social and occupational interactions are severely hampered and conversational skills (the give and take of verbal intercourse) are primitive. The Asperger’s patient body language – eye to eye gaze, body posture, facial expressions – is constricted and artificial, akin to the narcissist’s. Nonverbal cues are virtually absent and their interpretation in others lacking.

Yet, the gulf between Asperger’s and pathological narcissism is vast.

The narcissist switches between social agility and social impairment voluntarily. His social dysfunctioning is the outcome of conscious haughtiness and the reluctance to invest scarce mental energy in cultivating relationships with inferior and unworthy others. When confronted with potential Sources of Narcissistic Supply, however, the narcissist easily regains his social skills, his charm, and his gregariousness.

Many narcissists reach the highest rungs of their community, church, firm, or voluntary organization. Most of the time, they function flawlessly – though the inevitable blowups and the grating extortion of Narcissistic Supply usually put an end to the narcissist’s career and social liaisons.

The Asperger’s patient often wants to be accepted socially, to have friends, to marry, to be sexually active, and to sire offspring. He just doesn’t have a clue how to go about it. His affect is limited. His initiative – for instance, to share his experiences with nearest and dearest or to engage in foreplay – is thwarted. His ability to divulge his emotions stilted. He is incapable or reciprocating and is largely unaware of the wishes, needs, and feelings of his interlocutors or counterparties.

Inevitably, Asperger’s patients are perceived by others to be cold, eccentric, insensitive, indifferent, repulsive, exploitative or emotionally-absent. To avoid the pain of rejection, they confine themselves to solitary activities – but, unlike the schizoid, not by choice. They limit their world to a single topic, hobby, or person and dive in with the greatest, all-consuming intensity, excluding all other matters and everyone else.. It is a form of hurt-control and pain regulation. [This describes me so much it’s creepy]

Thus, while the narcissist avoids pain by excluding, devaluing, and discarding others – the Asperger’s patient achieves the same result by withdrawing and by passionately incorporating in his universe only one or two people and one or two subjects of interest. Both narcissists and Asperger’s patients are prone to react with depression to perceived slights and injuries – but Asperger’s patients are far more at risk of self-harm and suicide.

The use of language is another differentiating factor.

The narcissist is a skilled communicator. He uses language as an instrument to obtain Narcissistic Supply or as a weapon to obliterate his “enemies” and discarded sources with. Cerebral narcissists derive Narcissistic Supply from the consummate use they make of their innate verbosity.

Not so the Asperger’s patient. He is equally verbose at times (and taciturn on other occasions) but his topics are few and, thus, tediously repetitive. He is unlikely to obey conversational rules and etiquette (for instance, to let others speak in turn). Nor is the Asperger’s patient able to decipher nonverbal cues and gestures or to monitor his own misbehavior on such occasions. Narcissists are similarly inconsiderate – but only towards those who cannot possibly serve as Sources of Narcissistic Supply.

As usual, he’s right on the money about this. His description of the Aspergers patient is me in a nutshell. I highlighted the relevant parts. Most of these Aspie behaviors are also seen in Narcissists, but for very different, almost opposite reasons.

Dammit, Sam.

People with autism do not lack empathy!


Autism and narcissism have a few things in common: First, they are both spectrum disorders. With autism, the spectrum runs from mild (Aspergers, colloquially known as “geek syndrome”) to full blown autism so severe the patient seems retarded and cannot even perform the most basic self-care or live without full time supervision. With narcissism, the spectrum runs from “benign” narcissism (people who are self-centered and vain but not completely lacking empathy or a conscience and don’t deliberately want to hurt anyone) to full blown malignant narcissism/psychopathy (which are basically one and the same).

Second, they are both at least partially (in the case of autism, probably totally) due to a miswiring or malfunction in the brain. One can be born without the ability to love or feel empathy (though abusive parenting does seem to exacerbate an inborn tendency), and almost all persons with autism were born with it (although there does appear to be a suspicious correlation between Aspies and narcissistic mothers, which probably exacerbates the Aspergers symptoms).

In one important way, autism and narcissism are mirror-images of each other. Narcissists cannot feel empathy for others, but can fake empathy quite well if they wish to. They can be very good actors. People with Aspergers (or mild autism) have the opposite problem. They can feel the emotions of others around them (very keenly in fact) but due to their inability to read social cues and difficulty acting “appropriately” in social situations, they can seem unempathic because they can’t express their emotions well.

Due to their difficulty showing empathy (people with Aspergers can seem aloof, cold or just awkward) it’s become popular to believe that people with Aspergers or autism, just like narcissists, do not have empathy. M. Scott Peck’s book “People of the Lie” is one of the best books I’ve ever read about malignant narcissism (it wasn’t called that when the book was first written in the early ’80s), but there was one thing that really bothered me: Dr. Peck used the term “autism” a number of times to describe the psychopath’s inability to feel empathy.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Here is an excellent article that makes mincemeat of this popular notion. If anything, people with mild autism/Aspergers empathize too much. I would even go out on a limb and say most of them are also Highly Sensitive People (HSPs). HSPs worry excessively about the impression they are making on others and whether or not they’ll be liked–and that sort of anxiousness itself can be socially disabling, even if no autism is present.

The spectrums of autism and narcissism

Einstein is known to have been autistic, and Ted Bundy was a malignant narcissist of the worst kind.

Most people today are aware that autism runs on a spectrum, but many people do not know that narcissism (psychopathy) also can be found on a spectrum, running from mild to the most severe just like autism.

In autism, the spectrum looks like this:

Severe autism: The patient seems profoundly retarded–may not even be able to dress themselves, eat, or go to the bathroom without assistance–but may have a special ability, such as having a photographic memory of dates, or baseball scores, or a talent for art or music. Here you will find the “idiot savant” phenomenon, which I think is really just that the autistic person has focused ALL their intelligence into one or two narrow interests. As is true of all people with autism, they do not “connect” with caregivers the way neurotypicals do, and avoid physical touch or interpersonal contact, even from infancy.

Moderate autism: The patient can function and may be attracted to repetitive tasks and routines, and becomes easily upset if their routine is disrupted. They may engage in repetitive actions such as headbanging or echolalia, but is able to learn if given special instruction to suit their unique learning needs and can possibly be mainstreamed into regular education later. They may focus all their energy and intelligence on the things that interest them to the expense of anything else, but they can be very knowledgeable about the things they like. Keep in mind, people with moderate or severe autism are NOT retarded, but for whatever reason have shut themselves off from the world and from social interaction.

Mild (high functioning) autism; sometimes known as Aspergers Syndrome: Aspies function more or less normally in most things, and don’t usually need to be placed in special education programs, but they are likely to be very awkward socially. This can range from completely avoiding contact with others, to odd behaviors like one-sided conversation where there is no awareness the other person may have lost interest, interrupting the other person, or just having an odd, formal or pedantic way of speaking. The reason for this is Aspies cannot read social cues the way neurotypicals can, and as a result are likely to be shunned by their peers and bullied. Most Aspies however, are very intelligent, and many of not most “nerds” are actually high functioning autistics. They can be successful if they are encouraged to develop skills and knowledge in whatever interests them and can find a career that doesn’t require a lot of social contact. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help them improve their social skills even though being able to read social cues will always elude them. Albert Einstein was an extremely high functioning person with autism, but he didn’t learn to speak until he was three years old and his teachers and parents thought he was retarded.

In Narcissism, the spectrum looks like this:

Mild narcissism: People who are mildly narcissistic should probably not be considered psychopaths. They may not even fit the criteria for NPD. Many people with Cluster B personality disorders such as Borderline personality disorder, can be quite narcissistic but because they have the capacity to feel some remorse and empathy, they’re not true Narcissists, but they have enough N traits to belong on the low end of the spectrum. In some cases, however, they can become psychopathic.

Moderate narcissism (NPD): People with moderate NPD can be psychopathic. They are dangerous lovers, friends, and family members who care very little about others, although there may be occasional times they can feel remorse (usually this “remorse” is more because they got in trouble, not true concern about the person they have hurt). Unlike those with Antisocial Personality Disorder (sociopathy), Narcissists are unlikely to engage in criminal behavior, or at least not the sort of heinous crimes that will land them in prison. However, they are immoral and their actions may border on the illegal or they may commit a crime if they think they can get away with it. But because they want to maintain a squeaky clean image and gain others’ trust, they may avoid committing crimes altogether.

Malignant Narcissism (psychopathy): These are the true psychopaths, who think nothing of using, abusing, and hurting those close to them. They are expert liars and manipulators, and not only do not feel shame and remorse, they may also have sadistic impulses and actually enjoy watching their victims suffer (moderate narcissists just don’t care). These are extremely dangerous people but because they are also attractive and charming (at first) they are good at getting others to do their bidding before completely destroying them. Victims of the MN can suffer all sorts of severe mental disorders such as major depression, C-PTSD and may even attempt or commit suicide. My ex-husband falls into this category.

Psychopath or Sociopath?
There is some confusion (and it confused me for awhile too) as to what the difference between a sociopath and a psychopath is. They are very similar, but a sociopath is basically someone with Antisocial Personality Disorder rather than narcissism. APDs can be very narcissistic, and they are similar to Narcs in other ways too, especially in their lack of a conscience. Like narcissists, they show little to no remorse.

The person with APD is much more impulsive and not as skilled or savvy in planning out their actions. They do not think before they act. Hence they are far more likely to break the law and be in prison than a person with NPD.
You will find NPDs in the top echelons of business, government, and religious organizations and they all too often weild great power, which further boosts their already inflated self-image. APDs will rarely if ever reach the top of these “respectable” professions because they are too impulsive and lack the self-discipline to attain those levels. Many if not most people with APD are in prison or have at least had some trouble with the law. There has been some speculation that while the person with NPD knows the difference between right and wrong but just doesn’t care, the person with APD may have trouble distinguishing right from wrong. Does that mean if they could learn the difference, they would become narcissists instead?

Serial Killers.
Serial killers may be either sociopathic (APD) or psychopathic (Malignant Narcissists). Narcissistic killers are far less likely to be caught than sociopathic killers.

Ted Bundy presented a very good impression to his victims (even working in a rape crisis center) and was good looking and well educated. He had a law degree and a charming, trustworthy demeanor. He also planned his crimes in a manner where it was difficult for him to be caught for a long time, and even after he was caught and sentenced, passed himself off as an expert in serial murder, and before his death, his theories were actually used by police and forensic specialists to help identify and profile other killers of this type. Ted Bundy was a narcissist and a psychopath.

Ed Gein was a sicko who didn’t take care of his appearance, didn’t make a good impression, lived in a filthy hovel filled with body parts, and did not plan his crimes in a very organized manner. He basically acted on impulse. When he was overwhelmed by the urge to kill and cannibalize again, he would just go out and do it. Of course, like Bundy, he didn’t feel remorse and even took pleasure from the torment and horror he caused in his victims, but his actions were impulsive and strictly done to fulfill an immediate need. Ed Gein was a sociopath who probably had APD.