What’s the difference between someone with Asperger’s Syndrome and someone with narcissistic personality disorder? Is there one? And could narcissistic personality disorder possibly fit on the autism spectrum?
Asperger’s Syndrome vs. Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Turns out, there’s been a lot written on this topic, and it looks like that’s because there’s a commonly misunderstood issue at play here. As you’re probably well-aware, narcissists don’t seem to have much (if any) true empathy for people in their lives; that is, they don’t seem to care how their behavior makes others feel, nor do they seem to understand why people feel the way they do about various situations in their lives – they don’t “feel” people, so to speak, in the same way that you might if you’re an empath.
Why the confusion between Asperger’s syndrome and narcissistic personality disorder?
Shared symptoms include:
The belief that they are special and unique
Inability to express emotional and compassionate empathy for others
The belief that they are the center of attention
Heightened sensitivity to criticism
Inability to accept responsibility for mistakes or inappropriate behavior.
There are some key differences between these two conditions.
While people with Asperger’s syndrome tend to exhibit their inability to express empathy in a very blunt fashion, people with narcissistic personality disorder may engage in more subtle displays of their lack of empathy, such as:
Pretending that they care about someone’s feelings
Pointing out how a person was wrong when they make a mistake
Offering criticism with the intent of being helpful
Based on this information, we have to conclude that someone with NPD is probably more devious than someone who has Asperger’s syndrome.
Empathy in Asperger’s syndrome vs. NPD
The issue that’s misunderstood is not related to narcissists, in this case, is related to people who have Asperger’s syndrome. There’s a commonly held but totally incorrect belief that people with Asperger’s syndrome also do not have empathy, but according to my research, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
People With Asperger’s HAVE Empathy, But Struggle to Express It
According to what people who understand Asperger’s syndrome have told me, and from what my research says, people with Asperger’s DO feel things, and they tend to be incredibly empathic. The disconnect is not directly with their emotions, but with the way they express them.
As I understand it, people with Asperger’s tend to have trouble with verbal expression of their feelings and they also tend to struggle to read faces, which may cause them to appear narcissistic. BUT, the difference here is that they DO feel the emotions and, according to some researchers, maybe more deeply than someone who is more neurotypical. (Read more about the different types of empathy here.)
But they can also become quite overwhelmed by these emotions, and combined with the struggle to communicate effectively, this often causes the person with Asperger’s to simply withdraw from the situation – so if you didn’t know better, you might think they didn’t care.
What are the differences between the two conditions?
We can’t discuss the differences without also covering the similarities, so let’s start there.
From what I gather, while both narcissists and people with Asperger’s are both goal-focused (often to a fault) and may appear to not care about the way people feel, one key difference is that your average narcissist really doesn’t care if they hurt you or your feelings (and they may even take delight in doing so), while someone with Asperger’s would truly prefer not to hurt you or anyone else.
As you know, my advice to someone who is dealing with someone with a severe case of NPD is to go no-contact if necessary – especially when the person is abusing you, mentally or physically.
But when it comes to someone with Asperger’s, the best course of action isn’t always so clear. See, even though you might take their behavior very personally and find yourself feeling emotional pain as a result of it if they don’t mean it personally, it’s really not right for you to take it that way. What I mean is that it’s not reasonable (or fair) to treat someone who is just not able to communicate well enough to express their true feelings in a way that you understand as though they are intentionally trying to hurt you – they aren’t in this case.
So, rather than reacting harshly and yelling or talking AT them, try being calm and talking with them, letting them know how their specific behavior affected you and what it caused you to feel or do in response, which you’d prefer not to do or feel. Explain on a logical level, and offer a potential alternative for the next time this situation occurs.
Strengths and Weaknesses
While someone with Asperger’s may be weak in certain areas, they’re strong in others – and they are capable of learning new ways of coping and dealing with people in many cases, and this is especially true if you speak to them in a respectful manner.
That brings me to another big difference between someone with narcissistic personality disorder and someone with Asperger’s. If you DO come to them to express your feelings, you’ll get entirely different results.
While a narcissist will deny any weakness and play mind games with you, often attempting to gaslight you so that you doubt your own mind and your own experiences, someone with Asperger’s is likely to be surprised that your feelings were hurt and have genuine remorse for what happened – they didn’t really mean to hurt you.
The person with Asperger’s is only trying to continue moving toward their goals, and they generally aren’t known to ever want to hurt anyone, especially not someone they care about.
Should NPD be on the autism spectrum?
All of this is contrary to the belief of one British psychiatrist, though, who claims that narcissistic personality disorder ought to be on the autism spectrum. No, I’m not kidding.
In an article in the Pan Arab Journal of Psychiatry, the good doctor says exactly that – simply that narcissistic personality disorder could potentially deserve 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-centeredness, 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).”
So, just reading that paragraph, you’d feel like he’s discussing NPD, right? Nope. It’s, according to him, a description of both narcissism and autistic spectrum disorders.
He also 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 that “… 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. “
So, what does all that mean? Well, if you ask me, the good doctor may be a little off-base, but what do I know? After all, I’m no psychiatrist, but based on what I’ve learned about these two conditions, I must respectfully disagree with this idea. I believe he is mistaken on the fact that people with Asperger’s lack empathy, as I explained previously, and I think that simple fact alone negates the possibility – not to mention the other differences between the two, which I can cover more extensively in another video if you’re interested.
Question of the Day
So you tell me – what do YOU think? Could this guy be on to something? Or do you agree with those who say that people with Asperger’s are often quite empathic, but lack the ability to communicate their feelings effectively and combined with their trouble reading faces, may simply appear to lack empathy?
Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below – I’d love to get a meaningful conversation going here.
Start Getting Help with Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Today
Today’s Talk to Me Tuesday session was full of great info from some of our holistic healers in the group. As requested, I’m including a downloadable copy of the chat for those who wanted to save the info!
It’s not easy to be yourself. At home, you can relax, but once you go out that door, it’s a whole other matter. You feel the need to behave and dress a certain way. You’re less open with your preferences and opinions, especially when dealing with strangers. It’s not easy to be original.
All during your school years, there’s immense pressure to fit in. Those that are original are fodder for bullies in the educational system.
But as an adult, there is much to be gained if you dare to be original.
Secretly, we all admire those brave enough to be themselves. Many of the most creative people are the most highly valued. You don’t get to become a CEO, or successful actor, musician, or artist without the courage to be yourself.
There are many benefits to being original, both professional and social!
Feel better about yourself and enhance your life by daring to be original using these tips.
Rely on your instincts and intuition. Two things that makes you original are your instincts and your intuition. They are yours and yours alone. Both are based upon your unique experiences and view of the world. Anytime you learn something new, you’re affected. That knowledge influences your perspective. Start small and rely on your gut to make small decisions for you. Try going for a drive and allow your intuition to guide you. Take the turns in the road that just “feel” right to you. Trust your gut when you lack sufficient information.
Change your clothing. Do you dress the way you prefer, or do you dress to fit in or to impress others? This isn’t a suggestion to wear a miniskirt or a purple suit to your bank job, but outside of work, you’re largely free to do as you please. Dress to impress yourself. Be more flexible with your hairstyle and facial hair, too.
Share your opinions openly. There’s no reason to tell your office mate that her new hairstyle reminds you of a housewife from the 50’s. However, you can freely share your opinions on less personal things. Be open regarding your taste in movies, music, food, and other similar topics. Allow others to see the real you.
Be kind to those that are brave enough to be original, too. If you’re critical of others, you’ll be afraid of receiving the same treatment. This will stifle your freedom to be yourself. That acquaintance with the green hair, eight cats, and smells like potpourri? Be accepting.
Be willing to make mistakes. Make decisions as wisely as possible, but make them and do your best. If you’re afraid of making mistakes, you’ll never be original.
You have nothing to lose. The late Steve Jobs stated, “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” In 100+ years, there will no one left on Earth that ever saw you or spoke to you in the flesh. There’s no reason not to be yourself and enjoy the time you have.
Spend more time with your best friends. Part of the reason you like those people so much is your ability to you be yourself around them. It’s refreshing, and you feel better about yourself. So, why not spend more time with them? You might develop the habit of being yourself.
Isn’t it time be your true self? You’ve been living as a shadow of yourself for too long. Realize that life is short and being anything other than your true self is being less than you can be. Be brave and show the world who you really are.
When you’re choosing your inner circle of support, you’ve got to choose carefully, In this video, I’m outlining 8 personalities that you definitely want in your circle – and 8 that you’ll want to avoid at all costs!
Living in such a hectic world can take its toll on your body, mind, and spirit – but the practice of meditation can help you to focus, have a clear mind, and stay centered. Meditation is a practice of learning to train your mind. There are many purposes and techniques.
What all of the techniques have in common is that they work for some benefit in your life. Meditation can help you reduce the effects of stress on your body and mind. It can help you develop a clear mission and purpose for your life. It can help you connect to a higher power.
If you’ve never meditated before, it can be hard to imagine how to get started. There’s a wide range of meditation techniques. Some are simple, while others require a great deal of discipline and training. In the end, though, there’s really no wrong way to do it.
As you consider beginning the practice of meditation, there are factors to consider. The first is determining in what position you’ll meditate. There are several options for you – choose the one that makes the most sense for you.
Getting Into Position
Determining an appropriate position for meditation can set the stage properly. You really don’t have to choose one specific way to do it, but getting your body into a different position from the norm can help you to focus your mind in a more effective way.
While many people choose to use specific yoga positions for meditation, trying to get your body to hold a position that’s uncomfortable can actually take away from your meditation practice. Choose a position that separates you from outside activities, but is comfortable.
The Lotus. The lotus position is the one that most people associate with meditation. This position is a seated position on the floor. For this position, you’ll bend your right leg and place your right ankle on your left thigh.
Then you’ll place your left ankle on your right thigh. This takes a bit of flexibility. Extend your arms and place your hands on your knees palms up. You’ll also want to touch your thumb and index finger.
For this position it’s important to maintain proper posture so that your spine is properly aligned. You may also want to lower your head so that your chin is touching your chest. It may take some time to be able to achieve this position comfortably.
If you’re not able to achieve it comfortably, there are positions that are close, but don’t require as much flexibility. These can allow you to work up to the lotus position that you want to achieve and allow you to meditate.
The Half-Lotus. This position is similar to the lotus, but not as difficult. You start in the same way by touching your right ankle to your left thigh. However, when you bend your left leg, you keep it on the floor and rest your left ankle in front of your right knee. For this position your arm placement will be the same. This will help you to begin experiencing meditation even if you’re not quite flexible enough to achieve a full lotus. Many people who want to practice meditation in the lotus position begin with this pose.
Crossed Legs. If you’re not ready to perform the lotus, you can also sit with your legs crossed on the floor. Make sure to sit straight up and have proper posture. This position is more comfortable if you’re not flexible and will still allow you to meditate.
Lying Down. There are also positions for meditating where you lie on the floor. Lying down can help you to relax your body and separate yourself from your regular daily life. It’s very comfortable, doesn’t require flexibility, and keeps your body supported.
When it comes to meditation positions, the most important consideration is your comfort. While meditation positions can help you to focus your mind, the wrong position can actually take away from your experience.
If you’re new to meditation, you don’t need to spend all your time focusing on your body position and trying to contort your body into an uncomfortable pose. Instead, focus on finding a pose where you can relax and focus on what’s important.
Breathing for Relaxation
In addition to finding an appropriate position, meditation requires that you pay attention to your breathing. Breathing is an automatic function you perform thousands of times each day without much thought.
Most people breathe using muscles from their chest and upper body. These breaths are often pretty shallow. In order to breathe properly for the purposes of good health and meditation, you’ll need to focus on breathing a different way.
For meditation, we use diaphragmatic breathing. This is breathing that comes from the belly area of the body. As you breathe, think of pushing your belly button out as you inhale and pulling it in as you exhale. This will allow you to take deep, relaxing breaths.
You may also want to try counting when you breathe so that you have consistent, rhythmic breathing that leads to relaxation. Try using a count of five. Breathe in for a count of five and exhale a count of five.
Just as it is with your meditation position, you should make sure that your breathing is comfortable. If you’re uncomfortable, you won’t be able to free your mind for meditation. If you’re distracted, then you’re not doing it correctly.
When it comes to meditation, the concept of the third eye is very important. The idea is that when you meditate you can open a “third eye” that connects you to a spiritual force. Many people meditate with the goal of opening the third eye.
By opening the third eye, you may find that you feel more spiritually connected to the universe. You may also find that your intuition is keener and that you have more psychic sensitivities. It may take time in order to become this connected, so don’t be discouraged if your meditation doesn’t produce the desired effect.
You may be wondering how you’ll know if you open your third eye. People who have achieved this type of spiritual awakening report seeing colors and hearing sounds. The idea is that you’re connected to the ultimate source in the universe.
In order to open your third eye, you’ll need to be completely relaxed and in a meditative state where our mind is totally at peace. Rather than focusing on issues in your life, you’ll need to actually not be thinking consciously. This can take a lot of practice.
If you get too focused on trying to open your third eye and achieve a new level of meditation, you can actually make it more difficult. It’s important to free your mind and body and not put pressure on yourself to meditate in a specific way.
Meditation and Religion
Meditation can often be associated with religion, although it doesn’t have to be religious. People of most faiths have some sort of meditation.
For some religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism, meditation is actually a formal practice.
In other religions it’s less formal. In fact, prayer in Judeo-Christian religions is a form of mediation where you become connected to source. For some people, meditation is more about spirituality than actual religion.
You’ll need to look at meditation in your own life and decide how it fits your personal religious and spiritual beliefs.
Remember that there really aren’t any rules when it comes to meditation- it needs to be right for you.
When you’re new to meditation, it can be difficult to really know how to get started. Guided meditation will help you to get started on your meditation journey. While there are many meditation centers where you can participate in guided meditation, you may want to start out in private.
You’ll be able to find many different types of guided meditation audio recordings that will help you to get started. These meditations will cover everything from positions to breathing. They may also help you with specific chants to enhance your meditation and free your mind.
In addition, they may have background music that will be designed to help you relax. Music can be a very powerful addition to your meditation practice. When you find music that speaks to you, you’ll find that meditation goes quickly.
You may also want to read books that give suggestions for guided meditation. Guided meditation is a tool that can help you to get more out of your meditation time. The more you practice, the easier it will become and you may find that you don’t need guided help anymore.
Finding Space to Meditate
When life is busy and you have a family, it can be difficult just to find a space to meditate. It’s important that you find a place where you can have a few minutes of uninterrupted time to meditate. It’s difficult to free your mind when someone is talking to you and distracting you.
Any space can be turned into a meditation space if you prepare. You may want to use your bedroom as a space for meditation. Make sure to tell the members of your household that you’ll be meditating and that you’d like some private time to do this.
Some people choose to use an office area or gym area to perform meditation. Still others find that a large closet can provide a quiet, private space to meditate. Have you ever felt like the bathroom is the only place where you can be alone?
It may sound crazy, but many people convert their bathrooms into spiritual places when they need just a few moments alone to refocus and renew their spirit. There’s no right or wrong space as long as it’s a place where you can clear your mind.
Carving Out Time for Meditation
The people who are most in need of meditating and relaxing are often those that have the busiest and most demanding lives. It can be hard to think that adding one more thing to your schedule can have benefits, but meditation will give you many benefits.
Don’t feel that you have to spend hours meditating each day in order to achieve a benefit from it. In fact, even taking just a minute or two to breathe deeply and clear your mind can be of tremendous value to you.
If you have more time, then you can always meditate more. But if you only have a few minutes, make the most of them. Building meditation into your schedule is the easiest way to build consistency.
For example, you may want to make it a practice to meditate each morning before you get going for the day. This can help you to face the day with greater focus and purpose. You’ll feel more connected to the world in which you live.
For others, meditating before bed can give the relaxation needed before trying to get a good night’s sleep. When the stress of the day has piled onto your shoulders, meditation can help you to relax, unwind, and clear your mind.
Have you ever gone to bed with your mind racing about all of your experiences and all the things on your to do list for tomorrow? Meditation can free you from this cycle that can disrupt your sleep patterns and leave you feeling weary.
But you can also build meditation into your day at any time. If you have a lunch break, you can take five minutes to clear your mind and feel more refreshed by meditating. Even just taking one minute throughout the day to breathe deeply and refocus can have great benefits.
Benefits of Meditation
While there can be obvious spiritual benefits of meditation, there are many benefits that may not be so obvious for adopting this practice. Take a look at some of the benefits you may receive from adding this simple practice to your life.
• Lowers your heart rate
• Lowers your blood pressure
• Increases your ability to sleep through the night and wake feeling rested
• Relieves tension headaches
• Prevents migraine headaches
• Can help with hormonal balance and achieving an appropriate weight
• Reduces anxiety
• Alleviates depression
• Reduces muscle tension and relieves muscle pain
• Adds greater feeling of peace
Meditation can provide many physical and spiritual benefits when you add it to your life. It helps to take small steps in the beginning and to increase the amount of meditation and your goals for meditation as you become more experienced.