Antisocial Personality Disorder vs Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Similarities and Differences

Written by Angela Atkinson

What is antisocial personality disorder and how does it compare to narcissistic personality disorder?

We already know what narcissistic personality order or NPD is, right? But just in case you’re new here, let me just quickly review the clinical definition for you. NPD is a personality disorder that causes the affected person to have a pretty distorted self-image, unpredictable and intense emotional issues and most notably a serious lack of empathy for the people around them. The lack of empathy leads them to not be able to feel or understand the feelings that aren’t their own – and clearly, this causes serious issues in relationships.

Someone with NPD may also have a sense of superiority and grandiose fantasies of power or importance, not to mention a huge sense of (often unearned) entitlement and they may consider themselves and their ideas more important and correct than anyone else’s.

Now, let’s quickly cover the diagnostic criteria for APD or anti-social personality disorder. Here, we see similar traits, including a propensity for egocentricism and self-directed goal-setting without regard for societal norms or rules. Personality traits include a propensity for manipulating and deceiving others, hostility and a sense of callousness. Also present are irresponsible and impulsive behaviors, excessive risk-taking and other behaviors that are considered outside of the social norms.

Confusing maybe, because there are some similarities there. For example, a narcissist will be uncomfortable in situations where he or she isn’t the center of attention, and so will the antisocial person. Both narcissists and people with APD can be very dramatic, and each likes to feel that they’re the center of the world.

Both the narcissist and the person with anti-social personality disorder are typically victimizers of others and while the narcissist lacks empathy, the anti-social personality has a reckless disregard for the safety of others – slightly different but still very similar, right?

 But there are also some marked differences between APD and NPD, and that’s what we’re covering next. Probably the most notable one is that in most cases, if the narcissist breaks the law, they aren’t caught because they’re very carefully calculating their behavior. For the anti-social person, though, being arrested at some point in their lives is pretty common.

NPD vs APD on Attention from Others

Narcissists also really NEED their sources of narcissistic supply in order to self-validate. When it comes to their personal identities, the narcissist bases his or her self-esteem on how other people react to them and treat them. They tend to have an exaggerated sense of self that fluctuates to desperate self-doubt (which is usually not verbalized for many narcs). Narcissists are also known for their emotional extremes and mood swings.

NPD vs APD on Self-Esteem and Personal Goals

On the other hand, the anti-social personality derives self-esteem from his or her own personal gain, power and pleasure – not so much through the approval of others. They will aggressively and openly go after what they want without regard for the concerns of others. They want power, control and material gain – the APD focuses mostly on functional benefits as opposed to the narcissist who focuses on getting their supply needs met (the ego is more important to the narc).

It makes sense then that the narcissist’s goals are generally based on getting approval from other people and the need to see him or her self as special or different. The narcissist also doesn’t really know why they do what they do, and like I mentioned, they have a big sense of entitlement.

The anti-social personality’s goals are based more on personal gratification and this type of person lacks concern for societal standards when going after what he or she wants.

NPD vs APD on Relationships

Here’s an interesting note on empathy for both personality disorders. While we know that both lack empathy for others, the APD also lacks remorse when hurting or mistreating another person. While the same appears true for a narcissist, there is this interesting twist here – the narcissist tends to be hyper-sensitive to the reactions of others as they relate to him/herself. The narcissist also seriously underestimates the effect of his or her behavior on other people.

Narcissists need relationships, because they help to provide them with validation and recognition, while anti-social people will build and discard relationships for their own financial or social gain. When the relationships end, narcissists are known to “hoover” their exes, while the ASP will walk away without a second thought.

When it comes to sex and intimacy, the anti-social personality disordered person is not capable of having a mutually intimate relationship – they are all about exploiting other people to get what they want and sex and intimacy are no exception. It’s the only way they know to relate to people. The APD will use bullying and intimidation to control the people around them.

For narcissists, relationships are all about supply – getting their needs met. The narcissist enters relationships to serve him or her self only, to boost self-esteem and fulfill the needs of the narcissist. Here is where people are most damaged by the narcissist – in intimate relationships. Narcissists are most often abusive to those closest to them and they tend to have very little interest in the experiences of other people, which leads their relationship partners to feel unheard and unimportant in many cases.

The anti-social personality also includes manipulative behavior through seduction and charm, like the narcissist, but for different reasons. The narcissist does it for supply and attention, while the ASP does it just to meet his or her personal goals or for personal gain.

The APD-affected person is more likely to be blatantly callous and sadistic, deceitful and to commit fraud. They are also more openly hostile and mean to others than narcissists, who are more likely to reserve these behaviors for their established sources of narcissistic supply.

Narcissists are less likely to take big risks and to engage in very dangerous behaviors, while the ASP is all about both of those things – in fact, they are known to be incredibly impulsive and irresponsible. Many narcissists are financially and socially responsible as far as anyone can tell, but that’s because they are also very concerned with their personal image and what others think about them. The ASP tends to lack the ability to be financially and socially responsible at all and really struggles to follow through on things promised and on agreements (legal or otherwise).

NPD vs APD on Emotions

Narcissist have emotions, and they let everyone know it. But the ASP brain is wired differently. Neuroscientists believe that the prefrontal cortex of the brain has structural and functional issues that cause the ASP to have an inability to have remorse and genuine emotion. While narcissists struggle to display remorse and genuine emotion in a normal way, it’s because they’re too self-focused sometimes to pay attention to or respect the feelings of others – not because they don’t feel anything. The APD genuinely can’t experience normal human feelings at all.

People with NPD can be affected by depression and anxiety, people with APD cannot. Both can experience drug and alcohol addiction – but for different reasons. The APD does it to indulge risk-taking and impulsive behavior, while the NPD does it to self-medicate or even to impress others in some cases.

NPD vs APD on Revenge

The narcissist will feel wounded when his or her pride feels attacked or when someone doesn’t agree with them, and they may seek revenge for the narcissistic injury they get out of the deal. The APD doesn’t care what anyone thinks of them, but they will react with anger or aggression if their personal goals (for material or personal gain) are affected.

Can someone be both narcissistic and antisocial?

Yes, the two conditions can be comorbid, but not often. The symptoms have a bit of an overlap but the specific diagnostic criteria are specific to motivations, so it’s rare that can they both be identified in an individual person.

Question of the Day: Do you know someone who is APD or NPD? What have your experiences been? Do you have other questions you’d like me to answer? Leave your thoughts and experiences in the comments below and let’s discuss it!


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