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Almost everyone has known someone who is grandiose, self-aggrandizing, attention-seeking, and manipulative. Almost everyone has been in a relationship with someone that they have later dubbed a "narcissist" or even a "psychopath" (the original name for a person with Antisocial Personality Disorder). Did those people really have an identifiable personality disorder, however? And how can you tell the difference between these two personality disorders whose symptoms are so strikingly similar?
What Are Personality Disorders?
It can be difficult to explain personality disorders to someone who does not experience them. A person with a personality disorder has difficultly relating to other people. Not only that, but their thought processes and the way they view the world varies considerably to the perception of other people. For example, the individual with Antisocial Personality Disorder isn't capable of forming genuine relationships with anyone, using other people for their own personal gain, and they perceive that everyone else does the same.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder
People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder frequently appear boastful. They monopolize conversations and become highly uncomfortable if a conversation is not centered on them. Frequently pretentious, the diagnosed Narcissist will be obsessed with having "the best" of everything: the best house, the best car, the most desirable spouse. Much of their life is centered on appearances.
People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder lack empathy. They don't understand that other people should, or even may, have different feelings to them. If they feel "on top of the world", they expect that everyone around them will feel the same way. They do not recognise the needs of others, if they differ in any way to their own.
The Narcissist is often a fantasist, spending a large amount of time obsessing about power, riches, success, or the perfect spouse. When reality falls short of their fantasies, they can fall into a depression and sulk for a long time.
Full of an inflated sense of their own self-importance, the Narcissist will use other people to get what they want. They believe it's their right to get whatever they want, and will demand special favors. They don't understand the reason if they fail to get the special treatment they demand, but they suspect it has something to do with jealousy. The Narcissist is frequently jealous of the success of others, and expects that other people will be jealous of them.