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The Narcissistic Psychopath: Are Narcissists Psychopaths?

Does the narcissistic psychopath exist? What about the psychopathic narcissist? Learn the difference between a narcissist and a psychopath.

A narcissist is a person who has narcissistic personality disorder as defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) whereas a psychopath (definition of psychopath) is a different diagnosis entirely and is usually judged based on the 20-item Hare Psychopathy Checklist (Does A Psychopath Test Exist). However, psychopaths are known narcissists, so are narcissists psychopaths as well?

What Is a Narcissist?

Narcissists suffer from narcissistic personality disorder and it is defined in the fifth edition of the DSM (DMS-5). Narcissists are characterized by a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (either in fantasy or in behavior), a constant need for admiration and a lack of empathy. Narcissism must be present by early adulthood and present itself in various context. Five of the following nine criteria must be met for a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder:

  • A grandiose sense of self-importance
  • A preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  • A belief that he or she is special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions
  • A need for excessive admiration
  • A sense of entitlement
  • Interpersonally exploitive behavior
  • A lack of empathy
  • Envy of others or a belief that others are envious of him or her
  • A demonstration of arrogant and haughty behaviors or attitudes

What Is a Psychopath Compared to a Narcissist?

According to the Society for the Scientific Study of Psychopathy, narcissism is an interpersonal symptom of psychopathy. Indeed, symptoms of narcissism like grandiosity, exploitive behavior and a lack of empathy are common in psychopaths. A psychopath could, and likely would, easily fit the diagnosis for narcissistic personality disorder as well, therefore, psychopaths are narcissists. (Relationship Between Psychopathy and Personality Disorders)

Are Narcissists Psychopaths?

However, just because there is some crossover and a person fits the criteria for narcissistic personality disorder does not mean that he or she is also a psychopath. In order to be considered a psychopath, many other psychopathic symptoms such as a lack of attachment to others, superficial charm, dishonesty, manipulativeness and reckless risk-taking come into play. Certainly, psychopathic narcissists exist, but they are not the norm.


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next: Portrait of a Psychopathic Killer
~ all articles on Personality Disorders
~ all Psychopath Articles

Last Updated: 21 July 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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