Inside the Criminal Mind

Understanding the dark side of human conduct

Narcissistic Personality Disorder and the Antisocial Personality Disorder -- A Lot in Common

There is little difference between the antisocial individual and the narcissist.

Criteria in the (American Psychiatric Association's) DSMIV for Antisocial Personality Disorder (30l.70), include "failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest." Arrestability is not a criterion for diagnosing a Narcissistic Personality Disorder (30l.81). However, if you omitted the diagnostic labels and reviewed the other criteria for each of these "personality disorders," you might not be able to distinguish one from the other.

The narcissist, for example, "is uncomfortable in situations in which he or she is not the center of attention." The same is true of the antisocial person. The narcissist evidences "self-dramatization."
People who are antisocial can also be quite dramatic. In fact, some count on drama to distract others from their real intentions. And some appear dramatic as they play out their perception that they are the center of the universe around which all else should revolve.

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The DSMIV cites as an "essential feature" of the narcissist a "lack of empathy that begins by early childhood and is present in a variety of contexts." If lack of empathy isn't a hallmark of an antisocial individual, then what is (again see the DSMIV "reckless disregard for the safety of others")?

The most important point is that people who are either antisocial or narcissistic are victimizers.. Most likely, every reader of this column has unfortunately known a man or woman who is incredibly self-centered and self-aggrandizing, who is untruthful and cannot be trusted, who fails to see things from any point of view other than his own, and who is able to eliminate fear (and conscience) long enough to pursue any means to an end. Invariably, others are betrayed, deceived, and emotionally (perhaps financially) injured. The narcissist may not commit an act that is illegal, but the damage he does may be devastating. In fact, because the narcissist appears to be law-abiding, others may not be suspicious of him leaving him freer to pursue his objectives, no matter at whose expense. I have found that the main difference between the narcissist and antisocial individual, in most instances, is that the former has been shrewd or slick enough not to get caught for breaking the law.

Stanton Samenow, Ph.D.,is a clinical psychologist practicing in Alexandria, Virginia and author of Inside the Criminal Mind.

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