Although it’s not a clinical diagnosis, someone with narcissistic sociopathic tendencies generally has a combination of narcissistic and avoidant personality symptoms. These individuals lack empathy toward people and may gain pleasure from harming others. This can cause them to manipulate, exploit, or violate people, which may make them dangerous to society.
What Is a Narcissistic Sociopath?
Sometimes known as malignant narcissists or narcopaths, narcissistic sociopaths are a sub-type of people with narcissistic personality disorder. They are driven by a high need for control and power, and they often take advantage of others to meet their own needs.
Here are some of the common signs of narcissistic sociopathy:
People with NPD have a distorted sense of reality. Some believe that others are out to get them, which drives an internalized state of paranoia. They find it hard to trust people and may present as cold and withdrawn.
Others naturally assume they are better than others, reinforcing delusions of grandeur. They will often inflate their skills and operate from a stance of having expertise or special talent.
In all cases of NPD, there’s the underlying belief of internalized privilege and entitlement. They can have a challenging time with impulse control because they believe they can have what they want when they want it. When things don’t go their way, they react both poorly and intensely.
Lack of Ethics and Morals
Narcissistic sociopaths tend to focus on getting what they want, even if that means violating laws or boundaries. While they might be adamant about others following the rules, they often assume those same rules don’t apply to them.
Narcissistic sociopaths may lie, steal, or cheat to meet their needs. However, they can also quickly justify their decisions and will often try to make others feel guilty when confronting them.
Sometimes they do feel regret or remorse after hurting someone, but those feelings may speak more to “getting caught” or being reprimanded than actually feeling empathy toward the other person. Therefore, they often repeat problematic cycles of behavior.
Many Estranged Relationships
Many people with NPD- including narcissistic sociopaths- have extensive histories of people they have since cut off. It’s very challenging for them to mutually work out disagreements with someone else. If they feel personally attacked, they will often double down on their efforts to hurt that other person.
Once another person no longer meets their needs (or starts challenging them more frequently), they often jump to end ties completely. This doesn’t just apply to relationships- narcissists will also abandon jobs, hobbies, or other items that no longer serve them.
Patterns of Abusive Behavior
Narcissistic sociopaths often hurt others with confusing patterns of love bombing, devaluation, gaslighting, and other forms of manipulation. While many of them do want love, they latch onto others for a sense of identity and purpose. However, once the other person can’t fully meet their needs, they can experience deep anger, which they often take out externally.
Narcissistic abuse comes in many forms, but it can look like:
- Denying that certain events happened (which is a form of gaslighting)
- White lies or outright lies
- Incongruent actions (saying they will do one thing but actually doing something else)
- Trying to smear your reputation to others
- Being physically violent
- Making emotional threats and/or exploiting your well-being
- Financial control and financial abuse
- Sexual coercion or sexual abuse
Seeming to Enjoy Drama and Chaos
Most people want to keep a sense of peace amongst themselves and their loved ones. But a narcissist sociopath may thrive on chaos. Even when things are going well, they often stir the pot just to get a reaction from others.
This explains why having a relationship with a narcissist can feel so tumultuous. They seemingly enjoy the intense emotions associated with conflict. They also, at times, embrace a victim mentality as a way to solicit others to validate them.
Needing Constant Affection, Praise, or Validation
Attention is a core need for people with NPD. Because they struggle with their identities and often feel a profound sense of emptiness, they rely on others to fill that void. The problem is that it never is “full enough,” which leads to the theory of ‘narcissistic supply.’
Narcissistic supply refers to how narcissists use people or situations to affirm themselves. This can look like stacking professional accomplishments, acquiring symbols of status, winning at something, or maintaining a sense of pleasure through drugs, alcohol, or sex. The goal is to receive attention and admiration, but the need is often insatiable.
Aggressive or Hostile Behavior
Not all people with NPD are aggressive or hostile, but these are core traits of narcissistic sociopathy. Sociopaths justify being cruel toward others for personal gain.
They may hold onto rigid beliefs about how people should think, look, or behave. They might also be more sexist, racist, or discriminatory toward others. They’re quick to judge, and they may use threats, coercion, or violence to meet their needs.
Charm and Wit
Many people can and do fall in love with sociopaths. Moreover, narcissistic sociopaths succeed in nearly every professional domain and many enjoy positions of power and high status.
This is because many people with NPD are intelligent, and they come across as highly confident and personable. They rely on their charisma to engage with the world. Moreover, their ability to connect with others sometimes encourages others to excuse their unacceptable behavior.
People with NPD may also depend on these traits as a way to seemingly lure others in. This is common within the love-bombing phase, where narcissists shower people with affection, making others feel deeply cared for and loved.
How to Manage a Relationship With a Narcissistic Sociopath
It’s important to have realistic expectations in all of your relationships. No matter how much you might try, you can’t control other people. With that, all personality disorders are complex and notoriously challenging to treat. And while people can change, it’s also important to protect your own integrity.
Some relationships are inevitable, and you may not want (or be able) to end a relationship with a narcissist. Here are some ways you can manage your relationship.
Know Your Boundaries
You are entitled to your personal and relational boundaries with everyone in your life. Nobody can take that away from you. That said, narcissists often try to disregard boundaries and will try to make you feel guilty, silly, or “wrong” for having limits.
Acknowledge your boundaries, and remain firm with them. Consistency is essential, and enforcing your limits is imperative. If you waffle back and forth with boundaries, the narcissist will try to use your ambivalence against you.
Have a Healthy Support System
It’s never a good idea to isolate yourself away from others, even in healthy relationships. Having support from other friends, family members, or a therapist can be invaluable.
Loved ones can provide guidance and compassion when you’re going through a hard time. They can also be objective with you if you’re struggling to understand your relationship issues.
Be careful of the problem of only having mutual friends or family members. When problems arise, narcissists often try to pit their loved ones against them.
Work On Yourself and Focus On Yourself
Regardless of what the narcissist in your life is (or isn’t doing), you should prioritize your own emotional well-being. Abusive relationships often impact self-esteem, and you might think you don’t deserve to spend time or resources on yourself.
This isn’t true. If you focus more on your own needs, hobbies, and outside relationships, you may be less affected by the narcissist’s actions. Depending on the nature of your relationship, you might also spend less time together, which can be beneficial.
Focus on Actions Over Words
People with NPD may apologize and make grandiose promises about changing their behavior. If they sense losing someone they care about, they may be empathic in their efforts to prove that they won’t hurt you again. It’s tempting to want to trust them, but doing so can backfire.
Be mindful of accepting such commitments at face value. Change should be measured by behaviors, and not just words.
What If You Identify With Being a Narcissistic Sociopath?
If you recognize having traits of NPD, you are not inherently doomed. NPD is a complex disorder that lies on a large spectrum, and research shows that complex trauma is a driving factor in maintaining most unwanted behavior.
Seek Professional Support
It’s a misconception that people with NPD can’t improve their symptoms or behavioral responses. What’s most important is that you have the willingness to be vulnerable and humble, which counteracts the narcissistic mindset.
Long-term therapy can help people with NPD. Some of the best treatments include:
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): DBT was developed to treat borderline personality disorder (BPD), which overlaps with many symptoms of NPD. The work focuses on improving emotional regulation, distress tolerance, mindfulness, and interpersonal skills, all of which can reduce narcissistic tendencies.
Mentalization-based therapy (MBT): MPT focuses on self-reflection and reflection of others. This can help you develop more of an awareness of how you impact people, which may help you improve how you respond to stress.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR): EMDR can be helpful for people with NPD who have histories of trauma. EMDR is a therapeutic protocol that helps resolve traumatic memories and can improve self-esteem.
Schema therapy: Schema therapy treats personality disorders, such as NPD, by integrating concepts of cognitive-behavioral therapy, attachment-focused work, and experiential methods. Schemas refer to maladaptive thinking patterns about oneself and the world. Being aware of these- and working through them- can reduce narcissistic traits.
Practice Taking Immediate Accountability
Change doesn’t happen overnight, and you’ll likely make many mistakes on your healing journey. With that in mind, you need to be aware of your mistakes and their impact on others.
The next time you notice yourself engaging in narcissistic behavior, label it. If your actions affected someone else, hold yourself responsible and apologize. Ask how you can improve the situation or what you can do better in the future. This work requires humility, but it’s the foundation where sustainable change occurs.
Channel Your Narcissistic Traits
People with NPD struggle with needing excessive validation from others. Learning how to practice self-compassion and validate yourself can help break up some of these patterns.
In addition, focus on harnessing your energy toward more worthwhile causes, such as raising money for charity, helping others, or getting important projects done. You already probably have a high need for control and power- try to divert those needs into tasks that foster a deeper sense of connection to others and the world around you.
Narcissistic sociopaths can be dangerous to others. If you suspect you’re in a relationship with someone with these traits, it’s important to know the warning signs and have a support system. Change can happen- and that’s true for all mental health conditions- but it requires diligence and effort.