Part 3: Narcissist, Psychopath, or Sociopath: How to Spot the Differences

Kyle: What is the difference between a sociopath, a psychopath and a narcissist? Here to answer this intense question is Dr. Ramani, help us out here.

Dr. Ramani: Well, it’s… there’s a lot of overlap, but the fact is a lot of people are using these terms interchangeably.

Kyle: And should they be?

Dr. Ramani: No, they shouldn’t. They are different things. One rule of them to remember right off the bat: every psychopath is narcissistic, but not every narcissist is psychopathic. Makes sense? There’s your key difference. A narcissist is somebody who lacks empathy, is grandiose, is entitled, is constantly seeking validation, is arrogant… it’s a disorder of self-esteem and they have trouble regulating their self-esteem. But when a narcissist does a bad thing, they feel a fair amount of guilt and shame. More shame than guilt frankly because they are concerned about how other people view them, shame as a public emotion. So they don’t like being viewed negatively in the public eye or by other people, that’s where the shame comes from. But they’ll feel a little bad, like if they cheat on their wives, “oh I probably shouldn’t have done that.” Psychopath is a different animal, they are all those things except no guilt, no shame. They don’t feel remorse when they do something bad. So they are great serial killers, hired assassins, people who are going to go in and literally sort of gut a business, like “I don’t care who gets hurt”, they say that and they mean it. Where a narcissist is like, “I hope no one gets hurt”. The difference between a psychopath and a sociopath is the one where most people get confused, because the sociopath is a lot like the psychopath: they do bad things and they don’t care. But here’s the key difference - a psychopath is born and the sociopath is made. That’s the key. So a psychopath in fact, we know in the research on psychopathy, which has also been called antisocial personality disorder in our diagnostic manual, these are people who are actually believed to have slightly different autonomic nervous systems. Our autonomic nervous system is actually the part that holds our sympathetic nervous system which is our fight or flight system. So when our autonomic nervous system, for a normal person gets charged up which it would if we broke a rule, if we did something embarrassing or rude, if we ran through a red light… our heart starts racing, we sweat, our pupils get wide, we look around, because we are afraid of the consequence. A psychopath doesn’t have that same kind of arousal, that’s why they are able to lie on lie detector tests. That’s how they get away with it, they don’t have that same kind of arousal. So where you or I, make when a rollercoaster feel a sense of excitement we need to get that arousal in a good way, we don’t like feeling it when we do something wrong; they don’t feel that.

Kyle: So, do they get stressed?

Dr. Ramani: No, not in the same way.

Kyle: So if they are driving… because if I’m driving and I see police sirens come up behind me, I mean it is a full on “oh my gosh I can’t believe I’m going to get pulled over.” But a psychopath would see that and go, “oh, I’m going to get pulled over.

Dr. Ramani: They could have a dead body in the trunk and they wouldn’t show it.

Kyle: And so they get pulled over, they get the ticket and they don’t care.

Dr. Ramani: No, they don’t care.

Kyle: And they pay the ticket?

Dr. Ramani: They’d probably even get an attorney to get them off or say yes you know in my understanding in your state laws is you can’t really be doing this and they’ll be cool as can be.

Kyle: And this is a difference in their makeup.

Dr. Ramani: They are actually how their nervous systems are wired and their brains are. There’s actually been interesting research done with PET scans where you can see brain function, and one…

Kyle: Just for clarification, not pet like dogs and cats…

Dr. Ramani: No, Positron Emission Tomography scans of the brain which show brain functioning if you will and what they see is that the section of the brain that serves empathy, that doesn’t naturally light up in them. And you can actually “teach” them to be empathic for a minute but it doesn’t last. A lot of psychopaths who commit violent crimes end up in jail and the ones who commit more like white-collar crimes end up like multi-billionaires because they are willing to do really, really rough stuff in their business to get through like a cartel leader or something like that, call for the killings of other people. Now, their interesting counterpart are the sociopaths. Psychopath’s born, the belief is that they may very well have this might be genetic. In fact, psychopaths often have fathers who have lots of antisocial tendencies, now how much of it is learned and how much of it is genetic is a little bit harder to sort out. But we do see there is a difference in your true psychopath, they also tend to be… have really glitch shallow charm, they tend to be really intelligent. That’s why they get away with stuff.

Kyle: So they learn behavior to assimilate into society but it’s all a facade.

Dr. Ramani: It’s all a facade, they are so charming.

Kyle: So if they are born this way, would a three-year-old then not get stressed out if they got scared? That’s incredible.

Dr. Ramani: So what we see when we diagnose antisocial personality disorder which is sort of our diagnostic equivalent of being a psychopath, in order to get that diagnosis you have to have shown a pattern prior to the age of 15 of things like, truancy, violence towards other kids, stealing, skipping school, setting fires… they just do it, they don’t care. And that before the age of 15, so it’s a long-standing pattern. That’s what makes as we call them a psychopath or having an antisocial personality. Now, this is different than sociopathy.

Kyle: Yes, okay.

Dr. Ramani: Sociopathy, they look a lot like the psychopaths; the difference is they were made. Some examples here, the kids grows up in a really, really, really rough neighbourhood and learns criminality to get by, or learns to be a bully or gets involved in sort of the wrong kids and uses a lot of muscle because that’s survivalism, but that’s not necessarily always comfortable for them, they just learn it. It’s the person who grows up with a father who teaches him the business and teaches him how to break the rules.

Kyle: But they don’t… would they feel, would they start sweating and have their heart race if they got pulled over?

Dr. Ramani: They might. They may not feel so good about it, they'll be a little bit more uncomfortable with it but in time they learn it. It’s almost like they get trained in not being as aroused… listen, if you broke enough rules, if you lived under certain conditions of lawlessness long enough, you’d adjust to that new world order. That’s what the sociopath does. And so they are the person someone would say, “he was actually a great kid until he got to high school and then it seems like he got into the wrong kids”; that feels more like the sociopath. That’s almost like a training that might happen within their family, within their community, within even the job they get, some cases even within some form of military training.

Kyle: Have you had sociopaths and psychopaths as clients?

Dr. Ramani: Not really, no. They don’t come, they don’t tend to come into therapy, they don’t see any benefit to it. The only time you would tend to see psychopaths or sociopaths come into therapy with any consistency is if they were court ordered.

Kyle: I thought you were going to say couples therapy.

Dr. Ramani: No, God no. It’s because they are court ordered. So the judge would make that a condition of release kind of thing or they are within prisons or jails and getting some treatment in there.

Kyle: This is so incredibly fascinating to me. If a psychopath goes to jail, he isn’t upset about going to jail?

Dr. Ramani: In some ways it becomes a cost of doing business. But it’s also… they are not happy about it. Psychopaths and to some degree sociopaths don’t think about consequences, that’s why they pull really penny-ante silly crimes like holding up a liquor store, basically I need 150 bucks, here’s a liquor store, it’s open, let’s go get the money kind of thing. So it’s like they act first and think later. They often don’t plan in terms of consequences, that’s why they have a tendency to lie, cheat, steal and they tend to have very inconsistent work histories because they are not able to hold a job, and use aliases. It’s definitely more of a grifter kind of a space.

Kyle: So we’ve talked in previous videos about how to cope while dating a narcissist. If you find yourself dating a sociopath or a psychopath, is there any coping or you just gotta get out?

Dr. Ramani: You’re in trouble. It could actually be very dangerous.

Kyle: It sounds like it.

Dr. Ramani: In fact, even with the narcissistic piece, I do… I’ve done research and work in that area of domestic violence or what’s also called intimate partner violence, most people who perpetrate domestic violence are either narcissistic or psychopathic. So there is danger there, in other words they will dispose of you if you get in their way.

Kyle: I want to share a story with you to get your feedback. This was told to me by a friend and she said in college she dated a guy for a year, but the guy started to get just a little weird and they broke up. For the next year, he courted her and did everything she wished he had done the first year: showed up on time, brought her gifts. They started dating again, he was perfect for a year. They went to Thanksgiving at her family’s house, he was perfect to her parents, just became the perfect man for her because he knew what she wanted. And after a year, on their one year anniversary, he broke up with her and said, “I’ve been playing you this whole time because I wanted to crush your heart, I’m not actually behaving this way, this isn’t real I’ve been faking it for a year just so I can crush you.” Would that be… ?

Dr. Ramani: More psychopathic. Sociopathic is more likely.

Kyle: But if they have no empathy then why would they want to hurt somebody?

Dr. Ramani: Because empathy is a positive emotion, wanting to hurt someone is a very antagonistic emotion. Wanting to hurt someone at some level might even give them a little pleasure, power for sure.

Kyle: It’s interesting to me that someone cannot be empathetic but then want to hurt somebody because to me you would have to have the empathy in order to even know what it’s like to hurt someone.

Dr. Ramani: There’s a difference between empathy and understanding. They can understand you. That’s why a psychopath will make a great salesman, because they understand a person. They can read a person and immediately say, “I got his vulnerability, I’m going to make him buy a car.” Psychopaths are great salesmen. Salesmen of cars, timeshares, all that stuff where they are upselling and almost taking advantage of someone sometimes, making them take more money and cost to something than they really should. But no, it’s that he was able to be superficially charming. Psychopaths and sociopaths and narcissists make great chameleons, they are definitely able to change the situation to get what they want and psychopaths in particular and sociopaths, they view the world as an instrument to fulfill their desires, that’s really what they are about. Which is awful because they are gonna often discard a partner when they don’t have much use for them or expect them to have a very specific role. So they may have married her and she may have had their kids, now she’s going to have to put on with their affairs because they want something else and “too bad if you don’t like it, this is the new world order and I will destroy you in court.” It’s that kind of thing.

Kyle: That is insane.

Dr. Ramani: Yes, it’s chilling.

Kyle: I want to leave it right there. I’ve learned more about sociopaths and psychopaths than I ever thought possible. Thanks again for being here.

Dr. Ramani: Thank you.

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