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Basic Differences Between Psychopathy & Narcissistic Personality Disorder [Part II]

Psychopathy & Narcissistic personality disorder differences

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Narcissistic personality disorder is a condition related to garnering admiration, collecting an audience (‘supply’), imposing their likes/beliefs on others, replacing old audiences with new ones, and draining the attention of others. They need positive attention. If not received, their mood status can become severely dysregulated.

While psychopathy is similar, it is a disorder that veers strongly in the direction of violating the rights of others, control, winning, conning, deception, and using others for their own advantage. The opinion or approval of other people are not a factor in their self esteem. They do not care. Others hold no genuine value to them. 


In their study that examined psychopathy and narcissistic personality disorder,  Fossati, Pincus, Borroni, Munteanu, & Maffei, (2014) found that although the conditions share many similarities, narcissistic personality disorder and psychopathy are “distinct” disorders (p. 409).  Their results supported the presence of heightened emotionality when comparing those with narcissistic personality disorder to psychopathy.

Variants or Types of Narcissistic Personality Disorder & Psychopathy 

Similar to psychopathy, narcissistic personality disorder is a condition that is suspected to demonstrate variants (subtypes). Research consistently supports the presence of an emotionally dysregulated variant of psychopathy whereby anxiety and emotional lability is demonstrated (i.e., Secondary Psychopathy).

Narcissistic personality disorder is also suspected to have a similar emotional dysregulated type whereby the disordered individual demonstrates a quieter/ covert presentation, hypersensitivity, “vulnerability”, a tendency toward anxiety, with lower levels of extroversion  (Dir, Gentile, Wilson, Pryor, & Campbell, 2010; Fossati, Pincus, Borroni, Munteanu, & Maffei, 2014; Dickerson & Pincus, 2003).

The two subtypes of narcissistic personality disorder are grandiose and vulnerable (Dickerson & Pincus, 2003). While the two subtypes of psychopathy are primary and secondary.


There are some individuals who can have traits of both variants with regard to psychopathy or narcissistic personality disorder.

It seems that the diagnostic criteria of narcissistic personality disorder has been equated with the grandiose variant only, when in fact there is more than one presentation of this personality disorder (i.e., vulnerable).

“Vulnerable narcissism reflects a defensive and fragile grandiosity in which the grandiosity serves as a facade that obscures feelings of inadequacy, incompetence, and negative affect”  (Miller, Widiger, & Campbell, 2010, p. 644).

Individuals who meet criteria for psychopathy, as well as those with narcissistic personality disorder tend to feel superior to others. Those with psychopathy perceive themselves above others; while those with narcissistic personality disorder also hold this belief, however they are able to  identify with an elite few they feel are on par with them – or those they aspire to be associated with (Fossati, Pincus, Borroni, Munteanu, & Maffei, 2014). Feelings of superiority for both groups are a belief held regardless of any true evidence to the contrary of their specialness or superiority.

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• Want the basics of psychopathy? You might find this article helpful, Psychopath Basics Q and A  Psychopath Basics

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