As we know it, Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) is considered a higher functioning autism spectrum disorder, meaning a person with AS can live more independently, can talk, study, and have a job but still does not function socially well as neurotypicals because of their difficulty in comprehending the social world. This implies that AS people do not know how to interact with people, from approaching acquaintances to keeping friends and lovers and understanding another person’s emotional states (empathy). But AS people do really want to interact with people, they just don’t know how. When approaching people they just blurt out things or tell about themselves right away, which looks like they are rude or self-absorbed, making them look like a person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Image courtesy of sodahead.com. Self-absoption of the AS individual could look like Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
To make things clear, let’s define first the following:
Personality refers to individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving. It has to do with individual differences among people in behaviour patterns, cognition and emotion. Personality can be classified according to introversion-extraversion (quiet vs outgoing), body humours (not jokes, but bodily fluids that can affect personality: sanguine (bubbly), melancholic (gloomy), choleric (grumpy), and phlegmatic (sluggish)), and so on. So when you refer a friend’s personality, you can say that my friend’s got a bubbly personality for example.
Now, psychologists say that personality influences life experiences and vise versa. A certain personality can take life either lightly or seriously. Also, in order for one person to navigate life well, he or she develops coping mechanisms, the expending conscious effort to solve personal and interpersonal problems, and seeking to master, minimize or tolerate stress or conflict. Examples of coping mechanisms include denial (not admitting one’s fault), sublimation (substituting an activity for a feeling, ie, watching porn instead of raping), displacement (aggression toward non enemy), etc. If coping mechanisms are too much or too little, or his personality is said to be very difficult, then psychologists call this a personality disorder.
What is a personality disorder?
Personality disorders are mental health conditions that affect how people manage their feelings and how they relate to other people. Those who struggle with a personality disorder have great difficulty dealing with other people. They tend to be inflexible, rigid, and unable to respond to the changes and demands of life. Although they feel that their behavior patterns are “normal” or “right,” people with personality disorders tend to have a narrow view of the world and find it difficult to participate in social activities.
There are 10 personality disorders and are categorized into 3 clusters according to common features. They are developed by the American Psychiatric Association and are listed below:
Cluster A (odd disorders) – often associated with schizophrenia, often described as having a pattern of acute discomfort in close relationships, cognitive or perceptual distortions, and eccentricities of behavior. However, people diagnosed with an odd-eccentric personality disorder tend to have a greater grasp on reality than those diagnosed with schizophrenia. In general, patients suffering from the disorder can be paranoid, have difficulty being understood by others as they have an odd or eccentric manner of speaking and a lack of close relationships.
Cluster B (dramatic, emotional or erratic disorders) – self-explanatory, dramatic, too emotional, drama queen or king, or maybe dictator or criminal like personality, also promiscuous people
Cluster C (anxious or fearful disorders) – people with these types of personality disorders are the nervous types, aka, comparable to Hades’s sidekick Panic in the Disney version of Hercules.
(C) Disney. Panic from Disney’s version of Hercules is an archetype of Cluster C Personality Disorders.
Now, back to the Asperger’s vs Narcissistic Personality Disorder. They say narcissistic personality disorder is a personality disorder where a person is grandiose, full of himself, and has no empathy with others. You can speculate that this is actually similar to Asperger’s Syndrome. But it’s actually not. They can look quite alike, but still different. Let’s explore more about narcissistic personality disorder.
Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of ultraconfidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.
A narcissistic personality disorder causes problems in many areas of life, such as relationships, work, school or financial affairs. You may be generally unhappy and disappointed when you’re not given the special favors or admiration you believe you deserve. Others may not enjoy being around you, and you may find your relationships unfulfilling.
A person with NPD or narc for short, is generally a self-absorbed person. His or her motto is this: “Me, myself, and I”. And his or her life is always about me, me, me, and nobody else. Way similar to Asperger’s? It can be, but wait…
The Mayo Clinic states that a person with NPD may come across as conceited, boastful or pretentious. Also a narc often monopolizes conversations, belittles or looks down on people perceived as inferior, feel a sense of entitlement — and when he or she doesn’t receive special treatment, he or she may become impatient or angry. A narc may look very proud on the outside, but is actually a very big baby that is hypersensitive to criticism (ie when someone criticizes him even how constructive, he or she will explode and get very mad at that person).
Narcs have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation. To feel better, he or she may react with rage or contempt and try to belittle the other person to make himself or herself appear superior. Or he or she may feel depressed and moody because he or she fall short of perfection.
Why is the name of the disorder Narcissistic?
NPD is based on the Greek mythological character Narcissus, a very handsome young man who fell in love with his own image on a lake, thus the disorder is named after him.
To summarize, the DSM has the following symptoms confirmatory of narcissistic personality disorder
DSM-5 criteria for narcissistic personality disorder include these features:
- Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance
- Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
- Exaggerating your achievements and talents
- Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
- Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people
- Requiring constant admiration
- Having a sense of entitlement
- Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectations
- Taking advantage of others to get what you want
- Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
- Being envious of others and believing others envy you
- Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner
Image courtesy of PsychCentral. Narcissistic personality disorder.
Maybe some of the symptoms of NPD like self-absorption and no empathy are similar to Asperger’s, but not arrogance or entitlement… Narcs are openly boastful while Aspies (people with AS) are totally clueless and gullible.
Typical narcs and Aspies are opposite poles – but they still look similar to the unaware person. Both a narc and an Aspie appear rude and self-centered but with opposite reasons.
People with narcissism appear rude in order to gain recognition and special attention from other people or objects. They feel they are entitled, omnipotent, or perfect that they crave attention, which is called “narcissistic supply.” Narcs are obsessed with the “me, me, me” mantra that they are so full of love to themselves that they leave nothing for other people. Aspies, on the other hand, appear clueless on how the social world operates. It’s like they don’t have the operation manual for socialization that’s why they are also about me, me, me, but actually, they long to connect socially. That’s why they look similar: self-absorbed, no empathy, difficulty in the social arena as well as emotional arena. Also, both AS and NPD can cause severe burnout to any close relationship, be it a romantic partner, parent, child, relative, friend, or employer as they both have struggles in their interaction with other people. Actually, NPD and Asperger’s Syndrome are frequently misdiagnosed (and interchanged).
The reason for this confusion is understandable since some of the symptoms found in people with AS and HFA (high function autism) are also found in those with NPD.
Their similarities are listed below:
- apparent lack empathy
- difficulty understanding others’ feelings
- eccentric personality
- harsh interpersonal communication
- inability to view the world from the perspective of others
- lack of demonstrated non-verbal cues and inability to pick-up on the non-verbal cues of others
- lack of interest in others
- lack of psychological awareness
- narrow range of interests and activities
- obvious self-focus in interpersonal exchanges
- preoccupation with their own agenda
- problems in sustaining satisfying relationships
- similar eye-to-eye gaze, body stance, and facial expressions
- tendency to react to social problems/stress with depression
- underdeveloped conversational skills
Confusing, right? But AS and NPD are totally opposite poles. Here are the differences between AS and NPD:
The Aspergerian (i.e., person with Asperger’s) wants a good and happy life – not just for himself, but for everyone. He would rather “fit-in” with his peer-group (or simply be left alone) rather than be the “boss” or the “leader” – even if he is the brightest student in the class. The Narcissist (i.e., person with NPD), however, wants a good and happy life only for himself (or the individuals he includes in his inner circle). He wants to be in control and doesn’t care who he has to hurt to get control. He will do anything he can to be in charge of the people around them (without being noticed as a “control freak”).
The Aspergerian typically pays little attention to the body language of others – and would have great difficulty reading it even if he tried. The Narcissist pays close attention to others’ body language – looking for signs that they may be weak or vulnerable – and then seizes the opportunity to exploit them for his own gains.
The Aspergerian typically does not have any hidden agenda toward others. But, the Narcissist lives and breathes hidden agenda, as any good con man would.
The Aspergerian simply wants to be treated with normal consideration and respect, but he often receives much less respect than he deserves due to his social skills deficits, quirkiness, and lack of desire to appear “cool” in the eyes of others. On the contrary, the Narcissist typically receives way more respect than he deserves since he is great at presenting himself as the smartest, coolest person on the block. He discards and devalues others in order to make himself look better.
The individual with Asperger’s often appears selfish, uncaring and insensitive due to the fact that he tends to live in his “own little world,” often minding his own business to a fault. The individual with NPD often appears selfish, uncaring and insensitive BECAUSE HE IS.
The Aspergerian is unlikely to obey the hidden rules of conversation (e.g., unable to read or exhibit non-verbal language, may ramble on about a special interest even when the listener has stopped paying attention, may not allow others to speak in turn, interrupts the speaker on a whim, etc.). On the other hand, the Narcissist pays very close attention to the rules of conversation and is highly verbal, using language as a manipulative tool to get his ego fed.
The Aspergerian wants marriage, children, friends and social acceptance, but is fairly clueless about how to go about procuring these things. As a result, he may develop a fear of rejection – and even choose a solitary lifestyle. Conversely, the Narcissist has the ability to switch between social responsiveness and social disengagement. He is not interested in relationships with certain people, because he views them as unworthy or inferior. However, if he can take advantage of someone for his own gains, he will easily and immediately regain his social skills and charm.
Asperger’s individuals don’t exploit Narcissists. However, Narcissists do exploit people with Asperger’s. In fact, the Aspergerian is often the Narcissist favorite target!
The Aspergerian experiences developmental delays, whereas the Narcissist experiences personality flaws.
The Aspergerian is rather naïve and innocent, while the Narcissist is rather cunning and guilty.
Still, AS and NPD can still be misdiagnosed because of their seemingly similar symptoms. Oftentimes, narcs may act innocent to the outside world to boost their inflated self-image and become so mean at home, making immediate family members rather confused. Plus, narcs are considered very good con artists and are expert liars, which Aspies don’t do; instead, Aspies are tactless and too brutally honest, making them also rude too.
But let me tell you that the current DSM description of NPD is only one type of NPD. In fact, psychologists and psychiatrists as well as other experts believe there are many types of narcissistic personality disorder.
The types of narcissists are as follows:
Like the word cerebral implies, a cerebral narcissists has a profound belief that they have a superior intellect, that their intelligence far exceeds that of ordinary folk. They have a vast array of knowledge on just about any topic. They tell stories (real or made up) exemplifying their colossal brilliance. They are quick to point out the failings of others, often showing a great amount of disdain for those of lesser intelligence. Their Narcissistic Supply is generated through their intellect. Their audience admires their wit, stories and superior intelligence.
My comment: This type of narcissism is often common among the highly intelligent, including gifted populations, prodigies, and may also be common to people on the autism spectrum. It’s possible that autism and narcissism can co-exist.
Somatic Narcissists are consumed with their physical beauty and prowess. You will often find somatics working hard at the gym, or on their appearance in some fashion or another. Somatics derive their Narcissistic supply from the reactions of others to their appearance, or sexual conquests. You will often find a long list of sexual partners in their repertoire.
My comment: This is your typical narcissist. Always assumes he or she is the fairest of them all, common among celebrities. And she or he isn’t just enough of selfies. This is the real-life Narcissus!
Image courtesy of everydayfeminism.com. Your typical narcissist is more than just someone obsessed with selfies.
When I think of an overt Narcissist I think of the character played by Julia Robert’s husband in Sleeping with the Enemy. This is the type of Narcissism that most people think of when they think of a Narcissist.
The overt Narcissist must always be in control. They are always right. They don’t hide their expectations that everything must always be all about them and done their way. They have massive egos and they aren’t afraid to show it. This type can verbally or physically slice you to ribbons and feel not an ounce of remorse or guilt. They can be seen as over confident, but it becomes a pathology when the behaviors are way over the top. They are extroverts – their personalities like their sense of entitlement is large, loud, obvious and oppressive.
My comment: This is your still typical narcissist. Unfortunately I am classified as this combined with cerebral type (disclaimer: that’s just my self diagnosis). These are your usual tyrant politician like Hitler, Hussein, Bonaparte, etc…
A Covert Narcissist is a Narcissist who, to the outside world, appears to be kind, altruistic and full of integrity, but they save their rage, extreme selfishness and cruelty for their nearest and dearest. They could be your religious leaders, teachers, counselors, politicians, anyone in a position with some authority or power. Covert Narcissists are very good at pretending. They pretend in order to get what they want, be it power, success, money, fame. They are the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing.
My comment: Hmm… a very dangerous type… common among clergymen, Filipino politicians (disclaimer: I’m a Filipina (female Filipino) who’s disgusted with Filipino politicians), even romantic partners and friends.
The Parasitic Narcissist
Parasitic Narcissist is a narcissist who exhibits all of the traits of Narcissism as outlined in the DSM-IV, however this type wants to be taken care of. They lead a parasitic lifestyle, feeding off of their host, and anyone that provides them the opportunity.
They don’t want responsibility. They look for strong, intelligent, successful partners that can run the show, while they don’t contribute and have an, ‘it’s all about me’ party.
Errmm… very self explanatory, reality stars fit into this and business tycoons as well and elites too
The Boomerang Narcissist
Like the name implies the Boomerang Narcissist is one who is constantly popping in and out of your life. They offer very little in the way of believable excuses, but their co-dependent partners keep taking them back. They usually have several other partners they are involved with and bounce from one to the other when it suits them or something is expected of them. These types usually have a harem they can choose from, whom they feed bits and pieces of attention and affection to – just enough to keep them emotionally invested in them.
Okay. There are really self-absorbed and very selfish people. This can’t be the AS person. Right?
A narcissist can have ASD and a person with ASD can have narcissism. In these cases, it is very hard to diagnose these as they are seemingly similar. This is particularly true when it comes to the covert and cerebral types, which is quite complicated as they are both similar in terms of self-absorption, low self-esteem, difficulty in socialization and and so on (for the articles of each autism spectrum disorders, click these following links: autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified)
Can’t still believe?
The only sure way to test whether a person can be a narc or an autistic is through formal psychiatric and or neurodevelopmental assessment. Usually, to be diagnosed on the spectrum, he or she must have a neurodevelopmental delay or damage and have global developmental delays. Narcissists, on the other hand, mustn’t have any other developmental disabilities or delays, but psychiatric problems like coming from a dysfunctional family or being either overindulged, abused, or neglected as a child to have the diagnosis of NPD.
Image courtesy of cartoonstock.com. Self-absorption is the hallmark sign of both ASD and NPD.
Nevertheless, both disorders can have a very huge impact on both the person who possesses it and to the family and society itself. It is therefore very important to differentiate these two disorders and give appropriate therapies to lessen the impact of these disorders and so as to help them reach their true potential.
There is a study that NPD can be considered a lighter version of ASD. Click this link here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/resolution-not-conflict/201406/do-you-think-narcissism-autistic-spectrum-disorder
Accordingly, there is a study that the brains of narcissists are also deficient. They have very thin areas (or sometimes damaged) of the brain concerning with empathy and mirroring (brain activity which mimics other people’s movements and emotions). This could be very good as more light will be shed in human neurodiversity. This way we will be more able to understand people’s behavior in general that are really part of the human brain wiring and not just as is.
Do you suspect yourself to be a narcissist which you thought was Asperger’s or high emotional sensitivity? Click this article: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/beautiful-minds/23-signs-youe28099re-secretly-a-narcissist-masquerading-as-a-sensitive-introvert/
Hmm… This is the non DSM type of narcissism. Much more common and can be misdiagnosed as an autism spectrum or is a highly sensitive person (HSP). Have a try. This doesn’t automatically make you a psychopath.
- Weiten, W. & Lloyd, M.A. (2008) Psychology Applied to Modern Life (9th ed.). Wadsworth Cengage Learning. ISBN 0-495-55339-5.
- Snyder, C.R. (ed.) (1999) Coping: The Psychology of What Works. New York: Oxford University Press.ISBN 0-19-511934-7.
- Cummings, E. Mark; Greene, Anita L.; Karraker, Katherine H., eds. (1991). Life-span Developmental Psychology: Perspectives on Stress and Coping. p. 92.
- R. S. Lazarus & S. Folkman, Stress, Appraisal, and Coping (1984) p.141.
Misdiagnosing Asperger’s as Narcissistic Personality Disorder: http://samvak.tripod.com/journal72.html
Self-admitting narcissist Sam Vaknin tells that Asperger people are usually misdiagnosed as NPDs. He does believe that narcs are actually extroverted and very good at socializing that he cannot include AS as a type of NPD.
Another differences between NPD and AS: http://www.mindretrofit.com/2013/02/24/aspergers-narcissism-not-the-same-i/
The autism and narcissism spectrum: http://luckyottershaven.com/2014/10/05/the-spectrums-of-autism-and-narcissism/
Very nice article about autism and narcissistic personality disorder spectrum types, written by a person with borderline personality disorder, a victim of a narcissist, and self-confessed covert narcissist too who initially thought that she has Asperger’s but actually covert narcissism.
Famous people with NPD: http://luckyottershaven.com/2014/11/21/famous-people-who-have-npd/
By the same author who has covert narcissism. You’ll be actually surprised that NPD is a very common disorder especially in the entertainment industry. No wonder there are no stable relationships, marriages, and families there. Also common in the business, politics, and religious organizations.
Narcs can have Asperger’s too: http://luckyottershaven.com/2015/04/11/narcissists-with-aspergers/
And this is a bad combination, though.
The typical narcissist vs the vulnerable narcissist: http://www.bpdcentral.com/blog/?Is-Your-Narcissist-the-Vulnerable-or-Grandiose-Type-22
This is a descriptive report on the two kinds of narcissism.
The covert narcissist: http://www1.appstate.edu/~hillrw/Narcissism/shycovertnarcissist.html
The actual description of a covert narcissist, which is usually mistaken as Asperger’s (or maybe similar or can be direct relatives or so…). I’m very guilty of this though, as I have this (self-diagnosis with the help of my mom)
Final word: to be sure whether your loved one, friend, colleague, or yourself have either ASD or NPD, I advise you to please consult a psychiatrist/psychologist/neuropsychiatrist to have a proper assessment. But for penniless like me, Google is the answer, and prayers too (for believers)
Narcissistic perfectionism: http://npatraits.homestead.com/nptype.html
This is under the NPA personality theory (NPA means narcissism, perfectionism, and aggression personalities) where such personality types are genetic in origin and have common subtypes per ethnicity. Narcissistic perfectionism are autistic-cerebral narcissistic in nature and are fairly common to peoples of the northern latitudes with rigid, rule-like perfectionism such as East Asians and Northern Europeans… (and my family’s very much related to this personality type, now I know why we are such narcissists)