“When describing an abusive partner, the terms narcissist, psychopath and sociopath often get thrown around. But what do they really denote?”
A narcissist lacks empathy, is grandiose, entitled, constantly seeks validation and is arrogant. “When they do a bad thing, they feel a fair amount of guilt and shame,” says Durvsula. Ramani Durvsula, Ph.D., psychologist and author of Should I Stay or Should I Go? Surviving a Relationship With a Narcissist, in a recent interview on the topic.
A narcissist lacks empathy, is grandiose, entitled, constantly seeks validation and is arrogant. “When they do a bad thing, they feel a fair amount of guilt and shame,” says Durvsula.
A psychopath has no guilt, no shame and no remorse. “They do bad things and they don’t care. They’re great serial killers or hired assassins,” says Durvsula.
PET scans of the brains of psychopaths show the section that serves empathy “doesn’t light up for them,” says Durvsula. In other words, when they think of people in pain, they are unable to process it, and make decisions related to it.
A sociopath shares all the same traits as a psychopath, but the difference between them and psychopaths, says Durvsula, is that a psychopath is born—their disorder may be genetic—and a sociopath is made. Something bad has happened to this person to make them this way, explains Durvsula, “like the kid who grows up in a really rough neighborhood who learns to be a bully to get by.”