Narcissist or Sociopath (Out of the Frying Pan and into the Fire)



This is a conversation that crops up quite frequently in terms of ascertaining whether somebody is a narcissist or a sociopath. It is something that I have discussed with the good doctors as part of their ongoing assessment and treatment of me. This has provided me with additional insight which I am obliged to share with you. It is universally acknowledged that all sociopaths are narcissists but not all narcissists are sociopaths. Rather than regard narcissists and sociopaths as two separate creatures, I regard them as existing on the same spectrum. You are on this spectrum as well just so you don’t feel left out.

Way off to the left are those people who exhibit some slight degree of narcissistic tendency, since everybody has them and this is where you are your empathic brethren reside. Moving to the right the intensity and the prevalence of these narcissistic tendencies increases although one would still not call somebody at this juncture a narcissist. Eventually as we continue to the right we enter the narcissist zone. Hereon in one finds the narcissist. To begin with, in this zone are those who I label as Lesser Narcissists. These people are narcissists but do not have the higher cognitive function. These people have no awareness of what they are, reject any notion they are a narcissist and operate in the main as a consequence of instant response and knee-jerk reaction. Moving further to the right come those who are the Mid-Range Narcissist. These are narcissists too but they have a cognitive function which is higher than that of the lesser. They have a greater awareness, there is some calculation and forethought but this is as a consequence of their higher function, not as a consequence of a prevailing sociopathy. Continuing to the right on this spectrum we now enter the sociopathic zone. We remain in the narcissistic zone still because the narcissistic traits remain evident but they are supplemented and indeed in some instances supplanted by the sociopathic tendencies. This is where we find the Greater Narcissist (the malign narcissist or the narcissistic sociopath). This is the overall spectrum ranging from few narcissistic traits which are weak in nature all the way through to a full-blown narcissistic sociopath.

This spectrum is an accumulation of Character Strands. These strands also operate on a spectrum. At the far left there is non-existent, moving through to occasional, then repeated, then prevalent and finally on the far right, overwhelming. These strands show the intensity and strength of certain key characteristics. Once these strands are bundled together there is a cumulative outcome which places the person at a particular point on the narcissistic spectrum. These strands explain why you may find someone who is to be regarded as a lesser narcissist because some strands show increased tendencies, for example prevalent Self-Interest but then lower intensity in another characteristic such as Malice. Just because somebody is a Mid-Range narcissist it does not necessarily follow that all the Character Strands are middling in nature. Some might be, others will be lesser and some higher, but it is when these are looked at as a whole that the determination of that person being a Mid-Range narcissist is arrived at. This also means that those people who have sociopathic tendencies will score differently in the character traits but will have some similarity with others, denoting the narcissistic element of their personality.

Thus a Lesser Narcissist is far more narcissistic than sociopathic and has a lesser cognitive function. A Mid-Range Narcissist is more narcissistic than sociopathic, but has a higher cognitive function than a Lesser Narcissist. The Greater Narcissist has narcissistic traits and also sociopathic ones and is high functioning.

With regard to the strands the Lesser, Mid-Range and Greater Narcissists all score higher than a “normal” person but there are still differences thereafter between the three, with some characteristics being greater in others and therefore the eventual “type” of narcissist will vary.

So, what are these Character Strands? They are as follows: –



Reading People

Lack of Empathy

Desire to Exploit


Lack of Accountability

Lack of Insight


Ability to Mimic

Power and Control


Desire to Punish

Desire to Win at All Costs

Need for Stimulation

Spadework to Succeed



How then do the intensity markers – Non-Existent, Occasional, Repeated, Prevalent and Overwhelming – apply to each of these Character Strands and what levels on each strand combine to create one of the three schools of narcissist? At this stage, I thought I might leave that with you to consider by reference to your own experiences before I elaborate further.


41 thoughts on “Narcissist or Sociopath (Out of the Frying Pan and into the Fire)”

  1. And if they have all of the traits which are in constant motion, when can they become violent? My ex would nver pull the trigger, he would convince or manipulate some one to do his dirty work…

    1. Each character trait is used with every word, action, plan, person, conversation….he rotates these on a constant basis.. Every word he uses every thought he thinks are all specifically chosen for some ultimate agenda..

  2. Am looking forward to reading more on this subject. Until recently, I always believed patience was an empathic asset. It involved kindness and understanding. After my involvement with my N. – I now see the other side of patience. His side. The patience a predator has luring his prey. The patience of creating lengthy silent treatments. The patience of waiting months to Hoover…
    From your blog, I now see it’s all a spectrum.
    A very intriguing post, HG.

    1. Clearly that is a relevant interpretation.

      I was going to comment that “impatience” should be the character strand in order to be consistent with the scale to match the others.

      With my wife the impatience with me is one of the worst narc aspects. I am set up for failure to meet promises with a time duration limit. I have to apologise for always beeing late and too slow even in cases where I think it is very very clear that the demands are totally absurd.

      1. Hope, the ex-GNarc was extremely patient. He watched me for 10 years before making his move. After nearly 5 years with him, he discarded me out of the blue and has been extremely patient (more likely busy with his new source) with his silent treatment (11 mos. and no hoovers). My son’s GF, is the complete opposite, she’s the extremely impatient Narc. After consulting with HG privately, he said he considers her to be a mid-range. All I know, is they’re all crazy and my patience is stronger than it’s ever been now. I want nothing to do with any of them ever again.

  3. Hmmm so my understanding was that Ps and Ns are on the same spectrum with a P being the greater but more chaotic and less likely to care if they got caught. Ns don’t want to get caught out if it would incarcerate them. S’ on the other hand share the traits but have less charisma and are more likely to be loners they’re on an equal pegging with a P but plot and plan and are less impulsive.

    But I’ve read many differing views on each.

    Essentially though they’re all destructive and not very nice.

    But this is just my understanding. I’m very interested to read yours and your doctors thoughts on this HG in your next post.

  4. Interesting. Thanks for the vital info. I wonder how this correlate to the Golden Child, Spoiled, Can do no wrong, will always be on the Pedal Stool, Overvalued and Idolized with strong Entitlement in all areas from home, career and social means with gratification in compliance with set illusions. This is definitely self discovery for some.

  5. Again, this is so comprehensive. I can see the spectrum in my mind, with the marker and color scheme. Both of mine seem to be on mid or in the malignant zone based on this. Your specifying the traits allowed me to check each off. The majority applied to each, but at different levels.

    If you had to rank each of the traits as they applied to you, what would the top and bottom three be?

    Looking forward to your next post on this.

  6. Trying to read this in a loud environment tonight, so it’s taking me longer to process. Also, I think the verbiage might differ from my country to yours? The character strands you describe: are these narc strands, or both narc/sociopath? And are they in an order indicative of severity of degree of narc tendencies? Empathy: I thought all B-cluster personality disorders lacked empathy (or at least all socio/psychopaths and narcs). Are you of the opinion that a lesser narc does have empathy? If all sociopaths are narcs, but not vice-versa, and no sociopaths have empathy, and mid-range narcs begin to cross into sociopathic range, then are lesser-narcs empathetic on some level?

    On another note, I was researching your blog tonight specifically for posts about narcissists coupling with narcissists. I am watching (from a hopefully safe distance) a relationship between two narcs, each with their own bevvy of tentacles, and curious to see what (if any) common goal they have, as they part/reunite/part/couple with the masses/reunite, ad nauseum… I think you have written of these couplings: can you point me in the right direction, please? Thanks

    1. Hello BO, the strands are narcissistic in nature and further up the spectrum include sociopathic strands. Yes they would be described in an order of severity.
      No, there is no empathy involved, only that mid-range and greater can feign empathy based on observance and their increased cognitive function.

      I haven’t written at length about such couplings, the ‘Narc on Narc’ action is something which is in the pipeline. I have occasionally referenced it in the occasional article and more usually in answering questions on the blog.

  7. I’m curious about how the lack of insight strand will manifest in a Greater Narcissist. I know a few narcissists and, quite consistent with your descriptions, I can identify each as lesser, greater and mid range with a reasonable level of certainty.

    What always throws me off with Greater Narcissists is that they actually seem to display normal insight and lack of insight appears to be a treat that typically plagues the lesser, more reactive narcissists. The sociopath i know is incredibly insightful when she wants to be.

    1. The lack of insight is only apparent as a manipulation with the greater since we are aware but usually will not admit to it in order to maintain control.

      1. HG? I’ve read that psychopaths can indeed switch on their empathy switch in the brain when asked to (mirror neurons)! When they want to. Can you say something on this? Do you believe the areas in the brain highlighted in the research more because of “trying” to imagine or could they indeed access true own emotions (through the mirror neurons)?

  8. One thing I’m gathering from all of this is a sociopath is extremely intelligent these types have the highest iqs , I wonder if this is the evolution of the human race, because there’s more and more of these people everywhere. Or if this is some alien blood that has been bred in lol. In any case it’s the real nightmare and monsters that you feared as a child.

  9. HG, I’m confused (and I have read several of your books and blogs, also watch your videos; thank you!)

    Are you saying that only the Greater school of Narcissists can also be a Sociopath or are Sociopaths found amongst all the schools of Narcissists?

    1. Hello Kimi!
      Good question.I had to come back and re-read this article since I also understood that just the Greaters had this sociopathic trait..being linked to their high cognitive functioning. I read some comments about a Lesser sociopath somatic ?

      HG: Does that combination exist? Lesser somatic sociopath? I think this collides with sociopathy linked to high cognitive function? But perhaps I am misunderstanding?

  10. In terms of supply and targeting, I was involved with a narcissist and it seemed as if he wanted me to be subservient because I couldn’t express myself and he would react to my confrontations or my expressing how his actions are making me feel. He would blame me. Whereas, the other guy – who could have been a sociopath because he said that he loved that I was feisty and strong and is not attracted to weaker types so to speak. And he didn’t respond in knee-jerk reactions. He was calm (unlike the narcissistic guy). I thought that narcissists want a partner who is subservient like a codependent. So, does that mean that this other guy- who could have been a sociopath- does not want or need their partner to be a subservient (perhaps b/c it would be a challenge to them?)? I hope this made sense!

    1. We want subservience yes, but it manifests in different forms which is applicable to the school and sophistication of the narcissist. Thus some narcissists wants the low-hanging fruit which rolls over and operates as co-dependent, whereas others relish someone who is more challenging but is ultimately conquered.

  11. I apologize, to be more specific, does a sociopath need or want their partner to be subservient as well or are they more open to the challenge of a feisty and strong woman/target than a narcissist (lesser/mid-ranger narcissist)?

  12. HG,

    do you use any special term to describe a Greater Narcissist, who is fairly unintelligent and exhibits lying and manipulating abilities of a 5-year-old?

    Something along the lines of the trending “Polish concentration camps” – nicely done, Germany, now you have us all convinced you are not the one responsible for holocaust and nobody even noticed when you rewrote history.

    I’d divide them into eg. Sub-Greater, Mid-Greater and Greater Elite, because in my (biased) opinion simply calling them Greater would be a disservice to the Narcissistic community and the collective intellect.

      1. Please note “fairly” preceeding unintelligent, meaning:

        not utterly dumb but clearly proceeding without caution and exhibiting a lack of basic common knowledge (like “people talk, so if I pitch one against another with a poor lie then I may get in trouble”), while holding an academic degree. NCed for a long time.

        Very well, though, let them all be Greaters, I’ll just refrain from the use of capital G in some cases.

      2. There is a great difference in the standard of academic degrees.

        He is most likely to be MMR or UMR on this further information, but a full disclosure of information would allow an accurate assessment.

      3. Please help me understand, HG. Does high intelligence automatically classify a narcissist as a Greater or are there other factors involved?

  13. Very interesting. When i first found out my narc was a narcissist i found out via google and took 5 different tests and he came up as a sociopath. Hes very good at blending in and becoming different people. At first i thought it was multiple personality disorder but sociopath is what it is. Whats confusing to me is anti social is a trait usually. He can be very outgoing but also antisocial in nature. Its good to know there can be a mix in traits and intensities.

  14. The greater narcopath could carry all the strands except the lack of insight.

    The mid main strands are need for stimulation, self interest, ability to mimic, and patience.

    The lesser Lack of insight, lack of accountability, and desire to punish.

    Of course, I am guessing. Its not your writing HG but, I cant get which strands would put the lesser higher on sociopath spectrum.


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