Is it Narcissism or Is He a Sociopath?

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

I am pretty convinced my dad is a sociopath, but when I read the guidelines for NPD that seems to fit him also. I am wondering if there is a difference between the two? He has always been manipulating, controlling and abusive. I am currently in therapy for depression and self esteem issues. It’s almost a relief to know there is nothing I could change about myself to make him treat me better. Thank You.
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A: Thank you for asking the question. Sometimes the most we can do to help someone is to back away, to let them have the dignity of coping with their own problems. There is too little information to discern if your dad is stuggling with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or if he is a sociopath. But what seems clear from your comments is that your work is to focus on healing and managing your own life.

When you are with your dad you can be a role model of recovery and share what you have gotten from therapy. Either one of the conditions you’ve mentioned are VERY resistant to change, and only those deeply committed to their own therapeutic journey can make a significant enough shift.

I often recommend people who have been with parents, siblings or spouses with personality disorders to read Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie. While the book was primarily designed for people who have lived with loved ones with alcoholism and other addictions, I find it to be a magnificent guide to unhooking from people who are close to us who are the source of great difficulty.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 14 Feb 2011

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2011). Is it Narcissism or Is He a Sociopath?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 22, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/02/14/is-it-narcissism-or-is-he-a-sociopath/