A Jewish matchmaker discusses the surprising similarities…
I often write about the red flags and damaging behaviors exhibited by malignant narcissists – or more specifically, those with NPD, the clinical diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. In my experience, the term “narcissist” gets tossed around too quickly – mostly in connection with someone who is overly arrogant and egotistical – but the destructive traits exhibited by true narcissists can be attributed more to their jarring lack of empathy than blatant conceit. It’s this lack of empathy that I’ve found to be the most damaging in personal relationships, but my recent research on the subject has made me re-evaluate everything I thought I knew about narcissists. Many in the field of psychology have found that adults with Aspergers Syndrome, which is on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum, are often misdiagnosed as having NPD.
Now I’m no expert, and this article is in not intended to be a thorough and exhaustive resource for Asperger’s Syndrome or NPD, but I would like to highlight some of the traits that are common to both and hopefully stimulate my readers to do some follow-up research on their own. I’ve also included links to some articles for those who wish to investigate further. NPD is a harsh label and those in relationships with a narcissist are routinely encouraged to go “no contact” and get out of the relationship as soon as possible, but if the issue is not narcissism but high-functioning Asperger’s, there is a possibility for long-term success of the relationship and with a lot of understanding and communication, the relationship can actually thrive!
Skeptical? Read over the following personality traits…
*Self-centeredness; inappropriate to developmental level and cultural expectations
*Poor self-awareness, poor ability to develop remorse or learn from mistakes
*Poor empathy or appreciation of others feelings
*Poor ability to reciprocate emotions.
*Hostile dependency on safe relations.
*Failure to develop emotional relationships appropriate to developmental level and social norms
*Treating people as objects or preferring objects over them
Anyone who has researched NPD would be quick to tell you that these are classic symptoms of the disorder. This list of traits, however, are attributed to autism and taken from the ICM-10, a Classification of Mental and Behavioral Disorders published by the World Health Organization.
Another common characteristic of narcissism is the inability to see things from another’s point of view, and the narcissist’s inherent belief that their view is the only “right view”. Psychologists call it “mindblindness” and it’s another shared trait exhibited by those on the autism spectrum. An online search will quickly lead you to many articles that highlight other similarities between the syndrome and the disorder.
So if both of these mental states embody a profound lack of empathy, hostile behaviors, and the inability to take another person’s point of view into account, why does it matter which one a person is diagnosed with? Why not go “no contact” on both? Interestingly, the prevailing thought is that while the behaviors are similar, the motivation is not. The difference seems to be that a person with NPD lacks empathy and is intentionally hurtful and malicious, while someone with Asperger’s simply doesn’t realize that what he/she is doing or saying is hurtful; they are not intentionally trying to cause pain. This is a profound difference, and it can be a make-or-break when it comes to trying to understand what is going on with your partner and learning not to take things personally – which is crucial to the long-term success of a romantic relationship with an Asperger’s adult. Long-term success with an NPD disordered partner, however, is considered to be nearly impossible without losing your own sanity and self-esteem in the process.
In short, the similarities between NPD and Asperger’s are worth investigating – particularly if there is someone in your life who exhibits these “toxic” behaviors. Knowing if you are dealing with an “aspie” or a “malignant narcissist” will help you make a more informed choice regarding the future of your relationship and how flexible and forgiving you can be. Check out the links below for a good place to start:
Asperger’s dating tips: http://www.match.com/cp.aspx?cpp=/cppp/magazine/article0.html&articleid=12326
If you have any experience with this topic and/or if you have been in a relationship with a narcissist or someone with Asperger’s and feel like sharing your stories or comments, I welcome the interaction. We all learn from each other and your feedback is sincerely appreciated!