Posted by: frogstale | April 7, 2014

Different but the same – Aspergers and Narcissism – Lack of Empathy

Empathy

Aspergers and a Personality Disorder. I have experienced the effects of both.  And that gives me a rather unique perspective.

Empathy, or rather lack thereof is, I believe, the common denominator.

Personality Disorders (Cluster B)

My first husband behaves like a narcissistic sociopath. This is not an ‘official’ diagnosis but over the last 4 ½ years I have learned that he fits the behaviours of both of these two cluster B personality disorders.

He doesn’t exactly fit the profile for a narcissist, nor does he fulfil all the criteria for a sociopath but his behaviour lies somewhere in the middle. Both of these personality disorders lack empathy and compassion.

One of the differences seems to be that Narcissists lack any sort of self-awareness and aren’t able to recognise that what they are doing is wrong whereas sociopaths know what they are doing is wrong but have no conscience and do it anyway.

Aspergers

People with Aspergers often do not understand their own or others’ behaviours – lacking self- awareness. But they are not heartless, compulsive liars or morally lacking as a group. Maybe some individuals are, because whatever ‘disorder’ people have, they also have their own personalities and differing upbringings that lead to them behave in certain ways, but I think it is fair to generalise that lying and having no conscience is not a behaviour normally attributed to Aspergers. (In fact most people with Aspergers are not able to lie – even when a white lie might save someone’s feelings!)

My second husband Chris, who was diagnosed with Aspergers at 48 after we had been together 2 years, is in every way different from my first husband except for three things:

  • How he handles conflict
  • His Lack of understanding of my motives, behaviours and reasons for saying and doing the things I do
  • His self – absorption

This normally mild mannered, genuinely caring and generous man turns into my nasty, verbally abusive, blaming, high conflict, egotistical ex-husband when we argue.

  • Constantly interrupts me
  • Blames me
  • Unable to accept anything that he perceives as criticism even when it isn’t
  • Goes on the defensive immediately
  • Kitchen sinks (brings up all past hurts/issues/problems and cannot stay focussed on the issue at hand)
  • Exaggerates
  • Discounts what I am saying and my feelings
  • Makes assumptions about what I think and feel and then proceeds to tell me exactly why I am doing what I am doing (and is so often completely off the mark)
  • Uses ‘always’ and ‘never’
  • Has double standards – eg tells me off for interrupting him while he constantly interrupting me

All these are classic mistakes people make in arguments and they escalate the conflict and prevent resolution from occurring. I so often end up never feeling heard or understood. Just like with the narcissistic ex.

I recognise that many people probably argue this way, and maybe they are ‘male’ traits – but these behaviours are so similar in my two husbands that I can only attribute it to their common lack of empathy and self-awareness.

There is one big difference though.

Aspie husband can’t see at the time that what he is doing is hurtful and only makes things worst. I think he would care if he was able to understand it but in the heat of the moment he just can’t.

Personality disordered ex husband didn’t care and  would deliberately act that way to upset me and wind me up – choosing to do things I have asked him not to just because he could.

Different but the same.

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Responses

  1. I really enjoyed this posting. I especially liked what you wrote about narcissists. I see the same thing- they are truly unaware (to a frightening extent). I liked the information I learned.

    • Thank you so much for your kind words, they are appreciated.

  2. A very interesting and informative post – thank you.

    • Thank you for commenting, I am glad you learned something.

  3. Thank you for taking the time to outline the distinctions.

  4. Reblogged this on Narc Raiders and commented:
    A very well written piece outlining the distinctions…

    • Very much appreciated as are your comments. I feel honoured that you reblogged me!

      • My pleasure frogstale, I really appreciated your insight and information as well as your candid approach to sharing.

  5. I find this post fascinating as I had thought my ex BF was an Aspie as I have a high functioning ASD daughter. He was forever saying very blunt truths, even to children. But he was capable of lying when not “in the moment” and when it really benefitted him. I ended up moving on from the relationship because it was becoming much too toxic and I found out about other women. I now suspect he was more Borderline/Narcissist as the blunt truth can also be a way of being verbally abusive. I wish you well.

  6. A narcissist believes he is more important than others. This drives his agenda and prevents him from caring how others are affected. A person with ASD is often unaware of how others are affected. Once told, I find a person with ASD is as likely/unlikely to fee; empathetic as others. However, she may still not know what actions are appropriate. I know a number of individuals with ASD and find that most do not consider themselves more important than others. People with ASD learn the meaning of information differently than those without the syndrome. Narcicisstic individuals know perfectly well what they are doing. Narcissism is centered on the feelings of the narcissist. ASD affects what a person learns from information and how he learns it. This difference is fundamental. I do not see why an individual with ASD could not also be an individual with NPD (as it used to be called in the old DSM). Autism is a spectrum condition and a person at the higher end of it may have a narcissistic attitude to others to the extent that he understands others. I still feel it is possible to distinguish clearly between ASD and NPD in nearly all cases.

  7. I am really confused at the moment about what exactly my partner has i know he has a personality dirsorder and has nearlt all of the traits of a narrsisstic and sociopath but now he is telling me his doctor thinks he has a social anxiety disorder and im thinking he could even have aspergers finding it so hard to distinguish between the 2 .my ex also has aspergers and they are so similar in many ways it is really quite uncanny and now i am questioning myself as to why i am attracting this kind of person into my life and falling for them :/

    • I’m with you – it is hard to work out why we are attracted to people like this. Both of them wear a mask though – and we fall for the mask. The reason for the mask and some of the issues behind it are different – but still – they are not authentic people – and that is what is hard.

      Going forward I don’t know how I am going to know an authentic person without asking 1000’s of questions and ‘testing’ them daily. It is a dilemna. But I wonder if anyone is authentic but we were just unlucky to choose extremely ‘unreal’ people?

  8. It is unreal isnt it and my family have said to me how did you end up witb these two men in your life both of them can be very draining and want attention more than my children and im to blame for everything that has ever happened ..i live my life inon a constant rollercoaster of emotions and never know what is in store for me next …all fun and games lol

  9. I’ve been married to a narcissist-aspie for 50 years. I’ve encountered many of the same issues: pleasant, agreeable, almost sweet and then the slightest thing will be percieved as a slight. Then the anger and histrionics take over. He lacks empathy for others and can never be convinced of his wrongdoing. For years I thought he was a misogynist and then I decided he was a narcissist and only recently decided he has aspergers as well. The weird jokes, non-stop talking about himself and social miscues. He is now 81 yrars old and getting angrier and more disagreeable. There are about 6 other people on his mother’s side of the family with similar behaviors.

    • I would like to understand why you stayed married so long. Thanks so very much for sharing, you have help me so much not to feel alone.

  10. I’m trying to work out if my husband ( we are now separated) who is being treated for aspergers actually is narcissistic everything is about him he’s the only one that’s hurt or been done wrong by and takes no responsibility for his actions at all


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