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The Recovery Expert
with Sharie Stines, Psy.D.

What’s the difference between a narcissist, sociopath, and borderline?

People often wonder about the differences between  borderline, narcissist, and antisocial personality disorders – the Cluster B personality disorders.

It is helpful to realize that personality disorders exist on a continuum, and also that the following three personality types can all exist in one individual and at different degrees of intensity.  That is to say, personality disorders are not mutually exclusive.

In addition to this, all personality disorders contain elements of narcissism; in particular, are the traits of limited insight and empathy.

Keep in mind, that no matter what the diagnosis, every person is unique regardless of his or her mental and emotional condition. The following traits are based on the perspective of those involved in relationships with personality disordered individuals.

I hope this table is helpful for distinguishing the differences between the three disorders.




Lacks empathy

  • Has empathy in the respect that (s)he can understand others’ feelings;
  • (s)he just usually doesn’t care about them.
Acts like (s)he has empathyDevoid of empathy completely
  • Has a need for narcissistic supply in the form of adulation, admiration, and approval from others.
  • Has constant need for validation from others.
  • Cannot be alone at all.
  • Is looking for the perfect “parent.”
  • Does not need anyone.
Has five primary personalities:

  1. “Normal”
  2. Mean
  3. Innocent
  4. Detached
  5. Victim
Has many different personalities, here are some examples:

  1. Extremely kind, generous, and helpful
  2. “Drama Queen”
  3. Angry
  4. Detached
  5. Victim
  6. Addict
  7. Self-Harming/Suicidal
  8. Liar
  9. Seductive
Has the following personalities:

  1. Charming
  2. Superficial
  3. Charismatic
  4. Violent, Abusive, Dangerous
  5. Cruel
  6. Detached
Has the following primary characteristics:

  1. Sense of entitlement
  2. No insight
  3. Prideful/Arrogant/Pompous
  4. Needs “narcissistic supply” rather than true connection.
  5. Easily bored
Has the following primary characteristics:

  1. Extreme fear of abandonment
  2. Never alone
  3. Habitually lies
  4. Seductive
  5. Manipulative
  6. Moves very quickly in relationships
  7. Rapidly changes moods
Has the following primary characteristics:

  1. No emotions
  2. Cold, Callous
  3. Easily bored
  4. Does not accept personal responsibility
  5. Emotional Shallowness
How relationships are viewed:

  • Treats others as objects for personal gain
  • Utilitarian
How relationships are viewed:

  • Can never get enough from others.
  • Constantly wants more.
  • Enjoys spending time with others.
How relationships are viewed:

  • Has callous disregard for other people.

Poor attachment with primary caregivers in childhood; might have been given everything, such as in the case of a spoiled child, yet was not attended to emotionally.


Extremely chaotic childhood; abandonment from mother and/or father; learned to manipulate and seduce rather than have a healthy interpersonal connection.


Often experienced early infant attachment trauma/ abandonment and/or severe child abuse and neglect. An alarmingly-disproportionate number are adoptees, signifying early childhood attachment trauma.


What’s the difference between a narcissist, sociopath, and borderline?

Sharie Stines, Psy.D

Sharie Stines, Psy.D. is a recovery expert specializing in personality disorders, complex trauma and helping people overcome damage caused to their lives by addictions, abuse, trauma and dysfunctional relationships. Sharie is a counselor at LIfeline Counseling & Education Inc., in Southern California ( Lifeline Counseling is a non-profit organization 501(c)(3) corporation. Sharie is also an abusive relationship recovery coach -


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APA Reference
Stines, S. (2018). What’s the difference between a narcissist, sociopath, and borderline?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 21, 2019, from