It would be a tough call wouldn’t it? It’s difficult to distinguish between the two without a clinical evaluation. Both disorders lack empathy as a guide.
So what’s the difference between the two disorders? The difference is that those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder intentionally manipulate others, because they’re self-absorbed and see others as useful tools to achieve their goals, not as people with feelings. They’re often described as “vicious”, “malignant” or “malicious” because they stop at nothing to get what they want. On the other hand while the Aspie is focused on achieving a goal and is self-absorbed, it just doesn’t register that others would feel differently than he does. A person with Asperger’s doesn’t intentionally set out to hurt anyone. He wants to be loved, have a family and a home, but he just doesn’t know how to connect.
One of the key traits in people with autism is that they lack what is known in psychology as a ‘theory of mind’, which is also known as ‘mind-blindness’. Theory of mind (T.O.M) means you have the ability to understand that other people have thoughts that differ from your own. People with Asperger’s see things from their own point of view, and can’t imagine how something may affect someone else, which makes them seem self-centered.
It’s not fair or reasonable to treat someone who is unintentionally being insensitive as if they were someone who is doing it on purpose because they don’t care about your feelings. Neither is it fair for you to simply take it.
Under the increased pressure of the recent holiday season, those prone to narcissism may have become even more narcissistic. And even if your Aspie usually sticks to a responsible code of conduct, they may be inclined to dip into narcissism as they find it difficult to regulate emotions.
You need to be prepared so that you don’t collapse under the pressure. Let’s discuss how to stay strong in the face of narcissistic manipulation. There are some simple tools to stop this destructive type of communication. Most importantly it is about being true to yourself. Trust your instincts. If your Aspie makes no sense, or seems overwhelmed, or makes you feel crazy, they just might need a break. And so do you.
I invite you to our next Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with AS International Teleconference where we’ll discuss the topic: Narcissism and the ASD Adult on Thursday, January 21, 2016 at 2:30 PM. Come and learn how to distinguish between a “normal” ASD communication snag and truly selfish narcissistic manipulation and what you can do to cope.