People diagnosed with autism (ASD) may be misdiagnosed, elsewhere, with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Another suggestion is that NPD is a milder form of Asperger's, called high-functioning ASD (HFA) or autism without intellectual impairment.
Narcissists and autists lack insight and flexibility in body language and behaviors, lack empathy (or appear to in the case of ASD), are emotional, use manipulation, react with depression, have delusional beliefs, and struggle to interpret social cues.
“The diagnosis matters much less than what you do with it.” — Samantha Rodman PhD
However, there are several distinctions between autism and narcissim, such as genetic and environmental links, the age of diagnosis, therapeutic intervention, and the development, presentation, experience, and consciousness of symptoms.
In 2012, Dr Khalid Mansour proposed a model of autism spectrum disorder as a social-emotional learning disability that included NPD as a less severe and non-complicated form of autism.
Relative Severity of Autistic Conditions on the Spectrum. (C= complicated, N/C. not-complicated).
This model draws from Lezak's classes of intelligence and the Triune brain theory. Lezak's four classes are receptive functions, memory and learning, thinking, and expressive functions. Triune brain theory considers object-related, emotional, and social intelligence built on developing the reptilian complex, limbic system, and neocortical functions.
Comparing Lezak’s classes of intelligence with the clinical stages of intelligence.
Mansour goes on to consider Triune brain theory against personality disorders and autism. For example, a person with an antisocial personality disorder has normal object-related and social intelligence with low emotional intelligence, and schizoid and avoidant personality disorders have normal object-related and emotional intelligence with low social intelligence.
Autists without a learning disability have low social and emotional intelligence with functional object-related intelligence, and autists with a learning disability have low object-related, emotional, and social intelligence.
Mansour includes NPD in the autism spectrum based on NPD regression to primitive coping mechanisms under stress and inadequate emotional and social skills such as self-centredness, envy, and sense of entitlement, along with the suggestion that personality disorders begin in childhood according to the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10).
In contrast, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental disorders (DSM-V) does not recognize childhood development of personality disorders except for conduct disorder in children who may be later diagnosed with an antisocial personality disorder.
While NPD should not be diagnosed before personality traits become relatively stable in later adolescence, a lack of social interaction before 24 months may indicate autism with a comprehensive diagnosis made between the ages of three and six.
Autism has a strong genetic link to several genes, including those related to brain and folic acid metabolism, nucleotide synthesis, and DNA methylation that are all predisposed to the development of autism.
A protein-coding gene is associated with NPD, and studies found low levels of moral development, intrapersonal grandiosity, interpersonal entitlement, and impulse buying in maladaptive narcissism had significant heritability. However, further research is needed to identify specific genes associated with NPD.
Children with autism are more likely to have parents with a higher rate of psychopathology, and autistic adults and therapists who work with autists report that one or both parents have narcissistic tendencies. Mood disorders, particularly in mothers, are also linked to children with autism.
“Parents of autistic children have a higher rate of psychopathology” — Dr. Shahrokh Amiri.
Studies suggest that parents of narcissists frequently used inadequate defence mechanisms, are overly critical and controlling, have narcissistic traits, and overvalue their children, causing self-concept deficits and a sense of entitlement.
While mirror neurons cause most of us to feel almost or equally joyful when something good happens to someone we love, autists and NPD struggle to feel the same. However, both learn to imitate such neurotypical behavior as a tool for grooming in malignant narcissism and conformity in autism.
One last similarity in both narcissism and autism is oxidative stress. Whether or not oxidative stress is part of the pathology or a result of NPD and autism is still under investigation, the following stories help to shed light on biological origins.
Sharie Stines provides a handy table that helps to distinguish narcissism from high-functioning autism (Aspergers) in the following story:
Thank you for reading❤