Asperger's Traits That May Resemble Narcissism (But Aren't)

Those who know, work with, or are related to a person with "Asperger's" may confuse some of their behaviors with "Narcissism", because it may be difficult to understand their point of view and mental processing.

Many with "high functioning Autism" don't seem to LOOK very different, so their behaviors may be construed as having the same motives and intentions as non-Autistic people.

Without going into scientific explanations, here are a few behaviors that a person with Asperger's might display that a non-Asperger's person might confuse with narcissistic self-centeredness.

(People who do not have Autism or traits are often referred to as "Neuro-Typicals", or "NT's".

Asperger syndrome (AS), also known as Asperger disorder (AD) or simply Asperger's, is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD))

~ Intense focus and concentration on a task or project. Making the object of their focus the "most important thing". 

People who have "Autism" traits (AS, ASD) tend to focus on one thing at a time.

A non-autistic person (NT) might compare this singular focus to looking through a microscope, or a pair of binoculars. One sees what they're looking at with magnified, intensified focus, and one can ONLY see what one is looking at, because they are looking through the eyepiece and lenses.

When you look through binoculars, you can not see the person standing next to you. And, what you can see through the binoculars is magnified, so you can see it with more detail than the person next to you can see. Some people with AS/ASD may not be ABLE to multi-task, they can only focus on, think about, and do one thing at a time.

Those with AS/ASD do this naturally, they aren't doing it in order to ignore the person standing next to them, and in fact most would love it if the person next to them was looking at the same thing, through their own pair of binoculars.

Narcissists, however, don't WANT the person next to them to see what they see, and they may be ignoring the person next to them on purpose in order to try to make them feel small. They may talk about what they see through their binoculars, but it's not to share the information with others, or because they're excited about it, like a person with AS/ASD might do; it's mostly because they want to be recognized as an expert or as a "superior".

~Not seeming to respond to, or like it, when others approach them, look at them, get too close, or touch them.

This one is less about the person with AS/ASD, and more about the people who interact with them. Those who don't respect other people's boundaries and personal space often have a very hard time with those who have AS/ASD, because they seem to be used to invading the boundaries and space of others for their own emotional motivations. If a person does not like to be touched by other people, it doesn't matter WHO the other people are, they just don't like to be touched. It's not PERSONAL, it's not a rejection, it's their own preferences. Those who respect the person would respect their personal boundaries, space, and preferences. Of course one can't KNOW that a person does not like to be touched until it becomes known, but why would a person be invading another person's space in the first place? Or trying to touch them without permission?

MANY of the social behaviors that NT's frequently display are actually based in domination and status displays. For example if you would pat the back or the head of one co-worker who might be smaller than you, but you would NOT pat the back or the head of another co-worker who's bigger than you are, you can ask your inner primate why that is. Why are you touching one person's body, with or without their permission, but not another's?

The person with AS/ASD does not care whether you are bigger than they are or smaller than they are, they don't want to be touched, or they don't want to be touched right now, or they don't want to be touched by you, and you should respect that. If you don't, you're displaying dominance over them, and they can detect that a mile away, unlike most NT's who are largely unaware of underlying motives for many human behaviors.

~Needing things to be a "certain way".
Getting agitated when another person won't go along with their need for things to be a certain way. Getting very upset when someone moves their things, changes their environment, changes or ignores a schedule, or doesn't follow set rules.

Again, this is less about the person with AS/ASD, and more about the people who interact with them. ~Those who don't respect other people's boundaries and personal space often have a very hard time with those who have AS/ASD, because they seem to be used to invading the boundaries and space of others for their own emotional motivations, which is not something that AS/ASD people commonly allow.

One might want to ask themselves why it bothers them that another person needs or wants their OWN stuff, or their OWN schedule, or their OWN food, or their OWN decor to be a certain way, and why they think they're entitled to change any of it, or criticize, and why they assume that their way is "better".

~ Apparently believing that their point of view is the only correct one, and adamantly trying to convince others that this is so.

People with AS/ASD often do notice things that "NT's" don't, because they don't selectively filter out nearly as much information from the surrounding world as NTs do. What they see and what they notice is processed in a more"raw" way (unfiltered), as opposed to NT's who filter much more of what they perceive through their personal preferences, beliefs, bias, memories, and comfort.

An AS/ASD person will be the kid who SEES the biting ant on the elephant's ankle and therefore KNOWS WHY the elephant suddenly started jumping around, knocking things down. But most of the others nearby will assume something else without any evidence (the elephant is angry! or crazy!), often based on something they've seen or heard before, like a TV show.
The AS/ASD kid will be shouting "There's an ant on his foot!" but the other people will ignore her, even tell her to "be quiet".

People with Autism traits often grow up being ignored, bullied, and disrespected when they point something out that they see or notice, so by adulthood, some may be in the habit of defensively trying to convince others of what they're going to say, even before someone treats them rudely.

Another reason that an AS/ASD person may seem like they're trying to "make" a person accept their point of view is due to their absence of playing off of other people's social signals. They aren't worried about the other person rejecting them PERSONALLY because of their passionate (and sometimes monotone) oration, because THEY wouldn't do that, so they're not watching for the person's social signals that say "you're getting on my nerves". They don't stop just because another person appears to be getting annoyed or uncomfortable, because they simply don't see it. They just want the other person to comprehend what they're trying to get across, to see the subject from their point of view, so they may keep talking until the other person sounds like they get what they're saying.

That's not the same as CHANGING another person's point of view, which is a completely different thing. Those who have Narcissism DO want the other person to abandon and forget their own point of view, and adopt the Narcissist's POV... And also give the N. "credit" for showing them the "right way" to see it.

~Not appearing to be empathetic or sympathetic, seeming to be uncaring, cold, or self-centered.

Those with AS/ASD don't give, or respond to, the countless subtle social signals that NT's exchange with one another constantly. It's rare that you'll see a schoolyard bully with ASD because they don't get a charge out of making others display social signals for anxiety, fear, or pain. But you might see an AS/ASD person stand up for a person who's being bullied when everyone else is pretending to ignore the whole thing, or even when others are going along with the bullying.

Because AS/ASD people don't "do" social signals, they operate on principles and objective values in a broader sense. So they might not realize that a person is sad, at first, and they might have to think about how to comfort the person when they do realize it. But they are much more likely to try to comfort or help the person once they grasp that the person is sad than a lot of people would be, and they are very UNLIKELY to try to make a person feel sad or afraid on purpose, because it's simply a mean thing to do, and they wouldn't want the person to feel those things.

~Raging, ranting.

This behavior can look like anyone else who is abusive, except that with a person who has AS/ASD, their apparent tantrums are usually fueled by a few specific triggers:

feeling overwhelmed by frustration, feeling overwhelmed by external stimuli (noise, chaos, visuals, crowds), or feeling bullied, cornered, afraid, or abandoned.

Mostly it's based in anxiety and fear.

Abusers/Narcissists "rage" because they are trying to dominate the other person, scare the other person, humiliate the other person, or create drama in order to avoid accountability. It's not so much a reaction to "overwhelm" as it is a display of dominance.

It might help to picture Great Apes in the wild, as opposed to being in captivity. A screaming Chimpanzee who's shaking trees and making aggressive gestures at another Chimpanzee is probably displaying dominance, trying to scare the other. But a screaming Chimp. in a cage, shaking the bars, is most likely overwhelmed with fear and frustration.

~ Lack of certain social graces such as leaving without saying anything, not caring about grooming like others do, not being on time, not listening to others speak or responding to what they say

Again, this is all about social signals and social human interaction. One of the main reasons NT's learn a large amount of social interaction is because of social consequences. They felt embarrassed or ashamed when someone was mad at them for leaving without saying goodbye. They may have been chastised by a parent. They remember that, and don't want to feel those stinging feelings again, so they now make it known that they're leaving, and say "good bye".

A person with AS/ASD, on the other hand, likely needs to learn this social grace specifically, and understand WHY it's important. Not by associating consequences with NOT doing it. They may not understand why it's such a big deal until they understand the reason behind it. Once they understand the reason, they're likely to be MORE vigilant about doing it than NT's.

Narcissists, on the other hand, KNOW what social graces are, why they're important, and will do the opposite on purpose for various reasons of their own design; they might be trying to "slip out", to get away with something, or to cause drama or pain.

Grooming is also about social signals. People with AS/ASD typically don't see what the big deal is about grooming to NTs. Some may not REALIZE that grooming affects a person's appearance directly, they may be under the impression that Sally's hair just naturally falls into that style when she runs a comb through it in the morning. This tendency seems to depend on the person's level of autism, and possibly on their sex.

However many with AS/ASD don't judge others visually, or not very much, like NTs tend to do.

They tend to judge people much more on their actions, the way they treat people, and the way they feel around them regardless of their looks; they aren't focused so much on the appearance of others, nor are they thinking about others judging THEM by their appearance.

Their thoughts, focus, and priorities are elsewhere.

Further, those with AS/ASD may judge others by appearance, but it tends to be less on generic physical attractiveness and more on whether they look like a nice, trustworthy person to them or not, or whether they remind them of someone else.

This is not set in stone, some do judge others by appearance, but it's their own opinion of attractiveness, not current popular culture's opinion.

Narcissists however tend to judge others constantly by appearance FIRST, or solely, and will often actively pursue "romance" with those whom they think OTHERS will find attractive.

Why do people so often reject or bully people with AS/ASD?

NT's often reject people with AS/ASD because they don't understand them, and can feel taxed by their intensity. Most NT's rely much more on social signals for communication, and much less on direct, polite communication (hence the ongoing chaos and drama in the world). Those with AS/ASD are just the opposite, they rely much less on social signals, and much more on direct communication. They also tend adhere to principles and values much more than most NT's, and that can seem threatening or even shaming to NT's who seem to enjoy bending rules, and especially to those who are prone to manipulation, cheating, or domination displays.

NT children are immature, naturally, and tend to pick on and single out anyone who seems "different" than themselves and their immediate circle. Adults should be vigilant about this and not allow it, and should also be guiding children about treating others with respect; that's an essential part of raising children in civilized society. Without learning how to treat others from the guidance of adults, children are prone to grow up to become bullies and Narcissists.

NT adults with Narcissism often bully those with AS/ASD, and tend to either try to squash and crush them (because they envy them or feel intimidated by them), AND/OR to try to recruit them as a "sidekick" or subordinate, using them for their abilities, focus, and willingness to do work, help others, or participate in projects. They often use them without giving them commensurate compensation, credit, or respect.

Narcissists often mistake those with AS/ASD for being "weak", ignorant, or submissive, and so when the AS/ASD person realizes that they're being bullied or manipulated, and they stand up for themselves, the Narcissist is often SHOCKED, and will typically reject the AS/ASD person forthwith, devaluing them and often smearing them, trying to discredit them to others.

(Narcissists seem to assume that they've caught a submissive, scared bunny rabbit that they can boss around and control, until they squeeze the bunny rabbit one too many times, and it turns out to have sharp teeth and strong jaws. Then they act like the bunny (the AS person whom they were manipulating) was the one who was doing something "wrong".)

~ Can a person have AS/ASD and Narcissism at the same time?

Yes, well, sort of.

But it's not typical, nor are they typically as dangerous as NT's who have Narcissism.

AS/ASD people who do have Narcissism traits are often more like children who are trying to be "important" like their Dad or Mom, or perhaps a story character or hero, and they may have fixed stereotypical biases, assumptions, and expectations that they came to believe to be real at some point in their life.

They are very unlikely to be the kind of "Narcissist" who would drag a person through a horrific child custody battle, for example, using the children as pawns in a nasty game, or to con a person out of sums of money, or smear a person's reputation and turn a group of people against them.

They're just not into social games and manipulations, and are actually more often the TARGET of those games; rarely or never the perpetrator.

In fact, manipulative NT's have been known to PROVOKE those they KNOW have AS/ASD traits into a defensive tantrum-like state for the sole purpose of getting others to witness it, so that they'll believe whatever the manipulator says about the person.

However it is possible that a person with AS/ASD might treat their child, spouse, or other loved ones with coldness, or critical and controlling behavior, or even reject them, lacking certain cognitive understanding about raising children, relationships, and human interaction.

Without support of family, friends, or the medical community, relationships and life itself can be difficult for both the person with AS/ASD, and those close to them, and unfortunately support is harder and harder to find as people become more and more self-centered in the world.

But it's more likely for a person with AS/ASD to be the one being treated with serious disrespect, manipulation, and rejection by others.