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Kathy Marshack News

Autism or Narcissism – How Can You Tell?

Wednesday, February 01, 2017


Autism or Narcissism – How Can You Tell?Autism and Narcissism have something in common. They are both empathy disorders, the result of the individual not having a Theory of Mind. What this means is that they don’t recognize that another person has beliefs, desires, intentions, feelings and perspectives that differ from their own. Empathy is a complex system that requires the brain to connect Emotional Empathy and Cognitive Empathy.

Since Narcissism and Autism display similar traits, how can you tell the difference between Narcissism and Asperger’s?


  • First, Autism is a diagnosis and narcissism is only a trait of many disorders. 
  • Second, not all Autistics are the same since it is a spectrum disorder. 
  • Third, all Autistics are narcissistic since a defining characteristic of Autism is lack of empathy.

It’s important to know that it isn't narcissism per se that defines the Autistic. It is how the Autistic works with their tendency toward narcissism, self-absorption and lack of empathy. If the Autistic takes responsibility for their narcissism and truly wants to repair the rifts that their unempathic behavior creates, then there’s hope for the relationship.

On the other hand, if the Autistic believes that their singular narcissistic worldview is all that matters, then it’s probably irrelevant that they’re diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). This person tips toward narcissism and that's how they need to be treated.

If you’ve wasted too much of your precious life trying to accommodate an ASD narcissist, whether it’s a family member, coworker or neighbor, then I invite you to join our Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD Meetup. We have monthly discussions that will help you deal with this crazy making life.


Our next free international teleconference: How is Autism different than Narcissim? will be held on Thursday, February 16, 2017 at 2:30 PM. You’ll find out how to distinguish whether it’s narcissism or Autism that you’re dealing with. That makes all the difference in how you’ll respond.

If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA and you need some 1-on-1 with me to discuss your situation privately, please feel free to contact my office and we’ll schedule an appointment to discuss ways to improve your situation.

Diagnosing Asperger’s – Is It also Pathological Avoidance Disorder, Narcissism or OCD?

Thursday, November 10, 2016


Those with Aspergers may also be diagnosed with Narcissism, Pathological Avoidance Disorder and OCD, yet it’s wise to focus on treating the Empathy DisorderAs we seek to understand our friends and family who have Asperger’s Syndrome (a high-functioning form of Autism Spectrum Disorder), we discover a myriad of potential diagnoses that could fit, such as Narcissism, Pathological Avoidance Disorder and OCD. But before you wander down the Rabbit Hole with these variations on the theme of Autism Spectrum Disorders, it’s important to pay attention to the underlying problem for all of these disorders. . . namely an Empathy Disorder.

People who lack empathy are unable to step outside of themselves. They can’t tune in to what other people are feeling, thinking or believing. This self-centeredness often results in personal conflict, communication breakdown, and an adversarial attitude.

Research shows that empathy is "hard-wired" through a variety of neural pathways, some of which have mirror neurons. Regions of the brain actually light up in when you become aware of another person's emotions. Literally, you do feel what she’s feeling.

In the normal course of events, a person can lose his (or her) ability to be empathetic by becoming too self-absorbed, or he can increase his ability to be empathetic by retraining his brain.

However, the brains of people with ASD don’t function in the same manner. They can, however, develop other ways to navigate the world of personal growth and social interaction. Interestingly, research shows that when we find ways to manage our anxieties, we actually reduce our narcissistic and OCD behaviors. So too with Aspies.

If you’re a member of the Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD, please join our free international teleconference on Thursday, November 17th, 2016 at 1:30 PM. We’ll discuss “Is it Pathological Avoidance Disorder, Narcissism or OCD?” In this teleconference, we will discuss the challenges to empathy-disordered individuals. Regardless of their diagnosis, or the way they choose to adapt to their anxiety and empathy disorder, we want to speak to the underlying empathy issue, not just the symptom.

And if you’ve been putting off getting a copy of Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD) because you thought it was just about parenting, don’t wait another moment. It also explores the science behind Asperger’s. It will help you understand your Aspie better. Get a free chapter by clicking on the image below.

Living with an Aspie – How to Find Freedom from Blame and Shame

Wednesday, May 04, 2016


We often feel shame when dealing with our Aspies, because they can't put themselves in our shoes, they tend to find fault or blame us for misunderstandings.When you’re living in an Asperger home, you may often end up feeling that it’s all your fault, that you should have better control of your home life and family relationships. We often feel shame when dealing with our Aspies who lack empathy. Because they can't put themselves in our shoes, they tend to find fault or blame us for misunderstandings.

Why do those with Asperger’s Syndrome blame others?

This is a natural byproduct of an empathy disorder, unless the Aspie develops a strong moral code. It’s harder to take responsibility for a misunderstanding (or other interpersonal breakdown) when you don't have empathy to compare yourself to another. As a result Aspies can become quite manipulative, narcissistic and engage in the Blame Game.

Furthermore, we NTs may also be blamed for overreacting to our Aspies. I know I used to be called on the carpet for not "controlling" my Aspie daughter's public meltdowns. I was accused right on the spot of being a "bad" mother.

That's where the shame comes in. If you are blamed long enough, and you have made a mistake or two in the relationship, you might take on responsibility for too much and feel Shame. Shame is also a natural byproduct of living daily with a blaming spouse or partner or acting out Aspie child.

What can you do?

If you’re a member of Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD group, you’re invited to the next free TeleConference where we’ll be discussion: Freedom from Blame and Shame. It will be held on Thursday, May 12th at 2:30 PM PDT.

Please join us for a rousing discussion on how to free yourself from Shame by breaking up the Blame/Shame Game. It's not enough to understand what's happening to you. You need strategies to take back your life and to know how truly wonderful you are!

Are you a neurotypical (one who doesn’t have Asperger’s) and you’re living in an Asperger home and haven’t joined Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD yet? It’s a free worldwide Meetup where you find support and understanding. Why not join us today?

Another option available to you: If you would like more one-on-one counseling and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Does Your Aspie Also Suffer from a Personality Disorder?

Monday, March 07, 2016


Those with Asperger’s Syndrom may also be suffering from Schizotypal Personality Disorder or other personality disorders that require additional treatment. A personality disorder occurs when a person has rigid, unhealthy patterns of thought and behavior. They have trouble relating in social situations. Whereas, those with Asperger’s want to have friendships, those with some personality disorders don’t care. They’re more comfortable with their loner status.

What are some of the personality disorders that may be misdiagnosed as Asperger’s or may be present along with Asperger’s?


Previously we’ve discussed how someone with Asperger’s Syndrome may also have ADHD and/or Narcissism. Another personality disorder that many are not aware of is Schizotypal Personality Disorder. (This is not the same as Schizoid Personality Disorder or Schizophrenia, although it can be mistaken for schizophrenia at times).

Schizotypals look a lot like they have ASD in that they have extreme levels of anxiety, often learn to mimic appropriate social behavior, have a number of low grade health issues, and are extremely sensitive to criticism. They also tend to be loners because they misread people and develop suspiciousness because they can't properly read the motivations of others.

Here are 10 symptoms of Schizotypal Personality Disorder as listed by the Mayo Clinic:

  1. "Being a loner and lacking close friends outside of the immediate family
  2. Incorrect interpretation of events, feeling that they have personal meaning
  3. Peculiar, eccentric or unusual thinking, beliefs or behavior
  4. Dressing in peculiar ways
  5. Belief in special powers, such as telepathy
  6. Perceptual alterations, in some cases bodily illusions, including phantom pains or other distortions in the sense of touch
  7. Persistent and excessive social anxiety
  8. Peculiar style of speech, such as loose or vague patterns of speaking or rambling oddly and endlessly during conversations
  9. Suspicious or paranoid ideas, hypersensitivity, and constant doubts about the loyalty and fidelity of others
  10. Flat emotions, or limited or inappropriate emotional responses"

Because Personality Disorders cause a person to lack empathy, similarly to our Aspies, we just think the thoughtlessness or negativity is an Aspie trait. While it’s difficult enough to find appropriate treatment for Aspies, it's nearly impossible to treat Personality Disorders because they think they’re normal and are not motivated to make changes.


If you suspect that your Aspie also suffers from a Personality Disorder, then be sure to sign up for our next Video Conference entitled: Is it just Asperger's or is it something else too? on Thursday, March 10, 2016 at 8:00 AM or Thursday, Mar 24, 2016 at 4:00 PM We’ll be specifically discussing Schizotypal Personality Disorder.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome – Can You Tell the Difference?

Monday, January 18, 2016


narcissistic personality disorder or aspergers syndrome which is itIf you met someone who has poor self-awareness, who doesn’t show remorse, who doesn’t learn from mistakes, who can’t empathize, appreciate others feelings or even reciprocate those feelings, and he treats people like objects, would you think the person suffers from a Narcissistic Personality Disorder or from Aspergers Syndrome?

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.

Leaving or Divorcing Your Narcissistic Spouse? Be Prepared

Thursday, September 10, 2015


divorcing or leaving a narcissistCan you imagine going through a high conflict divorce where your spouse successfully convinces friends, neighbors and government officials that you’re dangerous and crazy to the point where you’re arrested multiple times? Not only that, you lose your professional standing in the community and your children are alienated from you? While this may sound like a bad movie, this is actually happening to countless people across the United States.

How can one human being treat another so horribly? In many cases it’s because of a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. This is a very real brain disorder not just a personality flaw. Narcissists view everyone else as inferior and feel they are entitled to the best. People who have healthy confidence and self-esteem don't value themselves more than they value others.

Leaving a narcissist is dangerous and no one has the right to tell you to leave such an individual. The Well Book Club of the New York Times recently opened up a discussion based on the book “Will I Ever Be Free of You: How to Navigate a High-Conflict Divorce From a Narcissist and Heal Your Family” by Karyl McBride. It has the following advice (although we refer to the narcissist as a he it can apply to women as well):

  • Plan ahead and thoroughly consider the risks to yourself and your children.
  • Have your resources lined up (copies of essential documents, money, an established support system in family/community who won't believe him when he says terrible things).
  • Be prepared to get a restraining order. Even if he hasn’t hit you yet, risk increases when he realizes you’re moving away from his control.
  • Document the abuse – keep a journal in a safe place, take pictures of the bruises, confide in a trusted friend or health care worker.
  • Find out about pet safety.
  • Find a therapist trained in domestic violence.
  • Check bulletin boards in places like health care centers, grocery stores, libraries, or the internet for a complete safety plan before you act.

If you choose to remain in a relationship with someone you suspect is a narcissist, get counseling for yourself immediately. A trained mental health professional can help you navigate this difficult relationship so you don’t sink into a dangerous cycle of codependency.

Those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder can be helped by psychotherapy if they’re willing. In the short-term psychotherapy would address issues as substance abuse, depression, and relationship issues. In the long-term, it would help them to gradually reshape their personality so they create a healthier self-image.

If you need a diagnosis or counseling related to narcissism in yourself or a loved one and you live in the Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, Washington, please contact my office to make an appointment.



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