Playing With Fire: Narcissists and Psychopaths as Players

Many of you have dated them: cocky men who seem to attract women like flies and change partners as frequently as normal people change underwear. They can be smooth, sexy, exciting and fun. Initially, they may seem harmless enough: just normal men looking for a good time. If you’re not seeking a serious relationship, you may even see them as a welcome escape when normal life presents so many challenges and entails so many responsibilities. But players are often not as harmless as they seem. They may be suffering from a serious and incurable personality disorder, of which their sexual addiction is only a symptom, or the tip of the iceberg.

Compulsive seducers tend to be extremely narcissistic. They use their conquests as mirrors to reflect back to them an aggrandized image of their own desirability. Steve Becker, a therapist specializing in psychopathy and narcissism and consultant for, distinguishes, however, between the motives of narcissists and psychopaths. Of the two, he suggests that psychopaths present a greater danger to others. He explains that all psychopaths are highly narcissistic. But the converse isn’t true. Not all narcissists are psychopathic, in the sense of living for the thrill of duping and harming others.

In his essay, “Sociopath versus Narcissist,” Becker argues that both narcissistic and psychopathic seducers share a tendency to treat others as objects. He states, “Welcome to the world of the narcissist and psychopath. Theirs is a mindset of immediate, demanded gratification, with a view of others as expected—indeed existing—to serve their agendas. Frustrate their agendas, and you can expect repercussions, ranging from the disruptive to ruinous.” (

Psychopaths and narcissists, however, have different motivations for why they seduce. Narcissists need an endless supply of validation. The more women they seduce, the more they feel reassured in their sex appeal. By way of contrast, a psychopath does it primarily for the pleasure of playing a game. The women he seduces, whether he’s involved with them for one evening or several years, represent nothing more than pawns, to be used for his personal pleasure and amusement. Becker elaborates:

The psychopath is less obsessed than the narcissist with validation. Indeed, his inner world seems to lack much of anything to validate: it is barren, with nothing in it that would even be responsive to validation. An emotional cipher, the psychopath’s exploitation of others is more predatory than the narcissist’s. For the psychopath, who may be paranoid, the world is something like a gigantic hunt, populated by personified-objects to be mined to his advantage.” (

Just as they eventually tire of each game piece—be it a long-term girlfriend, casual lover or spouse—psychopaths also tire of each kind of game. Even promiscuous sex gets boring for them. Which is why they often feel the need to engage in acts of physical violence for additional thrills. However, their boredom is only temporarily relieved by each new addiction, transgression and act of depravity. For this reason, psychopaths sometimes move from promiscuity to rape (or worse).

The quest for validation leads a narcissist in an insatiable search for his narcissistic supply: new conquests, be they merely sexual or romantic, mean new sources of praise and validation for him. More dangerously, the quest for entertainment and domination–or pleasure through victimization–leads a psychopath to explore new and increasingly sadistic ways of hurting others. No matter how flattering and romantic such men may seem initially, playing with compulsive seducers–be they narcissists or psychopaths–is playing with fire. You will get burned. The only question is: how bad and for how long.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction


  1. I’ve dated both a narcissist and a psychopath. Both employed similar manipulation tactics, however, the narcissist needed constant validation and become unhinged when I wasn’t easily conned. He was always searching for ways to criticize me and would play reverse psychology when I ignored him by calling or texting cutesy messages. He was emotionally bankrupt but never a real threat because I set up clear boundaries. One the the other hand, the psychopath, who thankfully I only dated briefly, was always playing victim and displayed very bizarre, dangerous behavior such as pretending his dog died, saying he crashed his motorcycle twice in a 6 wk period or hanging up the phone mid-sentence -claiming his phone died- on several random occasions. He was attractive, charming and fun but unstable and addicted to adrenaline. He told elaborate, compelling stories about experiencing brain trauma from a college football concussion and horrible ski accident that made him act at times without impulse contra l(i.e. drinking, gambling, excessive spending). I even went with him to a local hospital and he abruptly didn’t want to stay after we arrived because I think he knew I was smart enough to catch on that he went there frequently due to his “accidents.” I suspect he added something to one of my drinks one night we were out because I woke up one morning in my bed with no memory of how I got there after less than two drinks. He even went as far as secretly dating my cousin after I stopped seeing him. I knew it would happen because he had her phone number so I was prepared for him to manipulate her (plus she always had jealousy towards me a blind person could see). The really sad thing was she called me crying and screaming one day shortly after that her beloved indoor cat was somehow poisoned and was dying. In my heart I knew that man killed her cat, though she never admitted to me they had a liaison. So glad God revealed who this man was to me before I really start to let him around my kids. Funny thing, my son is intuitive and usually gravitates toward men but said “that guy is weird.” I changed my cell and prayed that God would protect me from him and that he’d move on. I honestly think he came to my neighborhood a few times but finally left me alone. I don’t even go out to my old lounge spots now because I never want to run into him. The one positive (so you could say) that came out of this entire situation is it triggered deeply hidden body memories I had of my own sociopathic father abusing me as a young girl. My dad and my ex had the same look, height and heavy build so I guess that coupled with his behavior brought it all out.

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