The 9 dark personality traits of narcissists, psychopaths, and sociopaths — and what they mean

Matteo Lunardi / FlickrThere are nine dark personality traits.

If someone has one dark personality trait, they are more likely to have another. That’s according to a new study, which found that if you have something called the “D-factor,” you tend to put your own needs about anyone else’s – even if your actions are damaging to others.

People with any of the nine dark personality traits may belong to the Dark Tetrad. Colloquially, these people are known as sadists, narcissists, psychopaths, and sociopaths. But having some of the traits doesn’t necessarily mean you have an antisocial personality disorder.

In fact, most people are on the psychopathy spectrum somewhere. And much of what people believe about people with dark personality traits isn’t necessarily true. They aren’t all obsessed with murder and hurting people. They just simply might not fret about it as much if they do cause someone else harm.

Here are the nine traits that are considered dark and what they mean. Remember, having one means it’s more likely to have another too.


Shutterstock/lenetstanHaving too much of an ego is unhealthy.

This is the excessive need to put your own needs first at the expense of others. In philosophy, egoism means one’s self is the motivation and goal of all their actions.


Hulton Archive/Getty ImagesA statue of Niccolò Machiavelli.

Named after infamous Italian diplomat Niccolò Machiavelli, it is the belief that the end justifies the means, no matter how manipulative or callous. In short, someone who has Machiavellianism is a master manipulator, and anyone who allows themselves to be used probably deserves it.

Moral disengagement

Vadiar / ShutterstockIf you didn’t consider the moral implications in life, you’d think you could do anything.

Someone who can morally disengage from a situation can convince themselves normal ethical standards don’t apply to them in certain contexts. This means they can behave unethically without worrying about the consequences.


ShotPrime Studio / ShutterstockNarcissists simultaneously loathe everyone and thrive off their attention.

Narcissism is defined as having self-importance, delusions of grandeur, and looking down at everyone else with contempt. Someone with narcissism is also a walking contradiction, as they always want the attention of those they despise.

Psychological entitlement

eggeegg / ShutterstockSome people think they deserve more than everyone else.

Those with psychological entitlement think they are better than everyone and deserve better treatment than they give out to others. In general, it means they think they should be given special treatment, and if they don’t get it, they become furious.


frankie’s / ShutterstockPsychopaths cannot feel emotions like other people do.

People on the psychopathy spectrum lack empathy or shame over their actions, and often engage in reckless, impulsive behaviour. They are thrill seekers, often have aggressive and sexual dreams, and don’t think too much about their actions.

Psychopaths are not necessarily any more dangerous than other people, but in the general population, they are more likely to be imprisoned for violent crime.


ShutterstockSadists like to see others harmed.

This means wanting to inflict emotional or physical harm on others for enjoyment. Researchers identified some markers for determining someone’s level of sadism, which includes statements such as, “I would enjoy hurting someone physically, sexually, or emotionally,” and “I have humiliated others to keep them in line.”


Monstar Studio / ShutterstockSelf-interest isn’t always obvious.

Self-interest practically means being selfish, desiring social and financial success above anything else. There is also something called enlightened self-interest, which is when someone does things that appear altruistic, but they get some sort of reward out of what they have done too.


Petrenko Andriy / ShutterstockSome people can’t help being spiteful.

Spiteful people are destructive towards others and willing to cause them harm, even if it means they get hurt themselves. Hence the phrase “cutting off your nose to spite your face.”

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