9 signs of narcissistic personality disorder

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD): Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Personality Disorders

What is narcissistic personality disorder? What causes it? Who gets it and why? How do you deal with it? Find clear answers to these and other questions you may have about narcissism here.

Krista Soriano

Medical ReviewerJean Kim, MD


What Exactly Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

A healthy (even sometimes inflated) sense of self can be a good thing. In fact, some researchers believe those who have somewhat grandiose views of themselves are mentally tougher, less stressed, and less at risk for depression.

However, narcissism exists on a spectrum: On one side, it’s craving the occasional compliment. On its darkest side, it can creep into pathological territory.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is one of 10 personality disorders recognized in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). The hallmark signs of NPD read like laundry list of what NOT to look for in a significant other: An inflated sense of self-importance, a lack of empathy for others, and a deep need for constant attention or admiration.

While someone with NPD’s self-esteem can be off the charts, ironically, it can also be super fragile, dependent on external validation, or self-deception. They’ll believe grandiose fantasies about themselves (i.e. they’re smarter, more attractive, and more successful than everyone they know), easily put other people down, and generally hijack any conversation or situation to make themselves feel better or superior. Feeling “less than perfect” is very uncomfortable for a narcissist, and they’ll protect themselves from it at all costs.

A personality disorder like NPD is about disturbed relationships, says Modesto, California-based psychologist Robert Moody, PhD. “People with personality disorders, as a class, have a lifetime of struggles with intimate, interpersonal relationships with their family, friends, and co-workers—and that’s especially true for those with narcissistic personality disorder.

The disorder affects anywhere from 0.5 to 5% ¹of the general US population with a greater prevalence in men than women.² The percentage is low because, in order to be diagnosed, someone with NPD has to admit they have issues—which they often don’t. “The real problem with a narcissistic personality disorder is that the individual lacks good insight into what’s going on,” says Moody. “They think that the problem is all about everyone else, not them.”

And it can manifest differently in men versus women. According to research, compared to males, a narcissistic female personality is more likely to include deep insecurity, martyrdom, jealousy, and competitiveness with other women, often seeing them as a “threat” (think the overbearing mother-in-law).³ Men on the other hand are more likely than women to exploit others and feel entitled to certain privileges. They’re also more apt to exhibit qualities of assertiveness or power hunger.

However, this is not to say these traits are exclusive to either sex. When it comes to vanity and self-absorption, both sexes rate equally.

Narcissism Subtypes

When you think of a narcissist, certain people you know may come to mind: the guy at the gym in the too-tight tank who’s more concerned with how his muscles look in the mirror than actually working out; the co-worker who fills her Insta feed with her face—at every angle.

But narcissism isn’t just about looking pretty: There are, in fact, a few different types of narcissists.

#1. The Covert Narcissist (or vulnerable narcissist)

Basically the exact opposite of the stereotype, instead of craving the spotlight and constant admiration, covert narcissists tend to be shy, self-effacing, hypersensitive to how others perceive them, and chronically envious. They often think their pain or suffering is worse than everyone else’s—and may even believe they’re the ugliest person in the room.

#2. The Cerebral Narcissist

They derive their self-importance from their intellect, believing they’re smarter than everyone else.

#3. The Somatic Narcissist

Somatic narcissists get their self-worth from their bodies. They tend to obsess over physical appearance, including weight, and criticize others based on their appearance.

#4. The Spiritual Narcissist

They use religion or spirituality to intimidate or justify harmful behaviors to others that can creep in when an individual takes a "holier than thou" stance, overemphasizing their level of spirituality or closeness to God. Harmful behaviors can happen when, as an example, a church leader claims they had a vision from God about someone else, or that they're in a "higher" position to use Biblical passages to control, hurt, or shame someone.

Other types mentioned in NPD research include grandiose, or "overt"—that stereotypical over-the-top, attention-seeking type—and high-functioning, meaning those who may use traits such as competitiveness and exploitation to succeed in a profession or endeavor.

However, it should be noted that there is a broad spectrum of presentable traits with NPD, each with varying levels of severity, so subtypes should be used as guides rather than hard-and-fast rules.

What Are The Symptoms Of Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Narcissism is a label that gets thrown around a lot, especially when someone seems conceited or acts out of self-interest, says psychologist Kristina Hallett, PhD, ABPP, associate professor of graduate psychology and the director of clinical training at Bay Path University in Connecticut. “But a narcissistic action every now and then isn’t the same as having a personality disorder.” With the latter, a narcissist’s self-absorbed and self-centered way of thinking and behaving surfaces in every area of their life, from work and friendships to family and love relationships.

The nine most common traits for NPD include:

  • Having an inflated sense of self-importance and entitlement. Deep down, you feel like you’re the best, most successful, competent, [insert praise here] in any situation.

  • Needing constant admiration. Your self-esteem is like a balloon without a knot, requiring a steady stream of attention, approval, and recognition to keep it inflated. No matter how much someone tells you that they love or look up to you, it feels like it's never enough.

  • Expecting special treatment. Whether it’s favors or apologies, whatever you want, you believe you deserve to have it—because you’re superior to everyone around you, and they know it and should comply.

  • Exaggerating achievements and talents. You have no problem embellishing the facts—or even outright lying—about your life, resume, and experiences.

  • Reacting negatively to criticism. Even though you crave control and take full credit when things are going well, you’re quick to blame others whenever a situation doesn’t go as planned. It’s extremely hard to accept criticism or admit to mistakes because, naturally, it’s always someone else’s fault, not yours.

  • Being preoccupied with fantasies about power, success, and beauty. You tend to create and believe exaggerated, unrealistic narratives around your success, relationships, even how good you look to help you feel special and in control. Anything that threatens the fantasy is rationalized away or simply ignored. You also want people to feel envious of you, and you feel pretty envious of people who have what you want.

  • Taking advantage of others. You often don’t think twice about using or exploiting other people to achieve your own ends—whether maliciously or obliviously. You care about your relationships and the people in your life on a superficial level—if they elevate your social status, or make you look or feel good, for instance—and you don’t really think about how your behavior might affect them.

  • Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others. You’re super sensitive to how people treat you and react to your needs and feelings, but on the flip side, you can’t put yourself in other people’s shoes and empathize with their experiences. You might belittle others or even bully people to feel better about yourself. You never really “go deep” in any of your relationships, either—and, frankly, it doesn’t bother you all that much.

  • Behaving in an arrogant manner. With an inflated ego and sense of superiority and entitlement, you probably insist on having the best everything—the best car, office, designer clothes—monopolize conversations, look down on people you perceive as “inferior,” and only associate with those you think are equally special, successful, and talented.

How Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder Diagnosed?

NPD is not the kind of condition that can be diagnosed with a blood test, MRI, or exact scale, and according to the DSM-5, a person needs to exhibit only 55% of the above traits, symptoms, and behaviors to be considered narcissistic. Nailing down NPD can be a little more complicated since narcissists tend to think there's nothing wrong with them, they rarely enter treatment.

This in part may explain why we might feel we know and encounter many narcissists, but only an estimated 5% of people actually have NPD. (This is also why you can’t ask your therapist to diagnose your narcissistic husband with the disorder if he doesn’t think he has a problem. )

Narcissism hinges on personality traits alone—most of which are objectively negative (it’s pretty easy to label someone with these tendencies as, well, a jerk). But psychologists want to be extremely careful about pathologizing someone’s personality.

A clinical NPD diagnosis is given to someone who’s experiencing social and occupational impairment and subjective distress—which is a fancy way of saying that their narcissistic behavior is not only messing with their work and personal lives, but they’re actually aware that it’s destructive, and it’s making them uncomfortable.

In other words, if a self-entitled, grandiose, empathy-lacking person doesn’t see a problem with the way they live their life, they’re simply just a narcissist—full stop. A clinician usually won’t diagnose a narcissist with NPD until they’re struggling with their behavior and seek help to change it.

“These individuals most frequently come to therapy to either a) get support for their perspective or b) because a family member is insisting and it’s easier to comply,” says Hallett. Sometimes, it takes facing a serious ultimatum, failure, or loss for someone with this personality type to get help, and it’s not uncommon for them to seek treatment for another mental health problem altogether, like depression.

What Causes Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

There’s no single cause of NPD. But, researchers agree that both genetic and environmental causes are at play. Individuals with narcissistic personality disorder have been found to have less volume of gray matter in the left anterior insula, the part of the brain related to empathy, emotional regulation, compassion, and cognitive functioning.

When NPD Develops

“By definition, personality disorders are developed over time and through childhood experiences, genetics, and environment,” says Hallett, noting that as an adult, narcissistic traits on their own are not likely to develop into a personality disorder. Often, NPD will begin in the teenage years or early adulthood.

Personality disorders are typically diagnosed at 18 years or older, according to Hallett. The thing to keep in mind with kids is that some narcissistic traits are simply just typical of their age (teenagers by definition are self-absorbed), and it doesn't mean they'll go on to develop a full-blown disorder.

Scientists believe that the full onset of NPD may occur when interpersonal development is compromised, for example:

  • Being born with an oversensitive temperament

  • Learning manipulative behavior from parents or peers

  • Being excessively praised for good behaviors and excessively criticized for bad behaviors

  • Suffering from severe childhood abuse or neglect

  • Inconsistent or unpredictable parental caregiving

  • Growing up with unrealistic expectations from parents

  • Being excessively pampered or overindulged by parents, peers, or family members

  • Being excessively admired with no realistic feedback to ground you with reality

  • Receiving excessive praise from parents or others focused on your looks or abilities

[Click to Learn More: 9 Signs You are Married to a Narcissist and What to Do About It]

What Are the Treatments for Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

For those who do seek help, “psychotherapy, also called talk therapy, can help by working to increase empathy and compassion,” says Hallett. Meeting with a therapist, you’ll learn how to better relate to others, which can encourage more functional and improved interpersonal relationships, as well as gain a better understanding of your own emotions and why you feel the way you do. Along the way, your therapist might work with you on:

  • Accepting and maintaining relationships with co-workers and family

  • Tolerating criticisms and failures

  • Understanding and regulating your feelings

  • Minimizing your desire to attain unrealistic goals and ideal conditions

But don’t expect a personality adjustment overnight: Treatment for NPD can be a long, slow-going, uphill battle—and just as with other personality disorders, patients may need to be more motivated than a typical therapy client to make progress and resolve their issues.

While in treatment, those with this personality type tend to be mistrusting and reluctant, exhibit negative reactions, and often drop out early. Since the work deals primarily with personality traits, which are pretty steady over time, it could take many years of psychotherapy before a breakthrough happens.

The good news is, studies in intervention with those living with NPD have shown that some narcissists are in fact capable of learning and feeling empathy, which is the ultimate antidote.⁴

And while there are no psychotropic medications to treat the disorder specifically, keep in mind that the likelihood of a co-occurring psychiatric disorder along with NPD is a possibility. If you are living with this condition and also dealing with depression, anxiety, addiction problems or substance use disorder, bipolar disorder, eating disorder, or any other illness, you may be prescribed medications that are helpful in treating these conditions.

Living with Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Living with NPD can be challenging for the individual with the disorder, as well as their family members and the people around them. If you have the disorder, you may frequently experience emotional dysregulation (trouble keeping calm), particularly when other people threaten or contradict your thoughts and ideas about yourself. You may have difficulty maintaining personal and professional relationships as a result.

People with NPD are typically capable of completing the necessary activities of daily life. Consistent support from a trained therapist can also enhance your productivity and quality of life if you have NPD. With therapy, you can learn to recognize and own your actions, cultivate healthy relationships, empathize, and communicate effectively with others. This can be a slow process in some instances, but with openness and strong motivation, you are likely to see significant progress.

If you are living with someone who has NPD, you may find yourself feeling confused and frustrated much of the time. You will probably have to deal with their changing moods and behavior, their need to intimidate and exert control, a sense of entitlement, and gaslighting.

People with NPD lack empathy and may completely disregard your needs, concerns, and feelings. Once the love bombing phase is over, your relationship with them can leave you walking on eggshells around them, feeling constantly anxious, and always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Living with someone who has NPD can take a serious toll on your mental health and well-being. It can damage your self-esteem. You may quickly begin to feel worthless and question your perception and sanity.

It can be hard to resist the confidence, assertiveness, and excitement that surrounds a person with narcissistic personality disorder. But those same traits that drew you to that person in the first place may eventually become a turnoff when you start to notice the impact of their unemotional response to relationships, the cruelty of their lack of empathy for others, and the grandiose belief they are greatly important and should be treated as such.

Healthy Ways to Communicate with Someone Who Has NPD

Conversations with people who have a NPD can be tricky. They are usually one-sided, manipulative, and superficial. However, healthy communication is possible in some cases

Here are some healthy ways to communicate with someone who has NPD:

  • Use a calm, respectful tone.

  • Don’t use statements beginning with “you never…” or “you always…” These may be triggering and make them feel defensive.

  • Use “I” statements to share how you feel and what you want.

  • Know your boundaries and stand up for them.

  • Try “gray rocking”: be as uninteresting as possible when the person with NPD tries to pick a fight, gaslight you, or otherwise trigger an emotional reaction.

Managing Emotional Distress

It’s easy to get overwhelmed if you live with someone with NPD. So, regularly carve out some “me time” to recharge. Self-care can include practicing relaxation techniques like meditation, taking a nature walk, running a warm bath, and eating healthy foods. Engaging in these activities can build resilience and foster self-esteem and confidence, making it easier to cope with someone with NPD.

Helpful Resources for Narcissistic Personality Disorder

There is no known way to prevent the condition, but if you suspect that you might be dealing with NPD, are in a relationship with a narcissist, or if a loved one is struggling with it, it’s important to get help as soon as possible.

  • Find a psychiatrist or psychologist who specializes in helping people with narcissism.

  • If you or a family member is dealing with narcissistic or psychological abuse, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

  • Read these tips on ending or leaving a relationship with a narcissist.

  • If you are physically threatened or abused, seek immediate help by calling 911.

  • Find more hotlines and organizations for support in our mental health resources directory.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder By The Numbers

  • 0.5-5%: The estimated percentage of people with NPD in the US population-based on community samples.

  • 50-75%: The percentage of people with NPD who are men.

  • 40%: The percentage of people with NPD who also have an anxiety disorder.

[Read This Next: What is Empathy and Why We Need It]

FAQs About Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Q: Do narcissists have high or low self-esteem?

Narcissists have high self-esteem. The thing is, they lack a secure sense of self-esteem, having what researchers call “fragile high self-esteem.” This form of high self-esteem is extremely dependent on external validation and self-deception or having fantasies of success, power, and beauty.

Q: Can a narcissist fall in love?

Yes, but their personality will make it very difficult for a truly intimate relationship to come into full bloom, says Dr. Moody. Unfortunately, the other person in the relationship may even not notice the red flags until several months down the line, when they realize that their relationship should have naturally reached a deeper level.

Q: How do I deal with a narcissist in my life?

Setting strong boundaries is an important way to protect yourself in any type of relationship with a narcissist. For coupled partners, participating in therapy to learn healthy ways to communicate, cope, and manage emotional distress can help. The good news is that the relationship can get better if both people are willing to stick through treatment.

Q: What are the different types of narcissists?

There are 4 types of narcissists. The covert narcissist tends to be shy, self-effacing, hypersensitive to how others perceive them, and chronically envious. They often think their pain or suffering is worse than everyone else’s—and may even believe they’re the ugliest person in the room. The cerebral narcissist derives self-importance from their intellect, believing they’re smarter than everyone else. The somatic narcissist tends to obsess over physical appearance, including weight, and criticize others based on their appearance. The spiritual narcissist uses religion or spirituality to intimidate or justify harmful behaviors to others. They might look down on anyone who is “unevolved,” “unawakened,” or “asleep” and claiming that they can't possibly understand you because they're not at your level of consciousness or spiritual/religious maturity.

  1. Stinson FS et al. Prevalence, correlates, disability, and comorbidity of DSM-IV narcissistic personality disorder: results from the wave 2 national epidemiologic survey on alcohol and related conditions. J Clin Psychiatry. 2008 Jul;69(7):1033-45. Available at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18557663. Accessed September 14, 2020.
  2. Stinson FS, Dawson DA, Goldstein RB, et al. Prevalence, correlates, disability, and comorbidity of DSM-IV narcissistic personality disorder: results from the wave 2 national epidemiologic survey on alcohol and related conditions. J Clin Psychiatry. 2008;69(7):1033-1045. doi:10.4088/jcp.v69n0701 Accessed September 14, 2020
  3. Grijalva E, Newman D A, Tay L, Donnellan M B, et al. (2015). Gender differences in narcissism: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 141(2), 261–310. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1037/a0038231 Accessed September 14, 2020/
  4. University of Surrey. Psychology research breakthrough suggests narcissists are capable of empathy. July 21, 2016. Available at: https://www.surrey.ac.uk/features/psychology-research-breakthrough-suggests-narcissists-are-capable-empathy Accessed September 14, 2020.

Sources Pincus AL, Lukowitsky MR. Pathological narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder. Annu Rev Clin Psychol. 2010;6:421-446. doi:10.1146/annurev.clinpsy.121208.131215. Accessed September 14, 2020.

Papageorgiou K, Gianniou FM, Wilson P et al. The bright side of dark: Exploring the positive effect of narcissism on perceived stress through mental toughness. Personality and Individual Differences. Vol 139. March 1, 2019. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0191886918305877?via%3Dihub Accessed September 14, 2019.

Caligor E, Levy KN, Yeomans FE. Narcissistic personality disorder: diagnostic and clinical challenges. Am J Psychiatry. 2015 May;172(5):415-22. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2014.14060723. Available at: https://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/appi.ajp.2014.14060723 Accessed October 13, 2021

Durvasula R. Speaking of psychology: Recognizing a narcissist. American Psychological Association. Available at https://www.apa.org/news/podcasts/speaking-of-psychology/narcissism. Published 2016. Accessed October 26, 2022

Cheek J, Kealy D, Joyce A, et al. Interpersonal problems associated with narcissism among psychiatric outpatients: A replication study. Arch Psychiatry Psychother. 2018;20(2):26- 33. doi:10.12740/app/90328.

Day NJS, Townsend ML, Grenyer BF. Living with pathological narcissism: Core conflictual relational themes within intimate relationships. BMC Psychiatry. 2022;22(1):30. doi:10.1186/s12888-021-03660-x. PMID: 35012497; PMCID: PMC8751322.

Notes: This article was originally published October 13, 2021 and most recently updated October 28, 2022.

Krista Soriano

Krista is a content creative who is dedicated to human-centered, purpose-driven work. She's spent 10 years editing and producing content at one of the world's largest media publishers as well as award-winning startups. She's focused on topics ranging from lifestyle, sustainability, science, health, and wellness space.

What Is a Narcissist? 9 Signs Someone's a Narcissist

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A narcissist has an exaggerated sense of self-importance

“People with NPD want to be recognized as being superior without the necessary achievements that go along with that,” says Newman. A narcissist will routinely overestimate their abilities while simultaneously devaluing the contributions of other people, and they may act surprised when they don’t receive the praise they feel they deserve. Often, if they aren’t reaching the level of success they expect to, they find a way to blame other people or society, but never themselves.

A narcissist believes they’re special or unique

It’s perfectly okay to think you’re a little special. But narcissistic people take it to an extreme, believing they are so special that they can only be understood by other people they deem to be special. This is why they seek to surround themselves with only people they believe to be the best. This even extends to the doctors they are willing to see. Newman has seen this in his work: “When they come in for some type of therapy, they’re very specific about only being seen by the best person,” he says. “They don’t want just any therapist, they do not want a student, they want the best person. And they’re adamant about it.”

A narcissist requires excessive admiration

Despite the fact that people with narcissistic personality disorder often act boastful and overconfident, their self-esteem can actually be pretty fragile. They have a tendency to be preoccupied with how they are perceived by other people and feel shocked or disappointed when people don’t lay on the flattery. This can be particularly true in romantic relationships. “Narcissists love you as long as you’re idolizing them,” says Newman. “They seem lovely and wonderful and shower you with attention until you assert yourself. Then you might see a mean streak you didn’t see before. And it’s scary.”

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A narcissist has a sense of entitlement

“A big sense of entitlement,” says Newman. Narcissists often believe the rules don’t apply to them. This can present itself as being disrespectful to people who warrant respect, like authority figures or national heroes. They are also the type of people who will make you bend over backwards to accommodate them and then show no appreciation for your kindness. “You could plan an entire event around this one person’s schedule and then they might not even show up,” says Newman. “It doesn’t even occur to them that they just pissed everyone off.”

A narcissist lacks empathy

Narcissists are notorious for being unable to empathize with the struggles or pain of others. “Sometimes a person with narcissistic personality disorder can seem totally reasonable until they say something that’s just outrageously insensitive,” says Newman. “They’d be the person that complains about how annoying their father is to someone who’s father just died.” On the flip side, narcissists will often talk at length about their own troubles and believe that people should genuinely care.

A narcissist is envious of others and believe others are envious of them

Narcissists are constantly comparing themselves to others, especially very successful people, which can trigger feelings of envy. And if they do achieve success in their lives, they often enjoy thinking others are jealous or envious of them, says Newman.

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A narcissist behaves in an arrogant or haughty manner

Ever go on a date with someone who ordered the most expensive bottle of wine on the menu, acted very sweet and charming towards you, and yet was completely condescending and rude to the server? Acting arrogant or snobbish while complaining about the stupidity of others that you feel superior to is another red flag for narcissism.

A narcissist is preoccupied with fantasies of success and the perfect mate

Narcissists may ruminate excessively on achieving power, success, and respect from other powerful people. This may even play a role in how they pick a romantic partner: Research shows that narcissists place more importance on physical attractiveness and status than personality traits such as kindness or compassion. This is, in part, because when their “trophy” partner looks good, it reflects on themselves and elevates their own self-image.

A narcissist takes advantage of others

A narcissist’s sense of entitlement combined with their lack of empathy makes them ripe for taking advantage of people for their own benefit. This is one reason people with narcissistic personality disorder can be terrible to work for, says Newman. If you have a narcissistic boss, they may work you into the ground without giving you the respect or compensation you deserve. It can be true with friendships, too. Many of us can say we’ve had a fair-weather pal who always seems too busy with their own fabulous life to spend time with you. That is, until you had those extra Beyoncé tickets!

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The bottom line

You can decide for yourself whether to keep the narcissists in your life, but at least you'll be more aware of what's going on and be able to identify the red flags as they come. Now, you can better protect yourself from being manipulated or taken advantage of by those with the personality disorder.

Stephanie Eckelkamp

Stephanie Eckelkamp is a freelance writer, health coach, and former associate editor for Prevention covering health, food, and nutrition. She’s a graduate of Syracuse University and obsessed with dogs, exploring the great outdoors, and chunky peanut butter.

Madeleine Haase

Madeleine, Prevention’s assistant editor, has a history with health writing from her experience as an editorial assistant at WebMD, and from her personal research at university. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in biopsychology, cognition, and neuroscience—and she helps strategize for success across Prevention’s social media platforms.  

What is narcissistic personality disorder, how is it recognized and can it be corrected

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I am in the center, I am better: what is narcissistic personality disorder, how to recognize it and can it be corrected


Author: Polina Vernigor

John William Waterhouse. "Echo and Narcissus", 1903

The label "narcissist" is often used to refer to people who seem overconfident, spend a lot of time talking about themselves, their success and career. However, this feature is much more complicated than it seems. A sense of confidence, a desire to share our achievements, and a desire for praise are quite adequate traits inherent in many of us. But sometimes it develops into a manic obsession with oneself or narcissism, which greatly interfere with establishing social connections, building a career and maintaining healthy relationships with loved ones. Zaborona journalist Polina Vernigor figured out when to sound the alarm, how to identify narcissistic personality disorder, and how to deal with narcissists.

What is narcissism?

This is a feature of the psyche, in which a person considers himself better than others, as well as generally unique and unsurpassed. It's about craving gratitude or admiration, wanting to be the center of attention, and expecting special treatment.

The Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI), developed in 1979, is the most common way to measure this trait. The scores range from 0 to 40. Healthy people who score just over half of the scores may seem very attractive, especially during the first meeting, but end up coming off as arrogant. Such people may have uncomfortable or stressful personal relationships, but at the same time they remain fundamentally healthy personalities.

  • Honoré Daumier The Belle Narcissus, 1842

Is this normal at all?

Basically yes. In fact, this is why we use the term “healthy people” in the previous section: narcissism is a collection of traits, and as long as it remains only on the scale of a person’s character, it does not pose a big problem. At least it does not require a decision in the office of a clinical psychologist - unlike narcissistic personality disorder.

What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

And this is a psychiatric diagnosis. People with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) are in love with an idealized grandiose image of themselves. And they fall in love with this exaggerated self-image precisely because it enables them to avoid deep feelings of insecurity. But supporting their megalomaniacs takes a lot of work, and that's where manipulation and toxicity in relationships comes into play. People with narcissistic personality disorder are self-centered, lack empathy and consideration for others, and depend on praise and hobbies. They can be described as cocky, manipulative, selfish, and overly demanding. This way of thinking and behaving manifests itself in all areas of a narcissist's life, from work and friendships to family and love relationships.

There are many subtypes of NPD—some have been identified and validated by scientific research, while others have been informally named and popularized by various mental health professionals. Because of this, the number of narcissistic subtypes is difficult to count accurately. Although the subtypes cannot be clinically diagnosed, professionals still usually see patterns in the behavior of clients, so they deduce eight subtypes of narcissism.

  • Salvador Dali Metamorphoses of Narcissus, 1937

Healthy narcissism. It is more positive than negative. The American Psychiatric Association has concluded that for a patient to be clinically diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, they must have at least 55% of the most common features of narcissism. At the same time, many of these features do not fit the classification of mental disorders. That is, if you have less than 55% of the signs of NPD, you are healthy. Psychiatrists believe that narcissistic qualities are inherent in any person to a certain extent. Recognition of your achievements, the desire to share them and receive praise are quite normal things, especially if they improve well-being.

Grandiose narcissism. Such patients are characterized by an overestimation of their abilities, an inflated sense of self-worth and, in fact, an unrealistic feeling of their own superiority over other people. At the same time, grandiose daffodils can be charming, but they often lack compassion. They demand attention, they like to see others offended and confused.

Covert/vulnerable narcissism. Unlike grandiose daffodils, these people tend to be shy and modest. Representatives of this subtype are inhibited, depressed, hypersensitive to evaluations and suffer from chronic envy. They vitally need the recognition of people and protection from criticism. Often covert narcissists feel the most miserable in the world.

Malignant narcissism. Actually they are called malignant, not to be called evil, because it sounds a bit rude. But it is true: they are manipulators with evil intentions, showing signs of sadism and aggression. This is the most dangerous and harmful to others subtype. Throughout their lives, people suffering from this disorder improve their manipulation skills, and therefore, during the first meeting, they may seem very nice and kind.

Sexual narcissism. These patients are overly fond of their own sexual prowess. They may be obsessed with their sexual activity and need for sexual delight from others. Sexual narcissists are serial scammers who use sex to manipulate people and can be aggressive in bed.

Somatic narcissism. Somatic narcissists base their self-esteem on the body. They feel more beautiful, strong or healthy than others. Somatic narcissists are often obsessed with their weight and appearance, as well as criticizing the appearance of others.

  • Illustration for "Spring of Narcissus" from "The Romance of the Rose", 1380s

Cerebral/intellectual narcissism. Such people derive their sense of self-worth from their minds. It is about the belief that they are smarter than everyone else. To feed their ego, they will try to make others feel stupid.

Spiritual narcissism. Such people often use their spirituality to justify harmful behavior and use spiritual jargon to present themselves in a better light and to show superiority. Often they use vulnerable people to make them believe in their own worthlessness and in the high spirituality of the narcissist himself.

I have NRL. What threatens me?

Narcissists find it difficult to build healthy social connections. Since the narcissist is overconfident and believes that he is better than others, this can lead to risky behavior. At the same time, such people usually show low levels of empathy, sympathy, shame, and guilt. That is why narcissism does more harm to those who surround the narcissist.

How do I know if I'm talking to a narcissist?

There are the most common and recognizable signs. Remember that only a specialist can make an accurate diagnosis. However, you will need these characteristics to identify such a person in your environment and build a relationship with him that will not harm you.

The main signs of daffodils

  • Sensation of its own superiority over the other
  • Manipulative behavior
  • The need for admiration
  • The lack of sympathy
  • Higher -dimensional concentration of the attention of the surrounding
  • sensitivity to criticism

How to deal with narcissists?

The first thing to advise is to break off relations with narcissists, as they are not non-toxic. But there are many situations in which this advice will not work. There are several leading techniques that will help you protect yourself from the influence of such people and build safe communication with them.

Look at the root - Narcissists often try to create an ideal image of themselves. But if you always keep in mind who they really are and remember that they can manipulate or deceive, you will probably not be affected by their "charm".

Talk about yourself and your feelings. This rule works if we are talking about a person from your close circle - a partner or someone from relatives. Narcissists often like to bring the interlocutor to emotions - do not let them do this, do not encourage their behavior. Instead, try to calmly and kindly say what you don't like. Do not blame - use "I-messages": not "you talk a lot about yourself", but "I would like it if you were more interested / interested in my affairs."

But if you notice signs of narcissism in your manager or work colleague, the best way to communicate is not to show emotions and not get into conflicts and arguments, because most likely the person is just waiting for it. If you give him this, then you will stimulate such behavior in the future.

  • Caravaggio. Narcissus, 1594-1596

Stand up for clear boundaries. People with narcissistic personality disorder have a poor sense of personal space and boundaries: they may rummage through your belongings, enter your personal space without permission, or do something that will disturb you. In this case, psychologists advise setting ultimatums. For example: "If you don't get your car out of my parking space, I will have to call a tow truck." But at the same time, it is important to keep your promise in order to prove the seriousness of your intentions.

Do not fall for provocations. If the game doesn't go their way, narcissists often manipulate to make you feel awkward. For example, they may try to make you feel guilty or ashamed. Remember that these are just their rules of the game: you don't have to accept them.

Find a source of energy. Communication with a narcissist (especially if it is a malignant narcissist) is very draining emotionally. It is necessary to constantly remember all possible scenarios for the development of events and resist manipulation - this requires considerable effort. To recover quickly, you need a source of energy: start going to sports or art classes, communicate more with people with whom you are pleased and comfortable.

Is it treatable at all?

Yes, psychotherapy. But there is a very important detail: in order to start treatment, the patient's desire is necessary. More often than not, narcissists either don't acknowledge their problem or get carried away by the fact that they are narcissists. However, psychiatrists argue that people with NPD often have problems with socialization, and sometimes this behavior is associated with moral trauma. Therefore, the likelihood that a person will reach a therapist is still there.

Polina Vernigor


Polina Vernigor

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How to recognize a person with narcissism

July 19, 2022 Likbez Health

Psychotherapy may be required even for those who associate with a narcissist.

You can listen to the article. If it's more convenient for you, turn on the podcast.

Narcissists are traditionally called narcissists, obsessed with their own person. However, not every narcissist suffers from narcissism.

Narcissistic personality disorder has very specific symptoms.

How to Recognize a Person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Every psychotherapist's reference book, the current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), lists nine signs of a true narcissist. At the same time, it is enough to make a diagnosis if a person meets only five of them.

1. Maintains relationships with "special" people

The narcissist always has authoritative, influential acquaintances from circles that are difficult for "mere mortals" to access: businessmen from the top hundred of the Forbes list, brilliant artists, owners of various rarities, close friends and lovers of world famous stars. Well, at least the narcissist himself likes to talk about such connections.

A person with a narcissistic disorder uses the status of acquaintances as a way to increase self-esteem and authority in the eyes of others.

By the way, this is one of the reasons why daffodils seem so attractive, why it is easy to fall in love with them and difficult to leave them. When a person is “with such connections!”, “so sophisticated!” suddenly draws attention to you, it tickles pride very much. It’s as if you are on the same social level with the narcissist’s great acquaintances and begin to feel “special” too. And this is a kind of psychological drug, which is hard to give up.

2. Often talks about his own victories and achievements

Whether it's a controversial moment at work, a conflict in a store or public transport, a random race from a traffic light - the narcissist emerges victorious from any situation. In fact, that's what he tells the people around him.

It is important for Narcissus to demonstrate that he is the best and smartest of all. This helps him feel more confident.

Jacqueline Krol

Psychotherapist, for Healthline

It is typical that stories about victories always take the form of monologues. Narcissists need admiring listeners. As soon as one of them begins to pull the blanket over himself and talk about his own achievements, the person with narcissism gets bored and turns off the conversation.

3. Needs compliments and can't stand criticism

From the outside, the narcissist seems to be an extremely self-confident person. But, as experts suggest, most people with narcissistic personality disorder have serious problems with self-esteem.

That is why they expect constant compliments from others. If admiration is not enough, or worse, the narcissist is criticized, they react very emotionally. Can theatrically exclaim: "I'm not appreciated here!" Often reproaches relatives and colleagues for inattention and callousness. Because of the slightest remark, he may cry or run away, slamming the door and shouting something insulting in the end.

Then, perhaps, he will return to still get recognition from you. For this, the narcissist manipulates guilt: it is not he who is emotionally unrestrained, but you meanly offended him, underestimated and provoked him.

4. Seems to be a dreamer and idealist

The narcissist seems ideal to himself and therefore counts on a special, impeccable life. And if something does not work out, the responsibility for it shifts to the people around.

If there are difficulties in love or family relationships, the partner is to blame: he didn't look the right way, did the wrong thing, didn't appreciate it. “All women are bitches, and I am looking for that one, my soul mate who will understand me” is the demonstrative position of the classic narcissist.

Narcissistic personality disorder is more common in men. At risk are young (under 45) unmarried people.

If it doesn't work out with a career and money, the society is to blame, of course. More precisely, his successful representatives, who (from the point of view of a narcissist) probably achieved their position with the help of influential relatives, through bed, by deceit. Narcissists often oppose themselves to society, emphasizing their status as an unrecognized genius and a lone wolf, disappointed in an imperfect world.

5. Feels worthy of special treatment

This means that the narcissist demands more rights for himself than for others. He will not stand in line - he will find a way to get into the right office or to the counter first, even if it turns into a scandal. He expects priority service at the restaurant. Or he sincerely counts on an “understanding” attitude from his superiors, even if he is late for the fifth time in a week or misses a deadline.

He "needs" to sit at the window, open (or close) the window or do his hobby - instead of washing the dishes, cleaning or going shopping.

The interests of a person with narcissistic personality disorder always come first. People around are encouraged to come to terms with it.

6. Often haughty, shows disrespect for those who are lower in status

One of the features of the classic narcissist is a sense of superiority over others. This is clearly shown in situations where a person suffering from narcissism is faced with the service industry. He can be rude to waiters, wardrobe workers, consultants, petty clerks. Subordinates or those who are younger also suffer from his arrogance.

If the narcissist is reproached for this, he will explain his behavior with shortcomings in the work of the "lower class" and say that he simply demands a little respect for himself.

7. Exploits others

For a narcissist, being served is in the order of things, and he is not interested in what forces and at the expense of what this is achieved. For example, in family relationships, he will expect dinner, cleanliness and excellent physical shape from his partner - simply because he “should” (even if he has two jobs, a child and an objective lack of time for sports).

If the partner tries to rebel, discounting, gaslighting and other abuse techniques will be used.

8. Openly manipulates people

Pressing on pity, hitting on feelings of guilt and conscience, twisting the facts and blaming others for what they did not do - this is not a complete list of what the narcissist does to achieve his goals.

It cannot be said that he manipulates consciously. It’s just that this is how his psyche works on justifying himself and blaming others.

9. Not able to empathize

Lack of empathy (sympathy for the experiences and problems of others) is one of the most characteristic signs of a narcissist.

A person with narcissistic personality disorder is completely self-centered. To delve into other people's problems, to provide support for him is simply boring.

This is one of the reasons why narcissists almost never have long-term relationships, either friendships or romantic relationships.

What to do if a person is a narcissist

Narcissism is one of the least understood personality disorders. It is extremely difficult to treat, as narcissists usually do not believe that they have mental health problems. On the contrary: they are sure that others have problems, which means that they should be treated.

In addition, narcissism is often accompanied by other types of mental disorders - manic-depressive psychosis (bipolar disorder), depression, anxiety and dissocial (sociopathic) disorders. So therapy, even if the narcissist agrees to it, runs the risk of being long and complicated.

What should you do if you encounter a narcissist? The least energy-consuming, but also the least humane way is to run away from him.

If you have the opportunity not to take on the solution of other people's psychological problems, it makes sense not to do this.

However, this is not always the case. After all, a colleague, a valuable business partner, a close relative, or even a loved one can be a narcissist. Refusal to communicate will be tantamount to a complete severing of these important ties.

In this case, the only thing left is to persuade the narcissist to see a psychotherapist. The doctor will get to know the patient better and, depending on his condition, will select the most effective type of psychotherapy. Sometimes, in addition to it, medication may be needed - antidepressants and antipsychotics.

Psychotherapy will also be useful for you if you are forced to contact a narcissist every day.

Learn more