How to recognise a narcissist

Narcissistic Personality Disorder -

personality disorders

Know someone who thinks they’re better than everyone else but flies off the handle at the slightest criticism? These tips can help you spot narcissism traits and deal with a narcissist.

What is narcissistic personality disorder (NPD)?

The word narcissism gets tossed around a lot in our selfie-obsessed, celebrity-driven culture, often to describe someone who seems excessively vain or full of themselves. But in psychological terms, narcissism doesn't mean self-love—at least not of a genuine sort. It's more accurate to say that people with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) are in love with an idealized, grandiose image of themselves. And they're in love with this inflated self-image precisely because it allows them to avoid deep feelings of insecurity. But propping up their delusions of grandeur takes a lot of work—and that's where the dysfunctional attitudes and behaviors come in.

Narcissistic personality disorder involves a pattern of self-centered, arrogant thinking and behavior, a lack of empathy and consideration for other people, and an excessive need for admiration. Others often describe people with NPD as cocky, manipulative, selfish, patronizing, and demanding. This way of thinking and behaving surfaces in every area of the narcissist's life: from work and friendships to family and love relationships.

People with narcissistic personality disorder are extremely resistant to changing their behavior, even when it's causing them problems. Their tendency is to turn the blame on to others. What's more, they are extremely sensitive and react badly to even the slightest criticisms, disagreements, or perceived slights, which they view as personal attacks. For the people in the narcissist's life, it's often easier just to go along with their demands to avoid the coldness and rages. However, by understanding more about narcissistic personality disorder, you can spot the narcissists in your life, protect yourself from their power plays, and establish healthier boundaries.

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Grandiose sense of self-importance

Grandiosity is the defining characteristic of narcissism. More than just arrogance or vanity, grandiosity is an unrealistic sense of superiority. Narcissists believe they are unique or “special” and can only be understood by other special people. What's more, they are too good for anything average or ordinary. They only want to associate and be associated with other high-status people, places, and things.

Narcissists also believe that they're better than everyone else and expect recognition as such—even when they've done nothing to earn it. They will often exaggerate or outright lie about their achievements and talents. And when they talk about work or relationships, all you'll hear is how much they contribute, how great they are, and how lucky the people in their lives are to have them. They are the undisputed star and everyone else is at best a bit player.

Lives in a fantasy world that supports their delusions of grandeur

Since reality doesn't support their grandiose view of themselves, narcissists live in a fantasy world propped up by distortion, self-deception, and magical thinking. They spin self-glorifying fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, attractiveness, and ideal love that make them feel special and in control. These fantasies protect them from feelings of inner emptiness and shame, so facts and opinions that contradict them are ignored or rationalized away. Anything that threatens to burst the fantasy bubble is met with extreme defensiveness and even rage, so those around the narcissist learn to tread carefully around their denial of reality.

Needs constant praise and admiration

A narcissist's sense of superiority is like a balloon that gradually loses air without a steady stream of applause and recognition to keep it inflated. The occasional compliment is not enough. Narcissists need constant food for their ego, so they surround themselves with people who are willing to cater to their obsessive craving for affirmation. These relationships are very one-sided. It's all about what the admirer can do for the narcissist, never the other way around. And if there is ever an interruption or diminishment in the admirer's attention and praise, the narcissist treats it as a betrayal.

Sense of entitlement

Because they consider themselves special, narcissists expect favorable treatment as their due. They truly believe that whatever they want, they should get. They also expect the people around them to automatically comply with their every wish and whim. That is their only value. If you don't anticipate and meet their every need, then you're useless. And if you have the nerve to defy their will or “selfishly” ask for something in return, prepare yourself for aggression, outrage, or the cold shoulder.

Exploits others without guilt or shame

Narcissists never develop the ability to identify with the feelings of others—to put themselves in other people's shoes. In other words, they lack empathy. In many ways, they view the people in their lives as objects—there to serve their needs. As a consequence, they don't think twice about taking advantage of others to achieve their own ends. Sometimes this interpersonal exploitation is malicious, but often it is simply oblivious. Narcissists simply don't think about how their behavior affects others. And if you point it out, they still won't truly get it. The only thing they understand is their own needs.

Frequently demeans, intimidates, bullies, or belittles others

Narcissists feel threatened whenever they encounter someone who appears to have something they lack—especially those who are confident and popular. They're also threatened by people who don't kowtow to them or who challenge them in any way. Their defense mechanism is contempt. The only way to neutralize the threat and prop up their own sagging ego is to put those people down. They may do it in a patronizing or dismissive way as if to demonstrate how little the other person means to them. Or they may go on the attack with insults, name-calling, bullying, and threats to force the other person back into line.

Different types of narcissist

Narcissism comes in several forms. Adaptive narcissism is when a person with this disorder leans into positive traits—such as self-sufficiency and confidence—that can actually be healthy. They may help someone set high ambitions at work, for example, or enjoy satisfying relationships without being overdependent on a partner.

Maladaptive narcissism, on the other hand, is characterized by the toxic traits, such as a sense of entitlement and willingness to exploit others. The different forms of maladaptive narcissism include:

Overt or grandiose narcissism. Overt narcissists tend to be extroverted but also uncooperative, selfish, and overbearing. Their exaggerated self-image and high self-esteem allow them to be confident and assertive. However, they’re also likely to overestimate their own emotional intelligence.

Covert or vulnerable narcissism. It's common to imagine all narcissists as dominant and overwhelming in social situations. However, covert narcissists are introverted. They tend to be extremely sensitive to criticism and suffer from low self-esteem. They can be defensive and passive-aggressive, but they are less likely to overestimate their emotional abilities than overt narcissists.  

Communal narcissism. Communal narcissists tend to view themselves as altruistic and claim to care deeply about fairness. They present themselves to others as supportive and selfless. However, their behavior is motivated by a desire for social power and a sense of superiority or entitlement. Because of this, their actions don’t always match their beliefs.

Antagonistic narcissism. In contrast with communal narcissists, antagonistic narcissists take a highly competitive approach to social interactions. They often exhibit zero-sum thinking, believing that every situation has a “loser” and “winner.” This view of the world leads them to be aggressive and hostile. They may be quick to disparage others and slow or unwilling to forgive.

Malignant narcissism. Malignant narcissism can be a more destructive form of the personality disorder. In addition to the typical signs of narcissism, a malignant narcissist might be aggressive, paranoid, or sadistic—taking joy in other people’s pain. They tend to display antisocial behavior, disregarding the rights or safety of others.

Dealing with a narcissist: Don't fall for the fantasy

Narcissists can be very magnetic and charming. They are very good at creating a fantastical, flattering self-image that draw us in. We're attracted to their apparent confidence and lofty dreams—and the shakier our own self-esteem, the more seductive the allure. It's easy to get caught up in their web, thinking that they will fulfill our longing to feel more important, more alive. But it's just a fantasy, and a costly one at that.

Your needs won't be fulfilled (or even recognized). It's important to remember that narcissists aren't looking for partners; they're looking for obedient admirers. Your sole value to the narcissist is as someone who can tell them how great they are to prop up their insatiable ego. Your desires and feelings don't count.

Look at the way the narcissist treats others. If the narcissist lies, manipulates, hurts, and disrespects others, he or she will eventually treat you the same way. Don't fall for the fantasy that you're different and will be spared.

Take off the rose-colored glasses. It's important to see the narcissist in your life for who they really are, not who you want them to be. Stop making excuses for bad behavior or minimizing the hurt it's causing you. Denial will not make it go away. The reality is that narcissists are very resistant to change, so the true question you must ask yourself is whether you can live like this indefinitely.

Focus on your own dreams. Instead of losing yourself in the narcissist's delusions, focus on the things you want for yourself. What do you want to change in your life? What gifts would you like to develop? What fantasies do you need to give up in order to create a more fulfilling reality?

Set healthy boundaries

Healthy relationships are based on mutual respect and caring. But narcissists aren't capable of true reciprocity in their relationships. It isn't just that they're not willing; they truly aren't able. They don't see you. They don't hear you. They don't recognize you as someone who exists outside of their own needs. Because of this, narcissists regularly violate the boundaries of others. What's more, they do so with an absolute sense of entitlement.

Narcissists think nothing of going through or borrowing your possessions without asking, snooping through your mail and personal correspondence, eavesdropping on conversations, barging in without an invitation, stealing your ideas, and giving you unwanted opinions and advice. They may even tell you what to think and feel. It's important to recognize these violations for what they are, so you can begin to create healthier boundaries where your needs are respected.

Make a plan. If you have a long-standing pattern of letting others violate your boundaries, it's not easy to take back control. Set yourself up for success by carefully considering your goals and the potential obstacles. What are the most important changes you hope to achieve? Is there anything you've tried in the past with the narcissist that worked? Anything that hasn't? What is the balance of power between you and how will that impact your plan? How will you enforce your new boundaries? Answering these questions will help you evaluate your options and develop a realistic plan.

Consider a gentle approach. If preserving your relationship with the narcissist is important to you, you will have to tread softly. By pointing out their hurtful or dysfunctional behavior, you are damaging their self-image of perfection. Try to deliver your message calmly, respectfully, and as gently as possible. Focus on how their behavior makes you feel, rather than on their motivations and intentions. If they respond with anger and defensiveness, try to remain calm. Walk away if need be and revisit the conversation later.

Don't set a boundary unless you're willing to keep it. You can count on the narcissist to rebel against new boundaries and test your limits, so be prepared. Follow up with any consequences specified. If you back down, you're sending the message that you don't need to be taken seriously.

Be prepared for other changes in the relationship. The narcissist will feel threatened and upset by your attempts to take control of your life. They are used to calling the shots. To compensate, they may step up their demands in other aspects of the relationship, distance themselves to punish you, or attempt to manipulate or charm you into giving up the new boundaries. It's up to you to stand firm.

Don't take things personally

To protect themselves from feelings of inferiority and shame, narcissists must always deny their shortcomings, cruelties, and mistakes. Often, they will do so by projecting their own faults on to others. It's very upsetting to get blamed for something that's not your fault or be characterized with negative traits you don't possess. But as difficult as it may be, try not to take it personally. It really isn't about you.

Don't buy into the narcissist's version of who you are. Narcissists don't live in reality, and that includes their views of other people. Don't let their shame and blame game undermine your self-esteem. Refuse to accept undeserved responsibility, blame, or criticism. That negativity is the narcissist's to keep.

Don't argue with a narcissist. When attacked, the natural instinct is to defend yourself and prove the narcissist wrong. But no matter how rational you are or how sound your argument, they are unlikely to hear you. And arguing the point may escalate the situation in a very unpleasant way. Don't waste your breath. Simply tell the narcissist you disagree with their assessment, then move on.

Know yourself. The best defense against the insults and projections of the narcissist is a strong sense of self. When you know your own strengths and weaknesses, it's easier to reject any unfair criticisms leveled against you.

Let go of the need for approval. It's important to detach from the narcissist's opinion and any desire to please or appease them at the expense of yourself. You need to be okay with knowing the truth about yourself, even if the narcissist sees the situation differently.

Look for support and purpose elsewhere

If you're going to stay in a relationship with a narcissist, be honest with yourself about what you can—and can't—expect. A narcissist isn't going to change into someone who truly values you, so you'll need to look elsewhere for emotional support and personal fulfillment.

Learn what healthy relationships look and feel like. If you come from a narcissistic family, you may not have a very good sense of what a healthy give-and-take relationship is. The narcissistic pattern of dysfunction may feel comfortable to you. Just remind yourself that as familiar as it feels, it also makes you feel bad. In a reciprocal relationship, you will feel respected, listened to, and free to be yourself.

Spend time with people who give you an honest reflection of who you are. In order to maintain perspective and avoid buying into the narcissist's distortions, it's important to spend time with people who know you as you really are and validate your thoughts and feelings.

Make new friendships, if necessary, outside the narcissist's orbit. Some narcissists isolate the people in their lives in order to better control them. If this is your situation, you'll need to invest time into rebuilding lapsed friendships or cultivating new relationships.

Look for meaning and purpose in work, volunteering, and hobbies. Instead of looking to the narcissist to make you feel good about yourself, pursue meaningful activities that make use of your talents and allow you to contribute.

How to leave a narcissist

Ending an abusive relationship is never easy. Ending one with a narcissist can be especially difficult as they can be so charming and charismatic—at least at the start of the relationship or if you threaten to leave. It’s easy to become disoriented by the narcissist’s manipulative behavior, caught up in the need to seek their approval, or even to feel “gaslighted” and doubt your own judgement. If you’re codependent, your desire to be loyal may trump even your need to preserve your safety and sense of self. But it’s important to remember that no one deserves to be bullied, threatened, or verbally and emotionally abused in a relationship. There are ways to escape the narcissist—and the guilt and self-blame—and begin the process of healing.

Educate yourself about narcissistic personality disorder. The more you understand, the better you’ll be able to recognize the techniques a narcissist may use to keep you in the relationship. When you threaten to leave, a narcissist will often resurrect the flattery and adoration (“love bombing”) that caused you to be interested in them in the first place. Or they’ll make grand promises about changing their behavior that they have no intention of keeping.

Write down the reasons why you’re leaving. Being clear on why you need to end the relationship can help prevent you from being sucked back in. Keep your list somewhere handy, such as on your phone, and refer to it when you’re starting to have self-doubts or the narcissist is laying on the charm or making outlandish promises.

Seek support. During your time together, the narcissist may have damaged your relationships with friends and family or limited your social life. But whatever your circumstances, you’re not alone. Even if you can’t reach out to old friends, you can find help from support groups or domestic violence helplines and shelters.

Don’t make empty threats. It’s a better tactic to accept that the narcissist won’t change and when you’re ready, simply leave. Making threats or pronouncements will only forewarn the narcissist and enable them to make it more difficult for you to get away.

Seek immediate help if you’re physically threatened or abused. Call 911 in the U.S. or your country’s local emergency service.

For more tips on leaving, read How to Get Out of an Abusive Relationship.

After you’ve left

Leaving a narcissist can be a huge blow to their sense of entitlement and self-importance. Their huge ego still needs to be fed, so they’ll often continue trying to exert control over you. If charm and “love bombing” doesn’t work, they may resort to threats, denigrating you to mutual friends and acquaintances, or stalking you, on social media or in person.

Cut off all contact with the narcissist. The more contact you have with them, the more hope you’ll give them that they can reel you back in. It’s safer to block their calls, texts, and emails, and disconnect from them on social media. If you have children together, have others with you for any scheduled custody handovers.  

Allow yourself to grieve. Breakups can be extremely painful, whatever the circumstances. Even ending a toxic relationship can leave you feeling sad, angry, confused, and grieving the loss of shared dreams and commitments. Healing can take time, so go easy on yourself and turn to family and friends for support.

Don’t expect the narcissist to share your grief. Once the message sinks in that you will no longer be feeding their ego, the narcissist will likely soon move on to exploit someone else. They won’t feel loss or guilt, just that never-ending need for praise and admiration. This is no reflection on you, but rather an illustration of how very one-sided their relationships always are.

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If you need help for narcissistic personality disorder

Due to the very nature of the disorder, most people with NPD are reluctant to admit they have a problem—and even more reluctant to seek help. Even when they do, narcissistic personality disorder can be very challenging to treat. But that doesn’t mean there’s no hope or that changes aren’t possible. Mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and antipsychotic drugs are sometimes prescribed in severe cases or if your NPD co-occurs with another disorder. However, in most cases psychotherapy is the primary form of treatment.

Working with a skilled therapist, you can learn to accept responsibility for your actions, develop a better sense of proportion, and build healthier relationships. You can also work on developing your emotional intelligence (EQ). EQ is the ability to understand, use, and manage your emotions in positive ways to empathize with others, communicate effectively, and builder strong relationships. Importantly, the skills that make up emotional intelligence can be learned at any time.

Authors: Melinda Smith, M.A. and Lawrence Robinson

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        Cai, H., & Luo, Y. L. L. (2018). Distinguishing Between Adaptive and Maladaptive Narcissism. In A. D. Hermann, A. B. Brunell, & J. D. Foster (Eds.), Handbook of Trait Narcissism (pp. 97–104). Springer International Publishing.

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      Last updated: December 5, 2022

      How to identify a narcissist — and cope with their potentially toxic behavior


      Narcissistic Personality Disorder is far more complex than mere vanity. Here's how to identify a narcissist and cope with their potentially toxic behavior.

      Narcissists are notoriously difficult to deal with because they are masters of manipulation.Rose Wong / for NBC News

      By Nicole Spector

      The word “narcissist” is one of those tricky terms that is both luxuriously broad in meaning (it’s defined on as “a person who is overly self-involved, and often vain and selfish) as well as clinically specific. A narcissist, from a psychiatric perspective, is a person suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), a formal diagnosis coined after years of psychoanalytic study. In the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), NPD is defined as a cluster B personality disorder, comprising “a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration and lack of empathy.

      As a mental health writer, I’m interested in exploring narcissism in the latter sense — as a pathology rather than as a lax term for a self-absorbed person. I want to know how narcissism manifests in a person and how one can identify a narcissist and cope with their potentially toxic behavior.

      To enlighten me, I turned to a number of experts including David M. Reiss, M.D., a psychiatrist who has specialized in narcissism for over 30 years.

      “Narcissism has been around as long as humanity has been around — and has been recognized for that long,” Reiss says. “The term itself comes from the story of Narcissus in Greek mythology, dating back to at least 8 A.D. As to the formal diagnosis, that arises from psychoanalytic thinking, starting with Freud but with different schools of psychology accepting slightly different understandings of the pathology/personality disorder over ensuing years.”

      The telltale traits of narcissism go well beyond self-absorption

      Diagnosable narcissism is far more complex (and often dangerous) than mere selfishness or vanity. One interesting way to think of one with narcissistic personality disorder is as a big baby — no really, because a baby, like a true narcissist, is concerned only with themselves and their needs.

      “We all come into the world with needs that we want to be filled, and no one asks a baby [to reason with them]. They just say ‘Oh here, let me feed you, let me cuddle you and sing to you’,” says Dr. Keith Humphreys, a psychiatrist and professor of psychiatry at Stanford Health Care. “As we grow up, we learn that other people need things, too. Now, we may have moments where we’re very selfish, but it’s on a continuum; not for narcissists though. Narcissists are just stuck there in this bottomless, constant need.”

      But narcissism can wear many masks. Here’s a list of telltale traits of a narcissist courtesy of Karaine Sanders, Psy.D, a psychologist in New York.

      • Self-concern, self-centeredness and self-consciousness that is disproportionate
      • Extreme sensitivity to negative feedback or criticism
      • Significant need for approval from others due to inadequacies that are real or imagined
      • Poor self-esteem often expressed through self-deprivation or arrogance
      • Difficulties within most relationships
      • Intolerance for imperfections in others
      • Often idealize others that represent perfection followed by devaluing that very person when they are perceived to have failed them
      • Preoccupation with outward appearance, beauty, wealth, fame, success over morals, virtue or even integrity
      • Poor emotional regulation, aggressive impulses, psychologically fragile
      • Vain, self-righteous and prideful
      • Lack remorse, compassion, empathy for others

      Narcissists seldom seek treatment because they can’t self-reflect

      We all have some narcissistic qualities, which run along a spectrum. There’s a radical difference, though, between having narcissistic qualities (e.g., being self-centered) and being a full-fledged narcissist.

      One should never self-diagnose, but consider this: If you’re worried that you might be a narcissist, you probably are not one. Narcissists generally lack the kind of empathetic self-reflection that might make them wonder if they have a personality disorder. This is partly why narcissism is so seldom treated, Reiss adds, and why it’s presently impossible to truly quantify how many people have the disorder.

      “Rarely does someone come to me [as a psychiatrist] and say they read about narcissism and think they are a narcissist,” says Reiss. “If they can recognize narcissistic behavior, then it’s probably not severe. Narcissists can get depressed, anxious, abuse substances and have problems in the family (for which they take no accountability) and usually it’s those types of issues that, as we get into them, we find a narcissistic core.”

      If you’re worried that you might be a narcissist, you probably are not one. Narcissists generally lack the kind of empathetic self-reflection that might make them wonder if they have a personality disorder.

      The makings of a narcissist: Nature, nurture and character

      How does a person become a narcissist? It’s a hotly disputed issue in the world of psychiatry, with a wealth of theories and no one-size-fits-all answer.

      “My view is that it’s probably about 25 percent constitutional and 75 percent experiential,” says Reiss. “A narcissist doesn’t necessarily come from a dysfunctional family, but narcissism can occur because a parent or caretaker wasn't able to provide emotional attention, or it could be the flipside: a parent provided too much attention and the child never learned frustration tolerance. It really depends, and the same situation can result in different outcomes for different people.”

      Through hard work in therapy, the narcissist can change destructive patterns and cultivate empathy. But, it’s so very difficult to get them to want to do that, or to even acknowledge that their behavior is the cause of so many of their problems, as Dr. Humphreys points out. Sometimes, Humphreys notes, therapy can work against the narcissist’s best interest.

      “I am not convinced that therapy actually helps narcissists very much because in a sense it's their fantasy relationship,” says Humphreys. “They get to talk to someone about themselves who doesn't need to share anything about themselves. There's a risk of feeding them through psychotherapy. I don’t know that this treatment would help a true pathological narcissist who tends not to understand that other people are people.”

      Narcissists are master manipulators

      “Narcissists are notoriously difficult to deal with because they are masters of manipulation,” says Britt Frank, a licensed master social worker. “They are skilled at finding pressure points and know exactly what to say or do to push our most vulnerable and wounded inner parts."

      Though narcissists clearly do not have your best interest in mind (because they’re missing or have deactivated compassion for you), they do, as Michele Leno, a psychologist and owner of DML Psychological Services, notes, have the ability to love you.

      “Narcissists are capable of love; however, their love feels conditional and wavering because they want to control you,” says Leno.

      Just to make it even more complicated, consider that a narcissist can be selective in how/where they present their narcissism.

      “Narcissism can be very problematic in some relationships and environments and not in others,” says Reiss. A person may show their narcissistic colors at work, but not at all at home, or vice versa.

      Want more articles like this? Sign up for the BETTER newsletter to get easier, healthier and smarter ways to live

      Coping with the narcissist in your life comes down to setting boundaries and cutting ties

      Just as we should not self-diagnose, we should resist diagnosing others with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

      “We absolutely can not and should not be doing our own diagnosing of [others],” says Kayce Hodos, LPC. “Only a psychiatrist or therapist should assess and diagnose mental health and/or personality disorders.

      What we can do, and what might help us deal with their toxic behaviors, is identify and name the narcissistic traits we see in the people who we suspect are narcissists. From there, we should try to engage a conversation about it with them and/or our support systems, but if the person is a full-blown narcissist, they’re unlikely to respond favorably. Additionally, if you’re dealing with an authority figure, this may not be a topic you can appropriately bring up.

      If you’re stuck with a narcissist who has targeted you, your goal should be getting out of the relationship, or, if it’s a close family member who you don’t wish to cut out of your life, then you need to work very hard on setting boundaries so that they don’t eat you up.

      “If you're stuck with a narcissist, basically what you have to do is internally not let them gaslight you,” says Reiss. “Recognize that you understand reality more than they do, but that you're not their therapist or their teacher. Just protect yourself. The key is to make their behavior less harmful to you.”

      We should also work on keeping our own narcissistic tendencies in check by asking trusted colleagues and friends to let us know when we’re being too self-centered, ignoring their needs or “making decisions based solely on how we feel, rather than on facts,” says Reiss.

      More on BETTER

      • How to tell if you're a 'conversational narcissist'
      • What is gaslighting? And how do you know if it's happening to you?
      • How to spot (and deal with) an energy vampire
      • Is someone 'orbiting' you on social media? It may be hurting your mental health
      • What is 'cookie jarring'? And have you been a victim of the dating trend?

      Want more tips like these? NBC News BETTER is obsessed with finding easier, healthier and smarter ways to live. Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

      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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      Defense and attack: how to recognize a narcissist?


      When it comes to true narcissism, psychologists assure us that the true symptoms are not narcissism, selfie cravings, and endless self-talk. A true narcissist is a traumatized person who is capable of destroying not only himself, but any close relationship in his life. Psychoanalyst Anastasia Mostovskaya, in an exclusive interview for ELLE, told how to recognize a narcissist in her environment or in herself, and also explained the causes of this personality disorder.

      Signs of a narcissist

      1. Distance

      In the process of communication, narcissists avoid intimacy and seem to slip out of relationships, creating a large psychological distance between themselves and others. Narcissists find it difficult to show empathy and compassion. He relates to himself and to others based on the functions of people, which can be characterized by the phrase "I see the goal - I see no obstacles." Partners of narcissists internally understand that their feelings are not taken into account, and often prevent narcissists from living at all.

      Movie example: Caledon Hockley, Rosa's fiancé (Titanic)

      2. Emotional pendulum

      At the beginning of a relationship, the narcissist knows how to create a feeling of great importance of the partner and treats him as a deity. And this cannot but bribe. But after some time, depreciation is sure to follow. The narcissist makes it clear that the partner does not deserve special attention and attitude, but should appreciate that they were allowed into life at all. Next to the narcissistic personality, this pendulum is constantly swinging - you are either the most beautiful, or the most terrible person in the world. By the way, such is their internal dynamics in relation to themselves.

      3. Feelings of shame

      The narcissist experiences a constant feeling of shame towards himself, as if he is not good enough, not up to some level. This is a state that eats away from the inside, which cannot be stopped, you need to run further all the time, become the best version of yourself. This gives rise to permanent anxiety, a feeling of lack of support, because there are always few achievements.

      Movie example of a narcissist: Jay Gatsby ("The Great Gatsby")

      4. Doesn't forgive mistakes

      Such a person does not allow himself to make mistakes, he needs to be perfect so that someone can love him for it. Based on this, every narcissist has developed an inner critic who is strict with himself and others. He suffers that the world around is imperfect and needs to be corrected, but he does not understand how to create his own world.

      5. Dependence on other people's opinion

      Every narcissist depends on external evaluation, and it is the opinion of others that can greatly influence one's inner self-perception. Such a person constantly analyzes how they looked at him, what they said, what they thought. When he is successful, he automatically becomes arrogant, considers himself better than others, deserving special attention. And during periods of difficult life situations, he considers himself completely worthless and unnecessary.

      6. Violates other people's space

      Able to injure his partner without attaching importance to it, appealing with the value of his opinion. By the way, usually next to the narcissist is an understanding and open partner, possibly with masochistic traits. A person with healthy boundaries will have a hard time enduring the narcissist's unceremonious encroachment and harsh, uncompromising criticism.

      Movie example of a narcissist: Samantha Jones ("Sex and the City")

      7. Feeling of self worth

      The narcissistic person is egocentric, he has no doubt that the whole world revolves around him and for him. Often, the narcissist attributes events far from himself, and in his fantasies he feels himself a significant part of other people's destinies.

      8. Lostness

      Despite their self-satisfaction, narcissists constantly feel inner emptiness and unbearable loneliness. There is even the concept of narcissistic depression, which consists in feeling lost, unappreciated, unsuccessful and useless.

      9. Control over everyone

      Every narcissist has little or no trust in other people, which is why he tends to constantly control them. He seems to know better what his family, friends and partner need. The irony is that the narcissist often forgets to ask if he guessed correctly and decided everything for others correctly?

      10. Outbursts of anger

      One of the key signs of a narcissist is uncontrollable outbursts of rage and anger, which are often unfounded. Often, the narcissist will act aggressively in response to criticism that they have no way of dealing with. By the way, before breaking out into open aggression, a narcissist can be ashamed and guilty a lot, that is, restrain their true feelings.

      An example of a narcissist from the cinema: Angel Deverell ("Angel")

      4 Causes of narcissism

      1. Complexes from childhood achievements, successes and functionality. The narcissistic dynamics is reinforced by the coldness and emotional detachment of parents who are not ready to love “just like that”, for existence itself.

      2. Psychological trauma

      A distinction must be made between an initially narcissistic character and a narcissistic injury, after which a person begins to behave like a narcissist. An example of such a trauma could be an unexpected divorce, a betrayal by a partner, a friend, being fired from a job, or anything that you might be embarrassed to talk about. After such an event, a person may close down, trust more difficultly in closeness, do not express their feelings, unconsciously push others away to protect themselves from possible pain in a new relationship. By the way, bodily stoop may even appear, as if covering the chest, as if blocking joy and love.

      3. Social stereotypes

      In society, we can practically observe "infection" with narcissism. Social networks, advertising and the film industry dictate that you need to be beautiful, successful and the best version of yourself. It is when you are beautiful, successful, build a career, then you will be accepted, then you are needed. Acceptance of oneself through the assessment of other people gives rise to a fear of criticism, as a result of which a feeling of emptiness and narcissistic tendencies develop.

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