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Identifying a Narcissist

Identifying a Narcissist


The term narcissist is used quite often, most times without clear understanding that it is an actual personality disorder. It is often believed it describes someone who is 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 behaviours come in.

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) involves a pattern of self-centred, arrogant thinking and behaviour, 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 behaviour, 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.


Signs and symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder and the severity of symptoms vary. People with the disorder can:

  •  Have an exaggerated sense of self-importance
  •  Have a sense of entitlement and require constant, excessive admiration
  •  Expect to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
  •  Exaggerate achievements and talents
  •  Be preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
  •  Believe they are superior and can only associate with equally special people
  •  Monopolize conversations and belittle or look down on people they perceive as inferior
  •  Expect special favours and unquestioning compliance with their expectations
  •  Take advantage of others to get what they want
  •  Have an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
  •  Be envious of others and believe others envy them
  •  Behave in an arrogant or haughty manner, coming across as conceited, boastful and pretentious
  •  Insist on having the best of everything — for instance, the best car or office

At the same time, people with narcissistic personality disorder have trouble handling anything they perceive as criticism, and they can:

  •  Become impatient or angry when they don’t receive special treatment
  •  Have significant interpersonal problems and easily feel slighted
  •  React with rage or contempt and try to belittle the other person to make themselves appear superior
  •  Have difficulty regulating emotions and behaviour
  •  Experience major problems dealing with stress and adapting to change
  •  Feel depressed and moody because they fall short of perfection
  • Have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation