Narcissism: Symptoms and Signs

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on December 02, 2020

Narcissism is extreme self-involvement to the degree that it makes a person ignore the needs of those around them. While everyone may show occasional narcissistic behavior, true narcissists frequently disregard others or their feelings. They also do not understand the effect that their behavior has on other people.

It’s important to note that narcissism is a trait, but it can also be a part of a larger personality disorder. Not every narcissist has Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), as narcissism is a spectrum. People who are at the highest end of the spectrum are those that are classified as NPD, but others, still with narcissistic traits, may fall on the lower end of the narcissistic spectrum.

People who show signs of narcissism can often be very charming and charismatic. They often don’t show negative behavior right away, especially in relationships. People who show narcissism often like to surround themselves with people who feed into their ego. They build relationships to reinforce their ideas about themselves, even if these relationships are superficial.

Types of Narcissism

There are two different types of narcissism that narcissistic behavior can fall under. The two types can have common traits but come from different childhood experiences. The two types also dictate the different ways people will behave in relationships.

Grandiose Narcissism

People with this behavior were most likely treated as if they were superior or above others during childhood. These expectations can follow them as they become adults. They tend to brag and be elitist.

Those with grandiose narcissism are aggressive, dominant, and exaggerate their importance. They are very self-confident and aren’t sensitive.

Vulnerable Narcissism

This behavior is usually the result of childhood neglect or abuse. People with this behavior are much more sensitive. Narcissistic behavior helps to protect them against feelings of inadequacy. Even though they go between feeling inferior and superior to others, they feel offended or anxious when others don’t treat them as if they’re special.

Signs of Narcissism

Narcissism is still being studied and explored, since many narcissists and people with NPD don’t seek treatment. However, there are some common traits of people with narcissistic behavior that you may be able to spot.

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Sense of Entitlement

A common sign of people with narcissism is the belief that they are superior to others and deserve special treatment. They believe that others should be obedient to their wishes and that the rules don’t apply to them.

Manipulative Behavior

Another common trait of narcissism is manipulative or controlling behavior. A narcissist will at first try to please you and impress you, but eventually, their own needs will always come first.

When relating to other people, narcissists will try to keep people at a certain distance in order to maintain control. They may even exploit others to gain something for themselves.

Need for Admiration

One of the most common signs of a narcissist is a constant need for praise or admiration. People with this behavior need to feel validation from others and often brag or exaggerate their accomplishments for recognition. They also like to feel appreciated to boost their ego.

Lack of Empathy

Lack of empathy is another sign of narcissism. This means that the narcissist is unwilling or unable to empathize with the needs, wants, or feelings of other people. This also makes it difficult for them to take responsibility for their own behavior.

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Arrogance

People with narcissistic behavior already see themselves as superior to others, so they may become rude or abusive when they don’t receive the treatment they think they deserve. While they hold themselves superior, they may speak or act rudely toward those that they deem are inferior.

Dealing with Narcissism

Those with high levels of narcissism or NPD may learn how to recognize their behavior with the right treatment. This can help to improve their lives and the lives of those around them. Historically, narcissists do not seek help since it doesn’t fit the self-image they have of themselves. They may need the encouragement of a loved one to help them seek out professional help.

If you recognize that you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, you can change your dynamic in the relationship and challenge your partner to alter how they view you and your relationship. It is possible to change the way your partner looks and you and to help mitigate some of the effects of narcissistic behavior.

If you recognize narcissism in yourself, you can begin to change your self-esteem to self-compassion. This means treating yourself with kindness instead of comparing yourself to others. You can stop trying to evaluate yourself against others, which can lower your need for praise and recognition.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Good Therapy: “Narcissism.”

Different Brains: “Mental Health & Relationships: Warning Signs of Dating a Narcissist.”

National Domestic Violence Hotline: “Narcissism and Abuse.”

PsychAlive: “In a Relationship with a Narcissist? What You Need to Know About Narcissistic Relationships.”

Vital Record: Narcissism: Signs and Symptoms.”

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