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I’m Fabulous! Don’t You Agree?

Simply put, it’s the tendency to think very highly of yourself and to have little or no regard for others. A narcissist is selfish, vain, and a glutton for attention. But there’s a range. Just because you have some of the traits doesn’t mean you’re mentally unhealthy. 

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When Is Narcissism a Problem?

Experts might say it’s when those traits start to hurt your relationships and distort your sense of self. Extreme narcissism can cross over to a mental illness called narcissistic personality disorder. Your life revolves around your need for approval. You don’t understand or care about others’ feelings. You’re convinced you’re special, and you need others to acknowledge it.

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Mirror, Mirror

The word narcissism comes from a mythical Greek youth who couldn’t pull himself away from his own reflection. Narcissus was beautiful. Narcissists, on the other hand, don’t have to be beautiful to believe they are. They’re convinced that they’re superior, even when it’s not the reality.

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Endless Hunger

Praise. That’s what a narcissist wants from you. All the time. Their appetite for it is unlimited. And it goes in only one direction, so don’t expect any in return. And if that constant stream of flattery and admiration stops even for a second, they can turn hostile or aggressive very quickly.

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They Don’t Care

Really, they don’t. Other people’s feelings aren’t on a narcissist’s radar. They usually never grow any empathy. They see you as a tool to get what they want, or an obstacle in their way. Sometimes, they don’t mean to be jerks. They’re simply blind to how they affect you.

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They’re Bullies

A narcissist’s puffed-up self-image often masks a fear that they don’t measure up. When someone punctures their ego or insults them, narcissists can lash out. They demean, belittle, and intimidate. Many studies have linked narcissism with higher levels of aggression and violence.

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Romance With a Narcissist

You might not see the red flags at first. Narcissists are often charming and popular. But over time, they may become cold, manipulative, and cruel. And they are often unfaithful, always on the lookout for a more impressive or better-looking partner.

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Like Attracts Like?

You’d think narcissists would favor partners who feed their egos or who put up with their insensitivity. But that’s usually not the case. Narcissists hook up with all personality types. Still, they’re a bit more likely to end up in a relationship with another narcissist.

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Narcissists as Co-Workers

They make good first impressions and excel in job interviews. But they can be lousy hires. Narcissists overestimate their own skills and put yours down. They’ll do whatever it takes to impress. They’ll barge into private conversations, give unwanted advice, and shamelessly steal ideas. They’re also rated worse by the employees they manage, except by those who are narcissists themselves.

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It’s Not All Bad

A dose of narcissism can be a good thing. It can build your self-esteem and give you joy. You’re less likely to be depressed, lonely, or discouraged. ”Normal narcissists” often are excellent speakers and visionaries. That may be why they also tend to earn bigger salaries in the corporate world.

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Think Someone’s a Narcissist?

Just ask them! They are surprisingly willing to tell you exactly who they are. Not that they think there’s anything wrong with them. They might even say you’re a sucker for not being a narcissist yourself. They for sure won’t apologize for their behavior or how they live their life.

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If Your Partner Is a Narcissist

They may lull you with grand dreams when life is good. But when the fantasy pops, you may become the root of all their problems. Don’t buy into either distorted picture. It helps if you:

  • Don’t make excuses for them when they lie or hurt others.
  • Realize they will do the same to you.
  • Focus on your own dreams and goals.
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How to Handle a Narcissist

Set boundaries. Decide where your limit is. Stick to it even as they try to punish, charm, or bully you.

Criticize gently. They may get angry if you threaten their self-image. Focus on how their behavior makes you feel rather than on their intentions.

Walk away if they become angry. Try again when they’re calm.

Don’t argue. They probably won’t hear you and may attack your motives.

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Treatment

Narcissists aren’t keen to get professional help. After all, defensiveness is one of their hallmarks. And there’s no proven treatment. Some experts say talk therapy may help narcissists better understand how their behavior affects others. Some therapists may try more effective treatments meant for conditions with similar traits, like borderline personality disorder.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 03/15/2018 Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on March 15, 2018

SOURCES:
American Journal of Psychiatry: “Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Diagnostic and Clinical Challenges.”

American Psychiatric Association: “DSM-IV and DSM-5 Criteria for the Personality Disorders.”

American Psychological Association: “Research Debunks Commonly Held Belief About Narcissism.”

Encyclopaedia Britannica: “Narcissus.”

Harvard Business Review: “Who Empathizes with Machiavellian or Narcissistic Leaders?”

Helpguide.org: “Narcissistic Personality Disorder.”

Joshua Miller, PhD, professor and director, clinical training program, University of Georgia Department of Psychology.

Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology: “Narcissism in Romantic Relationships: A Dyadic Perspective.”

Mayo Clinic: “Narcissistic personality disorder.”

Personality and Individual Differences: “Personality and Individual Differences.”

Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment: “Narcissism and newlywed marriage: Partner characteristics and marital trajectories.”

PLOS One: “Development and Validation of the Single Item Narcissism Scale (SINS).”

Psychology of Narcissism, Nova Science Publishers: “Physiological And Health-related Correlates Of The Narcissistic Personality.”

SANE.org: “Is narcissism common? The answer may surprise you.”

Social Psychological and Personality Science: “Do Bad Guys Get Ahead or Fall Behind? Relationships of the Dark Triad of Personality With Objective and Subjective Career Success.”

University of British Columbia Department of Psychology: “Job Interviews Reward Narcissists, Punish Applicants From Modest Cultures.”

Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on March 15, 2018

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.