These are the behaviours you need to record that are evidence that someone is a narcissist:
They don’t have to do all of these things to be a narcissist, just some.
- They behave as if they are really important even if they aren’t, so that they talk about themselves a lot, conversations with them usually end up being about themselves and they assume you are interested in what they have to say;
- They have a sense of entitlement and an overdeveloped assumption that they have a right to things or to behave in certain ways;
- They expect or require constant, excessive admiration;
- They expect to be recognised as superior even without achievements that warrant it;
- They exaggerate their achievements and talents and may lie about them;
- They have fantasies about their own success, power, brilliance, beauty or that they are the perfect mate;
- They believe that, because they are superior, they should only associate with equally special people;
- They monopolise conversations and belittle or look down on people they perceive as inferior;
- They expect special favours and unquestioning compliance with their expectations;
- They take advantage and are manipulative of others to get what they want;
- They are unable or unwilling to recognise the needs and feelings of others;
- They are envious of others and believe others envy them;
- They act in an arrogant or haughty manner, coming across as conceited, boastful and pretentious;
- They insist on having the best of everything.
In addition if someone is a narcissist they may also:
- Have trouble handling anything they perceive as criticism;
- Become impatient or angry when they don’t receive special treatment;
- Feel easily slighted;
- React with rage or contempt and try to belittle other people to make themselves appear superior;
- Have difficulty regulating their own emotions and behaviour, so that they easily lose their temper, become rude, sulk or make a fuss;
- Experience major problems dealing with stress and adapting to change because they don’t feel that they should have to;
- Feel depressed and moody if other people suggest that they fall short of perfection;
- Have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation.
Narcissism is much talked about and you will find a lot online about it. Some of what you will find online will be inaccurate and misleading so look for trusted sites. Here’s one site where you can find out more.
How will I know if someone is not only a narcissist but has a Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
Narcissistic patterns of behaviour in milder form show in lots of people but in their extreme form they can be called a personality disorder. Narcissistic personality disorder is a way of describing the extreme form of narcissism and the definition is based on the extent that it causes harm to themselves or others or both. Narcissistic personality disorder is a medical term used when the pattern of behaviour described above is so persistent and severe that it is more than just irritating or a nuisance but does harm to themselves or to others involved with them or both and merits some intervention to help either the narcissist or the people suffering from the narcissist’s behaviour..
The threshold for considering that someone has a narcissistic personality disorder is a matter of opinion and not something that the normal member of the public has the experience or training to judge. It is not a useful term to use unless you really know what you are talking about. Troubled or difficult intimate relationships are very common and are not in themselves a sign of a personality disorder but if the difficulties are extreme and are caused by a pattern of narcissistic behaviour, it is not unreasonable to think of it as a disorder of personality. If the pattern of behaviour extends to the point of, for example, committing a criminal offence, telling serious lies, making serious false allegations such as sexual abuse or to making bogus claims about themselves, for example claiming to have a medical diagnosis they don’t have, it has certainly passed the threshold for a disorder.
People with narcissistic personality disorder won’t be inclined to think that anything could be wrong with themselves and are more likely to think that it is the other person who has the problem, so they are unlikely to seek help for themselves. If they do seek help, it’s more likely to be either demanding that someone sort out the other person who is failing to recognise their general marvellousness or they may seek help for what they think of as symptoms of depression or another mental problem, caused by the lack of appreciation by others. Or they may not uncommonly succumb to problems due to drug or alcohol misuse.
To learn more about narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder, there are plenty of YouTube videos, such as this interview of ours about false allegations, or this by a psychologist talking about what it is, how to recognise it and what to do to manage your relationship.
Why is it important to recognise if someone is a narcissist?
If you’re reading this because you’re worried you might have chosen a narcissist as a partner and/or parent for your children you really do need to think about your circumstances carefully. You are probably vulnerable to being manipulated by them, bearing in mind that you allowed yourself to get heavily involved with them in the first place. You are likely to need support and advice from someone who can see what the problem is and who definitely has your interests at heart. Narcissists are difficult to deal with at the best of times and you are likely to find it harder than most, so don’t take action before thinking things through. Our blog about coping with conflict with an manipulative ex gives helpful guidance and advice.
What are the likely causes of narcissism?
It’s not known what causes someone to be narcissistic. We all probably have it in us but usually our family and friends teach us early in life that we are not particularly special and narcissistic behaviour will not be tolerated. If someone doesn’t learn this lesson early in life, they can grow up to be monstrously demanding like they were as a baby. Narcissism is often understandable in light of the individual’s past, for example, if they grew up being treated as if they were very special and had special entitlements. It is also possible though that they grew up in great hardship but learned at some stage that, if they focus fully on their self-interest and bully people by demanding special attention, they often succeed in getting what they want. People are complex and there are no simple explanations. As with other aspects of personality development and with other mental disorders, the cause of narcissism is likely to be complex.
What are the risk factors if someone is a narcissist?
Narcissistic personality disorder is diagnosed more often in men than women but this may only be due to diagnostic bias and social attitudes towards attention seeking in men and women. The patterns of behaviour are often easily recognised from late childhood onwards. However, babies are very demanding and self-centred and although children may show traits of narcissism, this may simply be typical of their age and a stage in development It doesn’t mean they’ll go on to develop narcissistic personality disorder. Nevertheless, how parents respond to it may be very important in teaching children a proper respect for other people’s needs.
Are there treatments available for narcissism?
Of the individual:
As with all personality disorders, treatment of narcissistic personality disorder is very difficult and the behaviour tends to persist throughout life. It is particularly hopeless to try to treat an individual who does not want treatment. If, however, a person with a narcissistic personality disorder seeks help, there are treatments which claim to be effective, although with little evidence of effectiveness. Principally these are various forms of psychotherapy, or talking therapies. Obviously, however, giving a narcissist appointments to talk about themselves is likely to reinforce rather than reduce their self preoccupation.
Of those affected:
The more important therapy is for those affected by the narcissist’s behaviour, such as family, partners and friends. Here, education about the behaviour and its persistence are likely to be the most important help that can be given. Help to cope with the stress of separating from the narcissist, which is likely to involve much anger and recrimination and may even be dangerous, may be essential. For those who wish or have to remain in a relationship, supportive psychotherapy may be helpful as will learning ways of staying more emotionally distant and finding techniques for managing the relationship.
Here are some commonly used coping techniques suggested by psychologists:
- Know what you’re dealing with. Get to understand how narcissists operate by reading about it;
- Leave the narcissist;
- If you’re going to stay involved, be realistic about the future. Narcissists are predictable and won’t change. They will upset you or let you down in predictable ways so you can prepare for it and not be surprised or disappointed;
- Keep your interactions superficial, don’t get emotionally involved and don’t join in by rising to the challenge;
- Set boundaries. Manage your time and interactions with the narcissist to reduce stress to you and limit the harm.