“They will find your weakness and penetrate it.”
Deep within their core, they’re sad, insecure, shallow, and empty. How come such people are capable of causing such trouble outside of them?
Their urge to escape that sense of sadness, shallowness, and insecurity makes narcissists go beyond their ways to attempt to fill that emptiness with anything superficial.
As much as it is sad, narcissistic behavior can be highly toxic and damaging.
A narcissist’s abuse and manipulation tactics are so subtle, so consistent, and so eventual that any of us could be prey to their trap. This is what they do best.
We’ve been using “narcissist” for a long time. Starting from the “myth of Narcissus”, to Froyd using it as a term to describe self-absorbed people, to now it is used as a term to define a personality disorder.
Here’s everything you need to know about narcissists and their diagnosed condition!
Narcissistic Personality Disorder – Narcissism vs NPD
Narcissism is a common trait among people. We all have nuances of narcissism, however, there’s a distinguishable difference between narcissism and NPD.
Narcissism is often considered the prioritization and preoccupation of and with the superficial (how one looks and how one is perceived by others).
Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a personality disorder characterized by an intense belief that one is special, unique, and entitled. This belief and illusion are often followed by the need and expectation to also be treated as special.
NPD is recognized as a disorder in DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), and research shows that 1-3% of the population are diagnosed with it.
Although these statistics are questionable since people with this disorder rarely seek professional treatment due to the belief that they excel in everything.
According to DSM-5, Narcissistic Personality Disorder has 9 traits, and a person has to meet only five of them to be diagnosed with NPD.
The 9 traits of Narcissistic Personality Disorder
What exactly characterizes a narcissist?
A narcissist displays various patterns of behaviors, traits, and characteristics within them and their behavior. Generally, there are 9 traits that are found to be most common among narcissists.
Here are the 9 traits of a narcissist:
1. Perceiving oneself as grandiose
This perception is manifested as seeing oneself as grandiose, unique, special, and one of a kind.
This trait gives a narcissist an unrealistic sense of superiority among others, leading them to behavior such as berating or bullying.
2. A high preoccupation with superficiality and power
According to Robyn Smith, a leading trauma and relationship coach for women and couples, shallowness is one of the most significant traits of narcissists.
This shallowness is often manifested in an excessive focus “[…] on achievement, success, power, and control.” Smith adds.
3. A significantly high sense of entitlement
High sense of entitlement is one of the most characteristic, and easy-to-spot traits of narcissists.
The belief that they’re special and way above others makes narcissists have a significantly high sense of entitlement.
4. Requirement and demand for special treatment
Narcissists see themselves as highly important and superior, hence they require and demand special treatment as well.
Since they see themselves as the center of the world, they get offended if they’re treated the same as ‘normal people’.
5. Remarkable need for admiration
Narcissists are very preoccupied with others’ perception of them, so much that it rules their lives, way of behaving, and set of goals.
They require, feed, and rely on the admiration that they receive from others.
6. Envy and jealousy
Narcissists envy and are often jealous of people who are ‘more talented’, ‘more successful’, ‘smarter’, or ‘better looking’ than them.
This threatens their ego and their image of self, hence the exponentially high envy and jealousy towards people that can be perceived as ‘better’ than them.
On the other hand, narcissists are also likely to project this envy and jealousy and have an illusionary belief that other people are highly jealous and envious of them and their achievements.
7. No sense of empathy
Lack of empathy is one of the main traits that characterize narcissists.
With very low emotional intelligence, narcissists tend to fail to perceive and comprehend other people’s emotions and feelings.
It’s often the lack of perception and comprehension of emotions and feelings during childhood that leads a person to become narcissistic as an adult.
Due to their exponential focus on themselves, their needs, and how to successfully fulfill those needs, throughout their lives, narcissists never learn empathy. Hence their bad reputation.
8. Exploitative of people and their emotions
Due to their lack of empathy, narcissists tend to exploit people to reach the goals they’re aiming for.
A narcissist is capable of doing whatever it takes to get what they want. That trait combined with a lack of empathy leads to highly manipulative behavior that includes exploitative behavior.
Narcissists don’t see people as individuals with feelings and emotions, they see them as tools to get what they want.
9. Domineering, raging, and arrogant
Their self-perception, lack of empathy, and their demand to be treated especially also make narcissists domineering, arrogant, and raging.
They’re characterized by rage and this sense that people owe them a good manner, a good treatment no matter what they do or say.
Narcissists have a hard time controlling, perceiving, and understanding their emotions. In fact, they avoid dealing with them at all.
This is why they often tend to have rage building up within them and exploding from time to time.
|A victim of manipulation can often be unaware that they’re being manipulated. Especially if they’re already isolated.
Reach the hand of a professional.
The five types of narcissists: is there such a thing as a ‘good narcissist?’
Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a clinical psychologist, has put narcissists into a few categories according to their patterns. Generally, these could be considered patterns themselves.
Let’s take a look at each one of them according to Dr. Durvasula:
1. The malignant or toxic narcissist
This pattern of narcissism renders people that are highly exploitative, liars, and cheaters.
They see people not as individuals but as tools that they can use to achieve particular goals, hence this type of narcissist can often have a high status in society (i.e. be very successful).
They’re often mean, and highly manipulative, yet on the other hand, they’re very alluring and charming when you first meet them.
Their surface is glowy and shiny, however, their depths are extremely mean and manipulative.
2. The classical or grandiose narcissist
A classical or grandiose narcissist is the typical narcissist most of us imagine when the name is mentioned.
These are typically the people you find showing off the most, making noise about how they’re not treated the way they should, and shouting “Do you know who I am?” when receiving a ‘normal’ treatment.
This type tends to be less manipulative, mean, or exploitative than the malignant narcissist. However, they do their damage once you stick around long enough.
3. The covert or vulnerable narcissist
Dr. Durvasula explains this type to be very mysterious.
This is the narcissist that feels like the world owes them a lot, they feel like they’re highly special yet the world isn’t ready for them because they’re very ahead of their time.
They’re often making plans of ‘making it out there’ however, once those plans come to life and the rest of the people don’t appreciate it enough, this narcissist will put it on others instead of looking for the problem within themselves.
They avoid facing criticism by not accepting it at all and having the ‘no one cares because they don’t understand how special I am’ approach to criticism.
4. The communal narcissist
They’re in constant search of validation. This is the typical type of narcissist that does charity so that they can post it on their social media and let the world see it.
In other words, the communal narcissist won’t do any charity if the world isn’t there to see it.
This is often the type to be mean or insensitive to the ‘normal’ people. They’re all about their image being recognized, validated, and seen by the world.
5. The benign narcissist
This type often comes off as immature, and this is usually due to their lack of self-awareness.
The benign narcissist doesn’t really do mean things on purpose, however, they’re very focused on the superficial things (e.g. what they own, how they look, etc).
Often harmless, they can be fun to be around but for very short periods.
What are the red flags of a narcissist? Signs you’re interacting with a narcissist
The definitions, terms, and phrases that portray narcissists are various. However, at this point, we do have a grasp of what they might behave like and what we can expect from them.
On the other hand, they’re so good at what they do that we often get blind by their charm and forget entirely about these various terms and definitions.
Here are some narcissistic relationship patterns and signs that you’re dealing with a narcissist:
– Manipulative behavior
Narcissists are extremely manipulative. You find yourself convinced to do something, you find yourself doing something not because they directly told you to, but because they passively manipulated you into it.
– Lack of self-awareness
Robyn Smyth states that “[people with NPD] do not have much self-awareness of their pattern or if they do, they often will not admit it.”
So, a narcissist often sees their behavior as unforced through strategically planned.
They’re not built to see the flaws within themselves, they’re built to avoid them and their shallowness.
– They can be very charming at the initial stages of meeting
A narcissist will do anything to allure you, especially during the initial stages of meeting or dating them.
They make you feel as if you’re in the center of the world and everything about you is so wonderful.
On the other hand, they present themselves as wonderful as well, making the effect of their praise even stronger on you and the way you perceive them.
– Inability to control the need for admiration: They make everything revolve around them
The further into the connection with a narcissist the further their behavior spirals down letting you see their true colors, yet not being able to escape their cage.
You might say something or do something that is irrelevant to them, it’ll be about them.
They take everything personally as they’re self-centered and don’t see past that.
– They need you to constantly provide them with validation and admiration
Narcissists use people as sources of validation and admiration. If you can’t provide them with what they’re wanting, you’re useless to them.
This is why you’ll notice their chronic need and passive demand for praise and validation from you to them.
– Constant demand for power
Another very significant trait of a relationship with a narcissist is the power dynamic within the relationship.
The power dynamic in a relationship with a narcissist is unbalanced and chaotic. They’ll demand power, they’ll demand control over anything they can have control of.
– They show themselves as superior: their image to them is highly important
Again, the further into the relationship the deeper into their true colors. You’ll notice that they’re not as good, kind, and genuine as they portray themselves.
You’ll notice behavior such as pretending and lying. Although you see the mean parts within them, they’re very cautious about not showing this to other people.
– Superficial conversations without any emotional depth
Narcissists have shallow depths within them. It is sad, however, it is also dangerous.
Due to that shallowness, a narcissist is incapable of forming an emotional connection. Hence, most conversations with them tend to be superficial and lack emotional depth.
– They don’t take accountability
According to the Co-Founder & Relationship Expert at So Syncd, “One of the core traits of being a narcissist is thinking that you are superior to others and this in itself signals a lack of awareness because they aren’t viewing themselves objectively.”
This also contributes to their illusionary perception and view of their actions as well. Combined with a lack of empathy, narcissists have a hard time taking accountability for their wrongdoings to others.
Narcissists “need to be in a position of power – can’t admit weakness or vulnerability” adds Robyn Smith.
– They’re hot and cold
“Narcissists also blow hot and cold as a way of manipulating you.” says the Co-Founder & Relationship Expert at So Syncd.
They’ll give you just enough affection and attention to keep you hooked on them and to keep you wanting more.
They disappear and reappear leaving you wondering and trying harder to make them stay longer this time.
– They’re willing to do anything for things to go their way
If you’re dealing with a narcissist you’ll notice that they’ll find their ways of convincing people, they’ll find their ways of pleasing themselves and giving the flow the direction they want.
Due to their highly manipulative nature, narcissists are capable of having things go their way otherwise there’ll be trouble.
-You feel like you owe them
If they do you any favor, a narcissist will use every trick under their sleeve to give you the illusion of just how hard they’ve worked to do you that favor.
This means even if it is just spending time with you. You’ll feel like you owe them a lot because they feed you with the illusion that they’re sacrificing when doing you a favor or even giving you time and attention.
– They keep disregarding other people
When a narcissist’s ego feels threatened they often fall prey to their own rage and vomit it out.
Narcissists are very likely to disregard people, berate them, and talk down on them. If they haven’t talked you down already, they might start soon once they sense you’re ‘better’ than them.
Since they have an unrealistic sense of self-perception, they find others inferior compared to their grandiose and superior presence.
– They don’t take criticism well
“How dare you? Do you have any idea of who I am?!” This is something you’ll hear often if you try to criticize a narcissist.
No matter how constructive, no matter how calm. A narcissist doesn’t like criticism, as they see themselves as grandiose and extraordinary, criticism can ruin that image of self that they have, hence the tantrums and misbehavior.
Tactics and manipulation techniques that are commonly used by narcissists
Narcissists tend to use manipulation tactics to get things their way. Careless of the damage they’re causing, most narcissists use:
“Love-bombing is usually the first tactic a narcissist will use to secure your trust.” says Smith.
Love-bombing is a tactic used to make you feel valuable, cherished, and noticed by someone who barely knows you.
“[…]they’ll often gaslight you as a way of gaining control.” says the Relationship Expert at So Syncd.
“They distort the truth to make you doubt yourself. Not only does this enable them to reframe situations and perceptions to protect their ego, but it also destabilizes their victim,” she adds.
Gaslighting is a harmful form of abuse and manipulation. It is a tactic used to question your reality and perception of self.
– False deadlines
The Relationship Expert at So Syncd also gave us an insight on not-so-known tactics that narcissists use.
She says “They’ll claim that they need you to get back to them or give an answer by a certain time.”
This way they understand your borders and limits and their strength. On the other hand, it feeds their ego and provides them a sense of security.
– Flying Monkeys
To raise their image higher and put yours lower, a narcissist will choose specific people and ‘tell’ them just how horrific of a person you are.
Usually, these are people more likely to believe them and people who are easier to manipulate.
The Co-Founder of So Syncd adds “Another less-known tactic that narcissists use is talking down at you. It might not be obvious but patronizing comments here and there can add up and make their victim feel like they are less intelligent.”
She says that this is yet another way narcissists gain control and power within the relationship and you as an individual.
Narcissists often isolate their victims by bad-mouthing their victim’s friends and/or family, giving them a sense that they know something their victims don’t.
This way they isolate their victim from having a real perspective without being affected by manipulation tactics. A perspective on the truth about their manipulative and controlling behavior.
“It’s VERY difficult to be in an intimate relationship with a full-blown narcissist because they do not know how to have depth and vulnerability.” says the Co-Founder of Syncd.
Narcissists are capable of lying and twisting reality whenever it is convenient for them. It can be for anything small or big. As long as it is reasonable to them, they’ll lie for it without going noticed.
Narcissists see people as tools they can use to get the things they want, be it a success, pleasure, or simple pretty company that suits their image.
“They are very capable of figuring out what you want to hear and how to build you up so they can tell you that and win you over,” says Smith.
She adds that “[…]later they will control you with this knowledge and power over you.”
What to do? How to handle a relationship or even a conversation with a narcissist?
Dealing with a narcissist can have damaging effects on your well-being and mental health. If treated carelessly the situation can take only so many wrong turns.
“[…]hold your ground but don’t push back or they will push harder. Show your power but don’t try to argue or fight with them or they will win,” says Smith.
Here are a few other things you can do if dealing with a narcissist:
– Build a support system;
– Get professional help;
– Join support groups;
– Don’t push back;
– Keep your boundaries clear and steady;
– Educate yourself on the issue and the situation;
Narcissists have a sad and tragic reality. These were the children highly ignored or highly praised superficially.
These were the children who weren’t taught empathy, and who weren’t taught how to process and perceive emotion.
It is a sad reality, and it is tragic. However, it is of utmost importance that you avoid feeling the need or the obligation to heal them.
Only a therapist can do that. And it takes a lot of work, a lot of effort, and the tiniest bit of self-awareness within a narcissist.
American Psychiatric Association; DSM-5 https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596
Robyn Smith – is an award-winning speaker, a leading trauma and relationship coach for women and couples, and founder of the Rock Your Relationship movement.
The Co-Founder & Relationship Expert at So Syncd, a dating app that matches compatible personality types.
Dr. Ramani Durvasula – is a clinical psychologist, professor of psychology, media expert, and author.