5 Signs of a Narcissistic Personality

Is there someone in your life, perhaps someone who comes across as self-absorbed and arrogant, who you suspect may have a narcissistic personality? 

When you think of narcissism, you might think of people with an unusually high self-esteem. This is indeed how people with narcissism present themselves. In reality, they are attempting to mask a cripplingly low self-esteem. They present themselves as grandiose to make up for how they feel on the inside. But there is an emptiness to it, rather than a true confidence in themselves. They also are unable to properly regulate their self-esteem.

All these add up to why they so desperately feel the need to act entitled, prove that they are exceptional, and feel validated by others (American Psychological Association, n.d.). This also means that, in spite of appearances, they are struggling with themselves on the inside.

The signs listed in the articles are based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5, 2013). You may recognize some of these characteristics, or a hint of all these signs, in people who appear self-absorbed and narcissistic. Those who have Narcissistic Personality Disorder, however, are likely to exhibit all of these traits in a consistent pattern of behavior, and to such extremes that it affects various aspects of their lives (WebMD, n.d.; DSM-5, 2013). 

This is not made to attack anyone who may display these signs or anyone diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, but rather to understand them and bring more awareness to the topic! 

Please don’t forget to read the full disclaimer in the concluding remarks below. 

With that being said, here are 5 signs of a narcissistic personality.

1. Arrogance and conceit

An overall arrogant or haughty vibe might be the first thing you notice about someone with a narcissistic personality. They tend to be boastful, and come across as conceited. You may have observed that they consistently display an array of egotistical behaviors and attitudes. They may brag and insist that they are always right, while actually grappling with deep-seated self-doubt on the inside (DSM-5, 2013; Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2017). 

2. Inability to accept criticism 

Have you ever tried to have a discussion with this person about their mistakes or flaws, only for it to fall on deaf ears, or worse, be met with heated anger? 

Because narcissistic people act arrogant, and because their insecurities and reluctance to accept themselves run deep, they usually do not handle criticism well and refuse to acknowledge their flaws. They are unlikely to respond well to someone else pointing these flaws out (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2017).

3. Grandiose view of self

Narcissistic people also act as if they have an inflated view of themselves. They might exaggerate their talents and achievements, stretching the truth. They tend to describe themselves as more skilled and accomplished than they actually are.

They may also display a sense of entitlement, seemingly fancying themselves to be more important and superior to others. They might express beliefs of only being able to associate with equally “special” and “important” people, as well as beliefs that only other “extraordinary” people would be able to understand them (American Psychiatric Association, n.d.; DSM-5, 2013; Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2017).

4. Unhealthy need for admiration

Everyone likes to feel affirmed and validated, and it is even healthy to both give and receive affirmation every now and then.

People with a narcissistic personality, however, don’t just want admiration every once in a while. They seek admiration and validation both constantly and excessively, even when they didn’t do anything to deserve it, or if the compliment is untrue. If this is not given to them as they expect, they may become angry. Again, this relates back to a desperate need to compensate for their insecurities. As they do not know how to regulate their own self-esteem, they seek validation from others instead (American Psychiatric Association, n.d.; DSM-5, 2013; Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2017).

5. Lack of empathy

Narcissistic people are generally not empathetic, which is one reason why they are difficult to truly connect with or reach out to. For instance, you may have tried to talk to them about your feelings, but they didn’t seem to care very much. They tend to act in accordance with their own needs without considering yours.

People with a narcissistic personality are so preoccupied with themselves and their insecurities that they become either unable or unwilling to recognize the feelings and needs of others. In fact, they may go so far as to take advantage of other people due to a lack of regard for their feelings rooted in their tendency to focus on themselves (American Psychiatric Association, n.d.; Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2017).

Concluding Remarks

Some people may have narcissistic tendencies, while others have Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). To be diagnosed with the latter, they must exhibit symptoms in a consistent pattern of behavior, and these symptoms must be pervasive, occurring in a wide range of situations (DSM-5, 2013).

A full diagnosis from a mental health professional is highly recommended. In addition to a proper diagnosis, therapy can be helpful in treating this disorder. 

If you think someone in your life may have NPD, it would be wise to proceed with caution in suggesting therapy, as they are unlikely to acknowledge that they may have a personality disorder, let alone be immediately open to a suggestion to seek help for it. They may, however, be interested in seeking professional help for other mental health issues they are experiencing (ex. depression, anxiety, etc.).  

As people with NPD can be charming and manipulative, make sure to seek a professional who is trained in dealing with personality disorders. One of your options is to consider consulting with your chosen professional first regarding the best way to bring the person you know to therapy (GoodTherapy, n.d.).

References

American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Speaking of psychology: Recognizing a narcissist. American Psychological Association. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/research/action/speaking-of-psychology/narcissism. 

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing; 2013.​

GoodTherapy. (n.d.). Narcissism. GoodTherapy. Retrieved October 21, 2021, from https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/issues/narcissism. 

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2017, November 18). Narcissistic personality disorder. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/narcissistic-personality-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20366662. 

WebMD. (n.d.). Narcissistic personality disorder: Diagnosis, causes, treatments. WebMD. Retrieved October 21, 2021, from https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/narcissistic-personality-disorder. What are personality disorders? American Psychiatric Association. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/personality-disorders/what-are-personality-disorders.

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