Is there someone in your life, perhaps someone who comes across as self-centered 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 appear. In reality, narcissists have a cripplingly low-self esteem, accompanied by an inability to accept their weaknesses and regulate their own feelings.
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.
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.). As a result, they tend to hurt and even abuse the people around them.
The signs listed in this article 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 these signs, in people who appear self-absorbed and narcissistic. Those who have Narcissistic Personality Disorder, however, are likely to exhibit these traits in a consistent pattern of behavior, and to such extremes that it impairs various aspects of their lives or the lives of others (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
The first thing you might notice about someone with a narcissistic personality is an arrogant or haughty disposition. They tend to be boastful, and come across as conceited. You may have observed that they consistently display an egotistical behavior and attitude. While grappling with deep-seated self-doubt on the inside, they may tend to overcompensate by bragging and insisting they are always right, making them impossibly difficult to reason with (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? Worse still, your good intentions to communicate calmly may have been confronted with heated anger.
Because narcissistic people act arrogant, and because their inability to accept themselves runs rather 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). This becomes a hindrance to both personal development and relationships with others, as understanding and learning from one’s own mistakes is a key element in growth.
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, appearing to fancy themselves as more important and superior to others. They might express beliefs of only being able to associate with people who are supposedly as “special” and “important” as they are. They may also believe 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 to an unhealthy extent—both constantly and excessively, even when they didn’t do anything to deserve it, or even if the compliment is untrue. If this is not given to them as they expect, they may become unfairly angry.
As they do not know how to regulate their own self-esteem, they tend to 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, only to be discouraged by their indifference or disinterest. 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 others’ feelings and needs. This often reaches dangerous lengths, in that they may take advantage of and even abuse the people around them due to a lack of regard for their feelings (American Psychiatric Association, n.d.; Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2017).
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. This pattern would then lead to clinically significant impairment or distress (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, be 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 this person to therapy (GoodTherapy, n.d.).
You may also consider whether it is best for you to distance yourself from this person, and/or to seek professional help for yourself, as the trauma and pain caused by narcissistic abuse may require healing as well. Therapy can help with your healing process. Please do not hesitate to reach out to a qualified professional if you have been suffering.
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.