Types of Narcissists
Disclaimer: This article is for educational purposes, not to be used as professional diagnosis. Please don’t take this as a personal attack on your character.
You scroll your Instagram feed. You see your acquaintance upload multiple shots of herself, eating bread in a cafe. She poses in fancy clothes, branded bags, and drives a fancy car.
Then you click on the explore button.
Instagram algorithm suggests to you accounts posting motivational quotes. Somehow or another, while mindlessly “strolling” in the garden of Instagram, you stumble across an Instagram of a random guy posting Philosophical quotes and pictures of him reading lots of books.
Then you open your Twitter account and see a Tweet from your friend lamenting about how her roommate is “such a narcissist”.
Or perhaps, you know of someone who always wants to win in every conversation, instead of looking for a common ground.
What do you think of the above behaviours?
Is it okay to label a person as a narcissist based on a few posts on social media?
How can a narcissist be diagnosed, and who can diagnose a person as having narcissistic personality disorder? Can we classify people according to different types of narcissism?
Keep the above questions in mind, and do read through this article, and hopefully it can shed some light about narcissism and give you answers to the questions. So first, let’s take a look at different types of narcissists:
- The grandiose narcissist
“Oh, manager, shoot some pictures of me in this dress. I look so gorgeous. I will get lots of likes from my fans if I post this on Instagram,” said Claudia.
So, you take her phone and spend 2 hours shooting her pictures in multiple poses.
She then uploads the photos on her Instagram and after a few minutes, she becomes grumpy and complains, “Why does my post only receive 25,000 likes after 5 minutes? Normally I will get 50, 000 likes!”
Psych2goers, have you ever encountered a person who is charming, self-absorbed, entitled, aggressive, and authoritarian? You feel that they are overly callous, authoritarian, aggressive, and think highly of themselves without trying to put themselves in other people’s shoes. They are also argumentative and want to win in every altercation or in a slight misunderstanding.
They are classified as grandiose narcissists. They portray the classical presentation of Narcissistic Personality Disorder according to the criteria listed in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) V.
According to a licensed marriage and family therapist, Darlene Lancer (2021), they often seek validation from outward sources. When they are in a romantic relationship, grandiose narcissists try to obtain power by game-playing. As parents, they view their children as a narcissistic supply, or an extension of themselves, in order to obtain validation from other people.
Berit Brogaard, D.M.Sci., Ph.D. (2020) stated that a grandiose narcissist is extraverted, has low neuroticism, and displays overt expressions of superiority and entitlement.
2. The vulnerable narcissist
Psych2goers, let’s look at the criteria below:
- Introverted personality: A person who appears unapproachable, unfriendly or cold, negative, unassertive, and as having a need for alone time.
- High in neuroticism: There are six facets of neuroticism (anxiousness/panic-proneness, depressiveness, hostility, self-consciousness, immoderation, and vulnerability). A person who is both high in neuroticism and self-centered, will most probably have a tremendous worry about your perceived superior status like one’s own appearance, prospects, savings, or relationship status.
- Thrive on attention and accolades: Individuals who are always on the lookout of tasks or activities that grant them accolades. They then give hints at (in roundabout ways) how hard they have been working or how much they have achieved, yet look puzzled and perhaps even become astonished when they receive acknowledgement for their “hard work” or “significant achievements.”
- Inclination to feelings of shame: They have a self-image that is divided into a positive self-image that is presented with excessive pride and a negative self-image that is filled with shame. When they receive constructive criticism and gentle feedback, they become hypersensitive. Receiving only positive feedback gives them the ability to bury the negative shame-filled self-image into their conscious mind. When these individuals receive feedback, they perceive them as an attack on their character, their image of pride is pushed off the stage by their negative self-image, and this activates powerful feelings of self-disgust and self-blame, and unavoidable shame.
- Blaming others for their mistakes: Vulnerable narcissists blame other people and circumstances for their mistakes. They rarely accept responsibility for their actions.
Vulnerable narcissists can be distinguished with the above criteria (Brogaard, 2020).
3. The communal narcissist
He is a respected person among the community. He likes to be present in every charity event organized by the community members. He is praised to be the most kind, helpful, and the most giving by the community members. However, in the privacy of his home, he is abusive towards his family.
Have you ever encountered a person like what has been described above? If you do, then perhaps you are actually dealing with a communal narcissist.
Lancer (2020) stated on the surface, a community narcissist emphasizes warmth, agreeableness, and relatedness. They want to uphold an image of the most trustworthy and supportive person by the public. They try to gain this by portraying an image of friendliness and kindness. It’s not wrong to actually be kind and friendly towards people, however the key point here is the communal narcissist’s motives are grandiosity, esteem, entitlement, and power.
4. The malignant narcissist
Narcissism exists on a spectrum, and at the extreme end lies the malignant narcissist. This kind of narcissist is paranoid, immoral, cruel, aggressive, and sadistic. By creating chaos and taking people down, they feel pleasure. They may not be necessarily grandiose, extroverted, or neurotic, but the characteristics that this kind of narcissist has is closely associated with psychopathy, the dark triad, and antisocial personality disorder (Houlcroft, et al., 2012).
Psych2goers, so have you found the answers to the above questions in the introductory paragraph?
Some questions have been answered. Now, let’s address the casual use of narcissism among the general public. So let’s say your significant other is behaving badly, perhaps you are so quick to judge the person as a narcissist. Rude waiter? Narcissist. Nagging mother-in-law? Narcissist.
With the rise of social media, we also find the simultaneous rise of the label “narcissist”, it has turned into a buzzword that is ingrained into our cultural lexicon. It’s similar to how a person will casually joke one is “so OCD” when one takes a great emphasis on cleanliness or laughs while saying one is “practically ADHD” due to the fact that one is struggling with attention and focus recently.
Therefore, refrain from labelling as it can actually be demonizing. A casual label would not even offer “a narcissist” a road to recovery, and it would not be a healing experience to you too (if you have been victimized by a narcissist). Don’t get me wrong. When a truly narcissistic person receives an accurate diagnosis from a licensed professional, it will actually be helpful as it sheds light to their symptoms and gives them an opportunity to access a community of similar people, so that they are on that road to recovery.
Also, remember, narcissism exists on a spectrum, and some of us may have that narcissistic trait in us, and that’s actually alright. The most important point here is to be self-aware and to have the drive to change yourself for the better.
Psych2goers, now let’s put the casual psych labelling to rest forever. Remember, by inaccurately and casually labelling, it creates divide and this year we are truly yearning for unity.
Brogaard, B. (2020, March 31). 6 signs that you might be a vulnerable narcissist. Psychology Today. Retrieved October 19, 2021, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-superhuman-mind/202003/6-signs-you-might-be-vulnerable-narcissist.
Houlcroft, L., Bore, M., & Munro, D. (2012). “Three faces of Narcissism.” Personality and Individual Differences, 53: 274-278.
Lancer, D. (2021, March 6). Know the kind of narcissist you’re dealing with and symptoms. Psychology Today. Retrieved October 19, 2021, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/toxic-relationships/202103/know-the-kind-narcissist-youre-dealing-and-symptoms.