How do I know if my partner, or someone close to me is a narcissisist?

What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

In our media obsessed world traits of narcissism are not unusual in the general population. You may have a partner, family member, friend or co-worker who has an exaggerated sense of self-worth and self-importance, experiences fantasies about being important or famous, or craves admiration and appreciation.  Narcissistic traits exist on a spectrum with a level of healthy narcissism being important to help us appreciate our accomplishments and experience joy when we work hard and achieve.  While your partner or another important person in your life may have some narcissistic traits, in terms of clinical mental health, they need to meet specific criteria (below) to be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).  

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) causes people to have an overgrown sense of self-entitlement, self-importance, a lack of empathy for others, and a deep-set need to be noticed, loved, and admired. Like all personality disorders, the severity of this differs from person to person. Those at the high end of the spectrum often go unnoticed or misinterpreted as simply being very charming, unfeeling, egotistical, or even an extrovert.

Those with NPD traits can wreak havoc in relationships with friends, family members, and co-workers. They often undervalue other people in their lives and are happiest in unbalanced relationships with people that they consider to be ‘supply’.  For the Narcissist, the ‘supply’ is there to feed their need to be adored, cared for in all ways and admired. 

What Causes Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

It’s unclear what actually causes a person to develop NPD (or highly narcissistic traits). It’s likely, however, that it is linked to a combination of upbringing (parenting styles that are either overly critical or excessively affectionate and praising), inherited genetics, or simply neurobiology (the connection between the brain and the thinking or actions of the person). It usually appears in early adulthood, and is more prevelent (75%) in men and certain demographics (e.g.the military)

What are the Signs of Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Some notable signs of NPD may include:

 

  • Feeling as though they should be recognised for being the best, even when they’ve not done anything to deserve it
  • Feeling as though they should get special treatment – again, often when it’s not warranted
  • A consistent lack of ability or an unwillingness to recognise the feelings of others
  • Depression when they feel they fail or fall short of perfection
  • Feelings of shame, humiliation and general over-sensitivity when receiving comments about themselves
  • A habit of belittling the success of others in order to make themselves look better
  • Anger if they do not receive any special attention or treatment to which they may feel entitled
  • A belief that they’re superior to others and should only mix with similarly superior people
  • Envy of others and the belief that others are envious of them too
  • A tendency to fantasise about fame, fortune, and other grandiose achievements
  • Behavior that may come across as arrogant or haughty
  • Unable or unwilling to handle criticism in any form – often arguing back or ignoring it entirely
  • They often have significant problems adapting to change, and can react with anger or rage when confronted with new and uncomfortable situations.
  • As with any mental health issue, there is no black and white prototype for someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, as every person differs. But the points mentioned above should give a good general idea of how to identify such an issue.

How to Identify NPD 

Narcissistic Personality Disorder can often go un-diagnosed. What makes this disorder even more tricky is that it tends to come with a notable lack of self-awareness. The ‘supply’ (partner, family member, child) can get caught up in trying to please or heal them. “If I love them enough, support them enough, they will change”. This can become a never ending, and exhausting cycle for the ‘supply’.

Those with NPD are unlikely to admit that there is a problem, perhaps only hearing from others that they are difficult to be around, which they will take as deep insults to their character, react with explosive narcissistic rage and ignore.  

Most with NPD or high narcissistic traits do not seek treatment as they are unable to see the disorder in themselves, the harm they cause or have any empathy for others they hurt. For any human to change their behaviour, they have to be open to exploring their insecurities and want to change.  

If you or someone you love is demonstrating any of the symptoms of NPD, it’s always worth consulting a mental health professional or a survivor of NPD abuse to seek another opinion.

Often it is only those who have experienced NPD behaviour who will truly understand.

Covert Narcissism

This is often much harder to identify. The covert narcissist is often subtle, intelligent and extremely manipulative. Whilst the covert narcissist will feel they are special, they are very careful to hide it, as maintaining their mask of acceptability is the most important thing to them. They only unmask privately to the chosen ‘supply’.

 

For many, in a relationship with a narcissist the first, and challenging step,

is to acknowledge that something is wrong. 

Often the word ‘abuse’ is too shameful to admit, or is something that only happens to ‘other people’.

It is a common misconception that ‘weak’ people are targeted by narcissists. It is often the reverse, and nothing to do with weakness of character, lack of intelligence or spirit. Strong, kind, confident and intelligent people with dynamic lives and plenty of friends are often the perfect ‘target’ for a narcissist.

About Me

My way of working is psychodynamic in nature and I work with emotions, thoughts and sensations. This helps us find a deeper understanding of ourselves, including the aspects or hidden parts that we are not always conscious of.

As a survivor of CPTSD and narcissistic emotional abuse, I understand how important it is to feel safe. From safety, we can move on to find peace. I hope to guide all my clients to find new ways to move on with the physical and emotional release.

I Can Help

If this is your story and you would like to get in touch to discuss your needs or to understand more about emotional abuse, please get in touch for a free 30-minute consultation

15 + 5 =

I went to see Kate to get some help to understand why I was experiencing some unhelpful and negative feelings and to explore a particularly difficult part of my past that has been haunting me for some years.

This was not an easy thing to do but Kate helped me to feel immediately at ease and I was really pleased at how quickly we started to address some of these issues.   She creates a safe and non-judgemental environment and gently asks the right questions so that I was able to unpick and better understand why I was feeling the things I was and to understand them in a different way.

I felt sceptical that I would achieve my aim of feeling more positive about the difficulties I had encountered. However after just one session, I started to feel better, and by the penultimate session, I felt like I had completely resolved my issue.

This marked the start of a ripple effect, with other aspects of my life starting to move forward in a more positive way. So the benefits have not just been about resolving the trauma and negativity it has also led me to enjoy the positive impact on my life and work in the present and feeling ready to move towards to a more positive future.”

I went to see Kate to get some help to understand why I was experiencing some unhelpful and negative feelings and to explore a particularly difficult part of my past that has been haunting me for some years.

This was not an easy thing to do but Kate helped me to feel immediately at ease and I was really pleased with how quickly we started to address some of these issues.   She creates a safe and non-judgemental environment and gently asks the right questions so that I was able to unpick and better understand why I was feeling the things I was and to understand them in a different way.!