Ever come across that person, the one who thinks highly of themselves? The arrogant type, the one who has a very inflated sense of self? They could be a co-worker, a family member, you could even be married to one. This narcissistic tendency is a common, but does it mean someone is a narcissist? While many would love to label others as such, the answer is more than likely, no. It takes more than an exaggerated sense of self-importance to defining a narcissist.
If you’ve ever wondered “am I a narcissist” or whether someone you love is a narcissist, then here’s the answer from science.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Today’s culture lends itself to what is perceived as narcissistic behavior. We live in a world where the selfie is the norm and posting it on social media is expected. And while this form of narcissism is widely accepted, one needs to dig much deeper when trying to diagnose a true narcissist.
Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is defined as an inflated sense of self-importance, a lack of empathy for others, and a great need for admiration that can only be diagnosed by a professional, much to the chagrin of those who feel they are in the presence of one. The truth is that NPD is rare, affecting approximately 1% of our population.
Researchers have not been able to point to one definite cause for Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Scientists do believe that both environmental and genetic causes are at work. Those with NPD have been found to have less gray matter in the left anterior insula of their brains. This is the portion that’s related to emotional regulation, compassion, empathy, and cognitive functioning.
Current medical theory is that the full onset of Narcissistic Personality Disorder occurs when normal stages of interpersonal development become conflicted. For instance, learning manipulative behavior or being overindulged by parents or peers can contribute. Excessive praise for your looks or good behavior can add to it. Conversely, excessive criticism for bad behavior can play into NPD.
Am I A Narcissist: What A Real Narcissist Looks Like
Narcissistic Personality Disorder is more prevalent in men than in women, but it crosses all backgrounds and spectrums. An exaggerated sense of self-importance is one true hallmark of NPD. But there are other symptoms of this disorder.
- Have a sense of entitlement.
- The need for constant and excessive admiration.
- Have a tendency to exaggerate their achievements and talents
- They expect to be praised as superior for their perceived talents or achievements.
- They have a belief that they are superior and because of this, they can only associate themselves with superior people.
- They become preoccupied with their constant fantasies about power, brilliance, success, beauty or the perfect mate.
- They love to take over conversations.
- They look down or belittle those they feel inferior to themselves.
- They take advantage of people to get what they want.
- They lack empathy so they are unwilling to recognize the feelings or needs of others.
- They need to have the best of everything to show their superiority.
- They are very arrogant, always coming across as pretentious or conceited.
This is how a narcissist sees his world. In fact, in their world there is only one person: themself. Psychotherapist Sandy Hotchkiss took the above symptoms and simplified them in her book Why Is It Always About You? The Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism. She labeled them thusly: shamelessness, magical thinking, arrogance, envy, sense of entitlement, exploitation, and lack of boundaries.
Does A Narcissist Have Feelings?
Narcissists have the same emotional range as everyone else, the difference is that those feelings revolve directly around them. These feelings can be hurt easily though.
- Perception is big in the mind of a narcissist. It causes them great concern with how they feel people perceive them.
- Criticism is impossible for a narcissist to handle.
- They become angry when they don’t receive special treatment.
- They feel slighted easily and have glaring interpersonal problems.
- Inability to deal with stress can cause major problems.
- If they fall short of perfection, they can get depressed or moody.
- Inside, narcissists have feelings of vulnerability, shame, insecurity, and humiliation.
Living With A Narcissist
Knowing what a narcissist looks and sounds like is one thing. What happens if you’re dating one? How do you deal with them? Can a narcissist become dangerous? What happens if you’re actually married to one?
Dating, living with, married to… a narcissist understands it all as one thing. What makes THEM tick. It’s not about you, in fact, it will never be about you. The trick is knowing if you’re with a true narcissist or just a total jerk and that, at times, can be confusing.
It’s human nature for us to want to believe the one we love. At first, narcissists can be charming. They heap tons of praise upon you and are known to fall in love quickly. But as many of us know, true love needs nurturing to grow. Quick love can be a red flag.
Someone suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder will come at you directly in their desire for praise. While they seem self-confident, most with NPD will lack self-esteem. Another hallmark characteristic is their complete lack of empathy. A narcissist simply has no desire to feel what others are feeling. If the emotion isn’t specifically about them, they want nothing to do with it.
As things head down that rocky road, a narcissist will turn to manipulation. Gaslighting is another hallmark that a narcissist is known for. Here are some signs of gaslighting:
- They will try to cause you to doubt yourself as their way of gaining superiority.
- They use manipulation tactics to get you to worship them.
- When you are being gaslit you will feel like everything you do is wrong.
- When things go wrong you always think it’s your fault and are always apologizing.
- You constantly end up making excuses for their behavior.
- When responding to them, you always question whether it’s an appropriate response.
- A narcissist will always make you feel at fault and that you’re crazy for blaming things on them. They will never apologize for anything.
Attempts at gaslighting can be difficult to spot. Often people who think they are experiencing it are simply experiencing cognitive dissonance. As such it may not be a useful metric for determining if someone is a narcissist, though watching out for it may help you spot such tendencies in yourself.
Is NPD A Violent Disorder?
Physical violence is not what narcissists are about. Instances of violence are possible, but are not the norm with NPD sufferers. Those incidences often manifest as something known as narcissistic rage. In these moments narcissists may lash out with intense outbursts or sudden fits of anger. They can also lean on passive-aggressive measures such as deliberate neglect, biting sarcasm, cold silence, or seething resentment.
While this things like they could be a normal outburst from practically anyone, the difference here is that these outbursts are typically unreasonable, one-sided, and extremely aggressive. What you ultimately realize is that no matter what you say, no matter what you do, you will never be enough for a narcissist. In fact, they are never enough for themselves.
Solutions For Narcissism
Are there any solutions to living with a narcissist? Many experts agree the simplest solution is to leave. GTFO. Granted, that is much easier said than done, especially for those married.
Shannon Thomas is a licensed clinical social worker and the author of Healing From Hidden Abuse. She shared this knowledge with SheKnows.com. “The very first thing you do not do is tell the narcissist that you want to end the relationship. That might seem counterintuitive, but the toxic person will absolutely follow with one of two things. They will either start love bombing you to keep you emotionally trapped in the relationship through trauma bonding or their behaviors will become even more poisonous and potentially damaging to your overall wellness, physical safety or reputation. Sometimes all three.”
Have a plan and make that plan smart and stick to it for your own sanity. One might say, “Well, why not counseling? Why not therapy for the narcissist in my life?” It’s not impossible. But convincing a narcissist to seek this type of help means the narcissist feels he/she has a problem. And rarely will they ever admit to that.
In our modern, attention-driven world certain types of narcissistic behavior are our norm and social media is its platform. But don’t let that confuse you with the dangers of a real narcissist. People really suffering with Narcissistic Personality Disorder can destroy the lives of everyone around them.
So are you a narcissist? It’s a question no narcissist would ever ask. If you’re asking yourself that question, the answer is probably no.