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Symptoms of Narcissism

Are you in a frustrating relationship or know someone who expects endless attention and admiration, but doesn’t seem to be able to take your needs and feelings into consideration? Someone who thinks they’re better than everyone else and should be treated accordingly? If so, you may be dealing with a narcissist. Here is what you need to know about narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) so you can spot the narcissists, protect yourself from their power plays, and establish healthier boundaries.

What is NPD?

Narcissistic personality disorder, one of few types of personality disorders, is a mental condition in which people have deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that's vulnerable to the slightest criticism. A narcissistic personality disorder causes problems in many areas of life, such as relationships, work, school or financial affairs. People with narcissistic personality disorder may be unhappy and disappointed when they're not given the special favors or admiration they believe they deserve. They may find their relationships unfulfilling, and others may not really enjoy being around them. Treatment for narcissistic personality disorder centers on talk therapy.


1. Always Talk About Themselves

Those with NPD tend to think and speak only of themselves, often about their appearance, talents or achievements. However, these comments tend to be exaggerated and are not necessarily accurate reflections of their lives. They also have very little sympathy for those around them and very rarely ask others for their thoughts or feelings. This is primarily because people who suffer from NPD lack empathy, and are unable to recognize or understand the needs and feelings of others.

2. They Can Often be Found in Leadership Roles

Not that that makes them good leaders, but narcissists often find themselves in leadership positions because people who are narcissistic want to be leaders. They don’t necessarily make better leaders, but they want to do it, so they’re more likely to end up in those positions.

3. Believe They Are Superior

People with NPD often have big sense of self-importance, leading them to feel superior. They believe that only others who are just as special as they are can truly understand them, and those are the people they want to be surrounded by. In order to maintain feelings of superiority, they will resort to belittling others by focusing on their flaws. For narcissists, this is a great way to hide their own shortcomings.

4. Appearance is Everything to Them

Narcissists are not necessarily more attractive than other people, but they do take care of their appearance and place an importance on looking physically attractive. Not everyone who makes a point to take care of their appearance is a narcissist, but well-applied nails, hair and so on would be an excellent indicator.

5. Can be Inordinately Self-righteous and Defensive

Needing so much to protect their overblown but fragile ego, their defense system can be very easy to set off. It’s well known how reactive they typically are to criticism, but in fact anything said or done that they perceive as questioning their competence can activate their self-protective mechanisms. This is why so many non-narcissists have shared how difficult it is to get through to them in situations of conflict. It’s almost as though their very survival depends on being right or justified, whereas flat out humbly admitting a mistake or uttering the words “I’m sorry” for some transgression—seem impossible for them.

6. Require Constant Praise

Despite how confident narcissists may portray themselves, they are sometimes incredibly insecure and have very fragile self-esteem. In order to continually prop themselves up, people with NPD require near-constant praise and admiration. They also expect to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it. This fragility when it comes to sense of self also makes narcissists highly reactive to criticism. Any comments that shine a spotlight on their insecurities or flaws may be met with narcissistic rage, causing the person to divert the conversation in an entirely different direction.

The emotional and physical impact of working with or living with a person with NPD can be severe. Learning how to become more confident and assertive can help a person cope with the effects.