How To Recognize A Narcissist

How to Recognize a Narcissist and Protect Your Well-Being

Narcissistic Personality By Apr 25, 2024

Dysfunctional narcissism can cause distress to the person acting out and to those around them, leading to increased anxiety and frustration for everyone concerned. Narcissistic people tend to be so charming that people often ignore the tell-tale signs of nature. In this article we unpack how to recognize a narcissist.

Recognizing a Narcissist: The Common Signs

While many people use the term ‘narcissism’ loosely to describe someone who is self-centered, it’s important to understand that narcissism exists on a spectrum and is a normal personality trait. However, diagnosing narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) requires specialized clinical training.

Studies estimate that the prevalence of NPD in the American population ranges from 1% to 6%, with some variation depending on factors such as gender and demographic background. Research suggests that men may be more likely to be diagnosed with NPD than women, although the extent of this gender difference may vary. It’s important to note that individuals with NPD typically exhibit pervasive and severe symptoms of grandiosity, a constant need for admiration, and a lack of empathy, rather than occasional signs of self-importance.

Clinically, Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is diagnosed based on nine criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) published by the American Psychiatric Association. These criteria include:

  1. Grandiosity with expectations of superior treatment from others.
  2. Fixated on fantasies of power, success, intelligence, attractiveness, etc.
  3. Self-perception of being unique, superior, and associated with high-status people and institutions.
  4. Need for continual admiration from others.
  5. Sense of entitlement to special treatment and to obedience from others.
  6. Exploitation of others to achieve personal gain.
  7. Unwillingness to empathize with the feelings, wishes, and needs of other people.
  8. Envy of others and the belief that others are envious of them.
  9. Arrogant behaviors and attitudes.

People with dysfunctional narcissism or NPD may exhibit a range of behaviors that reflect these characteristic traits. For example, in relationships, a narcissistic person might engage in attention-seeking behaviors or cheat in a relationship as a means of obtaining validation to gratify their fragile ego. In the workplace, they may resort to deception and manipulation to achieve their goals or obtain leverage over colleagues. Additionally, a highly narcissistic person may belittle or demean others in order to assert their own sense of superiority and maintain a feeling of power and control.

While people with NPD may not fully grasp the impact of their behavior on others, those who regularly interact with them may often experience severe emotional turmoil.

How Can You Effectively Deal With a Narcissist and Protect Your Well-Being?

Narcissistic people can impact others in a variety of ways depending on the nature of the relationship. If you regularly interact with them their attitudes and behaviors can significantly affect your mental- and physical well-being.

For this reason, it’s important to know how to effectively manage contact with narcissistic people to safeguard your peace of mind. Here are some suggestions for navigating active relationships with narcissists:

Learn to Understand NPD

Interacting with highly narcissistic people can often feel confusing and overwhelming, leaving many people unsure of the best way to respond. To better understand NPD, it’s essential to educate yourself about this complex personality disorder. It’s important to remember that narcissists are not inherently bad people; rather, they grapple with a mental health condition that they themselves may not fully comprehend. Despite outward appearances, they may constantly struggle with a range of emotions and encounter difficulties in interpersonal relationships.

Narcissists may harbor deep-seated insecurities and live with a persistent fear of their perceived shortcomings being exposed. When they fall short of their high expectations, they may experience feelings of anxiety and depression, which could potentially lead to behaviors such as alcohol abuse and even suicidal thoughts.

By gaining insight into the causes and ramifications of NPD for those exhibiting symptoms, you can navigate relationships with narcissistic individuals more effectively.

Keep Your Emotions in Check

Highly narcissistic people are prone to take others on an emotional rollercoaster if given the opportunity. For example, they may belittle others to bolster their own sense of superiority, lash out when they feel overlooked or unappreciated, experience mood swings and depression when they fail to meet their own high standards, manipulate other people’s emotions and deflect blame to assert dominance in situations.

Reacting emotionally to dysfunctional narcissism can leave you vulnerable to exploitation by narcissists. For this reason, it’s important to disengage and take time to regulate your emotions.

Avoid Confrontations

While narcissists may exhibit abrasive behavior, they can also be surprisingly sensitive. Highly narcissistic people usually do not respond well to confrontations. So, when calling out their behavior or providing feedback, it is crucial to approach the situation with gentleness and frame your message in a non-threatening light.

Set Boundaries

People with dysfunctional narcissism tend to be critical and place unrealistic expectations of perfectionism on those around them, leading to intense feelings of frustration, anxiety, and self-doubt.

When a narcissist approaches you this way, it’s essential to communicate clearly and directly about what you realistically can achieve. You don’t always need to provide lengthy explanations; simply communicate what is feasible to help manage expectations.

Furthermore, it’s important to let them know what behaviors are acceptable to you and the consequences of crossing the boundaries you have set. Be prepared to follow through with the repercussions if they fail to respect your requests.

Commit Them to Action

Narcissists are known for frequently reneging on their promises. They may resort to outright lying or manipulation to evade commitments they have previously made. If you need them to follow through on a commitment, relying solely on a verbal promise is not sufficient. It’s crucial to obtain written confirmation, such as a text message or email, to make it more challenging for them to gaslight you.

Get Help

It’s common to feel perplexed and experience self-doubt when interacting with a person who exhibits narcissistic traits.

During such challenging moments, having a strong support network is imperative. Friends and loved ones can offer perspective and help you gain an objective understanding of the situation. Additionally, they can provide valuable support in rebuilding self-esteem, regaining confidence, and standing up against abusive narcissistic behaviors.

When necessary, seeking professional support can be transformative. Consider our specialized narcissistic abuse coaching service to help you grow in awareness, empowerment, and understanding.

Decide When to Exit the Relationship

The lengths you are willing to go to reconcile with someone with a highly narcissistic person may hinge on the significance of your relationship with them.

However, it’s important to recognize that prolonged exposure to ongoing narcissistic abuse can have serious implications for your mental and physical well-being over time. Therefore, if the narcissistic person is unwilling to seek help or make positive changes, it may be necessary to consider low or no contact with them.

To Recap

NPD is a mental health disorder characterized by specific traits that can be severe damaging to others. It’s important to recognize that while dysfunctional narcissism is sub-clinical it can still cause serious harm. Recognizing the common signs of narcissism is crucial for determining the most effective approach to dealing with individuals who exhibit these traits.

If you are dealing with someone who is highly narcissistic or who has NPD, educate yourself about narcissism. When engaging with them, stay calm, avoid confrontations, set clear boundaries, and hold them accountable for their actions. Getting support from loved ones and professional help is also essential for maintaining your well-being.

If despite your efforts, the situation fails to improve, it may be in your best interest to end the relationship and move forward with your life.


In our newsroom, we are guided by a set of core values that include integrity, independence, and transparency. These values permeate every aspect of our work, ensuring that we provide accurate and insightful reporting to our readers.