Over the last few months, I’ve seen multiple clients who immediately respond when asked what brings them to therapy state, “Amari, my partner is a narcissist, and after being with them for so many years, I don’t even recognize myself,” or “My mom is a narcissist and is always putting me down, but I can’t just remove her from my life.”
Wow, ok, well, that’s a statement that needs exploring. First, I would like to commend you on the significant feat of accepting your relationship with your mom/ partner/ whoever was so unhealthy that you needed a change. It takes more strength to leave than to stay and is worth acknowledging and praising. Now, I would love to discuss what traits they displayed to make you conclude they are a narcissist.
WHAT IS THE DEFINITION OF A NARCISSIST?
A person can have narcissistic tendencies (narcissism) without having a narcissistic personality disorder.
I love Greek mythology, and if you are also familiar with it, you already know narcissism was named after the mythological figure Narcissus, who was highly esteemed for his beauty. Narcissus was remembered as the one who fell in love with his reflection—telling, right?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) describes narcissistic personality disorder as a pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy. Well, I’m sure we can all think of someone right now who most likely exhibits at least one of these traits listed.
So how do we spot the difference between the avid Instagram user that takes virtually perfect pictures every 2 seconds with exotic things at expensive places, impatiently waiting for the likes and admiration of their social media audience from someone with a narcissistic personality disorder?
Fun Fact: It has been proven Individuals with narcissistic traits use social media often because it plays into their fantastical identity of perfectionism and high level of success.
HOW TO SPOT A NARCISSIST VS SOMEONE WITH A NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY DISORDER.
Is it essential to remember that narcissism, like most character traits or disorders, is a spectrum. Someone can be on the low side of narcissism by displaying a few characteristics.
Someone with a narcissistic personality disorder most likely shows most, if not all, of the characteristic traits consistently.
Now it is also possible for someone to consistently display most of these traits and not have a narcissistic personality disorder but histrionic or borderline personality disorder. The one key factor in identifying narcissistic personality disorder is GRANDIOSITY!
WHAT ARE THE TRAITS OF A NARCISSIST?
• GRANDIOSITY Exaggerated achievements (attention-seeking) and a massive sense of self-importance
• FANTASIES Caught up with fantasies of great power, success, or brilliance. They are always talking about their accomplishments and achievements.
• SUPERIORITY Believes in their uniqueness and superiority, not easily understood by inferior people
• NEED OF ADMIRATION Constantly seeks reassurance, compliments, and praise from others. They are susceptible to criticism and can respond with rage when feeling humiliated.
• ENTITLEMENT Extreme expectations and beliefs for themselves, assuming special treatment should be offered to them for simply existing
• MANIPULATION Takes advantage of others in any situation for personal gain
• LACKS EMPATHY The simple human ability to identify the feeling and needs of someone else eludes them
• ENVY Envious of others or believe everyone is envious of them
• ARROGANCE There is an exaggerated sense of self; they are never wrong about anything, so they rarely apologize.
HOW DATING A NARCISSIST CHANGES YOU
Are you apologizing more often?
Are you always making excuses for the other person’s behaviors?
You self-blame whenever something goes wrong because you were told it is your fault?
You consider yourself “too intense,” “dramatic,” “extreme,” or “too sensitive.”
Feeling less confident than before because you’ve been put down often by this person as they make jokes to belittle you and empower themselves?
These are only a few changes that result from being with a narcissist; the list goes on……
HOW TO DEAL WITH A NARCISSIST?
Now that you have successfully identified if your person has some narcissistic traits, possibly has a narcissistic personality disorder, or is just selfish, I’m sure you’re saying, “Yea, Amari, I already knew all of that; how do I DEAL with them?”. In my opinion, you don’t. Run as far as those little legs will take you!
In my professional opinion, because my subjective opinion is not always plausible, counseling is my first recommendation to process your pain and start the healing process. It is critical to receive the validation and support this person has most likely robbed you of. It will help if you remember your strengths and qualities before this individual.
If counseling sounds too big of a commitment, setting clear boundaries is also extremely necessary. Support groups are readily available. There are endless resources, including blog posts, videos, and books. If this blog post resonates with you, please reach out to a trusted friend, family member, and know I am always here for you too. Please, take advantage of the free consultations I offer so we can get you on the road to recovery (phone, facetime, zoom, text). 😊.
HOW DID BEING AROUND A NARCISSIST CHANGE YOU?
References & Resources
Narcissistic Personality Disorder Test (Self-Assessment)
McCain, J.L. & Campell, W.K. (2018). Narcissism and social media use: A meta-analytic review. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 7 (3). 308-327. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/ppm000013
Ronningstam, E. (2016). Personality disorders: Part I new insights to narcissistic personality disorder. Psychiatric Times. https://eds.p.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=0&sid=05ca8c08-91d5-4214-aee2-6303153e2644%40redis
The Covert Passive-Aggressive Narcissist: Recognizing the Traits and Finding Healing After Hidden Emotional and Psychological Abuse. By Debbie Mirza
Becoming the Narcissist's Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself. By Shahida Arabi, Julie McKay, et al.
THE NARCISSISTIC MOTHER: Guide on how to Recognise the Most Dangerous Form of Narcissism and techniques for recovering from an Emotionally Abusive mother. By Richard James
Stop Caretaking the Borderline or Narcissist: How to End the Drama and Get On with Life. By Margalis Fjelstad
Divorcing and Healing from a Narcissist: Emotional and Narcissistic Abuse Recovery. Co-Parenting After an Emotionally Destructive Marriage and Splitting Up with a Toxic Ex. Dr. Theresa Covert