Five Traits Of A Narcissist

Updated October 4, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Psychology Today describes narcissism as “a grandiose sense of self-importance, a lack of empathy for others, and a need for excessive admiration.” The publication also notes that some types of narcissists believe themselves to be “unique and deserving of special treatment.”

It's Tough To Maintain Relationships With People Living With NPD

Sometimes, we like to think that spotting a narcissist is relatively easy; however, what appears to be real on the surface is not always so. Not all narcissists believe, behave, or move through the world in the same manner. Furthermore, there are many different types of narcissists; some are malignant, while others are covert or even prosocial.

The bottom line is that recognizing a narcissist is not always as easy as it may seem. However, narcissists do have one thing in common, which would be the traits they exhibit. Despite the various ways that different types of narcissists can differ from one another, their attributes are quite similar and telling.

For the sake of your own health and wellbeing, knowing the top five traits of a narcissist is important.

The Leading Traits Of A Narcissist

Only a clinical test can definitively determine whether or not an individual experiences Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). However, if you notice three or more of the following five traits regularly displayed by someone, this is a red flag.

You might not be able to administer a clinical test for NPD, but you can be aware of your guard and vigilant if someone’s personality traits align with that of a narcissist.

Resentful Of Criticism

Nobody gets it right all of the time. Criticism is a part of life; moreover, it’s a part of life with the potential to help us succeed. However, narcissists don’t view criticism in this manner. Instead, individuals who have NPD have a tendency to take criticism personally. Rather than viewing constructive feedback as a means to get better and improve themselves, they resent criticism due to wrongly interpreting it as a personal affront or attack.

While resentment towards criticism is a classic trait of a narcissist, not everyone who responds poorly to criticism is a narcissist. Sometimes, there really are scenarios where certain forms of criticism deserve to be pushed back against. Then, there are times when someone simply had a bad day or might be going through a tough time. However, if you notice that someone is consistently averse to any form of criticism, this is undoubtedly a narcissistic trait to be wary of.

Manipulative Towards Other People

Just like narcissists are resentful of criticism, another critical trait is being manipulative towards other people. Narcissists view other human beings as a means to an end, or as tools to get what they want. This explains why individuals who have NPD have no problem with lying or otherwise using other people.

Narcissistic individuals have been known to manipulate their friends, relatives, significant others, and additional people who come across their path. Worse yet, narcissists see nothing wrong with this behavior, so long as it gets them their way. There is absolutely no thought given as to how manipulation of others will impact the people being used or others who may get caught in the crossfires.

Unagreeable Towards Others

We all have times where we don’t get along or see eye-to-eye with other people. No one can please every single person, nor should they try to. However, individuals who have NPD are notorious for not getting along well with others. As a matter of fact, the National Institutes of Health explains that narcissists regularly have “volatile relationships” with mental health providers and others.

Some narcissists may be able to work their way into certain people’s good graces, although, in most cases, individuals with NPD tend to struggle with agreeability and getting along with others. This is especially true with prolonged exposure and long-term interactions. The passing of time complicates the narcissist’s means of keeping up a facade to maintain a certain image or get what they want.

Selfish To Extreme Degrees

One of the hallmark traits of a narcissist is selfishness. This is because individuals with NPD tend to be all about achieving their ends, presenting a certain image, or otherwise getting what they want, regardless of who else gets bulldozed in the process. This explains why narcissists struggle with maintaining healthy relationships.

It's Tough To Maintain Relationships With People Living With NPD

It’s important to remember that extreme degrees of selfishness are very different from people putting themselves first from time-to-time. As a matter of fact, a moderate degree of greed can be healthy at times. However, when someone is habitually selfish and when that selfishness comes at the expense of others’ health and wellbeing, that when it turns into the trait of a narcissist.

Shockingly Delusional      

To say that narcissists do not live in the real world would be a massive understatement. In keeping with the symptoms of NPD, narcissistic individuals are notorious for viewing themselves as special (without evidence) and deserving of treatment that others don’t receive (without putting in any work to earn said treatment). Furthermore, when things are not going in the direction of a narcissist, they have a tendency to lash out.

Some typical, delusional behavior of a narcissist would involve attempts to rewrite history in their favor, exaggeration of certain situations, etc. Because narcissists view themselves as above it all, the need to act rationally or in alignment with reality doesn’t compute for them. This is another reason why being in the company of a narcissist can be so draining and even dangerous.

What To Do If You Know A Narcissist

The American Psychological Association explains that exposure to narcissism can engender emotional abuse and an overall toxic environment. 

Cut Ties (If Possible)

If you are in a situation where you are in close proximity to a narcissist, the best thing you can do is cut ties. If you’ve known this person for a while, severing ties may not be easy, but in the long run, it can do a lot of good.

If you are not able to completely cut ties with a narcissist in your life, then limiting contact with them as much as possible is highly advised. Reduced exposure to a narcissist limits your likelihood of being subjected to emotional abuse, manipulation, etc.

Don’t Become Emotionally Involved

Narcissists thrive on manipulating the emotions of other people for their own interests. If you know that a narcissist in your life strives to anger or upset those in their orbit, don’t let them rile you up. A person who has NPD and is attempting to ruffle other people’s feathers may eventually turn their attention elsewhere if they aren’t getting the outcomes they want.

Not getting emotionally involved is often easier said than done; sometimes, the temptation to reason with a narcissist can be great. However, it’s important to remember that the inherent nature of a narcissist prevents them from truly empathizing with others if they don’t see anything in it for themselves.

Don’t Blame Yourself

If there’s one thing, narcissists are great at, it’s deflecting and passing along blame to others. Many people who have NPD do this so they can escape the need to be accountable. After all, narcissists are notorious for viewing themselves as above the rules and social norms that most people follow.

For these reasons, it’s important not to blame yourself for the oddities or poor choices of a narcissist. Each person is responsible for their own actions and decisions; whether or not a person chooses to accept responsibility is on them. Depending on your relationship or connection to the narcissist, taking things personally can become easier than you might think. Try to resist this temptation.

The Value Of Professional Support And Feedback

Dealing with a narcissist can be challenging, as can many other parts of life. Obstacles and tough times can present themselves in many forms, but they need to overcome them still remains the same. Whether you are dealing with a narcissist in your life or facing an entirely different matter altogether, it’s important for you to know that professional support and feedback are available.

If you are interested in professional support and feedback, there are several resources available. For example, BetterHelp is an online therapy platform that can help you learn new strategies to overcome challenges and come to a better understanding of who you are. Additionally, BetterHelp is committed to working with you on your schedule; unlike traditional counseling, you don’t have to try to make it to an office at a set date or time.

If you are regularly on the go or busy, then online counseling may especially appeal to you. Working with an online counselor may not make your problems immediately go away; however, online counseling can provide you with the necessary tools and support to rise above issues and build a brighter future.

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