Five Traits Of Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson
Updated February 21, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include abuse which could be triggering to the reader. If you or someone you love is experiencing abuse, contact the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Support is available 24/7. Please also see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) can be a complex condition that can be difficult to diagnose. People living with a formal diagnosis of NPD may experience certain challenges, particularly around the maintenance and formation of relationships.   

Identifying and understanding possible traits that can be associated with those who experience narcissistic tendencies can help provide a higher degree of empathy and awareness in possible romantic or platonic partners and friends. This understanding can result in a greater degree of benefit for both individuals experiencing the condition and those with whom they may have a relationship.

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Maintaining relationships with someone with NPD is tough

Exploring possible traits that can be associated with narcissistic personality disorder

A clinical diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder generally requires the fulfillment of strict diagnostic criteria laid out in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition). Before we explore common traits individuals living with the condition may have, though, we want to clarify an important point: People who experience the disorder are not inherently bad—they simply may experience different degrees of difficulty when it comes to relationships, empathy, and communication. 

That being said, if someone you know exhibits three or more of the following traits that can be associated with the condition, you may take a moment to consider how your relationship is going and if you are maintaining healthy boundaries where possible. This act of self-care and respect can benefit both you and the person with whom you are in a relationship. 

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Resistance to criticism

Criticism can be a part of life that can help us better ourselves and succeed. However, those who experience narcissistic personality disorder may not view criticism in this manner. Instead, people living with NPD may take criticism personally—possibly resulting in miscommunication and outbursts later on. 

While this can look different for everyone, many living with this condition may view constructive feedback as a personal attack—which can naturally lead to resistance to change over time.

We do want to note: Not everyone who responds poorly to criticism is clinically considered narcissistic. Some forms of criticism might deserve to be reasonably questioned, and there can be times when someone is simply having a bad day—or when they might be going through a tough time and react strongly.

However, if you notice that someone is consistently opposed to any form of criticism, it can be a trait that can align with a clinical diagnosis of NPD. This could be helpful for you to consider.

Manipulative tendencies

Another critical trait of NPD that may surface in many can include manipulative tendencies, which can affect other people in the person’s life. Those who experience narcissistic traits can view other human beings for what value they bring vs. their inherent value as humans at times, which can lead to difficulties communicating and functioning in relationships.  Drawing boundaries, maintaining open communication and working with a therapist can all be helpful methods to mitigate the damage that can be caused by this specific trait; both for the person living with NPD and those around them.

Volatility

It can be common to have times when we don’t get along or see eye-to-eye with other people. However, excessive volatility can be a symptom that may be associated with NPD. Studies from the National Institute of Health have affirmed that those living with the condition may regularly have volatile relationships with both mental health providers and others in their lives.

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Maintaining relationships with someone with NPD is tough

What to do if you're experiencing the effects of narcissistic personality disorder

The American Psychological Association has publicly noted that exposure to narcissistic personality disorder can result in or include emotional abuse—possibly creating a toxic environment for some. Here are some actions you can take to defend yourself if you are in frequent contact with someone living with the disorder.

Cut ties (if possible)

If you are in a situation where you spend a lot of time with someone who lives with NPD and are experiencing ill effects, you may find that the best thing you can do is to cut ties. If you’ve known this person for a while or if they are a family member, severing ties may not be easy—however, it can do a lot of good in the long run.

If you cannot completely cut ties at this time, you may benefit from limiting contact with them as much as possible. This space can allow you to draw boundaries and guard yourself as needed properly.

Don’t blame yourself

It can be important not to blame yourself for the choices of someone living with narcissistic personality disorder. Each person is generally responsible for their own actions and decisions.

Support for people in relationships with a partner who has NPD

Being in a relationship with someone who lives with narcissistic personality disorder can be challenging—and there are some relationships from which you may not be able to walk away. If you need help coping with stress caused by relationships in your life, online therapy can help.

Online therapy can offer many benefits over in-person treatment. For example: With BetterHelp, you can be matched with an available therapist in a streamlined, customizable way—helping many to start treatment more quickly than they otherwise would using traditional methods of intervention. Additionally, many people may feel more comfortable talking to someone in their own home rather than in an unfamiliar clinical environment. 

Is online therapy effective?

Research suggests that online therapy is as beneficial as in-person treatment. One study found details that indicated that people who participated in online therapy had “significant and clinically meaningful improvements in depression and anxiety scores relative to baseline” after 12 weeks of treatment and sustained after six months.

If you’re interested in learning more about online therapy, please connect with a BetterHelp counselor to get started. 

Takeaway

Having a relationship with someone living with narcissistic personality disorder can be challenging. If you are in a relationship with someone and you notice they have some of the common traits that many with the condition may experience, talking to a therapist can help you navigate the relationship or figure out how you should proceed. Online therapy has been clinically suggested to be just as effective as other methods of intervention. BetterHelp can connect you with an online therapist in your area of need.

Navigate personality traits with a professional

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
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