"What is a narcissistic personality?" is a question that can be answered by noting that some of the most common characteristics of narcissism include a lack of empathy, a sense of entitlement, and a need for control. If someone in your life displays narcissistic qualities—whether they’ve been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) or not—knowing how to respond to them can be challenging. Let’s address some of the different types of narcissism and what you can do if someone in your life displays these qualities.
Narcissism Vs. Narcissistic Personality Disorder
First, it’s important to note that a person who exhibits narcissistic behaviors may not necessarily have narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). Someone with some of the personality traits will occasionally show signs of these tendencies. However, a person with NPD has a clinical mental health condition that can affect their daily functioning in a variety of ways over the long term. Someone with a narcissistic personality disorder may show symptoms such as:
- An exaggerated sense of self-importance
- A pervasive sense of arrogance
- A need for excessive admiration
- Not hesitating to take advantage of people to get what they want
- Dreams of being dominant over or better than others
- A sense of entitlement
- Failing to understand or consider the needs or emotions of others
- Feelings of superiority
Only a licensed mental health professional can diagnose someone with NPD. However, there are a few signs you might be able to spot that could indicate a person only has narcissistic tendencies rather than the clinical narcissistic personality disorder. These include the ability to take accountability for their actions and the ability to cultivate stable, loving relationships. Again, the symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder or NPD will usually be sustained and pervasive over time, whereas narcissistic personality traits can be apparent in some situations or at some times but not at all in others.
Types Of Narcissism
Over the years, different researchers have come up with different ways to categorize the types of narcissism. One of the more recent classifications breaks it down into two types: grandiose and vulnerable. A few traits are common among both types, like a sense of entitlement, a disregard for the feelings and needs of others, and a sense of self-centeredness. Beyond that, they differ in how they present.
The name gives an indication as to the defining qualities of this type of narcissism. Grandiose narcissists tend to have an inflated self-image and higher than normal self-esteem. They often feel a deep need to be admired, and their sense of entitlement leads them to expect it. They may have no trouble exploiting others to get what they want or need.
Vulnerable narcissism manifests quite differently. It takes the form of insecurity, defensiveness, and hypersensitivity. A vulnerable narcissist likely has low self-esteem, which can result in avoidance or anger and hostility when it comes to their relationships with others.
Tips For Responding To A Narcissist
If you’re experiencing any type of abuse, you have the right to defend yourself by leaving the relationship and seeking help.
If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse of any kind, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
As long as you’re not experiencing abuse, you can take steps to preserve your own wellbeing while in relationship with a person who shows narcissistic behaviors. This is especially true if they’re a long-term figure in your life, such as a close family. Here are some strategies you can try.
For instance, you might carve out regular alone time for yourself or ask that they don’t push back when you say no to something. Be prepared for them to try and change your mind or convince you that the lines you’re drawing are unreasonable, and do your best to stand firm.
Don’t Succumb To Negativity
A person exhibiting narcissistic traits may blame you for their own actions or project their insecurities on you. They may tend to blame you or others when things don’t go their way. Anticipating these possibilities when interacting with this person can help you be prepared to let them roll off your back without internalizing them.
Try Not To Take It Personally
If the person with whom you’re dealing has the clinical condition of NPD, remember that it’s a mental health disorder that they did not choose. They may also be resistant to the idea or suggestion of seeking help, which can mean that their behaviors may not change. While some of their actions may feel like personal attacks on or criticisms of you, remembering that it’s the condition talking and continuing to take measures to defend yourself will generally be key. Again, remember that if you’re experiencing abuse, you have the right to exit the situation or relationship.
Cultivate Healthy Self-Esteem
Dealing with a narcissistic person on a regular basis can take a toll on your self-esteem over time. They might wear you down in order to build themselves up, and constant criticism or pushback on your boundaries can cause you to doubt yourself. Working to build your own sense of confidence and self-worth can help you defend your mental health. Plus, research shows that a healthy sense of self-esteem correlates with “success and well-being in life domains such as relationships, work, and health." so the benefits can be far-reaching. Some ways to work on building self-esteem include doing mindfulness meditation, saying daily affirmations, setting and reaching achievable goals, and starting therapy.
Connect With A Therapist
Working with a therapist can be a helpful tool for those who regularly interact with someone who exhibits narcissistic behaviors. They can provide a neutral, third-party perspective, help you build your self-esteem and communication skills, and assist you in setting boundaries to keep yourself safe and healthy. If you prefer to get this kind of treatment from the comfort of your own home, consider an online therapy platform like BetterHelp. You can get matched with a licensed counselor with whom you can meet via phone, video call, and/or online chat to work through the challenges you may be facing. Since research suggests that virtual therapy offers similar benefits to in-person sessions, this format is a viable option for those who prefer it for comfort, accessibility, or cost-effectiveness.
Why Do Narcissists Create Drama?
People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) often have an inflated sense of self-importance, a need for attention and admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. As a result, they may create drama for a variety of reasons, including:
- Attention – People with NPD often crave attention, and drama can place them at the center of attention, fulfilling their need for recognition and admiration.
- Control – By creating drama, a person with NPD can manipulate situations and the people in their world to maintain control.
- Deflection – People with NPD often avoid taking responsibility for their actions. Creating drama may be a tactic to deflect blame and criticism away from themselves.
- Provoking An Emotional Response – People with NPD may enjoy eliciting emotional reactions from other people, and creating drama is one way to do that.
- Boredom – Some people with NPD seek constant stimulation and may find routine unfulfilling. Creating drama is one way a person with NPD may find excitement.
- Projecting Insecurities – People with NPD may project their own insecurities onto other people, and creating drama can be a way to externalize their inner turmoil without having to confront it directly.
Why Do Narcissists Crave Drama?
People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) may crave drama because it provides them with an avenue to reach their psychological needs. The psychology of a person with NPD is different from that of a person without it. They have a strong sense of self-importance and a deep need for attention and admiration. Drama serves as a platform for them to be the center of attention while offering a means for manipulation and control. Drama also feeds their desire to provoke emotional reactions out of others. In some cases, the drama may simply be a matter of entertainment, where the person with NPD uses drama to keep their life stimulating.
What Angers A Narcissist The Most?
Not all people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) are the same. As such, what angers one person may not anger the other. However, there are some common things that may anger a person with NPD, including:
- Being Ignored Or Overlooked
- Challenging Their Reality or Authority
- Exposure Of Mistakes (like being caught in a lie)
- Disloyalty Or Betrayal
How To Mess With A Narc's Head?
Trying to mess with someone's head or manipulate their emotions is not only potentially harmful to them, but it can also lead to negative consequences for you, too. Instead of trying to provoke or manipulate, it may be healthier and more productive to focus on setting clear boundaries, protecting your own emotional well-being, and seeking professional guidance if needed.
While it can be challenging to be involved with someone with narcissistic tendencies, rather than trying to make a point, it could be wise to prioritize your own well-being and avoid doing things that may escalate the situation.
Why Do Narcissists Play You?
People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) may manipulate or "play" others to fulfill their own psychological needs and desires. Their behavior often stems from a deep-seated need for admiration and control and a lack of empathy for others. By manipulating people, they often seek to maintain their self-esteem, control situations, maintain their position of authority, and secure the admiration and attention they crave.
Why Do Narcissists Play The Victim?
People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) often play the victim. However, that's not the only role they play. It's common for people with NPD to move quickly between three roles, known as the "drama triangle." In this framework, each point in the triangle represents a different role. These roles are:
- Victim – When people with NPD are playing victims, they may exaggerate or fabricate hardships to gain sympathy and attention or to justify their behaviors. For example, a narcissistic mother might portray herself as the victim of conflicts with her children, deflecting blame and garnering sympathy, even if the mother is the one causing the issues.
- Persecutor – In this role, a person with NPD may act as a critic or bully, often putting others down or blaming them. For instance, a boss with NPD might openly criticize employees in front of the rest of the team for minor mistakes.
- Rescuer – Sometimes, people with NPD also play the role of rescuer, trying to help situations, often without being asked, usually to gain praise or admiration.
Each role perpetuates the other. In that way, a person with NPD may play the role of the persecutor only to switch to playing the victim when they're challenged on their behavior. This can create a cycle of unhealthy relational patterns. When you're around someone with NPD, you may find yourself in one of the three roles as well.
Will A Narcissist Apologize?
A person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) may apologize, but often their apologies are not genuine. They might apologize if they believe it serves their interests or helps maintain their image. Their apologies might lack sincerity and instead serve to further their own agenda. A person with NPD may not acknowledge that they were wrong. Instead, they may use the apology as a tool to regain control or factor. They might also explain their actions in a way that deflects blame or minimizes their responsibility, focusing more on justifying themselves rather than showing genuine remorse.
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