Understanding Different Types Of Narcissism And How To Respond

Updated November 8, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Want To Learn More About Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

When a person is diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder or NPD, they might display specific characteristics or traits others may notice. Common symptoms of narcissism might include lack of empathy, entitlement, or a need for control.

Dealing with people having these traits can be challenging. And while these traits can vary significantly from person to person, in some cases they might lead to toxic relationships.

Whether you suspect a person in your life may have NPD or have personal concerns about the concept, it helps to understand the different types of narcissism and how they may affect others.

Narcissist Traits Vs. Narcissistic Personality Disorder

A person with a narcissistic personality may not have a narcissistic personality disorder.

Many people at some point in their lives may exhibit a narcissistic response to something. But, in some cases, the narcissistic behavior may begin to appear in a pattern that affects a person’s emotions, thoughts, or interactions with others.

When Narcissism Is Excessive

A person diagnosed with a narcissistic personality disorder may not have a connection to a specific type of narcissism. But something that many forms of narcissism have in common is that an NPD may impair a person’s ability to function by affecting their personality. NPD may also affect how a person interacts with their family, friends, coworkers, and other areas in life with adverse effects.

A person with NPD may feel deeply involved in their own perspective and feelings without regard to others. Since traits affect people differently, distinguishing them is crucial to understanding if they have a disorder. For example, someone with narcissistic traits as a teenager may move beyond that way of thinking as they get older.

Someone with a narcissistic personality disorder may show symptoms such as:

  • Exaggerating personal achievements and abilities
  • Constantly seeking attention and praise from others
  • Only associating with certain types of people who they deem special
  • Fantasizing about domination and success
  • Manipulating others
  • Expecting special treatment or feeling entitled to things
  • Feeling envious of others
  • A lack of sensitivity or sympathy
  • Accusing you of the same poor behavior that they exhibit
  • Ignoring value in others
  • High regard for their appearance
  • Exaggerating or lying about accomplishments
  • Finding nothing wrong with taking advantage of others to get what they want
  • Inability to accept criticism and quickly getting upset about it or lashing out

A person diagnosed with a narcissistic personality disorder may experience such symptoms over time. Symptoms also may affect different situations throughout life, from relationships to culture.

Research continues on potential causes for narcissistic personality disorder. A person with the disorder may have had childhood issues with their parents. Parental behaviors toward them as a child, such as too much praise, greed, or being unreliable, may affect personality development. Genetics and family history are other potential causes that could play a role in NPD.

Identifying Types Of Narcissism

There are various forms of NPD including:

  • Grandiose narcissism- People with this variation may seek lots of attention and admiration
  • Vulnerable narcissism or covert narcissism- One with this variation may get emotionally hurt easily and want sympathetic attention
  • Malignant narcissism- People with this version may exhibit manipulative or arrogant behavior while also demonstrating a lack of sympathy for others

Tips For Dealing With NPD

If someone close to you is exhibiting a lot of narcissistic behavior, regardless of whether they have NPD or not, it can be important to become aware of this trend so that it does not become detrimental to your wellbeing. Depending on your association with this person, you may choose to limit your time together, or even entirely distance yourself from the relationship.

Set Boundaries.

Someone with a narcissistic personality disorder may choose to put themselves first and prioritize their needs over your own. A good way to manage this could be my setting respectful boundaries.

Take a moment to think about what your limits are, and what you would or would not tolerate. Consider what you will say and how you will react if a line is crossed. Remember that you may need to make changes in your social circle, family, or people in your life to ensure that your boundaries are kept.

Avoid Letting Their Negativity Get To You.

A person exhibiting narcissistic traits may blame you for their own actions. Remember that the realities of others is not the same as yours. If someone wants to project their own insecurities or immoral actions onto you, then remember your own identity and don’t let external factors affect your own confidence and actions. If you disagree with someone, you often don’t need to burden yourself with the work that would involve changing their mind. Focus on your own goals, and simply thrive despite irrational attacks or criticism.

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Know Where You Can Get Help And Support.

You can get support depending on your situation. Speaking with a professional can help you see things more clearly, and you may encounter understanding, honest opinions, and useful resources. Working with a therapist online or offline may provide crucial insight into what a healthy friendship or relationship should look like and what to do to achieve it. In all your relationships, you should feel respected, and you deserve to have someone listen to your concerns.

Consider Ending Relations.

Sometimes people with narcissistic personality disorder or narcissistic traits might not want to admit they have a problem. So if relationships with them turn toxic, or you’ve been emotionally hurt, it may be time to sever ties. Consider learning more about narcissism and how to recognize it. Then, compare what you’ve learned to the person of concern and determine if the relationship is worth keeping. If you choose to end relations, cut off contact with them completely, at least for a period of time. If you’re upset about ending things, let yourself grieve and heal and prioritize self-care. Eventually, the person with narcissism may move on to manipulate or exploit another person. You may find that seldom do people with narcissistic personality disorder truly feel sad over losing a relationship since it might have been a one-sided affair to them in the first place.


Sometimes you must put space between yourself and a person with narcissism, but you can get help doing so. You can learn how to deal with such behaviors through talk therapy options online and offline. You can learn more about who you are dealing with and how to establish healthy communication.

Online CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) has been shown to be as effective as in-person therapy in treating the symptoms of many mental health challenges. You may also find that online therapy is more cost-effective than in-person therapy, especially when consider costs saved on things like taking time off work, paying for child care while away from the home, and transportation. Online therapy is effective, convenient, and safe for anyone managing NPD symptoms and traits in themselves or another person.

For Additional Help & Support With Your Concerns

Speak with a Licensed Therapist
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