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Traits of Narcissism to Watch Out For

Danielle Dahl, Lead Contributor

Narcissists are toxic people and being aware of the traits of narcissism can help you protect yourself. It is important to note that while you may know someone who exhibits some of these traits, that doesn’t technically make them a narcissist.

Narcissism (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) is a diagnosable mental illness. A person must meet at least five of these nine criteria to be diagnosed by a mental health professional.

However, if someone in your sphere meets some of these and causes you to stress, I would still set boundaries or remove yourself from them.

People do not need a clinical diagnosis of NPD to be bad for your mental health. These nine traits of narcissism will help you better understand who you are dealing with and make decisions that keep you sane and healthy.

What does narcissism mean?

Narcissism is defined as a level of extreme self-involvement in which a person ignores the needs of those around them. Narcissism itself is a personality trait that anyone can have, but those with a higher degree of it could have NPD.

A narcissist is likely to be extremely charming and exudes charisma. At the beginning of a relationship, you might think they are perfect. Their negative traits do not usually come out until later.

They will look for people who are good at feeding their egos. Their relationships are more about how you feed their idea of themselves. It is not a two-way street at all.

There are two main types of narcissism: grandiose and vulnerable. Grandiose narcissism presents itself in people who were entitled as children. Vulnerable narcissism stems from people who were likely abused or neglected during their childhoods. They use this trait as a way to reduce the inadequacy they feel.

Nine traits of narcissism to watch out for

Pathological narcissists will exhibit some destructive patterns and signs. If someone demonstrates these traits on occasion, or mildly, that does not make them a narcissist. Someone who is pathologically narcissistic will demonstrate these behaviors all the time and have destructive patterns.

A narcissist will manipulate people and always place their needs before anyone else’s. They will exploit you and it will just be a means to an end that serves them. Is someone in your life using coercive control to get their way? This is another destructive pattern of behavior for narcissists.

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A pathological narcissist will also mentally abuse you, which includes gaslighting. The purpose of mental abuse is to weaken, hurt, manipulate, or frighten someone.

Narcissists are master manipulators, and they often start accomplishing this before you have any idea what is happening.

Clinically, these are the nine traits to look for:

1. Exhibits a lack of empathy.

2. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance.

3. Is preoccupied with their fantasies of success.

4. Requires excessive praise and admiration.

5. Believes that they are unique and special.

6. Behaves with a sense of entitlement.

7. Takes advantage of others to serve their own purpose.

8. Displays arrogant behavior.

9. Is envious of others or believes others are envious of them.

These traits from the DSM-5 though are more focused on grandiose narcissism and not pathological narcissism.

Exploring the traits of narcissism in depth

Lack of empathy means that the narcissist is unwilling or unable to empathize with the needs, wants, or feelings of the people around them. It is also hard for them to accept responsibility for their behavior. Do you know someone who never thinks they are at fault for anything or has a hard time seeing something from someone else’s point of view?

How about that person who thinks they are more important than anyone else? Do their needs always seem to come first? Now, we should put our needs first and vocalize what we want and expect. However, if someone is never considering the fact that anyone else’s needs matter, they might be a narcissist.

If there is a person in your life who is so caught up about how successful, famous, or loved they are going to be, they may have a bit of a narcissistic personality. This doesn’t mean you can’t have dreams and goals. Those are important, but so is the work you do, and the plans you have. You might someday be all of those things if you work toward it. It is the people who think they are entitled to it simply because they exist that you need to watch out for.

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We all like a little validation sometimes—even though you don’t actually need it! However, if someone seems to require you to constantly praise them for the littlest things, this could be a concern. These people often brag and exaggerate their accomplishments because their need for admiration is insatiable. This might be the person in the room who always has to one-up someone else’s accomplishments.

Again we are all unique and special! We all have qualities that set us apart from everyone else. However, if you are acquainted with someone who believes they are special, and everyone else is not, then you might have a problem.

Arrogance is another trait of a narcissist that you won’t want to ignore. These people think they are superior to everyone and are often rude and nasty. It can turn into abusive behavior quickly, so keep an eye out for this behavior.

Manipulation, mental abuse, and gaslighting are also favorite tools of the narcissist. It is insidious and usually starts with small things. Do not accept this behavior from anyone. If someone is using you for their own purposes or trying to make you afraid, get out now.

What to do with someone you love who is a narcissist or has narcissistic tendencies

Narcissists come in all forms. They might be our romantic partners, but they could also be your co-worker, sibling, or parent. They can be anyone, and knowing how to handle one is an essential skill.

You will have to learn how to build up your emotional skillset. The first step in doing this is to educate yourself about what a narcissist is, how they behave, and how to spot one. Secondly, remember that boundaries are your friend.

These will make the narcissist unhappy, but stand firm. Let them know what you will tolerate and what you will not. Boundaries should be clear and communicated.

Communicating means you are going to have to speak up for yourself. Do not let someone else run your show. This is your life and you have every right to clearly tell them what you need.

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Don’t walk on eggshells with the narcissist in your life, but do watch the way you approach things. This is the perfect time to remember to use “I” statements instead of “you” statements when communicating. Try and make your constructive criticism as positive as possible.

What not to do with a narcissist

There are a few things that you should do with a narcissist and if any of these are dealbreakers for you, then it might be time to cut ties with this person.

Do not try to lead them or direct them to do anything. They like control; if you are fine letting them be in control of most things then let them have it. If you like to lead or work as a fully functional team, you are not going to get that from this relationship.

Remember that lack of empathy? That means that they are going to have a really tough time seeing a situation from someone else’s point of view. This also means that you are not going to be able to have much open and honest communication with them.

Try not to bring up past issues. Live in the present and the moment. Narcissists rarely change their behavior, and drawing up past mistakes is only to frustrate them.

Avoiding these things might make it easier to live with a narcissist, but it is not really a healthy relationship. Sometimes we do not get to pick the narcissists in our lives (such as our parents or siblings).

If you want to have a relationship with them you are going to have to work with their boundaries, just like should do with yours. You can make a relationship better, but understand that you will likely never have the type of relationship you want with this person.

Do you have any tips for dealing with a narcissist? Sometimes, the answer is going to be to sever your relationship. Don’t feel guilty about protecting your mental health! You can share your experiences with us in the comment section below.

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