Being a narcissist is different from having Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on October 22, 2019. It has since been updated.
Coming across people who are completely self-absorbed or consumed with themselves is not a rare thing. Nothing makes them feel better than talking about their grand selves and talents. However, having certain narcissistic traits is different from being diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). According to Mayo Clinic, a person is diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder when they are overly obsessed about themselves, has a huge sense of self-importance, lack empathy, and have an undying need for attention and compliments.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) enlists nine criteria for NPD but specifies that one needs to have only five to be diagnosed with NPD.
The symptoms include:
- Grandiose sense of self-importance
- Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
- Belief they’re special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions
- Need for excessive admiration
- Sense of entitlement
- Manipulative behavior in interpersonal relationships
- Lack of empathy
- Envy of others or a belief that others are envious of them
- Demonstration of arrogant and haughty behaviors or attitudes
People suffering from NPD have low-self-esteem and are vulnerable to the slightest of criticism, whereas someone with a few narcissistic tendencies does not go through these challenges. They just feed off your compliments and exude a superlative behavior, reports Psych Central.
A relationship with a narcissist could be a nightmare because they are very selective in showing compassion and have the capability to cut off emotionally and turn apathetic. If you are dating a narcissist, chances are you will not feel truly valued or accepted after the first phase where they chose to court you. Healthline outlines the primary signs you will notice when you date a narcissist.
Narcissists believe they are special people and only a few people deserve to be around them. They tend to project all their false beliefs onto others. This is why they will go out of the way to charm you in the beginning and win you over with sweet gestures. Once they think they have you where they want you to be, they will not think twice to drop you from that place of importance. In romantic relationships, they may seem like the picture-perfect partner at the beginning, almost too good to be true.
Narcissists hide behind facades of all kinds. For them, everything is an opportunity to show the world how great they are. Conversations are not about connection, but about proving the other wrong or how awesome they are. They are poor listeners, although they may appear to be interested or fascinated by you, especially initially. But then you just to get your attention initially. They will always find a way to make it all about them.
Since they have very low self-esteem, they need constant validation from outside to feel okay with themselves. Experts explain how they need a lot of appreciation and will find ways to get them. In other words, they look for validation and appreciation from people with high empathy quotient. Although, they often lack compassion for others and themselves. They are adept at conversations and come across as well-informed, although most of the conversation has an agenda to enhance their sense of self through others.
Empathy is the ability to feel how other people are feeling. Narcissists do not have this ability. Not only do they dismiss other people's feelings and pain, but they also cannot allow people to feel validated, wanted, celebrated, or even happy. Other folks' (even partners, family, or friends) success and joy seem like a threat to them, and often their pride is hurt in acknowledging that there are others who are better in them. etc.
In intimate relationships, they will withhold affection and validation because they lack self-worth. It is important to know that them being distant or unappreciative speaks of them and not you.
As a result of their extreme arrogance and ego issues, narcissists do not have many long terms friends with whom they have deep connections. They might have few casual friends mostly to maintain an appearance in the social circle. But they lack the basic emotional skills to form meaningful relationships. They also tend to manipulate people in their immediate circle and use guilt as a tool to get what they want. In romantic relationships, they tend to find ways to increase their sense of self rather than form emotional connections.
They will constantly make you feel insufficient and not good enough for their love. They might call you names, be unnecessarily sarcastic, and use hurtful one-liners or remarks to lower your self-esteem. Their idea of power is so convoluted that they need others to feel less of themselves in order to feel good about themselves. They also tend to use humor as a cover-up when you feel bad.
In the process, they also gaslight you, which can leave you feeling confused and anxious. They can twist the truth, make you feel guilty, lie without flinching, and make you believe you are remembering things incorrectly, or worse make you feel insane. They may also say things like, "but it's just a joke," "don't be too sensitive," or "are you crazy?"
A classic sign of a narcissist is that they cannot comprehend that they are ever wrong. It was always others who are at fault. Neither will they try to understand you or accept their own mistake because they are too pompous to come out as the person who did wrong. When they feel defensive, they play offense and make the other person regret having brought up the issue in the first place.
For narcissists, their reputation is everything. They can never afford to be seen in poor light. Therefore, when you call them out for being arrogant they will try to reverse the conversation and make you seem like the selfish, uncaring, mean person to have said what you did.