Though they parade behind their mask of self-importance, that’s all it really is – just a mask. Beneath the exterior lies a fragile self-esteem that is vulnerable to even the slightest criticism.
Narcissistic personality disorder delves deeper than an inflated ego –– individuals with this disorder lack a core sense of self as well as a sense of others’ needs.
According to Ancient History Encyclopedia and Greek mythology, the term ‘narcissism’ was first derived from the figure, Narcissus, who was so impossibly handsome that he fell in love with his own reflection. The term narcissism now lives on to be coined to describe those with excessive self-admiration.
However, to be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, an individual must exhibit at least five of the following beliefs/behaviors based on criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), published by the American Psychiatric Association:
1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance and exaggerates achievements and talents
Grandiosity refers to an unrealistic sense of superiority, a sustained view of oneself as better than others that causes the narcissist to view others with disdain or as inferior, as well as to a sense of uniqueness: the belief that few others have anything in common with oneself and that one can only be understood by a few or very special people.
2. Dreams of unlimited power, success, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
These people view the world almost exclusively in terms of “winners” and “losers” and are constantly driven to prove they are among the winners of this world, often at the expense of the ‘losers’ they despise.
3. Believes he or she is special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions
Narcissists are focused on having an outsize impact on the world around them. They want others to know them for their individual ability, rather than their ability to work with a team. As a result, they are focused mostly on traits that reflect individual leadership and greatness rather than positive traits that would make them better members of a community.
4. Requires excessive admiration
The narcissist must feel like they are adored, loved, and wanted. If you don’t make them feel that way, they will use manipulation tactics like gaslighting to get what they want.
5. Unreasonably expects special, favorable treatment or compliance with his or her wishes
When they aren’t spending time bragging about themselves, exhibitionist narcissists are putting down everyone else. They will often be carelessly rude and cruel about people, and tend to ignore or not even notice how people react to it.
6. Exploits and takes advantage of others to achieve personal ends
Friends, family, their dog- it doesn’t matter to the narcissist who it is, they will toss them aside if it means getting closer to their dream.
7. Lacks empathy for the feelings and needs of others
They tend to act differently in public versus in private. This can be even more confusing for their victims, because they will see someone charismatic and kind in public, then someone abusive and cruel when they are alone.
8. Envies others or believes they’re envious of him or her
There tends to be a lot of chaos around a toxic narcissist. This is because they enjoy the envy and jealousy. They thrive off the feeling they have created havoc for someone else.
9. Has arrogant behaviors or attitudes
They will say they will do something, only to not do it. They also get a kick out of how that makes other people react.
What to do when you recognize these signs in another person:
Due to the narcissist’s great deal of superiority and defensiveness, it can be difficult for them to receive treatment as they may be unable to acknowledge their vulnerabilities or feel “lesser than.”
“When the individual is in the superior position, defending against shame,” explains Darlene Lancer, relationship and codependency expert in Psychology Today, “the grandiose self aligns with the inner critic and devalues others through projection.”
Ultimately, all types of narcissists lack object constancy, meaning when they are angry with you, they can’t see that in the context of your relationship. If they are mad about something you did, all you will see is their hatred for you, and their wish to hurt you.
This makes relationships with narcissists very draining, whether you’re in a romantic relationship with them, are related to them, or work with them.
Your best bet is to go ‘no-contact.’ It’s never easy, but the first step will make the ones that follow a bit easier to take.
By Raven Fon