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Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) Defined – How Narcissists Act, Love, And Break-Up The Whole Truth

narcissism define

Narcissists… are everywhere. These charming chameleons can sweep you off your feet and then destroy you as if you are garbage. Every single day thousands of hearts get broken by narcissists and their mean ways.

This article covers everything you need to know about them so that you can protect yourself.

What Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a mental condition in which the person with NPD has an inflated or grandiose sense of self-importance, fantasies of unlimited power and success, needing excessive validation and admiration, feeling unique and special, having a sense of entitlement, showing exploitative behavior in relationships, lack of compassion and empathy, envy, and being perceived as arrogant.

Of course, not all of the aforementioned characteristics are necessary for diagnosing a person with NPD. However, versions of these symptoms can be seen in people with NPD throughout their childhood and adolescence.(1)

What Causes Narcissism?

When we think about narcissists and narcissism, it is vital to know that the characteristics that label someone as a narcissist are also a part of normal human development. In other words, we can definitely expect some narcissistic traits in a person during their childhood and adolescence.

One of the problems with the diagnosis of NPD is that we don’t have an exact and clear definition of what exactly NPD is. However, there are three theories that are popular among psychiatrists about the causality of narcissism.

The first one is that narcissism is inherited. Of course, it is not unusual that a percent of our mental and general health disorders are genetic. There is a division between heritability (inherited traits) versus environmental ility, or in other words, the amount of variance that can be explained by the nature of genetics versus the amount of variance that can be explained by triggers from the environment that surround us. With NPD, the heritability is somewhere between 40 and 65 percent which is a great amount of contribution from genetics to the development of NPD.(2)

The second theory is that when it comes to NPD, some structural changes or differences can be found in the brain. There have been numerous studies done where scientists scanned the brain of people diagnosed with NPD and people who didn’t have NPD, and then they looked into the differences between the two categories of people. They have discovered that all the differences that they found are related to the areas of the brain that are responsible for emotional regulation and social behavior.

The third theory of the potential cause of narcissism is the environment. In other words, a lot of focus when it comes to individuals with NPD is on their experiences during childhood. Some of the factors that seem to have a link with NPD are, for example, a situation where a child receives excessive praise and excessive criticism as well. Moreover, a lack of parental empathy, emphasis on success and achieving high status, focusing on appearances instead of feelings, emotional abuse, and neglect, are all significant contributors to developing narcissistic traits.

What Are The 4 Types Of Narcissism?

When we think about narcissists, we think about certain people and their traits. However, there are 4 types of narcissists out there, and they all have different characteristics.

1. The Vulnerable Narcissist (or the Covert Narcissist)

This type of narcissist is the exact opposite of the general type of narcissist. While the stereotypical narcissist craves attention and admiration, the vulnerable narcissist is typically shy, hypersensitive to how other people see them and what they think of them. However, this type of narcissist is also extremely envious, just like the general narcissist. They tend to think their pain is bigger than anyone else’s and that they want other people to feel sorry for them.

2. The Somatic Narcissist

This type of narcissist bases their self-worth on their looks and body. They get overly obsessed with their physical appearance to the point of undertaking great measures to keep their body from aging. They are scared of gaining weight and getting old because their whole ego and pride revolve around their physical appearance.

3. The Cerebral Narcissist

This type of narcissist derives their self-worth and importance from their brain. They believe they are more intelligent and smarter than anyone else and they tend to look down on other people, considering them stupid and unimportant.

4. The Spiritual Narcissist

This narcissist uses their spirituality or religion to manipulate people and intimidate them. The spiritual narcissist justifies their toxic behavior by taking a “holier than thou” stance and putting an emphasis on their relationship with God or their spirituality.

How Can You Tell If Someone Is Narcissistic?

If you are wondering whether you are dealing with a narcissist, these are the signs that show a person is a full-blown narcissist.

  • They are extremely charming. When you meet someone, and they sweep you off your feet – be careful. Love bombing is the first phase of dealing with a narcissist. The narcissist will seduce you, compliment you, put you on a pedestal, and tell you all you want to hear just to get their way with you. And when they get what they want out of you, they will leave you out in the cold. So, whenever someone comes too strong in the beginning, be careful because it is not a good sign because true and genuine emotions don’t get developed instantly because you don’t know each other that well.
  • They always interrupt the conversation to tell you how great they are. Narcissists love to brag about their achievements and accomplishments. They want to feel better than anyone else, and so they tell other people how awesome and successful they are. However, they oftentimes exaggerate their achievements to feel superior and be adored by others. Moreover, they will also interrupt you while you are talking about yourself because they are not interested in you, they only care about themselves.
  • They need compliments in order to survive. Even though narcissists seem like they are the most confident people in the world, the truth is, they lack self-esteem. Therefore, they need to be complimented constantly in order to feel good about themselves. They always need people around them to tell them how amazing they are and make them feel powerful. Another thing is that narcissists tend to punish anyone for their lack of self-esteem by putting them down in order for them to feel superior and important.
  • They lack empathy and compassion. Narcissists are oblivious to the feelings of other people. That’s the number one sign of narcissism. A narcissist can never make you feel important, seen, accepted, or understood because they never care about you in the first place. They don’t care whether you are in a bad mood, or whether something bad happened to you. They can never console you. That’s why almost all their relationships fail inevitably.
  • They don’t have many (or any) long-term friends. If you look at the narcissist’s social circle you can notice that they don’t have any real friends. They only have colleagues and acquaintances because they are not able to be vulnerable and form deep long-lasting bonds with other people.
  • They constantly pick on you. Perhaps at first you thought they were teasing you. However, their insults have become constant with time. Narcissists will always criticize you, what you eat, what you wear, where you go, who are you friends with… everything you do is wrong because they want to be superior to you at all times. So, they will call you names, put you down, and diminish your self-esteem in order to destroy you and one-up you. It gives them pleasure knowing they can destroy someone like that.
  • They gaslight you. Gaslighting is the ultimate form of emotional and mental abuse where the narcissist completely distorts your reality and makes you feel as if you are the crazy one. Signs that someone is gaslighting you are: you don’t feel like yourself anymore, you are anxious, you are constantly wondering if you are overly-sensitive, you feel as if everything you do is wrong, you question your sanity, you constantly apologize, you always think that it’s your fault when things go wrong, and you make excuse for your partner’s abusive behavior.
  • They don’t define your relationship. There are many reasons why a person won’t put a label on your relationship. They may be polyamorous, they want an only friends-with-benefits thing, or they only want to keep it casual. However, they need to be honest about it. If your partner expects to treat them as your partner and be faithful to them, but you don’t get the same treatment from them – it is a red flag. They want to gain all the benefits from you while keeping their options open. They may even flirt in front of you, and when you confront them they may call you crazy and blame you for causing drama.(3)
  • They never apologize because they think they can do no wrong. It is almost impossible to fight with a narcissist. The battle is not fair because the narcissist will never compromise or say they are sorry for hurting you. In their head, they are always right and you should be the one bowing to them and apologizing. You don’t need someone like that in your life. A good partner will always respect you and when they do something wrong, they will apologize because they don’t want to lose you.
  • If you try to break up with them, they will start panicking. They will start love-bomb you in order to keep you stuck to them. They may promise they will change and do everything you want. Of course, they are lying. That’s why narcissists have on-off relationships until they find a new victim to date.
  • And when you are really done, they will start badmouthing you to save face. Because their ego will be severely bruised, they will try anything to make you look like the bad person, like you are the one who is responsible for the breakup. A good reputation is all they care about and therefore, don’t expect a narcissist to play fair.

What Are The 13 Traits Of A Narcissist?

types of narcissists psychology1. Entitlement and superiority

Narcissists’ number one priority is to be superior to anyone. They derive their confidence from feeling powerful and superior. Of course, that confidence is a fickle one, it is not real. In the narcissist’s world, they are at the top, and everyone else is below them. They feel entitled to control everything and have everyone admire them and listen to their orders.

2. Constant need for validation and attention

Another narcissistic trait is their relentless need for admiration, attention, and validation. No matter how supportive you are, how loving and encouraging you are – it is never enough. Because deep down, they don’t believe that they are good enough. In spite of their grandiose, self-absorbed persona, they are very insecure at heart. That’s why they constantly fish for attention and compliments.

3. Perfectionism

You can tell a person is a narcissist by their need for perfection. Everything in their life needs to be perfect. And if their plans are not going well, they instantly get pissed off and miserable. Then they start criticizing others for their failed plans.

4. Excessive need to control everything

The need for control and manipulation is typical narcissistic behavior. They need to control everything and mold it the way they want it. Plus, their need for control goes hand in hand with their need for power.

5. Lack of boundaries.

There are many people out there who lack boundaries or cross other people’s boundaries, but normal people are aware when they have crossed the like and they are quick to apologize and heal the damage. However, narcissists don’t have any boundaries. They don’t respect people and social norms. They believe they can do anything and no one can tell them no.

6. Lack of responsibility

Another glaring sign of narcissism is a complete lack of responsibility. Even though a narcissist desires to be in control in situations, they don’t want any responsibility. When something doesn’t go as they have planned, they are quick to shift the blame onto others and remove themselves from the situation and not suffer the consequences for their actions. That’s how they keep their ‘perfect’ façade. They almost always blame the most loving, loyal, and affectionate person for their wrongdoings.

7. Lack of empathy

 Narcissists don’t have any empathy and compassion in them. They are selfish and self-absorbed to the point that they don’t even think that other people can get hurt by their actions. They don’t think about other people at all. They only think about themselves and how they can get what they want. They don’t feel any guilt and remorse if they stomp upon someone’s heart. They view people as objects and they don’t care who they need to break in order to accomplish their goals.

8. Emotional reasoning

Many victims of narcissists have made the mistake of trying to explain and reason with the narcissist to get them to understand what they have done and how deeply they hurt them. However, all the efforts to talk and reason with a narcissist are futile because the narcissist doesn’t take your words into consideration. Your words mean nothing to them. The narcissist only cares about their own thoughts and feelings. So, if you are hoping that if you explain to them that they will change, don’t waste your time.(4)

9. Lack of ability to read body language

Narcissists perceive every sarcastic comment, every unusual facial expression as an attack to them. When they are angry, even “I love you” can trigger their rage. The lack of ability to read your emotions and facial expressions is a common narcissistic trait. In other words, narcissists cannot believe you feel differently than they feel. They can’t see and feel your love because they can’t love anyone other than themselves. That’s why they are always defensive. They think everyone wears a mask when they are the one wearing it and being fake.

10. Personality split

The personality of a narcissist is split into good and bad. In turn, narcissists split everything into good and bad. Everything negative that occurs into the relationship they blame onto the other person while taking credit for the good things that happen. Also, in their world, there is no middle ground. They tend to remember things as wonderful or as horrible. They can’t seem to feel or remember both positive and negative things in a particular situation. They only see it as black or white.

11. Fear of rejection

The whole life of the narcissist is driven by fear. Of course, they would never show it. However, narcissists are constantly scared of being rejected or ridiculed. They also have abandonment issues, i.e they fear being abandoned. They fear being seen as inadequate or losing all their money. All of these fears stop the narcissist from trusting another human being and opening up to them. Moreover, the closer you two get, the less they will trust you. They are deeply afraid of you seeing their imperfections and judging them. That’s why they will push you away before getting emotionally close to you.

12. Anxiety

Some narcissists feel anxious all the time. They are preoccupied with thoughts of doom and they tend to project their anxious feelings towards their partner. So, they call them negative, crazy, mentally ill, not being supportive or understanding, selfish, and so on. And as their partner begins feeling worse, they feel better. That’s how twisted their mind is.

13. Deeply repressed feelings of shame

Narcissistic people carry a lot of shame. They do believe that there must be something inherently wrong with them, but they don’t know what. They are ashamed of their feelings and fears, and that’s why they never show their vulnerable side. That’s how they keep their false image that everything is perfect in their world. But their world is full of lies and illusions.

What Is The Behavior Of A Narcissist VS. Non-Narcissists?

A person with a narcissistic disorder behaves differently than a person who is not a narcissist. Narcissists have very different values and views of the world than regular people. Here’s the difference between the narcissist’s behavior vs. the behavior of normal people.

Narcissists: lack empathy, are impulsive, don’t question their behavior, deny or hide their mistakes, hold grudges, blame others, withdraw or stonewall when they are upset, spoil other people’s good moods, are driven by fear, are hypersensitive to criticism, have casual relationships, are selfish, and pursue win-lose strategies.

Non-narcissists: care about the emotions of other people, are spontaneous, value introspection, learn from their mistakes, apologize, are hopeful, take responsibility for their actions, don’t take anything personally,  celebrate other people’s success, seek win-win situations, have reciprocal relationships, accept criticism, seek resolution to problems,  and communicate when they are upset.

Narcissistic behaviors such as those mentioned above are specifically designed by narcissists as a means to mask their insecurities and weak spots. There are some behaviors, like denying mistakes, avoiding introspection, blaming others, and stonewalling that is meant to put away the spotlight from the narcissist’s flaws. Others, such as lacking empathy or having casual and superficial relationships are signs of the narcissist’s inability to form a meaningful relationship with another person.

What Are The Values Of Narcissists VS. Non-Narcissists?

There is a big contrast when it comes to the values of narcissistic people and healthy people.

Narcissists value: status, perfection, image, winning, superiority, and getting attention from other people.

Non-narcissists value: fairness, equality, growth, development, love, compassion, authenticity, and connection with others.

Narcissist’s values such as superiority, winning, status, and perfection are all had in the likes of gaining respect, admiration, and approval from other people. They are all self-aggrandizing, as opposed to the values of other people that revolve around connection and compassion to other people.

How Does A Narcissist Act In A Relationship?

Narcissists are very bad relationship partners,” said firmly professor Brad Bushman from Ohio State University. Many studies have shown that narcissistic partners play mind-games, manipulate their partners, and are less likely to form long-term committed relationships. (5)

A relationship with a narcissist is extremely challenging. A narcissist is someone who has a hard time loving another human being because they don’t even love themselves. They are obsessed with themselves and their well-being that they see people only as an extent of them, they don’t see them as separate people with their own thoughts and feelings. They see others in terms of what they can provide them with. They value their spouses and children only to the extent of the things they can meet their needs. Plus, a narcissist can never feel empathy for their partners’ feelings which makes the relationship toxic.   

However, there are many people that continue to get drawn to narcissists and it is because narcissists are very charming and captivating (especially at the beginning of the relationship). They will do anything to win your heart and make you feel grateful for having them in your life. You will feel blessed because someone like them has chosen you. But, as time goes by, you will notice their possessive and controlling nature. They get easily triggered and then lash out at you angrily. And you will be left wondering what has happened to the wonderful person you first met.

Narcissists are very prone to falling quickly in love with someone and committing to them. However, their infatuation and commitment is short-lived. People dealing with narcissists feel very lonely during the course of their relationship with them because the narcissist only cares about their needs and wants.

The best thing you can do if you are in a relationship with a narcissist is LEAVE.

What Does A Narcissist Do At The End Of A Relationship?

If you decide to do the right thing and break up with the narcissist, expect these behaviors from them.

  • They will blame it all on you. They may try to change the narrative to make you the bad person. They may also try to guilt-trip you and manipulate you to stay by saying “You don’t want to give this relationship a chance,” “You never cared about me,” “You are leaving me when I need you the most…” etc.
  • They may literally say “I don’t accept this,” “You don’t mean that, you are overreacting,” “You can’t break up with me”, and so on.
  • Try to make you jealous. They may quickly find a new partner and go out publicly with them for you to see them because they want you to feel that they have moved on and they are happy without you so that you question your decision of leaving them. They want to awaken the competitive nature in you and make you fight for them.
  • Make you feel sorry for them. They may try to guilt you into staying with them by saying “I will kill myself if you abandon me,” or “You have no heart, leaving me alone when I am still grieving my father’s death”…
  • Promise to change. “It is going to be different this time.” Of course, it will never be because narcissists are incapable of change.
  • Stalk you.
  • Feign something terrible happened to them. You may hear from them all of a sudden telling you how they lost their job, their dog died, they are ill… all sorts of crises in order to get your attention again.
  • Seek revenge. “You will never see the kids again,” “You will regret this,” “I will kill you.”

Can A Narcissist Really Love You?

A person who is diagnosed with NPD cannot really love another person because they don’t have the ability for it. Moreover, they don’t understand love as normal people do.

A narcissist may act in a loving way towards you, but their loving ways are almost always conditional, meaning they expect to gain something in return. They view relationships as transactions. That’s why a relationship with a narcissist can be filled with drama, toxicity, and be an overall traumatic experience.

When a narcissist loses interest and decides that it is over, that can be a shock to their ex-partner because they cannot understand what happened. The narcissist usually drops their victim during the love bombing phase when the passion between them is still there. That’s why it is extremely difficult for the other person to get over the breakup with the narcissist. The victim is left feeling abandoned, confused, betrayed, and heartbroken.

What Are Female Narcissists Like?

There is not much difference between a female narcissist and a male narcissist. However, since they socialize differently, female narcissists have developed some specific personality traits.

Even though male and female narcissists share common narcissistic traits, there are differences when it comes to exhibiting their narcissistic traits. For example, when angry, male narcissists tend to be explosive and aggressive, while female narcissists tend to punish the one who angered them by withholding affection and attention.

Moreover, male narcissists use status and power as a form of control, whereas female narcissists use guilt or neglect as a means of controlling people and getting them to do what they want.

A female narcissist is superficial, deeply insecure, only concerned with their social image and physical appearance, she likes to bee seen as the martyr, she is very jealous and competitive, and as a parent or a mother-in-law is extremely over-bearing always wanting others to do things their way. A narcissistic mother-in-law may even be jelous of the partner of her son.

One of the biggest misconceptions about female narcissists is that they don’t exist. They do exist. Also, they are equally violent and dangerous. Females can also be bullies, just like male narcissists.

Bottom line…

If you are in a relationship with a narcissist or involved with them in any form, protect yourself and your sanity by removing them from your life. Or, if you can’t do that, then by all means try to cut contact with them to as little as possible. Because, with a narcissist, there is no stability. There is no love and understanding. Only pain, betrayal, and heartbreak.