Signs and Symptoms of Narcissism  

Narcissism or NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) is a serious disorder of the personality. ‘A personality disorder is an enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates from the norm of the individual’s culture’. The pattern must be observed in two or more of the following areas: thinking, feeling, relationships, or impulse control. The rigid pattern is observed in a wide range of situations and leads to significant impairment in social, work, relationships or other areas of functioning. The pattern is enduring; that is, stable and of long duration.

People with narcissism display behaviors that would be described as vain, boastful and showy. Their behavior is often grandiose (meaning “bigger” or “larger than life”, i.e., flamboyant and extravagant) and highly egotistical, with an exaggerated sense of self-importance. They are commonly called arrogant and self-centered.

Narcissists take advantage of other people, using them or exploiting them to meet their own needs. A narcissist will monopolize conversations and put down or be rude to people they feel aren’t as good as them. Narcissists have a strong sense of entitlement which makes them feel they deserve special treatment. If they don’t get that special treatment, they tend to become impatient or get angry, sometimes flying into a rage. Narcissists see themselves as superior and want their lifestyles to reflect that despite their socio-economic bracket. Often living beyond what they can afford, a narcissist wants “the best” of everything: they insist on having the best cars, the best houses, the best athletic or country club, and having their children attend the best schools. They cannot empathize with others or put themselves “in someone else’s shoes”. They are only aware of their own feelings and do not understand how others may feel. A narcissist has difficulty handling criticism as they need to see themselves as perfect. He or she is so arrogant and self-centered that people often do not like to be around them.


  • Believes that he or she is better than others
  • Fantasizes about power, success or attractiveness
  • Exaggerates achievements or talents
  • Expects constant praise and admiration
  • Believes he or she is special and acts accordingly
  • Fails to recognize other people’s emotions and feelings
  • Expects others to automatically go along with their ideas and plans
  • Takes advantage of others
  • Expresses disdain for those they feel are inferior to them
  • Jealous of others
  • Believes that others are jealous of them
  • Trouble keeping healthy relationships
  • Setting unrealistic goals
  • Easily hurt and easily feels rejected
  • Has fragile self-esteem (over-reacts to even mild slights)
  • Has the appearance of being toughminded or unemotional

Some of the above signs of NPD may seem like having confidence or strong self-esteem but it goes above and beyond that. Narcissistic Personality Disorder goes over the line of healthy self-esteem into thinking so highly of himself that he or she values their self more than they value others.


In order for a person to be diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) by a clinician they must meet five or more of the following symptoms (DSM IV-TR):

  • Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  • Believes that 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)
  • Requires excessive admiration
  • Has a very strong sense of entitlement, e.g., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
  • Is exploitative of others, e.g., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
  • Lacks empathy, e.g., is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
  • Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
  • Regularly shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

Personality disorders are characterized by stable, long-standing patterns of behavior; therefore, they are most often diagnosed in adulthood. It is uncommon for them to be diagnosed in childhood or adolescence because children and teens are constantly developing their personalities and changing due to maturation. However, if it is diagnosed in a child or teen, the features must have been present for at least 1 year.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is more prevalent in males (50 to 75%) than females, and is thought to occur in up to 6.2 percent of the general population.


When an individual has an enduring pattern of thoughts and behavior that limits his or her ability to function in relationships and has a negative impact in other areas of their life such as work, social, or finances, they are said to have a personality disorder. The main characteristic of Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a exaggerated, egocentric preoccupation with himself or herself and and how he or she is perceived by others. Lack of empathy is pronounced. People on the milder end of the narcissistic spectrum, or who have some narcissistic traits, can function well in society (especially in certain professions) although they still usually have difficulty with relationships. There is a marked difference between individuals who display narcissistic traits and those who meet the definition of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Those individuals exhibiting one or two narcissistic traits are often judged as arrogant, overly-confident and self-centered but they do not have the over-the-top (grandiose) view of their abilities that a person with NPD has.




3 thoughts on “Signs and Symptoms of Narcissism  

  1. how would you describe a person who falls between NPD and having traits? My SO is, imo, ADHD (severe difficulty focusing on anything other than TV) and has serious narcissistic traits – a stunningly toxic combo that is exhausting to navigate. The divergence is in the grandiosity – instead of that, there is mild paranoia born of extremely low self-esteem, which leads to denigrating others in order to make him feel better about himself, though the preoccupation with how he is perceived by others is HUGE (hence the paranoia – if I want to really get his attention I whisper, as he is instantly alert to any idea that I might be saying something negative about him. He lacks empathy on his own(in general) but is relatively easily directed to behave in empathetic fashion, which is why I wonder if he falls into ‘traits’ rather than a true NPD. He can rarely resist the temptation to take advantage of others, though, feeling that he should ‘get them before they get him’ – even if there has been no history of being taken advantage of.

    I think I’ve mentioned this before but it bears repeating – I cannot thank you enough for this blog. It’s tremendously helpful, providing insight into how Narcs think, which is the biggest hurdle I’ve had to overcome. I no longer take his ‘crazy’ personally – I now see it as a form of illness and can act ‘prophylactically’. And I also like that you don’t waste a lot of time vilifying the narcissist. It’s a waste of time anyway – finding ways to cope with and/or protect one’s self from the actions of a narcissist is far more helpful!

    Thank you!

  2. Great post indeed. However the malignant narc will cause long term damage. Being born to a malignant npd mother-I have basically been raised by a demon. She has every single trait. I think narcs get off too easy. I suffer every day. My mother let her men hit me and abuse me and she made me cover for this abuse. I grew up blaming myself-as the scapegoat and the whole family joined in. NPD mothers are horrible. I made the mortal mistake of confronting my npd mother before I knew how terrible of a person she reallly is! Drawing my boundries didn’t mean a thing to her. Npd mother will abuse by proxy-be on a constant smear campaign and never ever ever will she be sorry for all that she put me through. My mother convinced everyone I am crazy and a liar. I heard someone say that if you want to know what the narc is thinking listen to what they call you. Ironically I am the one who wishes it was all different. Fighting cancer and npd mom threw me away….hangs up. How dare I ask about the brain surgery I survived as an infant..cruelest part is how I blamed myself all my life. I wish more therapists would catch a clue! Good luck to all out there who are fighting this battle! Hugs!

  3. I’m trying to get out from under in an abusive narcissistic marriage of twenty years and twins to boot.

    I have been reading intensely on NPD, relationships, separation and divorce, and sites such as this one have been really helpful. I feel a lot stronger now than I did a few weeks ago, when it really dawned on me that the person I married was a sham. Very very weird and scary. However, with all this research I am struck how gender biased many sites seem to be when defining narcissists and narcissistic behaviours, (including often this one) and prefer to use the term ‘he’ as the narcissist / abuser where they could just as easily use ‘they’. It seems that ‘she’ narcissists are prevalently mothers and ‘he’ narcissists are husbands and boyfriends…. Really?

    Cant we use the less gender specific such as ‘They’ are this and ‘they’ will that.

    Francis (not Frances)

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