20 Traits Of The Narcissist – So You Can Spot Them Early

What are the deeply ingrained personality traits of the narcissist? What makes them tick?

According to the DSM IV-TR, Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is characterized by a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, exploitation of others, and lack of empathy, beginning in early adulthood and manifest in a variety of contexts.

Having one or two traits of narcissism is not unusual, but when narcissistic traits are so predominant that they impair a person’s social functioning, it may qualify them for a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). 

Main Traits According to the DSM

1.Feels grandiose and self-important (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents to the point of lying, demands to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)

2. Is obsessed with fantasies of unlimited success, fame, fearsome power or omnipotence,

unequalled brilliance (the cerebral narcissist), bodily beauty or sexual performance (the somatic narcissist), or ideal, everlasting, all-conquering love or passion

3. Firmly convinced that he or she is unique and, being special, can only be understood by,

should only be treated by, or associate with, other special or unique, or high-status people (or institutions)

4. Requires excessive admiration, adulation, attention and affirmation – or, failing that,

wishes to be feared and to be notorious (narcissistic supply)

5. Feels entitled. Expects unreasonable or special and favorable priority treatment.

Demands automatic and full compliance with his or her expectations

6. Is “interpersonally exploitative”, i.e., uses others to achieve his or her own ends

7. Devoid of empathy. Is unable or unwilling to identify with or acknowledge the feelings and needs of others

8. Constantly envious of others or believes that they feel the same about him or her

9. Arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes coupled with rage when frustrated, contradicted, or confronted

**The criteria above are based on: American Psychiatric Association. (2000); Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth edition,

Text Revision (DSM IV-TR). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association. The text in italics is based on: Sam Vaknin. (2003). Malignant Self Love – Narcissism Revisited, fourth, revised, printing. Prague and Skopje: Narcissus Publication.

The 20 Traits Of The Narcissist So You Can Spot Them Early

Dr. Irene Matiatos, psychologist and author of the website,”Dr. Irene’s Verbal Abuse Site”, suggests there are 20 traits common to people with NPD.

Not everyone has all the traits but most will have a significant number of them. Below is an abridged version from her website:

1.  PATHOLOGICAL LYING; is skillfully deceptive and very convincing.

Avoids accountability by diverting topics, dodging questions, and making up new lies, bluffs or threats when questioned.

His memory is self serving as he denies past statements.

2. CONTRACT BREAKER; agrees to anything then turns around and does the opposite.

This con artist will accuse YOU of being the contract breaker.

3. HIGH ROLLER; Successfully backstabs his way to the top. His family is a disposable prop in his success facade.

Is charismatic, eloquent and intelligent in his field, but often falsifies abilities and credentials.

Needs to have iron-fisted control and relyies on his manipulation skills.

Ruthlessly exploits or targets others in pursuit of his ever-changing agenda.

Mercilessly abuses the power of his position. A vindictive bully in the office with no social or personal conscience. Often suspicious and paranoid.

4. USES SEXUALITY; is often hypersexual (male or female). Pornography, masturbation, and incest are reported by his victims.

Easily bored, he demands increasingly deviant stimulation. May also withhold sex or emotional support as means of control.

5.  BLAME-GAME;never accepts responsibility. Blames others for his failures and circumstances. A master at projection.

6.  VIOLENT; may be a wife-beater, murderer, serial killer, stalker, terrorist.

Has a ‘chip-on-his-shoulder’ attitude. He lashes out and destroys or uses others (particularly women and children) as scapegoats for his aggression or revenge. Poor impulse control.

He will try to make YOU look out of control. Can become dangerous and unpredictable. Has no remorse or regard for the rights of others.

7. CONTROLLING/MANIPULATING; pits people against each other. Is verbally skilled at twisting words and actions.

Is charismatic and usually gets his way. Undermines your support network and discourages you from seeing family and friends.

Other people’s money is often his objective. He is ruthless, demanding and cruel.

May appear pitiful and in need of help-you rush in to help him with your finances, assets, and talents.

As he sets you up to take the fall, you may be used as his proxy to interact with others on his behalf.

8. SUBSTANCE ABUSE Alcohol, drugs, you name it-he does it. We see his over-indulgence in food, exercise or sex and his need for instant gratification.

9. “SOUL MATE”; is cunning and will come on strong, sweep you off your feet.

He seems to have the same values, interests, goals, tastes, habits. He admires your intellect, ambition, honesty and sincerity.

He wants to marry you quickly. He fakes integrity, and appears helpful, comforting, and generous in the initial phase. Eventually, Jekyll turns into Hyde and his discarded victims suffer emotional and financial devastation.

You may be discarded quickly as he attaches to a “new perfect soul mate”.

10. QUIET AND ISOLATED; appears socially withdrawn, dirty, and unkempt.

Odd thinking is observed. Used as a disguise to appear pitiful to obtain whatever he can,

11. SADISTIC; he watches with obvious enjoyment as he inflicts emotional, financial, physical and verbal cruelty.

He takes pleasure in taking other people’s assets. His target: women, children, the elderly, anyone vulnerable.

12. RAGES; flies off the handle with little or no provocation. Has disproportionate overreactions and childish tantrums. His rage can be intimidating.

He wants control, attention and compliance. Any reaction is his payoff- good or bad attention.

Your fear, crying, yelling, name calling, or hatred are his objectives

13. BRAINWASHING; is very charismatic and able to manipulate others to obtain status, control, compliance, money, attention.

Often found in religion and politics. He masterfully targets the naive, vulnerable, uneducated or mentally weak.

14. RISK-TAKING/ THRILL-SEEKING; never learns from his past follies and shows repeatedly bad judgment. Poor impulse control is a hallmark.

15. PARANOIA; is suspicious of everything usually for no reason.

Terrified of exposure (as fraud) and may be dangerous if threatened.

16.  IMAGE MAKING; will flaunt his ‘toys’, his children, his wife, his credentials and accomplishments.

Admiration, attention, even glances from others; our envy or our fear is his objective.

Appears to be the perfect father, husband, friend – to outsiders.

17. EMOTIONAL VACUUM; he deceives us by his remarkable ability to mimic human emotions.

We are left numb when we realize that he is completely lacking empathy and genuine emotions.

18. “SAINTLY”; proclaims high moral standing. Accuses others of immorality.

This hypocrite lies, cheats, abuses, deceives, controls, and manipulates while portraying himself as having high morals.

19. CALLING-CARD; forewarns his victims. Early in the relationship he may reveal his nature by saying “You need to protect yourself around me” or “Watch out, you never know what I’m up to.” You laugh not realizing what the future holds.

20.  PENITENT; he begs “I’ll change, I love you, I’ll go for therapy.”

Appears to ‘come clean’ admitting past abuse and asking forgiveness. Then claims we are at fault and need to change too.


  1. http://www.daughtersofnarcissisticmothers.com/narcissism-traits.html
  2. http://www.healthyplace.com/personality-disorders/malignant-self-love/narcissistic-personality-disorder-npd-definition/
  3. http://www.drirene.com/catbox/index.php?showtopic=40676

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