When your friend is being egotistical or self-centered, it’s easy to call them a narcissist, but there’s a difference between being self-absorbed and having full-blown Narcissistic Personality Disorder. If you’re having a hard time deciphering between the two, you’ll want to know the ways to spot a narcissist early on. Although they often can be charming and likable, someone with the mental disorder could head up hurting you during the course of knowing them, unlike your friend who just likes to post a lot of selfies.
“A narcissist’s personality is centered around getting his or her self-esteem needs met,” says psychotherapist and psychology professor Joanne Bagshaw, PhD over email. “Although they present themselves as very secure, even grandiose, really they have very low self-esteem. Who they’re friends with, the car they drive, their lifestyle, the clothes they wear, where they live, the hobbies their children are into, etc, are all reflections of and an effort to feel good about themselves.”
Narcissists comprise up to 6.2 percent of the population, but it often seems like more because they’re frequently found in highly visible positions of power, leadership, or celebrity, according to Ellen Hendriksen, PhD in an article for Quick and Dirty Tips. If you suspect you may have run into a few narcissists in your life, you might want to pay attention to these 11 ways to spot a narcissist early on.
1. They Love To Talk About Themselves
A classic sign of a narcissist is someone who only likes to discuss themselves. “[They can be] very social and charismatic, but the conversation always seems to come back around to be focused on them,” says mental health therapist Tara Dixon, PLPC over email.
2. They Lack Empathy
Narcissists have no problem playing games, toying with people’s emotions, or stepping on others’ toes to get what they need for themselves. They don’t care about the thoughts or feelings of others, especially when they conflict with their own, according to BPD Central.
3. They Feel Entitled
Narcissistic people have a sense of entitlement that is unrealistic and often undeserved, according to Psychology Today. “They also demand special treatment and have to interact with the best doctors, lawyers, accountants that are usually the head of an organization,” says professor of psychiatry Scott Carroll, MD over email.
4. They’re Obsessed With Success
Well want to be successful, but narcissists are obsessed with their fantasy of success an unhealthy amount, according to Psych Central. Everything they do, including who they are friends with, are just stepping stones to this success.
5. They’re Emotionally Fragile
Despite their outer appearance of seeming self-confident, many narcissists are actually very emotionally fragile. “They repress or suppress emotions that make them uncomfortable, especially if they feel ashamed, abandoned, or rejected,” says psychotherapist Karen R. Koenig, MEd, LCSW over email.
6. They Can’t Take Criticism
Because they are so sensitive to negative emotions, they have an extremely hard time taking criticism. Pointing out their flaws blows their cover that they are perfect, which narcissists can’t handle. “Full of shame, they can’t acknowledge their flaws, but frequently have no problem being critical of other people and expecting their opinions to be taken as the truth,” says Koenig.
7. They Put Blame On Others
Narcissists have an unwillingness to admit mistakes, according to Psychology Today. Because of this, they tend to blame others when things go wrong, and they get upset if you try to attribute a problem to them.
8. They Have Little Sense Of Humor
Don’t expect a narcissist to laugh at a playful joke about them. “They have little sense of humor about their shortcomings,” says Koenig. “They become highly insulted or enraged when their tiniest flaws are exposed.”
9. They Think The Rules Don’t Apply To Them
“A narcissist tends to break rules and ignore boundaries to make life self-centered,” says relationship expert April Masini over email. “Narcissists truly believe that rules that impede them are wrong. They don’t see the bigger picture or the greater good because it’s all about them.”
10. They’re Materialistic
“In order to match their self-importance, they must also look the part,” says Dixon. “Narcissists are often known for liking name brand or high-end products. Their visual appearance must match their status.”
11. They Name Drop
“Classically, people with NPD drop names and claim to have friendships and connections to famous and powerful people,” says Carroll. “In reality, they only shook the person’s hand in a reception line and the famous person would have no clue who they are.”
If you or someone else believes they may be suffering from a mental health or personality disorder, they should seek professional assessment and treatment from a licensed mental health professional.