How to Spot a Narcissist


We have all met people who seem to think the world revolves around them. They may display an excessive need for admiration and attention, lack empathy for others and have an inflated sense of self-importance. These individuals could be suffering from narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), a mental health condition that affects approximately 6 percent of the general population.

It is important to learn how to identify a narcissist as they can be harmful and manipulative in personal relationships, work environments, and social circles. In this article, we will look at the signs of narcissism and explore how to respond effectively.

The Symptoms of Narcissism

NPD is diagnosed when an individual shows at least five of the following symptoms:

  • Has a grandiose sense of self-importance and exaggerates their abilities.
  • Believes they are special or unique and should only associate with other high-status individuals or institutions.
  • Requires excessive admiration and attention.
  • Has a sense of entitlement and expects to be treated as superior to others.
  • Exploits others to achieve personal goals and may take advantage of others without concern for their needs or feelings.
  • Is unwilling to recognize or empathize with the feelings and needs of others.
  • Is envious of others or believes others are envious of them.
  • Displays arrogant or haughty behavior.

Narcissistic individuals may have trouble feeling empathy and may not care about how their actions affect others. This can result in them using their charm and manipulative behavior to get what they want, potentially causing harm to those around them.

The Different Types of Narcissists

There are two main types of narcissists: grandiose and vulnerable.

Grandiose narcissists display strong confidence, high energy, and an exaggerated sense of their own abilities. They commonly describe themselves as being smarter, more talented, or more attractive than others. They demand attention and may become angry or aggressive when they do not receive it.

On the other hand, vulnerable narcissists have low self-esteem and may often feel victimized or ignored. They may play the victim card and look for sympathy rather than admiration. They may appear depressed, anxious, or socially apprehensive, and often surround themselves with people who can provide emotional and material support.

How to Respond to a Narcissist

It can be challenging to deal with narcissistic individuals, but there are ways to respond effectively. Understanding the behavior of a narcissist and the reasons behind it can enable you to develop a strategy to deal with them. Here are some helpful tips to consider:

Don’t Take It Personally

It’s important to remember that most of the behaviors of a narcissist are about them and not about you. They are projecting their own feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, and low self-esteem onto others. So, when the narcissist criticizes or belittles you, don’t take it personally. It is not about you, it’s about their need to feel superior.

Avoid Being Emotional

Narcissists enjoy provoking emotional reactions from others; it feeds their need for attention and admiration. To avoid giving them what they want, it’s important to remain composed and unemotional. Aim to remain calm and objective, even when they become aggressive or confrontational.

Set Boundaries

It’s essential to set clear boundaries with narcissistic individuals. This means deciding what you are willing to put up with and what you are not. Remember that narcissists will manipulate people to get what they want, so it’s crucial to be clear and firm in your boundaries. When they behave beyond what you can tolerate, create consequences such as reducing contact or completely cutting them off.

Be Empathetic but Not Enabling

Narcissists have a hard time understanding others’ feelings, but showing empathy is still the right thing to do. Try to put yourself in their shoes and respond with kindness and empathy – this may surprise them and help diffuse the situation.

However, be aware of enabling their behavior. Enabling involves taking responsibility for their actions or shielding them from the consequences of their behavior. Enabling behaviors make it easier for them to continue their narcissistic ways.

Seek Support

Dealing with a narcissist can be a draining, emotionally taxing experience. It’s essential to seek support from friends, family, or a professional. You should have a supportive network to share your experiences with and to provide emotional support when needed.


Spotting a narcissist can be a challenging task. Often, their behavior is well-masked behind a charming facade, and it may take a while for you to realize what is happening. However, understanding the signs of narcissism, the different types, and how to respond appropriately can help you avoid becoming entangled in these toxic relationships, and walk away with your self-respect and integrity intact.


FAQ #1: What are some common traits of a narcissist?

A narcissist typically displays qualities such as extreme self-importance, a lack of empathy towards others, a constant need for admiration, a sense of entitlement, and a willingness to exploit others to achieve their own goals. They also tend to have an exaggerated sense of their own abilities and achievements.

FAQ #2: Can narcissistic behavior be damaging to others?

Yes, narcissistic behavior can be incredibly damaging to other individuals, particularly those in close relationships with the narcissist. They may be manipulative, controlling, and emotionally unpredictable, causing significant stress and harm to those around them. Narcissism may also lead to a lack of accountability for one’s own actions and a failure to take responsibility for their impact on others.

FAQ #3: Is it possible to spot a narcissist before entering into a relationship with them?

While it can be challenging to identify a narcissist early on, there are certain red flags and warning signs to be aware of. These may include a lack of interest in your thoughts or feelings, intense flattery or compliments aimed at gaining your trust, a preoccupation with power and status, and a tendency to blame others for their own mistakes or shortcomings. It is important to be aware of these warning signs and to trust your instincts when it comes to entering into any new relationship.



Malkin, C. (2015). Rethinking Narcissism: The Bad-And Surprising Good-About Feeling Special. HarperCollins Publishers.


Krizan, Z., & Herlache, A. D. (2018). The Narcissism Epidemic is Dead; Long Live the Narcissism Epidemic. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 22(2), 141-156. doi: 10.1177/1088868317741302


Campbell, W. Keith, & Miller, J. D. (2011). The Handbook of Narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Theoretical Approaches, Empirical Findings, and Treatments. Wiley-Blackwell. doi: 10.1002/9781118093108