Narcissistic Projection: Understanding the Disorder

When someone is described as being narcissistic, one common trait that comes to mind is their tendency to project their own flaws and insecurities onto others. Narcissistic Projection is a form of projection that arises from a personality disorder known as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). In this article, we will delve deeper into what Narcissistic Projection is, its symptoms, causes, and treatment options.

What is Narcissistic Projection?

Projection is a defense mechanism where people attribute their own undesirable feelings, characteristics, or motivations to others. Narcissistic Projection is a type of projection where people with NPD project their own feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, vulnerability, and inadequacy onto others. For example, if someone with NPD believes they are incompetent, they may falsely accuse others of being incompetent. Essentially, they are projecting their own flaws onto others to maintain their sense of superiority and protect their self-esteem.

Narcissistic Projection can manifest in various ways, such as:

  • Blaming others for their mistakes and shortcomings
  • Criticizing others for their flaws and weaknesses
  • Feeling superior to others and dismissing their opinions
  • Denying their own negative feelings and attributing them to others
  • Taking credit for other people’s achievements and successes
  • Imposing their own values and beliefs on others

Narcissistic Projection is often accompanied by other narcissistic tendencies, such as manipulation, exploitation, gaslighting, and lack of empathy. It can cause significant distress and harm to the person at the receiving end, as well as the narcissist themselves.

What are the Symptoms of Narcissistic Projection?

The symptoms of Narcissistic Projection can vary depending on the severity and frequency of the projection. Some common symptoms of Narcissistic Projection include:

  • Constantly blaming others for their problems
  • Dismissing other people’s feelings and opinions
  • Being defensive and hostile when challenged
  • Engaging in gaslighting and distortion of facts
  • Projecting a false image of themselves as perfect and faultless
  • Being paranoid and suspicious of others’ intentions
  • Having a fragile sense of self-esteem and confidence

These symptoms can occur in various contexts, such as personal relationships, work settings, social groups, and family dynamics. People with Narcissistic Projection may also experience other mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and substance abuse.

What Causes Narcissistic Projection?

The exact causes of Narcissistic Projection and NPD are not fully understood. However, some factors that may contribute to the development of this disorder are:

  • Childhood trauma, neglect, or abuse
  • Overindulgence, spoiling, or idealizing by parents or caregivers
  • Lack of emotional validation or support
  • Excessive praise or criticism that leads to a distorted self-image
  • Genetic and environmental factors that affect the brain’s neurochemistry and functioning

People with NPD often have deep-seated insecurities and a fragile sense of self-esteem that they need to protect at all costs. Projection is one way they cope with their inner emotional turmoil and avoid confronting their own flaws and limitations.

How is Narcissistic Projection Diagnosed?

Narcissistic Projection is a symptom of NPD, and therefore, it is usually diagnosed as part of a comprehensive assessment of the person’s symptoms and history. A mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist, may use various tools to diagnose NPD and its related symptoms, such as:

  • The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)
  • The Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI)
  • The Personality Diagnostic Questionnaire (PDQ-4)
  • The Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory (MCMI)
  • The Rorschach Inkblot Test

The diagnosis of NPD and Narcissistic Projection requires a thorough and objective evaluation of the person’s behavior, thoughts, feelings, and history. It is crucial for mental health professionals to assess the severity and impact of the person’s symptoms and recommend appropriate treatment options.

What are the Treatment Options for Narcissistic Projection?

Narcissistic Projection is a challenging disorder to treat, as people with NPD often resist or reject the idea of seeking help. However, with the right approach and support, many people with NPD can improve their symptoms and quality of life.

Some treatment options for Narcissistic Projection may include:

  • Psychotherapy or talk therapy: This is the most common form of treatment for NPD and Narcissistic Projection. A therapist can help the person with NPD explore their inner emotional conflicts, develop insight and empathy, and learn new coping skills.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is a form of therapy that focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to NPD symptoms. CBT can help people with NPD identify their projections, challenge their false beliefs, and develop more adaptive responses to stress and criticism.
  • Group therapy: Group therapy can offer people with NPD a safe and supportive environment to share their experiences, learn from others, and develop social skills and empathy.
  • Medication: Medication may be prescribed to manage co-occurring mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression.
  • Self-help and support groups: People with NPD may benefit from self-help books, online forums, or peer support groups that offer practical advice and empathy.

It is essential for people with NPD and their loved ones to be patient, supportive, and committed to the treatment process. Recovery from NPD and Narcissistic Projection is a gradual and ongoing journey that requires dedication and self-reflection.

The Bottom Line

Narcissistic Projection is a form of projection that arises from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). People with NPD project their own flaws, insecurities, and vulnerabilities onto others to maintain their sense of superiority and protect their self-esteem. Narcissistic Projection can cause significant distress and harm to the person at the receiving end and the narcissist themselves. Treatment options for Narcissistic Projection may include psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, group therapy, medication, and self-help and support groups. Recovery from NPD and Narcissistic Projection requires commitment, patience, and supportive relationships.


What is Narcissistic Projection?

Narcissistic Projection is a defense mechanism commonly used by people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. It involves projecting their own negative traits, thoughts, and feelings onto others, blaming them for things they did not do. By doing this, they shift the focus away from themselves and onto others, protecting their fragile ego.

How does Narcissistic Projection impact relationships?

Narcissistic Projection can severely impact relationships as it creates a toxic and abusive environment. The person projecting may accuse their partner, friend, or family member of things they did not do, causing confusion, frustration, and hurt. It also creates a power imbalance in the relationship, as the person projecting assumes control and avoids taking responsibility for their own actions.

How can one deal with Narcissistic Projection?

Dealing with Narcissistic Projection is incredibly challenging, but it’s essential to set boundaries and protect one’s mental health. It’s important to recognize the projection for what it is and not take it personally. One can establish clear communication, avoid being defensive, and refuse to engage in arguments. It is also advisable to seek professional support to better understand the situation and develop coping mechanisms.


1. Campbell, W. K., & Bush, C. P. (2015). Narcissistic vulnerability and the law: The role of self-esteem regulation. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 6(1), 1-11. Retrieved from

2. Miller, J., Lynam, D. R., Hyatt, C. S., & Campbell, W. K. (2017). Controversies in narcissism. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 13, 291-315. Retrieved from

3. Pincus, A. L., & Lukowitsky, M. R. (2010). Pathological narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 6, 421-446. Retrieved from