Let me be frank – in the past I was a sucker for narcissists, I was even married to one. It was only through therapy that I realized how completely destructive and dangerous narcissism can be. Back then I wasn’t even aware of what narcissism was, let alone what a detrimental impact narcissists can have upon those they are close to.
Narcissists lack empathy for others and cannot see their own weaknesses or wrongdoings as this is too threatening to their sense of self; leading them to attack or distance themselves from those who confront them about their hurtful behavior – and, usually lacking empathy and regard for others – they hurt those they are close to more often than most.
They use others to feed their self-esteem (which is often fragile, even although externally it appears just the opposite) and when they have satisfied their needs they move onto another person who will better feed into their ego.
Their sense of importance and entitlement is grandiose and, in more extreme cases, they exhibit manipulative and exploitative behavior in order to get what they want. And you know what? They are charismatic as hell! They are often charming, exciting, engaging people. Needless to say, this is an extremely lethal combination!
But why are narcissists so charismatic? Berscheid & Reis, 1998 cited in their study that “we assume that narcissism predicts all of the four relevant cue domains-attractiveness, from their flashy and neat attire; interpersonal warmth, from their charming glances at strangers; competence, from their self-assured behavior; and humor, from their witty verbal expressions. As a result, they thus should enjoy greater initial popularity than non-narcissists (p. 134).”
Worryingly, an American study conducted in 2011 found that one in three young people could be considered narcissists and the UK is quickly following suit. With narcissism on the rise and being encouraged by the media’s ‘it’s all about me’ culture, it is becoming increasingly important to be able to spot narcissists and know how to deal with them.
According to ‘Addiction Hope’ the symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder are:
- Obsession with self
- Appearing unemotional
- Setting unrealistic or unattainable goals
- Easily rejected or hurt
- Becoming jealous easily
- Using others to reach own goals
- Reacting to others with shame, anger, or humiliation
- Difficulty maintaining relationships
- Requiring constant positive reinforcement and attention from others
- Dramatization of own importance, talents, and achievements
- Desiring the best of everything
- Fantasizing about success, power, and attractiveness
- Having a fragile self-esteem
Other signs and symptoms include:
- A grandiose sense of self-importance and entitlement
- A tendency to be exploitative and manipulative of others
- Has no issues lying
- Lacks empathy
It’s quite an awful mix of symptoms isn’t it? Of course not all narcissists demonstrate every symptom and there is a whole spectrum of severity ranging from moderate to severe, the danger is that too often we only realize the severity once we are close with them. The key is to be able to quickly spot a narcissist from afar so that we can prevent possible future hurt.
Stay tuned – next week we will look at the tell tale signs of narcissism and how to tell if the friend you just met is an undercover narcissist.
Does anyone you have known now stand out to you as a potential narcissist? What made you think that they could be one? Have you been burnt by narcissists before? What type of relationship did you have with them? Are you confident you could now spot a narcissist if you met one? Please share your thoughts in the comments below to gain encouragement, support and insight from our community, we’d love to hear from you.
Narcissism by Alexander Lowen (a self-help book for the recovering narcissist)