The term narcissist is thrown around A LOT! I’ve heard people casually use it to describe people they didn’t like or were suspicious of. If you followed the Johnny Deep Vs. Amber Heard trial, I’m sure you heard (no pun intended) about narcissism quite often. My first encounter with the word narcissist was when a friend called me one in my early twenties in response to me telling him that I loved myself.
But who is a narcissist? Are they the worst possible person you can be with? Is there hope for narcissists to reform? Are self-love and narcissism synonymous? These are very pertinent and valid questions because narcissism is highly misunderstood. Let’s have this discussion!
- What is narcissistic personality disorder (NPD)?A mental condition wherein a person has an over-the-top sense of self and importance. A narcissist has no consideration of anyone’s feelings but themselves, they desire excessive constant admiration, praise and special treatment. Their relationships are often troubled and abusive.
- What are the different kinds of narcissists?
- Overt Narcissist: Someone who is clearly narcissistic through their behavior. They are aggressive, arrogant, loud, extravagant, over-bearing, rude, outgoing, extremely competitive, entitled and have no empathy.
- Covert Narcissist: Also called introverted or closeted narcissists because they’re not easy to identify as narcissists. Unlike the overt narcissist, the covert one does not display an obvious exaggerated sense of self. They are passive-aggressive, withdrawn/shy, devious, envious, have low-self-esteem, are hyper-sensitive, and emotionally fragile and they are easily angered or stressed.
- Malignant Narcissist: Someone who displays signs of narcissistic personality disorder, anti-social personality disorder and sadism (deriving pleasure from the suffering of other people). They are considered the most dangerous narcissists because they are severely aggressive, arrogant, deceitful, exploitative, and selfish.
- What is narcissistic love-bombing? When you first meet a narcissist, you may think they’re the best person you’ve ever known because they say and do all the right things at the beginning of the interaction or relationship. This is called love-bombing – an extreme show of affection and attention often characterized by compliments, incessant communication, grand gifts/show of love, mirroring behavior and a rush to make future plans and commitments.
- What is the narcissistic cycle of abuse?Idealization – Devaluation – Rejection
- Idealization: The love bombing or honeymoon stage. The narcissist grooms their victim with excessive affection and attention.
- Devaluation: The narcissist picks up on their victim’s flaws and begins to abuse, manipulate, criticize, humiliate and threaten the victim.
- Rejection: The narcissist is bored of their victim or they no longer have use for them. They break up the relationship or shut the victim out through silent treatment, disappearance or ghosting.
To be in a relationship with a narcissist means that the victim will go through these stages many times until they choose to walk out or the narcissist discards them for good.
- What is the difference between narcissism and self-love? The latter is a healthy sense of self that accommodates one’s strengths and weaknesses. Self-love is accepting and loving all parts of yourself in ways that don’t harm others. Narcissism is an exaggerated/unhealthy sense of self that can harm other people emotionally and/or physically.
- Can narcissistic people change?They can improve aspects of their personalities and behavior through therapy and medication like mood stabilizers, anti-psychotic drugs and antidepressants but it’s not easy. However, without treatment, it’s very difficult for a narcissist to change their ways.
Keep in mind that people are complex and we shouldn’t be quick to call them narcissists when they display one or two characteristics of narcissism. In truth, we all have some traits of narcissism. I think it’s also simplistic to label all narcissists as bad people. They are people with a personality disorder whose traits are mostly harmful to themselves and others. Know that and know peace. However, I do think that it’s best to stay away from narcissistic people because they are bad for mental health. The narcissistic cycle of abuse can drain you and leave you traumatized.
Oftentimes, you’ll discover that someone is a narcissist when you’re already in a relationship with them or you’ve known them for a while. The easiest ways to weed out a narcissist early on are to gauge their responses when you: set boundaries, express dissatisfaction, and share your suffering, challenges or successes. Narcissists will not take kindly to these things. They will have no empathy when you’re struggling and they will envy your successes or bring you down.
If you have been a victim of narcissistic abuse, please reach out to us for therapy.