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Stop Focusing On Narcissist Types and Start Investigating These Toxic Red Flags

A simple Google search for narcissist types yields over 3 million results. These list-based articles have altruistic intentions, as most authors seek to politely educate unsuspecting victims of the narcissist’s anatomy.

That said, such lasered focus on the ‘types of narcissists’ can be short-sighted. That’s because debating and dissecting the ‘types’ limits people to focus on an exclusive checklist of preselected criteria. But what if you meet someone who doesn’t entirely fit all the boxes? What if you can sense that something doesn’t feel right, but that something doesn’t fit into a neatly-packaged label?

Instead of spending so much time on the labeling (which can be highly subjective), it’s more advantageous to learn the universal red flags that encompass all forms of narcissism.

Sure, differentiating narcissist types may be beneficial for mental health professionals. It may also be helpful for your own independent education. But for someone actively dating and seeking a healthy relationship – or in a new one – it’s far more essential to learn the red flags to avoid.

Five Early Warning Signs Associated With Narcissism

Almost every relationship with a narcissist will start out with the following warning signs. Because they can begin subtly, it’s easy to ignore or disregard them. However, once you become committed, these ‘small nuances’ can quickly spiral into a toxic abyss.

1. The Nagging Feeling That Something Isn’t Right

Most narcissists begin subconsciously thwarting your self-esteem and sense of security during the initial stages of dating. They may engage in outwardly concerning behaviors (such as flirting with other people in front of you). Or the behaviors may feel more confusing (like their feelings changing rapidly). Regardless, the narcissist will deny engaging in such actions when confronted.

This gaslighting feels both frustrating and perplexing. You start doubting if you’re being overreactive or looking too deeply into things. You start questioning if you’re the one making things difficult in the dynamic.

Your intuition is powerful. When harnessed appropriately, it can help steer you in the right direction and parse out right from wrong.

When you’re talking to someone new, if your intuition starts screaming at you, pay attention! We each have primal, evolutionary instincts that warn us of impending danger. Emotions represent an information processing feedback loop. Our brains scan sensory information based on past and current experiences to accurately predict our next outcomes.

In other words, our bodies are meant to work to survive. If something (or someone) is threatening that survival, we’ll feel that nagging sensation in our gut. Listen up!

2. Constant Anxiety

When you are with a narcissist, it’s normal to feel like you’re walking on eggshells. You don’t know what could trigger an explosion. Similarly, you also may not understand what makes them happy- as their mood can fluctuate depending on the day!

As a result, you may feel a heightened sense of anxiety. Will he be upset that you were in a meeting and couldn’t text back right away? Will she agree with your restaurant selection for dinner or throw a fit? Are you one wrong move away from a dreadful episode of silent treatment?

If you constantly worry about your date “making a scene,” you’re hypervigilant to the narcissist’s reactions. This hypervigilance fosters an inherent sense of codependency, as you eventually must placate your needs to quell your partner’s emotions.

Over time, this can result in a loss of identity. You continue to disregard your own needs or preferences to avoid your partner’s wrath.

3. Disregard For Boundaries

Imagine this scenario. Your date wants to take you to the fanciest steakhouse in town. However, you’re a long-term vegan for environmental and ethical reasons. You compromise on dinner, and you decide to order a salad. Immediately after the food arrives, your date insists incessantly that you just gotta try a bite.  

You politely refuse, but your date isn’t hearing any of it. It’s SO good- come on just one bite!

Opposing values isn’t inherently a red flag. Most healthy couples have a fair amount of differences between them.

However, disregarding your physical, emotional, or financial boundaries represents a serious red flag. Our boundaries are what separate us from other people. They provide us with implicit safety and protection.

If someone ignores, challenges, or blatantly stomps on those boundaries from the beginning, it’s only going to progressively spiral. You are allowed to have your own needs and preferences. Anyone who cannot tolerate your individuality isn’t someone worth your time or energy.

4. Subtle Manipulation

Narcissists obtain what they want through powerful forces of manipulation. However, this manipulation does not always appear outwardly malicious. In fact, many times, the manipulation seems innocent- so innocent that you’ll wonder if you’re the crazy one.

For example, say you’re on your third date with a new man, and you straighten your hair for the evening. Usually, you prefer your natural curls, but you felt like doing something different.

Your date continues to extravagantly gush about how amazing your hair looks. He emphasizes how it looks so much better that way and how you should consider straightening your hair more often.

In fact, he loves it so much that, on your next date, he almost seems dejected when he sees your hair back in its natural state. And so, moving forward, you start making more of an effort to straighten your hair.

Compliments can be deceiving. Narcissists thrive on using flattery to convince or coerce people to do the things they want. Furthermore, the more narcissists ‘get away’ with the toxic behavior, the more they will engage in it.

Manipulation can also come in the form of mocking. If someone laughs or criticizes your taste in music or hobbies or work, that’s a considerable red flag. Narcissists typically struggle to accept viewpoints that are different from their own. Moreover, they find it reasonable to put down others in lieu of these differences.

5. Arrogance and Self-Centeredness

Narcissists talk incessantly about themselves. They are their own focal conversation point, and they will turn essentially any discussion to one that highlights their thoughts, opinions, or strengths.

In addition to this excessive boasting, they keep themselves high on their pedestals by subsequently lowering down others. It’s not unusual for narcissists to talk poorly about other people or find faults with everyone they interact with.

Does your date talk terribly about his or her ex? Does she treat the waitstaff with disregard and utter rudeness? Does he exhibit concerning themes of racism or sexism?

Most of all, do they walk around like they own the place and like the rest of the world owes them a huge favor?

This isn’t a sign of confidence. It’s a sign that they believe they matter more than others, and it’s a sign that they will always put their needs in front of yours.

Even if the narcissist appears interested in you, this interest serves as leverage to suit their needs. When they want you, they want you– on their terms, under their conditions. When they want something else? There’s a strong chance you’ll be minimized, ignored, disregarded, or criticized.

Stop Focusing on Narcissist Types- Start Focusing On The Red Flags

It doesn’t matter what kind of narcissist is sitting across the table from you. Narcissist types, by nature, are controversial. Instead, what matters is how you feel, how you respond, and what you do next.

Pay attention to the red flags and uphold your boundaries.

Ignore the red flags, and you will continue to be hurt. Ignore the red flags, and the narcissist will continue to hold the power and control.

Stop Focusing On Narcissist Types and Start Investigating These Toxic Red Flags

Kim Saeed - Author, Researcher, Educator

Kim Saeed is an internationally respected self-help author and educator specializing in recovery and rebuilding after narcissistic abuse. She is the author of two Kindle bestsellers, How to Do No Contact Like a Boss! and 10 Essential Survivor Secrets to Liberate Yourself from Narcissistic Abuse. She is also writing an upcoming book, The Way of the Warrior, for Balboa Press, a division of Hay House.

Kim is a credentialed educator with a background in psychology, education, research and development, and organizational development. Her work has been shared in non-profit women's shelters and lauded by therapists and mental health experts. If you struggle and have a hard time, consider enrollment in The Essential Break Free Bootcamp.

You can find Kim’s work and sign up for her newsletter at

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APA Reference
, . (2019). Stop Focusing On Narcissist Types and Start Investigating These Toxic Red Flags. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 12, 2020, from


Last updated: 1 Apr 2019
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