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Here’s What Happens When You Tell Narcissists They’re Narcissists

To paraphrase Charles Dickens, “You must first read my article Should Narcissists Be Told They’re Narcissists or nothing wonderful can come of this tale I’m about to relate. In that article, I shared how I created a kind-of litmus test to confirm whether my family were narcissistic or not. By offering to tell them the “core dynamics” (e.g. narcissism) that informed my decision to go No Contact with them, I was testing them.

Would they raise their hand and pay me the respect of taking me up on my offer to share the “core dynamic” with them? Would they ignore my offer? I’d decided that how they responded would either disprove or confirm my diagnosis of familial NPD.

Well, they failed. They confirmed my diagnosis by ignoring my offer…for fourteen long months. But after waiting for more than a year, one family member finally raised their hand and wanted to know the “core dynamic.” It was too late…disrespectfully late….but hey! Better late than never!

But their request left me in a quandary. How could I tell them they were narcissists without violating my strict No Contact policy. What do do? What to do?

If you’re No Contact with your family but still want to tell them about narcissism, here’s an idea from what I did!

25 Comments to
Here’s What Happens When You Tell Narcissists They’re Narcissists

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  1. There’s an truism about narcissim, and that is that narcissists breed narcissists. As the daughter of narcissistic parents, my own healing journey has been about slowly and painfully owning my own narcissistic personality structure and understanding the deep wounds I’ve both suffered and inadvertently inflicted on others. As part of the journey, I’ve also come to respect my own narcissistic defences – they’ve seen me through some hard times and have brought me excitement and success.

    Demonising narcissists is something of a trend, perpetuated I believe, by the people most easily offended by narcissistic behaviour… narcissists themselves. Until we start to focus on what causes narcissism and show compassion for the narcissistically wounded, narcissism will continue to be passed down the generations. Perhaps the question we should all be asking ourselves is “should I be told I’m a narcissist?” – for some of us it will be the most baffling and shocking question ever asked – and the start of a more authentic life.

    • Wow POB!!! You are insightful and well spoken! I am also the child of a narcissist. I haven’t told him yet, but have talked with all members of my immediate family about it. Knowing the diagnosis has helped me have a relationship with him that I could have never had if I hadn’t know what he was dealing with. It is my firm belief that the child of a narcissist needs help just as much as the narcissist themselves. Otherwise, we pass our dysfunction down through the generations, whether it be our own narcissism or our own codependency, or for me, a mix of both. I regularly attend therapy and al-Anon as a support group for my codependency. These are the measures we as children MUST take to become acutely aware of our own issues having grown up with a narcissistic parent. We have the potential to become the end of the generational curse, but if we don’t put the magnifying glass to ourselves, we become as un self aware as the narcissist is. Your words of wisdom are a great reminder for me!

      • Amen, bravo, encore, etc. VERY well put! Like you, I have my actions and, especially, MOTIVES under a telescope 24/7! My husband kindly tells me to “knock it off” when the codependency gets the better of me…and I sure appreciate it!

    • Wow! That an incredible! You are a rare breed 🙂

  2. Lea, It is not my family I concern myself about anymore. I have attempted to be “helpful” before and failed miserably.
    I am in private practice (LCSW) and have heard only one referring psychiatrist state he believed all patients/clients “should” be told their personality disorder diagnosis. His patient that sees me spends her sessions trying to convince me she is only working with me because she needs to vent about other people who cause her stress!

  3. I showed my ex-husband a “to the point” description of a Malignant Narcissist. His reaction was this is you, it was another knife to my heart, then later I learned that this is a very common response. People thought I was crazy when I tried to tell them him. No one can truly understand the damage the Malignant Narcissist causes unless they have experienced it.

    • My first thought when reading the title of this article was-When you inform a narcissist they are indeed a narcissist, they will accuse you of having NPD right away. This is projection, gaslighting, lying, and using disclosed information against you all in one swift economical blow. Next they will tell all of their flying monkeys, your friends, anyone who will listen that you have NPD. So telling them will backfire big time. They know who and what you dislike the most now and will try to convince you that you are it!

  4. I was crying to my therapist about my mother; I asked her, why do I keep going back in there only for her to hurt me again, I don’t get it. She told me, Kim, it’s because you’ve got hope, you keep hoping for her to change, to see you, hear you, love you. Then she said this; It might be time for you to start accepting that she is incapable of change, incapable of loving you the way you want her to love you. I was shattered. That is not what I wanted. I wanted a mother.
    I was 48 years old, she had me for 48 years and my own life was fraught with pain and anguish for that long and longer till she died. I was so relieved that she couldn’t get to me anymore, not physically anyway. I still live with some demons, but I can cope with them now.
    I was in therapy for a long time and it was painful, but if I didn’t have my therapist, truly, I might not have made it. I feel your pain, I actually do know it.

    • Kim, I feel your pain as well. Coming to the understanding that the narcissist in my life simply lacked the capacity to love me the way I needed and wanted was very liberating for me. I hope it has been for you as well, and I hope you have found others to fill that need! <3

    • Situation sounds exactly like mine it took me 48 years to figure out she was a
      narcissist now gone no contact wish I had’nt wasted soo much of my life dealing
      with her thats my only regret my revenge is living a great life I know she hates
      that but soo what.

  5. I first discovered NPD while reading a case study while taking a DSM class in route to earning my MSW. I was in my 40s. I’ll never forget that feeling. I had no freaking idea what diagnosis I was reading about, and yet it all sounded too familiar. It was as though my father’s life story was on those four pages. Obviously, I yearned to know. Everyone else in the room knew. I guess it was obvious…unless you lived with it every single day.

    Prior to ever knowing anything about NPD, an awful lot of my family members had gone no contact. I seemed to be the only one to hang on. Unfortunately, my father’s narcissism has also been combined with alcoholism so virtually all of his narcissistic rages have been conveniently blacked-out. After years of therapy, and years of being a therapist, I continue to struggle with the idea of telling him. If I felt even the slightest twinge from him that he desired more connection with his family, and he would appreciate a road map toward that end, I’d happily go for it…even though I know it would be super-painful. But it’s just not there.

    I remain eternally hopeful, and I check-in every so often to test the waters. Interestingly enough, the last time I did was because he had initially named me as the executor of his estate, but I knew a lot had changed and he hadn’t communicated anything with me, so I asked. No response. At least not yet. It’s only been two weeks.

  6. I am the daughter, sister, friend of some extremely narcissistic people. I read this and it made me kind of hurt imagining you waiting to find their reply to you calling them out. Why put so much time and energy into people who have obviously been so destructive to you in your life? They will NEVER validate you. I’m sorry, but you already know that. Telling people how they are messed up will never motivate them to change and human nature being what it is, will probably make them bigger assholes. They think you are beneath them and you reaching in that way only proves their incorrect assessment (in their eyes sweetie). They don’t care, and are only gaining pleasure that they upset you enough that you went to so much trouble. Wash your face, wash your hands, walk away and don’t look back.

    • My 45 year old son is an alcoholic with narcissistic personality. first showed up at about age 12. he tjhinks he is normal and the rest of the world has problems. the sad part is 90 per cent of his crazy is aimed at me, his mother. i tried for years, being strict, being a push over, getting him out of trouble… like s typical codependent person.
      But then he married someone just like him. I continued to be treated in such terrible verbal embarrassing ways by both of them . then i read that they were hopeless to get better. when i was then accused of child abuse, stealing money, being a whore (been married for 45 years), the list of what he told all over our community and to family almost destroyed me. But I stopped all contact for over a year while he even tried to turn family against me. i then sent text to check on him when i heard he was very sivk. After he told me his poor sad story, he went right back to verbally abusing me but refusing to even discuss what he said or to talk about any of our problems. Broke my heart, but with him still telling untrue gossip, i am finished! There is no hope anymore, so i have gotten on with my life, hoping the grief will go away. But he wasn’t finished, he then started calling his dad and acting like the sweetest son on earth…..he thinks he is stealing his dad away from me. No Contact with him is my only hope for peace after trying for over 40 years because who turns their back on their child. I have done therapy… I feel like I have PTSD.

      • might I add to my comment? i beg all of you to stop hoping for love from people who have no idea how to love. Even if he accepted help, i am told it would take many many years to see
        improvement in my son. I have ruined my health, i am on medications for anxiety, sleep, panic attacks, several problems with stomach because of stress. Please, don’t spend years on such a hopeless situation. Spend time with the normal people in your life. it took some time before my other child trusted me to put him first in my life and now i am in his and my grandchildrens’ lives. i have “adopted” two families as my kids.
        One is family with their own kids and grandkids…We are even called Mom and Pop. The other family is a young couple with no kids but still have their parents. we are called their third set of parents and are welcome at all of their family functions. Guess this is making lemonade from lemons.
        My son made the choice to break our bond, but i was the one hanging on hoping for a Miracle.
        My FIL was narcissistic and destroyed his wife and his kids and even his brothers and sisters over the years. On his death bed he continued to verbally abuse everyone while treating his caregivers like his daughters. When he died everyone said they attended his funeral just to see with their own eyes that he was in the coffin when they put him in the ground. how much better everyone would have been to not have allowed him to stay in their lives. He used money to keep control of the whole family.

  7. Just want you to know I think you and are had a moment in parallel universes. Last year I learned to spell NARCISSIST and then spent 5 solid months, 3 to 5 hours each night of the week unearthing what I never knew: What Was A Narcissist. It was exactly like you said — and like you I couldn’t help myself. What was astounding to me was the level of my ignorance these 77 years I’ve lived. The more I learned the more the puzzle pieces fit so I started a FB page. I know there are lots of them, but I wanted mine to mirror a safe reading haven for very young people, so that meant I had to keep it clean … and some of the sites are ‘blue’ with angry language. Mine isn’t.

    • Hi Laurie, what is the name of your FB page? It is 11:41 pm on New Year’s Eve and I am dead inside, no contact is like a kind of death I think.
      Anyway, I wish that I could visit your group because I need help. I have therapists, and a group. Hope to find you soon.
      Karen Magni (my FB name)

  8. I’m convinced that our Narcissist story started in tragedy: two sons killed in separate accidents, leaving me, the daughter/sister, and my younger brother. Fast forward 60 years. My parents have now both passed and left a (supposedly) sizable estate, for which my brother has been trustee for the past 20 years. During this time, my aging mother – 100+ at time of death – has been in a nursing home near him while I have been states away. I have visited several times a year, experiencing a roller coaster relationship with my brother which was dependent on my “mirror” behavior. Am I adoring him and showering him with praise and gratitude? I’m wonderful. Am I questioning or critical? I’m a greedy delusional witch.
    It wasn’t until I realized, after decades, that he treated his family the same way he treated me that I determined he had to face consequences of his actions somehow; not only is $1M missing, he has controlled everyone with his aberrant behavior, even trying his tricks on attorneys and bankers. He is a classic Narcissist. And just like I carried the effects of my dysfunctional birth family into my marriage, his children will carry dysfunction into their futures. They adore him. Why shouldn’t they? He has given them everything they ever wanted, including collector cars, education abroad, even a company in his son’s name. And of course, he plays the victim, garnering their sympathy and devotion. Unless they face the fact that he is a liar and a criminal, and understand what he is, they will perpetuate the dysfunction and re-create the roles of narcissist and victim to the endless sorrow of their future families.
    Should I try to explain anything of this to them? No, they would never believe me. But perhaps, considering what the bankers, the attorneys, the judge have to say about this… they will finally understand that my brother is not who he has always pretended to be. And in that will be their salvation.

  9. Thank you for taking the time to write the article, this information is most helpful. I have been married for 21 years to a man that I have always put on a pedestal as the most perfect man but the reality I have to face is how I have spent all these years making excuses for his lies and behavior. I am 58 years old and my husband is 43 years old, my husband left me in June of this year, I found out after his left me that he had been making inappropriate passes at my grown daughter and my daughter in law (he is the Step Father). I am just devasted, my husband and I started going to counseling both separately and together, he comes by my home every day but saying goodbye over and over again is so painful. My husband was diagnosed as a narcissist but he doesn’t seem to care, he now thinks he is to good for counseling and doesn’t need counseling. He is adamant that he wants to move home, he has been living with his parents. I work two jobs, pay all the bills, he does not work and his mother gives him spending money. I love my husband very much but my grown children want nothing to do with him and I pushing me to get a divorce.

  10. Is it ever possible for someone with traits of NPD to be aware something is different about them?

    • The answer to this question is Yes. A British man (I trust he is a man) is writing under the Pseudonym of H G Tudor. He has been diagnosed with NPD and has been encouraged as part of his treatment to write about his condition. His many books are available on and they make very insightful reading. He has also been interviewed on the radio with his voice disguised because he has quite a high powered job if I remember rightly. This interview is on YOU TUBE. The impression I was left with after reading was that he agreed to treatment because he was going to lose out on a large sum of money if he didn’t. Perhaps it was an inheritance matter. But from his perspective the treatment is a waste of time.

  11. Folks, after decades of immersion in a multigenerational NPD family I have come to the conclusion that defining boundaries without passing judgement or labeling people works best. Ultimately, the narc cannot change so you will wind up no contact at some point anyhow. So why waste time? The more you tolerate a narc the more likely they will destroy you and your life. They will consume you and subjugate you. If you call them in it they will launch a smear campaign. They are evil incarnate.

  12. Standing up to a narcissist and sometimes telling them off to their face is good for business. Even if it’s someone who’s name sounds similar to Satan.

  13. I think one should tell a narcissist they are a narcissist if it helps you. (If you are doing it for them, then don’t.). It’s a hard thing to cope with, to believe that a person you love has NPD, that is they are so incredibly selfish and entitled that they will control, sabatoge, demean and abuse because they’re entitled to do so. It is difficult to divorce oneself, go No Contact while still hoping one’s assessment is incorrect (we aren’t psychologists after all), doubting that we are correct.

    I told my husband that I believed he ‘had a problem with narcissism.’ He researched the traits of narcissism online, bought books, and took that information into counseling ‘to discuss his problem.’ Before, anyone gets too excited, too hopeful there is a cure….here is what happened.

    He came home from meeting with his psychologist and mournfully informed me the psychologist didn’t believe him. The guy he was seeing worked extensively with NPD’s in a jail setting early in his career and he knew narcissists and my husband wasn’t one. My husband then informed me that he obviously had a poor counselor and stopped going to individual counseling. My husband then informed me in any argument we were having or responded to any complaint I had with…”Well, what can you expect, I’m a narcissist.

    Yep, he proudly adopted that label and used it to his advantage. Now you may assume based on my story, the literature is correct about not informing the narcissist they’re a narcissist; however, three things happened for me.

    1.). I believed that my husband was not only a narcissist but a psychopath as well, skillfully manipulating everyone from me, to my narcissistic parents and family, to friends and neighbors, to the individual counselors and the couple counselors we had been seeing.

    2.). Any sense of marital obligation or care I had to the image he presented just died. He more or less lost his humanity to me and I was able to observe more and emotionally react less to his machinations. And,

    3.). Using the research and knowledge I gleaned from books by Robert Hare and others on psychopathy, I unraveled and called out his lies, his manipulations, his strategies and required a higher standard of behavior than he was always angeling for me to accept. I called him out on the unacceptable thing he spoke, actioned, and body languaged…..everything.

    As I stood my ground, defining ‘our relationship’ by his actions not his words, holding him to a higher standard, withstanding the rages, the vindictiveness (I call that out as well), he became more discarding until finally he left me (of course he tells people I kicked him out….oh, the heartbreak for him.).

    As I’m processing through this, I’m feeling less and less like the victim and more and more like a survivor. I’m finding closure and am healing. It’s slow but steady progress and I’m stalling on the divorce I’ve been fighting for for years and that he now wants so quickly to finalize. It’s my turn to have some control of the outcome. I know I will get annihilated in a divorce from the insecure, anxious, needy, traumatized place I’ve been existing within after all the trauma and drama and abuse I’ve endured. I’m taking the time to heal and he’s getting less and less powerful in my life. For the first time, I believe that I will come out of this horrible experience stronger, more confident, and better able to choose people and relationships that will add to the healthy lifestyle I’m working to build. I believe I will be able to trust again and, even more importantly, that I can trust myself.

    Holding the information, the knowledge, I gathered, not confronting the reality except in my mind did nothing but cause me to feel more small, more helpless and more disempowered, more of a victim. They say, “The truth will set you free.” I’ve found shining the light of truth on the darkness a powerful way to get’ me’ back.

    I think one should tell a narcissist they are a narcissist if it helps you. If you are doing it for them, then don’t.

  14. As a friend once told me: RUN. Run as far and as fast as you can from these people. It is heartbreaking when this involves your family members but they are one step short of Sociopaths. Count your blessings if you can get untangled from whatever web they have weaved into your life. In our case it was my brother who we paid dearly to get out of a business nightmare. They don’t live in the same “world”. As soon as you think you can have a sane conversation with them you will be sucked into the same quagmire all over again. The only way is to stay away. In our case he has destroyed his own family, almost bankrupted my parents and nearly destroyed my family. Now he’s moved on and found himself a new family to work on. I am just cringing because I tried to tell her but she would have none of it. It’s just a matter of time until it happens all over again.

  15. Going through some real crape right now and I definitely need to read these stories to help validate the stuff I am experiencing. Thanks for sharing


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