33 thoughts on “Narcissism: Identifying Key Traits, Symptoms and Risk Factors

  • May 21, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    I’ve heard this theory many times, that a narcissist is more driven by their low self-esteem and loathing of themselves and I get the idea but I just don’t see it in the narcissists I know. The ones I have known have a childish fantasy life, actually believe their fantasies and are solely driven by their fantasies. They have an underdeveloped, childlike emotional and intellectual brain yet are forced to become adults; living in an adult world and they never clue in that their behavior is inappropriate.

    Reply
    • May 24, 2014 at 7:49 am

      Thanks for stopping by Skellyay. While the narcissist’s fantasies may be childish and unrealistic, it’s not fantasies per se that cause pain in the narcissist’s life and relationships. It’s the unrealistic “fantasy” in particular that they are superior on the basis of x, y, z and thus entitled to treat others as they wish, and they are “proud” to have power to limit and hurt others detached from feelings, characteristic of narcissism. Though they may want others to think they are “clueless” about what are “inappropriate” behaviors, their might makes right philosophy says otherwise.

      Looking at the way our brains and bodies are wired, since what we think about produces pictures in our minds automatically, and those pictures automatically activate emotions that lead to actions, it’s safe to say that the description “driven by fantasies” likely applies to all of us around the clock.

      The point is that believing in “childish” fantasies is one of the most amazing and powerful abilities unique to human beings and has directly produced most if not all of the wonders and amazing achievements by persons daring to think out of the box, despite naysayers and ridicule. (Granted, some of them may have been narcissists perhaps…however the point is that childish fantasies are not the problem.)

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    • August 30, 2014 at 5:09 pm

      I agree, I do not think this theory of self loathing and low self esteem is correct.
      The NPDs I know do not loath themselves at all, nor do they have low self esteem. Its a 100 year old idea that is just wrong.
      NPDs are wired wrong/differently from birth. They can be evil because they have no empathy. They simply don’t care about anyone but themselves. Wired wrong from birth, like sociopaths.
      My NPD was a cold, destructive creature, she did not ‘loath herself’ no way. She, was perfectly happy living in her fantasy world, it was the people around her (like me) that suffered, not her. Oh and she was NOT abused as a child.

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      • September 2, 2014 at 9:03 am

        Appreciate hearing from you Anna. Your feelings are understandable. It hurts to be involved with someone who has NPD. While I respect your opinion, the science of how our brains are wired, in particular the “mirror neurons,” shows otherwise; it’s impossible to loathe others, to have scorn for others, and not have same sentiments for self. Human beings are wired for compassion for self and others, the only path to fulfilling lives. As with pets, cruelty and sociopath traits are learned; they are the product of neglect, abuse, having NPD role models and so on. Thanks again for writing.

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    • July 9, 2015 at 4:47 am

      Skellyay,

      You have a good and clear understanding of NPD.
      I agree with you. The old fashioned (100 year old) theory of freud that narcissists are ‘tormented hurt insecure souls is RUBBISH!

      My NPD mother was happy enough, hard as nails, no empthy and a cruel cow. She apsolutely was NOT a ‘tormented soul’ She made other peoples lives (particularly her childrens) a f##king misery. She destroyed the person I should have been, and I am not ashamed to say;
      I HATE HER FOR THAT!!

      Narcissists are creatures born without empathy, in the genre as sociopaths/psychopaths.
      They are ‘wired differntly’ Brians scans have show little or no activity in the Amygdala;
      Wiki
      Amygdalæ, are two almond-shaped groups of nuclei located deep and medially within the temporal lobes of the brain in complex vertebrates, including humans.[2] Shown in research to perform a primary role in the processing of memory, decision-making, and emotional reactions, the amygdalae are considered part of the limbic system.[3]
      Narissists simply do not, cannot feel empathy.
      It amazes me that so many people, educated people, still cling to out dated theories and repeat them as a truth.
      As narcs are wired differently do I forgive mother her cruelies? No. My mother was aware of her abilily to hurt & damage me, she enjoyed doing it.

      Its like this. No empathy = no conscience = some one who is capable of great evil.
      Are some people born evil? Yes, if they are born without the correct receptors in the brain.

      Reply
      • July 20, 2015 at 8:09 am

        Thanks for your comment Anna. Your feelings are understandable, however, persons are not born cruel, evil and lacking empathy. Every human being has the same wiring, well equipped for compassion and empathy, however, our early experiences in life alter our brains. If you look at your mother’s childhood, you’ll likely find answers. (Not that every child that is neglected or abused does the same. It’s all in how a child or person responds to cruelty.) The point is that we have mirror neurons in our brain — that’s a fairly recent finding — and it’s significant. It means that at some level, to the extent practice feeling scorn for another person, we feel this feeling for our self, neuro-chemically. You might say a narcissist reaction to being mistreated is hatred and rage — and so we can say this person lives in constant torment inside. This is not theory.

        The question here is your response to your mother’s cruelty. Your response will shape your life, behaviors, relationships. You may never wish to spend time with mother again, nevertheless, for your own inner peace and happiness, you must cultivate empathy and understanding for her as a human being, and not a label.

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    • January 10, 2018 at 10:52 am

      It’s all pseudoscience yet the pretentious psychologists like to present their opinions as facts.

      Reply
      • January 11, 2018 at 4:19 pm

        Thanks for commenting, ZeroSum. With all due respect, however, your comment is reflective of a tactic called gaslighting, used by narcissists to discredit truth sources, hide their wrongs — and hide the truth, get others to doubt and question themselves, even their sanity. Not helpful, but thanks anyway for commenting.

        Reply
  • May 23, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    This is the BEST summation of NPD I have ever read and I have been studying it for over 20 years!! Excellent! Thank you!

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    • May 24, 2014 at 7:54 am

      Thank you Evelyn for your positive feedback, and interest in this article. I appreciate your stopping by to comment! Thanks again.

      Reply
  • June 9, 2014 at 2:06 am

    Reading this explains to me why this reaction of mine to his action: “Why did you do that after I just asked you three times not to do that?” brought about his explosion, raining down a torrent of ugly accusations, untruths, and nastiness on me.

    Once he had thoroughly demeaned me, and I was furious, hurt, and off balance, he was fine, and didn’t understand why I wouldn’t give him the normal kiss goodby as we left for our work that day.

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    • June 9, 2014 at 8:12 am

      Well stated, Helen, thanks for sharing your observations, and stopping by to comment.

      Reply
  • June 9, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    Dr. Staik,

    There are times when he seems mindful, cares, or tries to respond. But in a sense it makes it all the harder when all of that is thrown over for behavior which you describe to a T above–and I feel blindsided. It’s been ego-battering for me.
    Is there any path or hope for improvement in a relationship?

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    • June 13, 2014 at 7:10 am

      Thanks for sharing, Helen, your question is a great one. This pattern is a tough one to break, however, the key to change always resides in how open and willing both partners are to really, really, really want to change. And this inner willingness is always evidenced by changes in behavior. A different attitude in both the codependent and narcissist can be felt and produces different actions. It’s impossible as long as only one does the “work”; both must focus their energies on self-changes because that’s the only change we can actually control! Thinking, believing we can or must change the others thoughts, beliefs, feelings, actions is an illusion — and it is what often keeps the dance of narcissist and codependent going.

      MY next statement may seem contradictory. In truth, we do seem to have a lot of power to effect changes in others. Paradoxically, our greatest power to effect change around us is to focus on consciously wise changes to own inner processes (thoughts, beliefs, emotional responses, reactions etc.). Thanks again for commenting, and best wishes.

      Reply
      • June 13, 2014 at 8:42 am

        Yes, I know what you mean.
        And thank you for putting a shape on this behavior, and on the toxic ‘dance.’

        Reply
  • August 21, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    Thank you Dr Staik. The best and most informative on NPD I’ve read so far!!! You have described most of the traits I observed during my 13 year marriage to my now ex-husband. Unfortunately, I’ve learned the hard way that people with NPD will not allow themselves to succumb to any form of therapy because they do not believe that there is anything wrong with them!!!! And they have a way of manipulating their partners into believing that they are the emotionally unbalanced onese!!! Very toxic relationship!!!!

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  • August 23, 2014 at 9:48 pm

    Dear Dr. Staik,

    Reading the new comment that I received, brought my eye back to my own earlier one. I do appreciate your reply.

    But if change comes about by changing oneself, what strategies or changes, other than separation, have you observed as successful ones in people living with narcissists? Or aren’t there any?

    I don’t see myself fully fitting the definition of co-dependent as someone without a strong sense of themselves, their goals or their needs. But the vulnerability to the narcissist’s behavior described above is nevertheless there.

    And my flexibility and adaptiveness must appear as a weakness to someone with NPD.

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    • August 24, 2014 at 11:49 am

      Thanks for the comment Helen, you ask a vital question. While there is no short answer, therapy can definitely be a plus. But the biggest step is a choice — and rather than just focusing on fixing/not attracting someone with NPD — to reach much higher, to see that life is all about teaching us to become more and more aware of our own potential to transform our self and life around us. Relax, embark of on a journey to live mindfully, consciously loving yourself, life, breathing and expanding your awareness of miracle making capacity inside you. Best of luck, thanks again for stopping by.

      Reply
  • December 8, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    Also common is the lack of conscience in regard to personal integrity. They break vows and promises whenever they please – they are a law unto themselves and will always justify their violations. In fact, beware if a narcissist wants you to “vow…” or “promise…” even if you assume/it sounds mutual. The vow/promise is to control YOU, because they know other rational people have integrity, do not seek to lie, deceive or manipulate and strive to keep their w

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    • March 8, 2015 at 3:45 pm

      You describe this trait to a “T.” I wondered how the person I married had no problem, discomfort, shame in going back on his word, or an agreement we had reached which extended to matters basic in a relationship.

      He could dismiss it with “I don’t remember,” or “That’s what you say” or simply “I changed my mind.”

      Reply
  • December 12, 2014 at 5:31 am

    Wish I had seen this years ago. It may have saved me a lot of emotional pain and financial loss. My now ex exhibited every one of the traits you listed. My experiences mirror those of the people who have commented here. I am aware of my codependent tendencies, and the things I allowed to happen. Still, I loved him (still do, I guess) but realize now, that it was all an illusion created by him but when I no longer fit his picture, he couldn’t be the one to end it. I had to walk away.

    Reply
  • December 28, 2014 at 10:38 am

    Dear Dr. Staik,
    I hope that you will comment on these recent replies/questions, as I have questions/concerns as well on being married still to my hubby who fits the bill as being a Narcissist.
    20 years ago my son’s begged me to leave and divorce him, as we realized we were being emotionally abused by him. He cleaned up his act for a while, the boys grew up and I started working full time 15 years ago so my exposure to him was much less as was my sons who graduated and moved out.
    It will be a year in February I quit drinking, and thru rehab exercises found the explanation of why he acts the way he does, he fit the bill on being a Narcissist.
    I realized my drinking was a symptom of my Major Depression Disorder, I was self medicating to Cope with depression and abuse.
    Here I am almost a year later and I have not found a way to really heal myself. It’s all on me to heal, as there is nothing wrong with him, he needs no help you know. Yes we are codependent .
    Try as I might to relax and be open, but my emotions are shot. All I feel is pain in one way shape or another, from feeling numb to migraines.
    I feel that I must constantly guard myself in how I speak. I cannot open up to him, as it will some how come back in a snarky barbed comment.

    I am at a loss on how to go on.
    I look forward to replies.
    Thank you everyone in advance.

    How can one go one

    Reply
    • January 16, 2015 at 8:17 am

      Thanks for commenting Val, and sharing ways you’re getting stronger, more aware. Your questions are too important to address as comments on a blog. If you have not already, please see a professional therapist. If you’d like a consultation with me via phone or Skype, please see my website http://www.drstaik.com. Thanks again.

      Reply
  • March 8, 2015 at 9:38 am

    hi Dr Staik,
    Excellent article thanks. I too have been reading on this topic for years and find your writing one of the best I’ve come across.
    A couple more pennies dropped too.
    Especially the concept of hoarding power.
    Keeping options open, feeling suffocated or restricted, never sharing a calendar yet calling all the shots.
    Hoarding of power.
    He wanted to be the boss, even if he didn’t even know what he was to be boss of.
    Thanks again

    Reply
    • March 8, 2015 at 10:16 am

      Thanks for commenting, Robin, much appreciate your feedback and sharing your own experience, kudos to you, for letting your experience grow you, with wisdom to reach for a brighter future every human being deserves.

      Reply
  • July 6, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    I came across this and so glad I did. Someone that I was dating had the narcissistic behavior characterisitcs but not all of them. One of the biggest things I noticed is the ability and ease at lying. He truly was a serial liar. If he had 2 choices, to tell truth or tell a lie, he would lie and think nothing about it even when it was of no benefit to lie. It was 2nd nature to him and did it with such ease I was amazed. My question is; is this a typical sign of narcissistic behavior also?. The other traits were the “all about him”, no empathy for your feelings. Promise and not deliver and think nothing of it.
    I could go on and on. I have not seen the lying mentioned as one of the traits and was wondering.

    Thank you.

    Reply
    • July 9, 2015 at 5:20 am

      DJ5799
      Yes narcissists are consumate liars. They have no emtion attached to lying, so truth, lie, its all the same to them.
      They will say whatever happens to suit their mood at the time.

      Their lies can cause horrific trouble as they can be very convincing.
      The narc boss at work that covertly steals your work and then blatently claims your ideas as their own for instance.
      The narc will lose no sleep over the deception, in fact, they’ll find it funny!

      Reply
    • July 20, 2015 at 7:53 am

      You bring up a good point. Lying would likely be second nature to the profile of behaviors of narcissism. The main identifying traits are three: lack of empathy; scorn or neediness to look down on others as inferior; and taking pleasure in cruel acts that hurt another. Thanks again.

      Reply
      • July 20, 2015 at 3:19 pm

        Athena,
        You wrote ‘Every human being has the same wiring, well equipped for compassion and empathy,’
        I do disagree, every human is wired differently, each a unique individual.
        Some will be naturally sensitive, vulnerable, most will be in the middle ‘normal’ if you like, and some,like my NPD mother and sister will have little or no empathy. We are all wired differently.
        Psychopaths are born that way, born not made. Check out James Fallon’s research.
        Narcs? Born that way.
        You wrote “for your own inner peace and happiness, you must cultivate empathy and understanding for her as a human being, and not a label.”
        No way! She never bothered to understand me and I was a helpless child! Finding a label for her was such a relief! Mother was NPD a walking talking personality disorder and nothing else.
        I do not believe in forgiveness its a crock of s##t. Acceptance is the key to letting go and moving on.

        Thankyou for responding to my posts Athena, I do appreciate that.

        Reply
  • August 9, 2015 at 10:42 am

    Thank you for your enlightening article on narcissism. The Terms hoarding power ,compulsively act to control focus of attention and their trophy people/ idols allowed me to shift my perceptions of my mom’s unique actions words deeds of my past. It makes it all fit logically. I have sorted myself out over the years , forgiving myself her, life . This article gave me peace and I thank you

    Reply
  • September 7, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    Im disgusted 31years of marriage hes never had a damn interest in love im 53yrs homeless broken kids are just like him i lost all house cars friends no family. I have God today i will never be able to revisist my past life from fake marriage to gaving me put on a crazy house to sexing my co worker in my house in front of my kids i am disgusted i ever met him

    Reply
  • September 29, 2015 at 12:00 pm

    Your comments on the emotional aspects of being in a relationship with a person with NPD are very helpful to me. I have reread them again today as a reminder of what to expect in a relationship with this kind of person and it’s underlying basis.

    Reply
  • March 6, 2017 at 6:37 pm

    Dear Athena Staik,

    The self-admitted Narcisscist in my life is my 17 year old son – not one day abused by myself or his father, but yes, definitely doted on. He had an unfortunate and distressing series of teachers in elementary school who seemed to just dislike him and treat him poorly. We resorted to partial home-schooling/part charter, but his days of being an honor roll student just drained from him, like he’d lost all hope in life. He gained weight and we could see he developed low self-esteem. He entered puberty and was clearly depressed, frequently talking about suicide. We took him for family counseling and nothing worked, counselors were that in name only (my opinion). He was never placed on meds. He found confidence in his Junior year, grew his hair long making a striking and handsome appearance. He is very well informed and has honed his debate skills and loves to take others down. But it’s debate for the sake of winning. After raging at me the other day, He told me, “I am a Narcisscist, and I told you that a long time ago, Mother.” I decided to take him at his word and began to read up. His behavior reminds me of his Father’s, although since my son’s behavior has presented and accelerated, my husband’s has decreased. I have definitely been codependent, I can see it has taken a great toll on me and my son shows no signs of stopping. I also see that he has underlying depression and it is fueling the Narcisscism. Most of his time is spent in school and then in his messy room, from the time he gets home until he goes to bed around midnight. He plays video games online with friends, and comes out for dinner, and is generally polite. Has a pet he loves, and will apologize to me still. He graduates this year and then what? I’m more than deeply concerned. I’m wondering if giving him this article to read would be helpful to him. My problem is in knowing how to help my young adult while I still have parental authority (technically), and afterward. There are still signs of hope. If you can speak to this situation, I would appreciate it. Thank you for the very enlightening article.

    Reply
 

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