What is a Narcissist ?

What is a Narcissist

What is a Narcissist

Narcissist meaning

Recognising the traits of a person who suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder

How you may feel if you are in a relationship with a narcissist

What to do if you feel you are in a relationship with a narcissist

Some different categories of Narcissists

What Is A Narcissist

The definition of a Narcissist is someone who suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). This is usually characterised by certain traits. These are that the person craves admiration, no matter how they obtain it. They usually have very elevated ideas of their own importance in society (grandiosity or grandiose ideas). They may manipulate others and be very self centred as well as having no regard for the feelings of anyone else (lack of empathy). They often try to forge relationships with people who they feel are special in some way in order to boost their own sense of self-importance and they will respond in a very negative way to any criticism or  disregard to their efforts.

Some studies have shown that Narcissists have an underlying feeling of shame that drives their behaviour and they may deal with this by excessive drinking or drug taking, but despite this, they are usually unwilling to accept treatment, reverting back to an arrogant refusal that anything could possibly be wrong and that they are simply misunderstood. People with narcissistic personality disorder are usually very insecure and crave validation.


Thirteen ways to recognise if you are in a relationship with a narcissist

  1. Anything you have done, said or are planning will be ‘trumped’ by the narcissist who will belittle your achievements by trying to convince you that they have done bigger, better, faster or more.

  2. The Narcissists thinking is often very black and white – things are good or bad, awesome or rubbish, superior to them or inferior to them.

  3. The Narcissist will claim that they have had the worst illness, the most difficult upbringing, the most devastating problems, or has been the most misunderstood throughout life making having a relationship with a narcissist difficult. 

  4. If a narcissist is not getting constant attention, they will demand it in any way possible. Asking you to do a chore for them, interrupting you while you read or try to sleep, wander into the bathroom to talk to you while you are on the loo or in the shower, feigning a trip or fall etc.

  5. An inability to work as part of a team. The Narcissist wants his own efforts and results to be recognised. Input from other team members dilutes this and makes the narcissist feel insecure and undervalued.

  6. A Narcissist genuinely doesn’t understand if you try to explain your emotions, or the effects that their behaviour is having on you. They simply will not be able to accept that your needs are as great as theirs or that your feelings actually matter.

  7. They will blame all that goes badly in a relationship or in their lives on others, and believe that anything that goes well or is achieved is due to their input.

  8. A Narcissist will often firmly believe that all of your possessions belong to them to be used as and when they wish, and react badly when reminded that they aren’t (this also includes your home, your space and your time).

  9. In a relationship, a Narcissist often starts out thinking that their partner is perfect and puts them on a pedestal, almost worshipping them. Over time, the Narcissist will realise the others frailties, vulnerabilities and weaknesses and in their disillusionment, use them against the partner often in very spiteful and undermining ways. They are only interested in how a relationship serves their needs or fails to serve their needs.

  10. A Narcissist will employ tactics such as ‘gas lighting’, either saying that you’ve said or done something you haven’t or convince you that you haven’t done or said something that you have. They will also set out to confuse a person by twisting their words in a way that makes them look like ‘the injured party’.


The term ‘gaslighting’ was adopted from the stage play and subsequent film adaptations of that play by George Hamilton in the first half of the 20th century.  The gas powered lighting in the house of the victim was tampered with during the night as the villain of the piece turns the lighting down in his home and up in the attic during the night as he searches it. He convinces his wife that this is not happening at all, that she is imagining everything

  1. The Narcissist will often behave impeccably in public but be furious with a partner in private as they perceive the partner has slighted them or undermined them in front of others.

  2. A person with narcissistic personality disorder will react very badly to the ending of a relationship often stalking, chasing or following their ex-partner and turning up uninvited in their lives for a very long time trying to persuade them to come back.

  3. High levels of aggression – usually verbal.


Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

The Narcissist often doesn’t display the above mentioned traits until they have gained the trust of the object of their attention.  This can be extremely problematic because the other person tends to be emotionally invested in the relationship by the time problems start to present themselves. The descent from object of desire to object of derision, and often torment can be sudden, extremely damaging and very difficult to see coming. The behaviour displayed by the Narcissist when things turn sour is sometimes called ‘Narcissistic abuse’.




How you may feel if you are in a relationship with a Narcissist

  1. Lonely – you have a partner but your needs and feelings are disregarded or scorned.

  2. Worthless – you feel you have no value, no use or no intellect or talent and you may also feel unloveable because of this

  3. Confused – your thoughts, emotions, preferences and dislikes may have been contradicted or dismissed consistently.

  4. Afraid – narcissists often display aggressive behaviour or covertly threaten their partners in devious and manipulative ways.

  5. Torn – you may recognise that the person is a narcissist and that their behaviour is damaging to you, but you also recognise the intrinsic goodness of the person behind the disorder

  6. Helpless – unable to do anything about your situation

  7. Anxious – you may feel that you are walking on egg shells to keep the Narcissist happy, and recognise that walking on eggshells may further irritate the Narcissist.


What to do if you suspect you are in a relationship with a Narcissist

  1. Do some research, learn as much as you can about Narcissism 

  2. Ponder your own place in this relationship – have you become a co-dependant? 

  3. Think about how the relationship is impacting your own life and whether you are prepared to live with this. It is also important to ask yourself if you are traumatised by the behaviour of the Narcissist.

  4. Seek help if you don’t feel strong enough or feel too confused to explore these issues on your own. Many Counsellors and counselling services such as ASCA North East Counselling Services, specialise in helping people to overcome the effects of abuse.

  5. Remember, it is the Narcissist whose behaviour is unreasonable, not your own. You are responsible only for your recovery, not the abuse that you’ve suffered. 

  6. Know that you always have choices. You can stay and learn coping strategies and self-care strategies if you want to, or you can leave.


Different Kinds of Narcissists

Narcissists (people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder), are often categorised and given different labels which indicate how their behaviours manifest.

Exhibitionist Narcissists and Closet Narcissists were identified by James F Masterson in 1993. The closet narcissist feels inadequate and seeks approval, whereas the exhibitionist Narcissist feels superior and seeks admiration.

Theodore Millon described further categories of Narcissist in 1996. The Unprincipled Narcissist. The Amorous Narcissist who may believe that he/she is irresistible to the many objects of their desire. The compensatory narcissist (passive aggressive). The Elitist Narcissist.

The Malignant Narcissist is a particularly disturbing category described by Erich Fromm as far back as the early 1960s. This type of Narcissism is particularly severe and involves the narcissist deriving satisfaction from their own achievements over time, but becoming warped by paranoia, pronounced psychopathic traits and sadistic and/or aggressive behaviour.

There are many other categories and sub categories of Narcissist that have been identified and described.


A final point

It’s worth noting that a true Narcissist is a person with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a recognised disorder that can be treated. However, it is very unlikely that the person suffering from the disorder will accept treatment due to the very nature of the disorder. Some partners of narcissists feel that the relationship is worth working on. Many others are unable to cope with the effects that the person’s behaviour has on their life, their other relationships and their mental health.

Our counsellors are available to help you work out what your feelings are regarding such difficult issues.