Not everyone who looks in the mirror too long or brags about his or her accomplishments is a narcissist. Some people are just arrogant and self-centered. A true "narcissist" is a person who suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (“NPD”). And, contrary to their confident exteriors, narcissists actually have fractured, fragile egos - typically from early childhood abuse, neglect or trauma. What we see on the outside is the façade, or alter-ego, which they have created to protect themselves from the pain of feeling inadequate and vulnerable. Here are some ways you can tell if someone in your life has NPD:
Grandiose Self-Image – Because they are protecting their fragile interior, a narcissist will exhibit an outer image of absolute superiority and perfection.
Lack of Empathy – Narcissists see others only as extensions of themselves. They use everyone in their lives to support their grandiose façade, either by taking credit for their accomplishments, or using their failures to highlight their own superiority. If a child gets good grades, she’s my child, but if she doesn’t, she’s just like her father.
Collection of Admirers – Narcissists seek out and cultivate groups of admirers who believe in their grandiosity unconditionally. Most cult leaders are believed to be narcissists.
Always Right – Narcissists are never wrong. If they’ve made a mistake, it was caused by someone else. They will have an excuse for everything and will never apologize. Truths and lies are interchangeable. A narcissist will look you straight in the eye and tell you the sky is green.
Sexually Promiscuous – Both male and female narcissists tend to be sexually adventurous. Sexual conquests feed their alter egos and secure their dominance over others.
Charming – Because they lack empathy, narcissists do not develop normal social skills. To compensate, they study human interactions and learn to perfect them. They can be larger than life and utterly irresistible when they turn their trained skills of seduction your way. People who seem too good to be true usually are.
Entitled – Narcissists are not confined by the rules that apply to others. They feel entitled to behave and do as they please, and to take for their own personal use whatever resources they can get their hands on, including people.
Obsessed with Appearances – From their physical exterior to their friends, spouses and children, narcissists strive to be admired and envied on all fronts.
Bad Relationships – Whether the wake of human destruction they’ve left behind them is visible or not, narcissists cannot maintain healthy long-term relationships. That doesn’t mean the relationships won’t last. Narcissists can be very hard to leave.
They Cannot Change – Narcissists cannot be cured. They do not know they have a disorder. Rather, they will modify their behavior only to achieve a goal or prevent an undesirable result, such as a break-up. But as soon as the coast is clear, the bad behavior will begin again. The consensus from mental health professionals seems to be this – if you are in a relationship with a true narcissist, get out as quickly as you can.