20 Signs of A Narcissist: Red Flags of Narcissism

One of the hidden signs of a narcissist is their obsession with a godlike version of themselves. This mad self-love goes way beyond self-approval and self-compassion.

However, they feel empty until others validate that overinflated balloon of their self-image.

So they put on their finest act to entice people who will praise them lavishly without demanding anything in return.

This inherent self-worship, plus a craving for constant attention, and a lack of emotional empathy are the hallmark signs of a narcissist.

Narcissists use their relationships to feel good about themselves. To love a narcissist is to commit to constantly feeding their ego.

Narcissism is one of the four types of dark personalities that form a tetrad with Machiavellianism, Psychopathy, and Sadism.

20 Signs of A Narcissist: Red Flags of Narcissism

The narcissist in the room is easy to spot, especially the grandiose variety. They are typically the loud ones, gasconading a crowd with their captivating, often magical, life stories.

[Gasconading = boasting about one’s accomplishments, qualities, or possessions.]

We chose the 20 most telling signs to make it easy to isolate the narcissist, even if they aren’t the typical loudmouths. Learn to spot these obvious red flags before the narc can suck you in by their charming mannerisms.

If you’re uncertain whether someone you love has narcissism, the signs listed here will help you figure it out. However, if you’re still unsure, take them to a psychologist or mental health counselor who can run tests to confirm if they have NPD.

• Find out how to handle a grandiose narcissist?

signs of a narcissist
20 Signs of A Narcissist

How do you tell if a person is narcissistic? Here’s a list of the 20 most characteristic signs of a narcissist:

1. They lack empathy and remorse.

2. They are condescending towards others.

3. They have high but fragile, self-esteem.

4. They bully, demean, and intimidate others.


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5. They seek constant attention and admiration.

6. They can’t handle the mildest of criticisms.

7. They have an inflated sense of self-importance.

8. They do not respect other people’s boundaries.

9. They are highly selfish and self-centered people.

10. They have superficial, self-serving relationships.

11. They can’t stand others making decisions for them.

12. They do not assume responsibility for their mistakes.

13. They are envious and believe others are envious of them.

14. They take advantage of others without feeling shame or guilt.

15. They feel they’re better, smarter, and more competent than others.

16. They are people who use their relationships to feel good about themselves.

17. They overestimate their intellectual superiority and physical attractiveness.

18. They are arrogant and hostile, and find it almost impossible to utter the word “Sorry.”

19. They live in a fantasy world created by reality distortion, self-deception, and magical thinking.

20. They have a strong sense of entitlement. That is, they expect to always get favorable treatment, and their demands get automatic compliance.

Narcissist Traits (Signs of Narcissism)
Narcissist Traits (Signs of Narcissism)

The diagnosed form of narcissism, Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), affects around 0.5 percent of the US population, or one in every 200 people.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) defines NPD as a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, a constant need for admiration, and a lack of empathy.

According to the DSM-5, a clinical diagnosis of NPD requires five or more of the following:

  • a grandiose sense of self-importance;
  • preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love;
  • beliefs of being special and unique;
  • demands for excessive admiration;
  • a sense of entitlement;
  • interpersonal exploitativeness;
  • lack of empathy;
  • envy of others;
  • arrogant, and haughty behaviors or attitudes.

75% of those diagnosed with NPD are men.

Furthermore, people with NPD have a difficult time accepting feedback and handling criticism.

  • They feel disrespected and become upset when they don’t receive special treatment.
  • They have serious interpersonal issues and are easily irritated by their partner’s actions.
  • They react with rage or contempt, and belittle or insult people to feel superiority.
  • They struggle to regulate their emotions and actions, and they are usually unhappy.
  • Their rigidity makes it hard for them to adapt to changes and deal with stressful events.
  • They become sad, irritated, and frustrated when they fail, as it exposes their weaknesses.
  • They harbor hidden feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability, and past humiliation.

Narcissists And Empathy

Actually, this idea of narcissists lacking empathy needs a slight correction.

Empathy can be of three types:

  1. intellectual empathy – the ability to read the thoughts in the other person’s mind,
  2. emotional empathy – the ability to feel the pain of another person in distress, and
  3. compassionate empathy – the ability to get moved by and act to relieve another person’s distress.

Narcissists have buckets of intellectual empathy, but they lack the emotional and compassionate type.

However, narcissists are experts at faking emotional empathy!

Do you know the 7 signs of a narcissist woman (from dark psychology)?

What Is Narcissism: An Ultra-Short Introduction

To some extent, all of us have narcissistic traits.

In fact, a modest amount of narcissism lets people feel healthy pride in their achievements and honorable joy in their lives. However, its clinical version, Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), is rare.

NPD appears in the early to mid-20s, and it may worsen in middle or old age. Current data points to a lifetime prevalence of NPD as 6.2%, that is, 6.2 people out of 100 may get it at some point in their lives. Once it sets in, it is typically lifelong.

The concept of narcissism can be traced to the Greek myth of Narcissus, who fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water.

In psychology, it was the British physician Havelock Ellis, who first referred to narcissism as a mental disorder in 1898.

Sigmund Freud, in his 1914 essay On Narcissism, popularized it as a concept in psychoanalytic theory. According to Freud, narcissism is a normal stage in child development but is a disorder that occurs after puberty.

There is a “milder” form of narcissism called the Narcissistic Personality Type (NPT). These people show most or all of the characteristics of the NPD, but stay within the normal range of personality. These may be referred to as covert narcissists. They are sharply in contrast with grandiose narcissists.

While the typical narcissist is extroverted, the covert narcissist is more of an introverted type. But they come with the same trouble as the typical ones — they lack the capacity to regulate their self-esteem.

Both are people manipulators.

When a narcissist senses a break-up of a romantic relationship, they present a strong semblance of behavior change. They even start to love-bomb their partner.

But pretty soon, they reveal they’re just as repulsive as they always were. Because of this, many narcissists stay stuck in on-again, off-again relationships.

The narcissists stay ready to lay all blame on others for each of their mistakes. They get unhinged when others point out their faults.

They resist making any change in themselves. Though occasionally, they might appear to have changed positively. But as soon as stress appears in their lives, the narcissist in them leaps out of the shadows.

Gaslighting is a form of narcissistic abuse. In this, a narcissist tries to victimize vulnerable people into intellectual and emotional slaves. To quench his thirst for constant affirmation and superiority, he then blames them for their own victimhood.

An interesting type of this behavior abnormality is Unconscious Gaslighting.

How To Protect Yourself From A Narcissist

Remember, even if it is easy to identify the signs of narcissism, it is hard to prove a person has an NPD with 100% certainty unless they take a personality test or consult a psychiatrist.

We must also keep in mind that NPD may co-exist with other mental health disorders, like substance abuse, bipolar, anxiety, depression, and anorexia nervosa.

Diagnosed NPD can get better with treatment. According to research, positive life events such as new achievements, secure relationships, and manageable setbacks can lead to a significant reduction in pathologic narcissism over time (Ronningstam et al., 1995).

When you find out a person you know has narcissism, it’s time to shield yourself from their manipulations and self-serving behaviors.

Three effective ways to protect yourself from a narcissist (who you can’t avoid, like an office coworker or a long-term partner) are:

Finally, if you want a narcissist to dare not hurt you, be self-confident, defend your boundaries, stay in touch with people who care about you, and never stop the self-love supply.

The best defense against a narcissist is to believe in yourself and put yourself first, not them. Treat yourself with kindness and compassion, regardless of what bad things a narcissist says about you, and to you.

Further Reading:

Final Words

In a nutshell, narcissists have an inflated sense of self-importance, a need for admiration, and a lack of empathy.

Narcissists want positive feedback about themselves, and they actively manipulate others to solicit or coerce admiration from them. Accordingly, narcissism is thought to reflect a form of chronic interpersonal self-esteem regulation. — Encyclopedia Britannica

Narcissists are master manipulators, and we can’t emphasize this enough. They will most likely manipulate everyone who comes in contact with them. They are experts at dumping people and trampling over their feelings once they are done with them.

You cannot heal a narcissist (there’s a reason behind the cruelty and evil nature of narcissists) unless you are a qualified specialist, so don’t waste your time fooling yourself otherwise or trying to improve them. Instead, refer them to a mental health practitioner and keep your distance and sanity.

In general, it is better to stay away from people who might be narcissists. Spot them from afar and keep a safe distance between you and them.

• • •

Do you know what triggers “Narcissistic Rage,” and how to deal with it?

Of the 6 types of narcissists, which one’s the most dangerous?

• • •

Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy—a medical doctor, psychology writer, and happiness researcher. Founder and Chief Editor of The Happiness Blog. Writes popular science articles on happiness, positive psychology, and the philosophy of Stoicism.


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