Insidious and covert though Narcissistic Personality Disorder may be, there are still ways in which it might manifest itself if you look closely. These are some Red Flags to look out for.
Beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing
People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder are spectacularly difficult to spot. Even trained psychologists who don’t have first hand experience (as a victim) are easily fooled. One of the world’s leading recovery experts, was himself a practicing psychologist when he fell foul of a romantic narcissistic relationship – and has his world turned upside down with it. So how on earth does anyone determine whether they have a narcopath on their hands or not?
All good con artists need great con tricks to pull off their audacious deceptions, and the narcopath is no different. Their unscrupulous and treacherous ways necessitate stage performances an experienced actor would be proud of, but the narcissist has been honing their acting skills since early childhood. Whilst some never make the grade, the sad reality is that many are expert and carry their roles with distinction – literally. To all intents and purposes, they are the very pillar of society – on committees, active member of church, with careers as distinguished as they can make it.
Look hard. Then look again
But there are a number of signs that, if you are cynical enough and you push hard, should give you a reasonable indication. Cunning and manipulative though they may be, these are the red flags to look for……
Narcissisists know that they have to get you hooked and addicted before they start deriving their narcissistic supply from you. They do this by love-bombing. Expect plenty of compliments, frequent texts and messages professing undying love and attraction. Right form the get-go, they want to dominate your thoughts on an hourly basis. This serves a secondary role – your developing an interest in anyone else. Messages may seem rather generic, and not necessarily tailored to you specifically – and that’s because they are not genuine or original, but copied from films, books and the like. Don’t forget, Narcs simply do not have the same emotions that normal-range people do, and they can’t feel love. So their courting you is the same charade that is their entire lives.
Narcissists position themselves as being your soulmate by mirroring. In the early days, anticipate plenty of in-depth questions as they get to know you. Getting to know one-another is normal in a relationship, but with a narcissist it is more of a study, and it’s very one-sided. They won’t want to give anything away until you have first disclosed. Then they will pretend to like all of the same things as you – hobbies, past-times, sports, interests, music, food, places to visit, drink etc..
The know how to win people over quickly and will come across very charming – but only to those people who ‘count’. Expect the vicar to be treated very differently to the rubbish collector. The charm is false, however – something that their “false selves” use to give the impression of a nice person, a pillar of society. Their intimate partners are only really see their charming sides in public – in private, give up hope now.
This is the hallmark of the overt narcissist – brash, full of their own achievements, dismissive of other people, dismissibve of the failures, unaccountable for their cock-ups, vane and overly pre-occupied with their image. Many will be able to see polticians and celebs falling into these sterotypes. But beware, whilst this may be a key giveaway for the overt narcissists, there are many of other types of narcissist who do not fit this mould. Even with the covert ones though, once you get to know them intimately, you’ll have this overwhelming feeling that in their lives, it’s all about them.
Don’t mistake this one for the warm and kind style of listening and empathising – the narcissist’s form of listening is more intent studying. From the outset narcs are looking for opportunities to get their hooks into you, signs of weakness, an indication of the tank of narcissistic fuel you represent, what makes you tick etc.
Normal range people allow time for their feelings to develop – and these emotions come natural. Less so with the Narcissist, who has simply cannot feel make emotions around intimacy. They are on a mission to derive supply, and get rather impatient with normal-range targets taking their time.
Whilst they may not be able to feel love, sexual conquest represents validation, and therefore narcissistic supply, to the narc. So expect them to be sexual before your level of intimacy has built commensurately.
Narcs leave a wake of destruction in their paths. But they themselves cannot be accountable for this state of affairs – so it must be their victims, right? Look out for the narc dismissing their exes etc as crazy or having a screw loose. And often abusive – they are masters at projecting their own faults onto their victims.
They have a sense of entitlement – to borrow money or things, to preferential treatment, to adoration.
Whilst they might be trying to impress you and conduct themselves accordingly, they never-the-less appear to have a very haughty demeanour – particularly to people like restaurant waiting staff. Look for self-importance, pomposity, rudeness and a self-aggrandising attitude.
They must control situations, and particularly their partner and children, household finances, social engagements, family plans. Only those who they can confidently control are allowed into their core circle of friends. Those who demonstrate critical thinking and independent mind are kept at a distance.
In the workplace, they will often control subordinates ruthlessly.
Narcopaths struggle to apologise, genuinely, for anything. They just can’t be wrong – admitting it dents their sense of perfect “false self”. They will either freeze, change the subject or otherwise dodge, or mumble an apology followed with a “but…. “.
In normal friendships and relationships, your bond should be strong enough to feel confident that you could disagree, or tell them some home truths. With a narcopath, you may sense an unwritten rule, a gut feeling, that you don’t challenge them. Ever. Moreover, they can often ooze a mood that they are angry and on the verge of explosion, so you must tread carefully.
They are personally exploitative of others. Nothing is done out of generosity, although generous deeds may be done for show.
Narcopaths adore being the centre of attention and resent attentiveness being lavished on anyone else – particularly members of the same sex. Their favourite topic of conversations is, you’ve guessed it, themselves. They will try and sit in the middle of a large dinner table, they will be the first to dance on tables, expect loud high spirits at parties.
Narcs love being deemed to be associated with higher-intellectual people – but perversely resent being eclipsed by them. They are particularly wary of anyone who may be deemed as more attractive than they.
Like the chameleon, narcs will tailor themselves to best shine depending on the company or situation they are in. Invariably they will treat their nearest and dearest differently behind closed doors. So whether it’s their political persuasion, hobbies, interests, favourite food or colour – expect things to change whenever the wind blows.
Narcopaths get easily bored of the mundane, and are natural risk-takers. They will often have addictions (drink, drugs, sex etc) as well as to drama and adrenalin.
Narcopaths are masters of projection – blaming others for exactly those traits they are guilty of themselves.
They cannot feel emotions such as love, empathy, remorse, compassion – although they are expert at feigning it having studied others carefully.
If they have kids from a previous relationship, expect the relationship with the kids, or between the kids and their other parent, to be dysfunctional – they have either sole custody or very little contact with their kids. Again, either way it will be the fault of the kids’ other parent.
Narcs are fundamentally lazy. Look carefully and you will see that they are the last to volunteer for anything menial or arduous. Unless there is narcissistic supply to be had, don’t expect them at many coal-faces.
Their combination of laziness and entitlement, and given the charade of the false self, you will find that they are great at claiming other people’s hard work and success as theirs. These are the bosses that are hard taskmasters to their subordinates whilst too busy brown-nosing their seniors and wining and dining clients to roll their sleeves up themselves. These are the spouses who skip on household chores because they are too busy somewhere else, anywhere else. These are the partners who bum all day and expect their other halves to bring home the bacon.
Their lack of empathy for individuals extends to wider society – they just don’t about anyone else. Add to this their appetite for risk, their pathological lies and their sense of entitlement and you will understand why an estimated 25% of the prison population have NPD.
Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome
Often more tricky to decipher, but possibly another useful indicator, are symptoms demonstrated by their targets (partners, children, work colleagues, friends etc) – those of Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome.
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Narcissistic Personality Disorder Symptoms | Psych Central
6 Signs of Narcissism You May Not Know About | Psychology Today
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