Narcissism 101 & Understanding a Narcissist

Narcissism 101 | Causes | Different Types | Diagnosis | Treatment | Prevention

Narcissism is a personality disorder that affects many people and their loved ones.

It is characterized by narcissists’ inability to empathize with others, their need for admiration, an exaggerated sense of self-worth, and their lack of empathy for others.

There are many different types of narcissism, but they all stem from narcissists’ desire to fulfill their own needs at the expense of everyone else’s.

This article will explore what narcissism is, how it develops, and what you can do about it if you think someone close to you might be suffering from this condition.

What is narcissism?

Narcissism, also called narcissistic personality disorder or NPD, is an excessive preoccupation with oneself and a belief that one is better than others.

Narcissists think they are special, smarter, more attractive, deserving of attention from everyone in their lives.

They have little empathy for other people because narcissists feel entitled to get what they want when they want it which makes it very difficult to have any healthy relationships.

This makes them very demanding and often difficult to be around as they expect special treatment.

What causes narcissism?

There is no one answer to this question because narcissism can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, environment, neurobiology, and trauma.

Some people are more prone to narcissism due to their biology or personality type, while others may develop narcissistic traits in response to difficult life experiences.

If someone’s parents were narcissists or raised them narcissistically, they may develop narcissistic traits without any outside triggers.

Neurobiology can also play a part due to narcissists’ need for stimulation and excitement.

Whereas trauma can lead to narcissism by overwhelming someone and making them feel like they need to take care of themselves above all else.

Narcissism 101

What are the different types of narcissism?

There are four hotly debated types of narcissism that we will cover today: grandiose narcissism, vulnerable narcissism, exhibitionist narcissism, and antisocial narcissism and we will delve deeper into the meaning of each one below.

Grandiose narcissists

Grandiose narcissists have a sense of superiority to others and have a lot of self-pride. They are often exhibitionists and need to be the center of attention.

They may have a high opinion of themselves and feel that only people who are as special as they are can understand them.

They are often attracted to things and people they deem to be of elite status.

Vulnerable narcissists

Vulnerable narcissists, also called fragile narcissists, are similar to grandiose narcissists in that they have a lot of self-love, but they are much more insecure.

They often see themselves as victims and have very fragile self-esteem. They need constant validation from others in order to feel good about themselves and can be easily hurt by criticism or rejection.

Antisocial narcissists

Antisocial narcissists, sometimes called malignant narcissists, are the most dangerous narcissists due to their narcissism being coupled with antisocial behavior.

They use narcissism as a smokescreen for psychopathy and will do anything they can get away with in order to achieve their goals.

Exhibitionist narcissism

Another type of narcissism, exhibitionist narcissism, also called high-functioning narcissism, is not technically a subtype of narcissism but rather a way to describe the behavior of narcissists who are always seeking attention.

This can include being very flashy or dramatic, constantly seeking compliments, and wanting success.

A note about narcissistic categories

There are several different categories of narcissism but not all are accepted by every medical organization. Due to it not being fully understood, even the American Psychological Association isn’t certain if some of them even exist.

How do you diagnose narcissism?

The diagnostic criteria for narcissism are found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), which can be used to make a formal diagnosis of NPD, but this isn’t always done.

There are also narcissism scales that can be used to measure narcissism levels on a scale, but these do not provide an official diagnosis either.

To diagnose using the DSM-V a narcissist must display 5 of the following 9 common traits of narcissism:

  • Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements, expects to be recognized as superior without actually completing the achievements)
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of success, power, brilliance, beauty, or perfect love.
  • Believes that they are “special” and can only be understood by or should only associate with other special people (or institutions).
  • Requires excessive admiration.
  • Has a sense of entitlement, such as an unreasonable expectation of favorable treatment or compliance with his or her expectations).
  • Is exploitative and takes advantage of others to achieve their own ends.
  • Lacks empathy and is unwilling to identify with the needs of others.
  • Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of them.
  • Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors and attitudes

Due to the debate in the scientific community, this method is not always used to diagnose NPD.

How do you treat narcissism?

There is no “cure” for narcissism and psychotherapy isn’t always helpful with narcissists because of their inability to empathize or see themselves as anything other than perfect.

The narcissist is often unwilling to change and there may be no point in wasting time trying to get them to do so because it would require a major shift in their ego.

Due to this, narcissists will usually not even seek help since they believe they are special and nothing is wrong with them.

However, there are treatments that can be helpful for narcissists and their families. These include:

  • Family therapy
  • Anger management
  • Behavioral modification
  • Psychotherapy

These may not work but the intent is to try to allow the narcissistic person to see relationships from the point of view of the other person.

How do you live with narcissism?

Living with a narcissist is difficult because they often make life all about them and don’t care about the feelings of others.

They are often very demanding and can be quite abusive, both verbally and emotionally. It’s important to set boundaries with narcissists and not let them control you.

Can you prevent narcissism?

There is no known way to prevent narcissism from developing but early identification and treatment may help lessen the symptoms.

If you have a family history of narcissism, it’s important to be aware of the warning signs and seek help if needed.


In this article, we discussed narcissism and the different ways to diagnose and treat it. We also looked at how to live with a narcissist and if there are ways to prevent narcissism from developing.

Keep in mind that narcissism is a complex disorder that is not fully understood by scientists and there is still much debate about it.

If you are experiencing problems in your life and feel that narcissism may be a factor, it is important to seek help from a professional.

References, Studies and Sources.

author avatar
Angel Rivera
I am a Bilingual (Spanish) Psychiatrist with a mixture of strong clinical skills including Emergency Psychiatry, Consultation Liaison, Forensic Psychiatry, Telepsychiatry and Geriatric Psychiatry training in treatment of the elderly. I have training in EMR records thus very comfortable in working with computers. I served the difficult to treat patients in challenging environments in outpatient and inpatient settings

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