10 signs you have a narcissist in your life

Many people can get carried away with their sense of self-importance from time to time, but what’s the difference between a healthy ego and a narcissist?

Chances are, there’s someone in your world you suspect may be a narcissist.

You know, the friend who always has the latest and the best “everything”, the colleague who doesn’t stop talking about themselves, the family member who constantly craves attention.

While possibly self-centred, do such traits make these people narcissists?

OK, so what exactly is a narcissist?

Narcissism is a complex and difficult personality style, and while the word narcissist is thrown around a lot (reality TV, anyone?), psychologist Dr Marny Lishman says narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a serious mental health condition characterised by a cluster of signs and traits.

“These include a grandiose sense of importance and a delusion that a person requires different treatment to the average person, that they’re more special,” Dr Lishman says. “They have an altered sense of reality.”

While narcissists can be fun, exciting and charming, narcissistic personality disorder can make relationships difficult, psychotherapist Lissy Abrahams says.

“It can be quite damaging because they are wired to be more self-absorbed and lacking empathy,” Lissy, author of  Relationships Reset, says.

She says it can be helpful to think about narcissism as occurring along a spectrum from adaptive to maladaptive.

“Most of us have some periods where we’re more self-occupied than others, it can be what helps us through a job interview, for example, and it doesn’t make us narcissistic,” Lissy says.

“The problem is when it becomes maladaptive and there is the arrogance, the using people, the superiority; that’s when narcissism starts to have a serious, negative impact on everyday life and relationships.”

How is narcissistic personality disorder identified?

Narcissistic personality disorder is thought to affect up to 5 per cent of people and it more common in men.

Dr Lishman says it is important to note that displaying some narcissistic behaviours does not mean a person necessarily has NPD.

It is diagnosed by a psychologist or psychiatrist using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

“It is usually managed with some sort of therapy – revolving around how to relate to others better at home and at work, and developing a healthy self-esteem,” Dr Lishman says.

10 common traits of a narcissist

Lissy and Dr Lishman have identified some tell-tale traits of NPD.

  1. Super fragile ego

“Typically narcissists are always needing their ego boosted,” Lissy says.

  1. Manipulative

“Narcissists often manipulate and are chronic liars as they try to get what they want,” Marny says.

  1. Grandiose sense of importance

Including a need for excessive admiration, praise, and having others see them a superior, our experts say.

  1. Controlling

“The minute narcissists sense a lack of control, they will strike out, which can be very damaging,” Dr Lishman says.

  1. Preoccupied with fantasies of success

“Narcissists are gripped with delusions of success and their brilliance, power and with finding the perfect mate – preoccupations that have no grounding in reality,” Lissy says.

  1. Lacks empathy

Dr Lishman says a narcissist has an inability to look through the lens of anyone else and anything that goes wrong is someone else’s fault.

  1. Envious

“Narcissists are consumed with envy and believe that they’re the envy of others,” Lissy says.

  1. Diminishes others

This is “all part of boosting themselves — no-one knows more than them, according to Lissy.

  1. Arrogant and haughty

“Narcissists have a tremendous self-belief in a way that is very different to other people,” Dr Lishman says.

  1. Can’t accept criticism

“It’s part of the need to protect their entitled sense of self — the criticism might be so minor but they have no tolerance at all for it,” Lissy says.

Best ways to handle a narcissist

“When you’re with someone with that level of emotional blindness, you need to keep some emotional distance to protect your own mental health,” Lissy advises.

Dr Lishman agrees, recommending you set your own strong and very clear boundaries.

“If you’re working with someone or have someone in the family or your life who is showing these traits, it can be very confusing and before you know it you’re in the middle of being manipulated,” she says.

“Get support for your own mental health and be short and succinct in dealing with them, don’t try and tell them how you feel, because they cannot be what you want them to be.”

Lissy says you shouldn’t try to change them.

“Many people try for years and end up depleted and distressed,” she says.

“Remember, it’s not their fault, they didn’t choose to be like this, it’s a personality disorder, so be kind and non-judgemental, they honestly can’t help it.”

Written by Liz McGrath.