How to Spot Toxic Narcissism in a Relationship

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If you know your Greek mythology, you’ll know the story of how the abnormal love of his own self eventually killed Narcissus. Unfortunately, there are many living human Narcissuses in our midst today. You might even be in a relationship with one of them. Hence, it helps to know how to spot a person with toxic narcissism before he or she can totally destroy you.

To be fair, almost everyone has egoistic traits that are manageable and not at the level that meets the criteria for the personality disorder. But toxic narcissism is an altogether different matter. If you live with a narcissist, you’re in for a rollercoaster ride of emotions and in the long run, it’s going to have a disastrous effect on your self-image and the relationship.

“He that falls in love with himself will have no rivals.”

-Benjamin Franklin

Narcissists initially come across as charming and personable. Their self-confidence attracts people to them like bees to honey. But when their real character comes to the surface, the difficulty of dealing with them takes its toll on you. So how can you tell if someone is a narcissist? The truth is, you can’t right away. And sometimes the realization comes too late.

Based on the criteria used by the American Psychiatric Association for diagnosing Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD,) these types of personalities have:

  1. An exaggerated sense of self-importance
  2. A sense of entitlement
  3. Unrealistic thoughts of success, power, brilliance or beauty
  4. Lack of empathy
  5. The belief that they are special and unique
  6. A need for constant admiration from others
  7. Manipulative and exploitative behavior
  8. Envy of others or belief that others are envious of them
  9. An arrogant and haughty attitude

toxic narcissism

But psychologists and people who are in relationships with narcissists know there are other behaviors common to them that are not included in the APA standards. That’s narcissism and it’s not as severe as NPD. But that doesn’t make it any less easy to live with them. A relationship with a narcissist has no good side to it. It’s either you bail out early on or you stand up for yourself by learning the strategies for dealing with them. If you think you have a narcissist boss, parent, spouse or child, watch out for the following behaviors.


How to Spot Toxic Narcissism

  • They have an exaggerated sense of self-importance that pushes them to magnify and lie about their achievements so that they feel they are better than other people, and they will be admired and looked up to.
  • They have a sense of entitlement that they should receive better treatment than others and that their demands should be met without question.
  • They lack empathy and are not concerned with others’ needs and feelings. Only their own needs are important to them.
  • They do not respect boundaries because they do not recognize your rights. Boundaries refer to behavior, things they say or do to you that you feel is overstepping your personal lines. For example, they will demand to know your passwords or check your cell phone without asking permission. They will talk about a topic that is taboo to you or verbally abuse you. They expect to order you around and drop everything to cater to their needs.
  • They are very sensitive to criticism. They see it as a negative evaluation of them or their performance, so they lie, change the topic or pretend to misunderstand.
  • They burst out in rage if their views are challenged. Opposing perspectives expose their insecurities and incite their anger.

Counseling may help a narcissistic person by giving insight into his or her maladaptive behaviors and identifying more positive ways of relating to other people.

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