How to identify narcissistic behaviour and abuse

How to identify narcissistic behaviour and abuse

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Personality disorders begin in adolescence or young adulthood. They are little recognised due to the difficulty in making a diagnosis and, because of their characteristics, people suffering from personality disorders do not usually go to therapy. In-Mentis Integrative Psychology explains how you can recognise the signs of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

How to recognise Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Narcissistic Personality Disorder occurs between 0 and 6,2 percent of the population, more frequently in men than in women. They will present, in various contexts, five (or more) of the following characteristics.

A person with NPD:

  • Has feelings of grandeur and arrogance (e.g. exaggerates accomplishments and talents, expects to be recognised as superior without corresponding successes)
  • Is absorbed in fantasies of limitless success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  • Believes they are “special” and unique, and that they can only be understood or associated with other special or high-status people (or institutions)
  • Has an excessive need for admiration
  • Shows a feeling of privilege (i.e. unreasonable expectations of favourable treatment or the automatic fulfilment of their expectations)
  • Exploits interpersonal relationships (i.e. takes advantage of others for their own ends)
  • Lacks empathy: unwilling to acknowledge or identify with the feelings and needs of others
  • Often envies others or thinks they are envious of them
  • Displays arrogant behaviour or attitude of superiority

How to recognise victims of abuse

We can have a narcissistic father or mother, a sibling, or a partner, but also a co-worker or a boss. The impact that being close to a person with this disorder can cause is different depending on the relationship we have with them since being raised by a narcissistic mother is not the same as working with a narcissistic co-worker in a company we have just joined, as adults.

What is common amongst victims of narcissism is the symptoms they exhibit. Often, victims will suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder due to the abuse, and with it, the symptoms that characterise the disorder.

Instances of psychological abuse by a narcissist include:

  • Financial abuse (surveillance of bank accounts; secret expenses, purchases or investments without consulting you; lying about their income)
  • Excessive control (access to a victim’s mobile phone, computer, location, friends and acquaintances). This could even manifest in a victim isolating themselves on their own accord, to avoid arguments or bad faces
  • Humiliation, criticism, insults, contempt, and invalidations, which leaves the victim feeling like they are not enough
  • Cancelling victims’ emotions or underestimating them, claiming victims exaggerate the extent of the abuse, or are dramatic and unbalanced, making victims feel like they are not well
  • Emotional blackmail and pressure to achieve their goals, so that victims always end up giving in and never do what they want or like
  • Deciding a victim’s preferences, so that they stop liking what they used to like

How do narcissists attract people?

Generally, a narcissist will flatter or give great gifts and surprises, especially in the first phase of the relationship. This double message, negative and positive, sinks you and takes you to heaven, it is what keeps you confused and addicted to the relationship.

Victims might think that it hurts, but they are still loved and the negative things that are said are for their own good. It might not always seem like this though, as the abuser might have a “good day”. However, this does not stop them from being an abuser.

Other people might have a very different opinion about a narcissist than what you have, often because they find them charming, kind, affectionate, funny, in short, perfect. This can make you believe that, actually, you’re the one who is not well, or even that it is you that has a disorder; it might even make you think that you’re the narcissist.

If you feel that you have been affected by some or all of the aspects described in the article, or have doubts regarding a relationship, remember that you are not alone. Get in touch with the folks at In-Mentis Integrative Psychology – they’re here to help!

Elsa González Lueje


Elsa González Lueje

Elsa is a Spanish Health Psychologist that works from a CBT, EMDR and Systemic perspective. Specialized in Autism, Eating Disorders and Obesity, Family Therapy and Trauma. She has lived in...

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