What’s inside this article: An introduction to narcissistic personality disorder, including the official diagnostic criteria, and six red flags that you’re dating a narcissist.
Have you ever been, or are you currently, in a relationship with someone, and you are seeing red flags, wondering if they could be a narcissist?
Narcissists are naturally talented at charming others, so it’s easy to fall under their spell. In a new relationship, many of us focus on the positive and ignore the red flags.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a mental health disorder, and those affected by NPD fall on a spectrum, some more severe than others.
But whether or not your partner qualifies for an NPD diagnosis isn’t really relevant. What matters most is if someone has narcissistic personality traits, then the way they are treating you probably isn’t healthy or sustainable in the long run.
What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a personality disorder in which people have an inflated opinion of themselves. They also feel an intense need for attention and admiration from others.
People with NPD may be generally unhappy and disappointed when they don’t get the praise they believe they deserve.
Others may see them as egotistical and arrogant and may not enjoy being around them.
NPD can cause problems in many areas of life, including:
Narcissism is part of the dark triad of personality disorders, which are the most malignant personality types in psychological literature. The dark triad consists of narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism.
Diagnostic Criteria for NPD
According to the DSM V, the official diagnostic criteria for narcissism is:
- grandiose sense of self-importance
- preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
- the belief they’re special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions
- need for excessive admiration
- sense of entitlement
- interpersonally exploitative behavior
- lack of empathy
- envy of others or a belief that others are envious of them
- demonstration of arrogant and haughty behaviors or attitudes
But – if you’re wondering if you are in a relationship with a narcissist, it’s probably not as clear-cut as going through a checklist and seeing how many boxes you can tick off.
Signs You’re Dating a Narcissist
Love bombing is when someone overwhelms you with affection and adoration.
This includes things like compliments, loving notes, gifts, romantic dates, surprising you at work with flowers, those “good morning, beautiful” text messages.
Not everyone who does this is a narcissist, but narcissists are known for their skills at manipulation. They use flattery and attention as tools to build themselves up as the perfect partner, gain your trust and adoration.
Of course, this behavior doesn’t last forever; it’s done to manipulate you into growing feelings for them more rapidly.
(Think Joe Goldberg with Beck in season one of You)
They Hog The Conversation
Narcissists love talking about themselves, their achievements, accomplishments, and just how successful they feel they are.
They’re also too busy talking about themselves to listen to you. So, if you feel like your partner is always talking about themselves and doesn’t engage in conversations about you, that is a red flag.
Ask yourself: when you share something exciting with your partner – about your job, or a hobby, or something you’re proud of – do they ask follow-up questions and show interest? Or find a way to make it about them?
Narcissists Lack Empathy
As charming as they may be and as confident as they appear, narcissists don’t have the ability to make you feel seen, validated, understood, or accepted because they don’t grasp the concept of other people’s feelings.
Does your partner care when you have a bad day at work or an argument with your best friend? Or, do they seem bored when you’re expressing how you feel about these things?
They Put You Down
Maybe they say it’s a joke, or it felt that way at first … but now it’s getting to you. You feel like they are constantly putting you down.
They make jokes at your expense that aren’t quite funny, point out your mistakes and flaws, and tell you that you’re doing things wrong.
They seem to have a problem with everything you do – from what you wear, what you eat, how you do your hair and make-up, what you watch on TV, how to vacuum the floor, etc.
This may even escalate to name-calling or insults.
Their goal? To lower your self-esteem because it makes them feel more powerful.
Gaslighting is when someone makes you doubt yourself, memories of events, thoughts, and feelings by lying or spinning the truth, denying events, or insinuating that you’re “crazy”.
It’s a hallmark sign of narcissistic personality disorder. It’s also a form of manipulation and emotional abuse.
If you’re constantly gaslighted, you start to:
- No longer feel like the person you used to be.
- Feel more anxious and less confident than you used to be.
- Wonder if you’re too sensitive.
- Feel like everything you do is wrong.
- Always think it’s your fault when things go wrong.
- Apologize often
- Feel like something’s wrong but aren’t able to identify what it is.
- Question whether your response to your partner is appropriate.
- Make excuses for your partner’s behavior.
They Never Apologize
There is no compromising or debating with a narcissist because they believe they’re always right, and they never apologize.
You’ll notice this inability to apologize in situations when they are obviously at fault, like:
- showing up for a dinner reservation late
- not calling when they said they would
- canceling important plans last minute, like meeting your parents or friends
Good partners can recognize when they’ve done something wrong and apologize for it.
It’s important to remember if you’re dating a narcissist or someone with these toxic, narcissistic personality traits:
- You deserve better
- Their behavior has nothing to do with you; it’s a mental condition.
- Set your boundaries and keep your distance. You don’t need to provide reasons for leaving them, try to fix them, or give them second chances.