6 Types Of Narcissism And How To Identify A Narcissist
What Is Narcissism?
The term “narcissist” has become a big buzzword. It’s often thrown into casual conversations to describe someone with a dangerous obsession with themselves. This idea isn’t far from the truth, but we must delineate everyday narcissistic behavior from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, a rarely diagnosed mental disorder. Simply put, the word “narcissism” is a catch-all term used to describe an exaggerated sense of self-importance. Most people display some degree of narcissism, and a healthy amount of narcissism can lead to better success. However, Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), also known as pathological narcissism, is a DSM-5 classified mental disorder in which a person’s self-involvement becomes detrimental to themselves and others around them.
*The term “narcissist” will be used in this context to refer to someone with NPD
6 Types Of Narcissism And How To Identify Them
- Healthy Narcissism
Contrary to popular belief, narcissism is not always a bad thing. Healthy narcissism is “related to self-esteem and self-worth but it is not the same”. Healthy narcissism refers to the ability to incite joy and confidence in yourself; Choosing to see the beauty, intelligence, and worth within yourself. Think of it as being your own hype-woman when you most need it. While unhealthy narcissism ignores the needs of others, healthy narcissism relishes helping others and feeling good about yourself by doing so.
- Vulnerable/Covert Narcissism
Vulnerable or covert narcissism refers to those who have Narcissistic Personality Disorder but don’t display it in overt or dramatic ways. Common characteristics are passive-aggressive behavior, grandiose fantasies, low-self esteem, and high sensitivity to criticism. A person living with vulnerable narcissism may appear withdrawn, shy, or even depressed. Vulnerable narcissists will tend to speak poorly of themselves because of their deep-seated feelings of inadequacy. They may come off as modest, but their self-effacing attitude is used to garner more admiration to feed their inflated sense of self-importance. In light of its subtle yet insidious traits, vulnerable narcissism is considered the most dangerous type of narcissism.
- Grandiose Narcissism
When people picture a narcissist in their minds, the grandiose narcissist is usually what they see. Common characteristics of grandiose narcissism are overt displays of self-importance, exaggerated boasts of talents and achievements, and an unsubstantiated sense of superiority. The grandiose narcissist believes they are the smartest, best looking, most interesting person in any room they enter. This is someone who never stops publicly patting themselves on the back while diminishing the strengths and efforts of others. Grandiose narcissism is easier to spot than vulnerable narcissism but no less dangerous. A person with grandiose narcissism has trouble empathizing with others, and their never-ending thirst for attention often comes at the price of others’ self-esteem.
- Malignant Narcissism
Malignant narcissism is universally recognized as the most severe form of NPD. A malignant narcissist will display the classic attention-seeking sense of superiority, but they also gain a sadistic pleasure from controlling and breaking people down. These people can be extremely manipulative, using humiliation and gaslighting tactics to make you question your sanity and worth. As with all forms of NPD, the malignant narcissist has an addiction to fantasies of being greater than everyone else. In light of these fantasies, the narcissist is likely to lash out or show an ugly side when they don’t receive the attention they feel entitled to.
- Intellectual/Cerebral Narcissism
We all know someone who thinks they’re the most brilliant person in any room they walk into. They’ll use big, unnecessary words, and talk about complicated concepts to make others around them feel less intelligent. An intellectual narcissist, also known as a cerebral narcissist, gains pleasure from being recognized as formidably smart. They thrive off leading conversations with their wit and intellect, making others feel less intelligent by comparison. As with all facets of NPD, intellectual narcissism is rooted in insecurity. People with this disorder usually don’t feel confident in their intellectual abilities, so they exaggerate and over-project their inner view of themselves.
- Somatic Narcissism
A somatic narcissist uses their physical body to garner self-worth. This person prides themself on being the most physically fit and alluring person in the room. Someone with somatic narcissism will obsess over their physical appearance. This could mean they spend ungodly amounts of money on makeup, hair treatments, expensive clothes, shoes, and manicures. They could also have a fixation with their weight, restricting their caloric intake, or spending hours at a time in the gym. Other somatic narcissists weaponize their sexuality as a means to gain control over someone else. Befriending someone with somatic narcissism is especially dangerous for young women because of the narcissist’s likelihood to project their physical insecurities onto others.
How To Navigate Relationships With A Narcissist
Setting boundaries is going to be your best bet when dealing with a narcissistic friend. Not all narcissistic friends are harmful to your well-being. A healthy amount of narcissism can sometimes just make someone more fun to be around. However, if you feel a friendship is becoming problematic, it’s best to limit the amount of time you spend with your friend or reassess the friendship altogether. It’s unlikely a narcissist will be able to see the error of their ways, no less be willing to change them. A simple heart-to-heart about a narcissistic friend’s behavior will have little to no positive effect on them.
Dating a narcissist is tough, but leaving one is even tougher. These relationships can be especially difficult because they often start off seeming too good to be true. In the early stages of the relationship, a narcissist will shower you with compliments and perform grandiose romantic gestures (what we now call “love-bombing”). Once they feel they have you under their spell, the tables turn. Most professionals agree, to choose to date or stay in a relationship with a narcissist is a lost cause. You will be gaslighted, unappreciated, and beyond exhausted. However, if you truly believe the best in this person, encouraging them to seek professional help is the best you can do.
It can be stressful working with someone who sucks all the air out of the room. The upside of only having a professional relationship with a narcissist is that the boundaries are preset. You don’t have to take this person home with you or speak to them outside your work setting. Speak to someone higher up or consider looking for a new position if your work is being hindered.
Human After All
With all this casual throwing around of the word “narcissist”, it’s easy to forget people living with NPD are still people. Just as it’s important to separate everyday narcissistic behavior from the wide spectrum of NPD, it’s important to separate the mental disorder from the people living with it. After all, it’s the disorder itself that disrupts people’s lives. The best way to show support for someone with NPD is not to demonize them for having the disorder.
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