Staff at the Mayo Clinic writes:

“It’s not known what causes narcissistic personality disorder. As with other mental disorders, the cause is likely complex. Narcissistic personality disorder may be linked to:

  • Mismatches in parent – child relationships with either excessive pampering or excessive criticism
  • Genetics or psycho- biology – the connection between the brain and behaviour and thinking

Psychologist Stephen Johnson writes:

The narcissist is someone who has buried his true self- expression in response to early injuries and replaced it with a highly developed, compensatory false self.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) describes narcissism as a personality disorder. It is a spectrum disorder, which means it exists on a continuum ranging from some narcissistic traits to the full- blown personality disorder.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is not very common, but the truth is, we all have some of the narcissistic traits.

Traits of a narcissist:

Narcissists are extremely selfish; they crave admiration and validation. Because they think they’re special and too unique to be understood. They think the world evolves around them.

They feel they are superior to others. Because they’re more talented, they achieve more and know a lot more than you.

They do not show their vulnerabilities. Because they care too much about what others think of them and they want to remain superior in all situations.

They do not recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others. They show no compassion or emotions. They want to be the centre of attention and believe that showing emotions is a sign of weakness.

They are skilled manipulators and are emotionally abusive. They are great at using their charm to take advantage of others to get what they want.

Conversation Hoarder. The narcissist loves to talk about him/her self, and does not give you a chance to take part in a two-way conversation. It’s all about them because they feel they know best.

Rule Breaker. The narcissist enjoys getting away with violating rules such as disobeying traffic laws.

Boundary Violator. Shows disregard for other people’s thoughts, feelings, possessions, and physical space. Oversteps and uses others without consideration or sensitivity. Borrows items or money without returning. Breaks promises and obligations repeatedly. Shows little remorse and blames the victim for one’s own lack of respect. Example: “It’s your fault that I forgot because you didn’t remind me.”

False Image Projection. Many narcissists like to do things to impress others by making him/her self look good externally. This “trophy” complex can exhibit itself physically, romantically, sexually, socially, religiously, financially, materially, professionally, academically, or culturally. In these situations, the narcissist uses people, objects, status, and/or accomplishments to represent the self, substituting for the perceived, inadequate “real” self. These grandstanding “merit badges” are often exaggerated. The underlying message of this type of display is: “I’m better than you!” or “Look at how special I am – I’m worthy of everyone’s love, admiration, and acceptance!”

Narcissists often expect preferential treatment from others. They believe the world revolves around them and expect others to instantly cater to their needs. They are not considerate of others.

Negative Emotions. Narcissists enjoy spreading and arousing negative emotions to gain attention, feel powerful, and keep you insecure and off-balance.

  • They are easily upset at any real or perceived slights or inattentiveness. 
  • They may throw a tantrum if you disagree with their views or fail to meet their expectations.
  • They are extremely sensitive to criticism and typically respond with a heated argument (fight) or cold detachment (flight). On the other hand, narcissists are often quick to judge, criticize, ridicule, and blame you.
  • Some narcissists are emotionally abusive. By making you feel inferior, they boost their fragile ego, and feel better about themselves.

Narcissists manipulate through guilt. For example, proclaiming, “I’ve given you so much, and you’re so ungrateful.” or “I’m a victim – you must help me or you’re not a good person.” They hijack your emotions, and trick you into making unreasonable sacrifices to satisfy their inflated ego.

Narcissism could be a result of an unhealthy childhood, or a wounded past.

Narcissists are desperate to seek validation constantly because they either didn’t feel worthwhile and valued in the past, or were being paid too much attention as the most precious and unique one in the world.

Faulty or inadequate parenting, for example a lack of limit setting, is believed to be a major cause, and both permissive and authoritarian styles of parenting have been found to promote narcissistic symptoms.

Both parents who fail to see the worth in a child, and parents who spoil and give excessive praise to the child promote narcissism as the child grows. While the former ones make the child feel inferior of others and want to get more attention, the latter ones encourage an idealized- self in the child.

How narcissists think and feel are very different from non- narcissists.

Narcissism expert and the author of Narcissism in a Nutshell, Zari Ballard, tried to answer some common questions asked by non- narcissists about what a narcissist thinks and feels from a narcissist’s perspective.

Do narcissists know they are narcissists and are they happy?

We could really care less about how others feel. We enjoy our so called cold existence. It’s all we know…true narcissists don’t want to change. Most don’t even believe they have a problem. We love every minute of it. It’s who we are. We feel in total control of our lives using this method. Anything less is unacceptable.

Do narcissists know or understand right from wrong?

Not being guided by a ‘moral compass’ means that judgements of good vs. bad and rights vs. wrong are determined using a different mechanism. Narcissists know the difference between right and wrong because they understand cause and effect. While such a simplistic method of decision- making leaves plenty of room for error, it also explains why they are sometimes unaware of the trouble they cause or outright do not care…

There is no “guilty conscience” giving them a clue and they are displaying the symptom of being “indifferent to social norms” while most likely presenting as ‘cold- hearted.’

Narcissists simply have a very different thinking mechanism. They see things from a different perspective. Unlike non- narcissists and empaths, they don’t have much sympathy and are reluctant to show emotions to others.

To deal with a narcissist, learn to embrace the differences.

There are different personality types and not everyone will think and act the same as you do. Instead of trying to change others, learn to accept the differences and strike a balance when you really have to communicate with them.

Don’t try to change a narcissist, focus on your own needs.

Try to understand that narcissists are resistant to change, it’s more important for you to see who they really are, instead of who you want them to be. Focus on how you feel, and what you want yourself to be.

Embrace the fact that there’re different types of personality and the only thing you can control is your attitude and your own actions.

Recognize what a narcissist does only come from their insecurity.

Narcissists are quite vulnerable deep inside they question others because that’s how they can make themselves feel better.

When you learn that what a narcissist does to you is nothing personal, but something that comes from their insecurity, you know that sometimes they just need a certain amount of reassurance.

This is especially important if the narcissist is someone you have to closely work with, or if they’re your family member. The right amount of reassurance can calm them down and get the tasks on hand completed.

Ask the narcissist what would others think, instead of what would others feel.

Narcissists don’t feel guilty, but they care about how others think of them deep in their heart.

Clinical Psychologist Al Bernstein explains:

If you are in a position to advise, ask what people would think. Narcissists are not stupid; there are just things, like other people’s feelings, that they rarely consider. If you have their ear, don’t tell them how people might react; instead, ask probing questions. Narcissists are much more likely to act on ideas that they think they thought up themselves.

If you have to work with a narcissist closely, focus on the facts and ideas, not the emotions.

Let go of the need for getting a narcissist’s approval.

You’re not who a narcissist says you are. Don’t let their blame game undermine your self-esteem, and don’t argue with them just to defend what you believe is right.

There is no point arguing with a narcissist just to prove them wrong because they will not give in proving themselves right. It’s more likely that you’ll get more upset when they disagree with you in an unpleasant way.

Know your own worth and detach from a narcissist’s opinion on you.

And if there’s a choice, choose to stay away from the narcissists.

Remember, a healthy relationship is two- sided. It’s about mutual respect and it’s based on give and take. But any kind of relationship with a narcissist is likely to be the contrary it’s about making the narcissist happy and constantly supporting them. A relationship like this will only weigh you down and is unhealthy for your growth.

Set a boundary and always keep it.

If you’re setting a boundary, you have to be willing to keep it. When a narcissist sees that you’re trying to take back control of your life, they will try to test your limits. It’s just their instinct to do it.

Be prepared that your boundary will be challenged. Make your boundary clear, have all the actions needed to be taken in your mind.

For example, if you have decided to stop communicating with them, they will likely show up in front of you just to talk to you. Be brave enough to keep your boundary, don’t back down and get close to them again; or else they will not take your boundary seriously any more.

Learn when to walk away.

When a narcissist starts to make you feel uncomfortable and doubt about yourself, it’s time to pick yourself up and give yourself enough respect to just walk away from them.

If you’re in love with a narcissist, you should seriously think about ending the relationship and move on for a better life. If the narcissist is your family member, you don’t have to be cruel to them, but it’s better to keep distant from them.



[2] ^ Dr. Karyl McBride: What is Narcissism and Maternal Narcissism?

[3] ^ Winning Teams: Causes of Narcissism

[4] ^ Zari Ballard: What are Narcissists & Sociopaths REALLY thinking?

[5] ^ Observer: How to Deal With a Narcissist: 5 Secrets Backed by Research

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