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How to Recognize a Narcissist

Marc Hubs is a writer/researcher on mind, science, and conspiracy. He is the author of "Know Your Enemy: Reflections of NPD."

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

There are several various aspects of Narcissistic Personality Disorder which need to be brought to the attention of the general public.

It can be quite disturbing to know that there is a large group of people out there who may very well be victims of narcissistic abuse for the rest of their lives if they never get a chance to truly figure out quite what the problem is, therefore it's absolutely vital to be able to recognize the signs.

Primarily, a narcissist or someone inflicted with Narcissistic Personality Disorder is someone who is constantly stuck in first-person mode.

That is, they remain stuck in their own world view as a young child would when getting carried away or lost in something so much that they find themselves engrossed in it.

In NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming), this is referred to as meta positioning. The main focus of attention is always kept completely and constantly on the self and there are many signs and signals that give this away if you know what to look out for.

However, these clues do need to be consistent and repetitive over a long period of time and therefore it can take many years to fully determine if somebody is a narcissist or not.

Essentially, when it comes to mental and emotional health and wellbeing, being able to access first-person, second-person and third-person meta positioning is necessary in order to live a normal, healthy, functional lifestyle.

Without it, a person is unable to relate to the needs and emotions of others and therefore cannot go on to learn true genuine love of another.

If you are in a relationship with someone who has NPD then it's highly likely that you already recognize that there is a problem. You could even be at the point where you're beginning to consider that the problem might be you... or you may have been persuaded into this belief but at the back of your mind and deep down inside you just know for a fact that it isn't you.

If you are in this situation then it's likely that the relationship has gone on for at least a few years.

One vital clue to look out for in these types of relationships is that the narcissist will often exploit the fact that they took you into their lives and 'saved' you and they will act as though you owe them the world for it.

In fact, they may act like you owe them the rest of your life and that you're forever indebted to them - they have you imprisoned and you are now their slave - something which you did not see coming and which happened gradually and subliminally over the years.

By the time you started to realize it, it was too late. Tell the narcissist that you're not willing to be manipulated and it's likely that they'll tell you there's no relationship then; if your relationship has gone on this far then the narcissist will most likely make it pretty clear that everything is about them whilst your needs are disregarded.

Continue to question or complain about this behaviour and you will eventually be discarded as though you are nothing. You are no longer useful to the narcissist.

Another one of the most prominent clues to look out for in narcissistic relationships is self-centeredness; this is not the same as selfishness.

Self-centeredness strongly characterizes Narcissistic Personality Disorder. In relationships and when referring to their children, house or belongings narcissists will very commonly use the words "I", "me" and "mine" and will rarely refer to anything as "we", "us" or '"our" even though there may be another person involved. However, this is only a clue if they actually do this all or most of the time over the course of several years.

It's a pattern which will emerge over time. In conversations, some narcissists may also interrupt people when reminded of a memory from their past in order to shift the focus of attention on to them and, if they a cerebral narcissist, they may go into finer detail in order to show off their intelligence (cerebral narcissism).

They don't think about how what you discuss applies to you but rather, cannot help but think about how it affects them.

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Malignant narcissism is also characterized by pathological lying. A lot of people inflicted with NPD will use alcohol as an excuse and may only act narcissistic when they are drunk - this is usually a typical sign of a covert narcissist.

Covert narcissism is much more difficult to prove, to recognize and to deal with and can be incredibly dangerous. Covert narcissists present an angel-like innocent persona to everybody around them yet very cleverly control the people closest to them, behind the scenes outside of people's awareness.

They ostracize their victims, spreading subtle lies mixed with truths among their friends and family members, planting the idea that it's their victim who may have psychological problems.

Accuse the narcissist of doing anything wrong such as cheating on you, lying to you or perhaps flirting with other people or even sucking up all of your finances without your permission (even if it happened right in front of you or have irrefutable evidence) and they will tell you that you imagined it, it was all in your head.

You're the crazy one for even letting the idea cross your mind. They will then convince their family and friends that you have been making ridiculous and outlandish allegations and that you are paranoid but in reality they are taking your original suspicions and allegations and intentionally blowing them up into something outlandish in order to influence people's opinions of you as a defense for their own behaviour.

This itself is enough to cause you to distance yourself from the narcissist both mentally and emotionally and can result in you appearing to become rather self-absorbed yourself, which is what makes the disorder so infectious and helps the narcissist to convince others that you are the problem.

Unfortunately, whereas the victim distances themselves from the narcissist mentally and emotionally, the narcissist makes it impossible for them to do so physically and so they can never quite escape the abuse..

Narcissists are the type of people who will patronize, antagonize, insult, deride, ostracize and put down their chosen victims when in private (usually the people who are easiest to exploit and who are least likely to blow their cover).

At this level, narcissists undermine the people around them whilst placing themselves up on a pedestal in order to make themselves feel above everyone else. This can also be considered to be a form of contempt and hatred which they have developed for the world around them, often due to their own negative subjective experiences.

At their very core, narcissists literally do feel hatred and contempt for everything and everyone around them, although this is rarely ever indicated in their external behavior. Narcissists are masters of disguise.

The False Self

The NPD is obsessed, not with their self, but with the false self they obsessively portray and what others perceive them as. This sometimes results in them being easily influenced and taken advantage of. However, in private narcissists can be extremely verbally abusive, often towards their own children.

Ask a narcissist who they are and ask them to describe themselves and rather than describing their personality, they will explain the components that make up their lives (their possessions, career, hobbies and interests rather than their emotions, values and beliefs).

The narcissist believes that they are never wrong and they hate it when they are. To an NPD everyone else is wrong, they're right (even if they're wrong). Narcissists will go as far as to distort the evidence in their favor to make it look like they know what they're talking about and to back up their statements. Narcissists are completely lacking in empathy and can only relate to their own emotional needs.

There are plenty of clues to look out for, but the sore fact of the matter is that there are thousands of people out there dealing with narcissists who have never heard of the disorder or even the word. It's spreading at a fast rate throughout society and can, potentially, be quite dangerous but it's important that the disorder becomes more widely recognized.

However, we are all narcissistic to a degree and so it's also important to remember that just because somebody may have displayed these tendencies a few times, it does not mean that they are a a narcissist - official diagnosis can take many years, even over a decade in some cases.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2010 Marc Hubs


Linda Rogers from Minnesota on March 06, 2017:

Excellent depiction of the Narcissist. I have known at least five over the years and it's draining. I've learned to keep a good healthy distance from this type of person because they try to undermine you without thinking about how it will affect you.

Rafael Baxa on October 23, 2016:

Very well written article!

Marc Hubs (author) from United Kingdom on February 24, 2015:


The fact that you have commented here thinking that you may have this problem tells me that you do NOT have this problem. Rest assured, if you did have this problem then you would never be willing to consider the possibility that you might have it. Anyone who believes they may be a narcissist needs to understand that if they were truly a narcissist then they wouldn't believe they may have a problem - it's everyone else who is the problem.

Maybe you should read up on other personality disorders, or perhaps inverted narcissism (co-narcissism, not covert narcissism). Personally, I do not believe inverted narcissism should be called that myself, but unfortunately it is. It's possible there may be NPD in your family and that may be where your anger comes from.

A on February 23, 2015:

I think I may have this problem. i believe it runs in my family and want to get help for it. i dont want to hirt the people I love, but I am verbal and will cut someone down, throw personal things or memories or downfalls in their face out of anger. afterwards I am sorry.This does not make me feel good to know that I hurt people who would never hurt me. Im sorry for the people who have to deal with narcisstic people.I also interupt people like I have no self control and its embarrassing. i want help.

Mary Kelly Godley from Ireland on September 11, 2013:

Spot on article. I know many Narcissists and as you say the number is spreading every day. One of the best things that ever happened to me was when I realized what Narcissistic Personality was. Knowledge is power even if it only allows you to protect yourself. As I am sure you know you can never win with a person with NPD, they can ruin your life if you don't realize what you are dealing with. Shared on my FB and Twitter.

Marc Hubs (author) from United Kingdom on September 10, 2013:

Deep down inside they may know what they are but narcissism is all. about suppression and denial of the true self - they will never admit it, not to anyone else and not to their self.

M on September 10, 2013:

I would like to know if narcissistic people know what they are?

Marc Hubs (author) from United Kingdom on September 11, 2012:


Mary Kelly Godley from Ireland on August 16, 2012:

Well said and spot on!

Marc Hubs (author) from United Kingdom on July 01, 2012:

Thanks for the comment banj099,

Yes, sometimes there is a connection between narcissism and incest hence certain types of abuse taking place in such relationships.

banjo99 on July 01, 2012:

This is a very good article. It certainly describes my father. In addition to being very skilled at manipulation and believing that he is always right; my father has displayed incestuous feelings towards me on a number of occasions. I'm wondering, is there often a connection between narcissism and incest?

Marlene on April 21, 2012:

What an excellently well written article. When I read it my father and former bf come to mind. With both my Father and former BF they look like angels to the public and nothing is ever their fault, yet can be very mean in private. They say mean things but say them nicely also, so you don't react at the time and they keep up their angelic image to themselves and to the public.

Looking back I feel very sorry form my mom who had to put up with this covert narcissistic behaviour for nearly two decades. She had low self esteem (from enduring an extremely abusive childhood) and my Dad was never wrong and always right and making her think she is always the bad and crazy one. I believed him for so long and really regret that I didn't see through this behaviour sooner in life because now my mom is gone and I wasn't the nicest to her in the end because of believing all of my Dads stuff that he made up about her to make himself look good and her to look bad, even as she was dying of cancer he made the situation about him - and was resentful that his kids were giving Mom attention because he wanted that attention for himself even though my mom was sick and needed support and he wrote her a nasty letter accusing her of lying about having cancer, which really hurt her feelings. And I still feel terrible, because of believing his lies during this time and letting myself get played by him in this tough situation which didn't help my Mom.

Now I've figured out an easy technique to get a narcissist off the phone when they are calling to talk about themselves - simply start talking about yourself and they will say "can I call you back" or something will suddenly come up. Thanks again for writing such well presented information.

Cut The Bullshit from All Over on April 21, 2012:

Nice hub! Now I'm beginning to think of all the people who I've come across with these traits. I guess this is a mental issue and we should have some more empathy towards them, yet at the same time Caution! God forbid I ever fall in love with one of these personalities.

Thanks for sharing and now I will be more aware and careful

Reluctant Shaman on April 12, 2012:

To Sage Williams

Most people do not know the word "narcissist", let alone the Covert Narcissist which is not extensively written about. So well done to you for finding this out, and doing your therapy journey to recovery.

For those people who have not come across this term before, I am putting a link to an article on the subject. I hope it is helpful.

Article: Revealing the Two faces of Narcissism: Overt and Covert Narcissism.

Marc Hubs (author) from United Kingdom on February 15, 2012:

Thanks for your comments Sage.

Yes, many of them (if not all) do also manipulate their children. Exposing a narcissist can often be nigh on impossible.

Sage Williams on February 01, 2012:

You did an exceptional job on this hub. It has taken me years and a great deal of therapy for other issues to realize that I was raised by a covert narcissist.

Thank god for all the little blessings in disguise that drove me into therapy. And for the fuel behind my fierce desire to transform my life.

It was refreshing to read your description of a covert narcissist because like you said, "they present an angel-like innocent persona to everybody around them yet very cleverly manipulate their partner." and may I add children.

Oh how painful it has been to be in a relationship with a covert narcissist. The world revolves around them, they can play you and everyone around them like a fiddle; they truly are expert manipulators.

If there is one thing that I have learned, as long as you are in a relationship with a narcissist, there will never be a you. This was a hard lesson to learn as a child and an even harder lesson to learn as an adult.

As my therapist once said, in referring to my mother. She's not only good at what she does, she's an expert.


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