It’s kind of crazy how frequently you see the word “narcissist” on social media.
If you were using just Instagram or TikTok as a measure of how common something is, it would seem like everyone and their mother has dated, is related to, or knows a narcissist.
As it turns out, this personality disorder is rather uncommon, with some estimates saying .5% to 5% of the American population may have it. But society’s obsession with it is the exact reason why I wanted to bring an expert on the podcast to tell us what a narcissist really is, and how to identify if someone has one in their life.
This past week I talked with licensed clinical psychologist and renowned expert on narcissism, Dr. Jaime Zuckerman, all about the basics on narcissistic personality disorder, or NPD–how to identify it; what to do if you suspect someone in your life (including partners or parents) is a narcissist; and how to deal with them if you do. (Hint: There isn’t necessarily a happy ending situation, but there is hope!)
I heard from a lot of you on this topic, and I’m so grateful so many of you reached out with your questions. Definitely check out the podcast episode with Dr. Z to hear our entire amazing conversation, but let’s break down a few basics below.
Let’s start things off with the simple stuff…
Let’s let Dr. Z handle this one: “[NPD is] a pervasive personality style, where the person–in every domain of their life–[has] a sense of entitlement, grandiosity, and total lack of accountability for their behaviors.”
And you can look at what they don’t do as a sign, too–meaning, Dr. Z says they simply don’t take accountability for their actions.
“They may hurt you in the process of getting what they want, but that is not their fault. You are in the way and you are a casualty.”
Some other telltale signs of a possible narcissist?
“[There’s a] lack of remorse, lack of accountability, of extremely sensitive to even the slightest bit of criticism, even constructive criticism, extremely manipulative.”
One immediate clue, Dr. Z says, is “love bombing.”
“Love bombing, in the very beginning of a relationship, can take a couple forms. Generally speaking, it’s going to be talking a lot in the beginning, like repeated texts over and over again; sending flowers and gifts to your office or to your home, which you think is cute, but really what it is, is it’s like marking their territory.
“It’s making sure that like they in a way they own you because you’re a prop. … They own you. You are you’re their property–an object, not a person with separate needs and emotions.” and, and thoughts and opinions.”
Here are some other Dr. Z-approved ways of figuring out if you might be with a narcissist:
“Be observant of their behavior patterns and how they respond in certain situations. So things like, are they making promises that they’re not following through on? Do you find that you’re constantly second guessing your perception of reality? Do you find that overtime, you’ve really gotten isolated? Also, do you speak to your immediate family anymore?”
And while you might think narcissists would target a person with a shy, more cooperative personality, Dr. Z says it’s just the opposite.
“Narcissists routinely go for people who are successful, intelligent, good at what they do. Somebody that they can step into the spotlight with. Someone who’s well-known in their community. And the reason for that is because the more secure you are in yourself, the higher a foul it is for a narcissist to knock you down. And that’s what they love.”
Now this is the challenge… I don’t want to sugarcoat what Dr. Z says, so let me start off by saying the outcome for relationship success (as defined by each individual’s happiness) in relationships where one person is a clinically-diagnosed narcissist isn’t that great. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. 😬
For those people who find themselves in a long-term relationship with narcissists, therapy can help the person who’s on the other side of the narcissism, but likely won’t change the narcissist himself.