How To Spot A Narcissist (12 Signs Of A Toxic Person)

Spot a narcissist

Causes of toxicity in a narcissist are not always known. It is definitely not because the person in question was dropped on their head as a child, or because they didn’t drink their momma’s milk!

Many professionals agree that a narcissist can have other mental disorders, making this disorder a complex one. It is also always argued that narcissistic personality disorder may be linked to a parent-child relationship, where the parent (often a narcissist themselves) expressed extensive criticism or pampering towards the child.

There are many readily available books on narcissism. They discuss how to spot them, deal with them, avoid them, and heal from them.

People are getting more and more aware of some people’s toxicity around them these days, with or without books, and with our without the opinions of professionals. With a deep shift in our societal values, identifying a narcissist has become easier than ever before.

*Please note: Some media and book links in the above section or in the remainder of this post will take you to Amazon.com where you can find out additional information about the mentioned products, read reviews, and check out prices.

spot a narcissistAccording to a recently published report from Psychology Today by Jim Taylor, Ph.D., 30% of the young people who took a psychological test were perceived as narcissistic. Their level of empathy was very low. The study measured a whopping 40% decline in empathy since the 1980’s.

The narcissistic traits of a narcissistic woman or a covert narcissist man, may differ a bit, but may also resemble each other a lot. Don’t be surprised if you find that the below traits match your narcissistic sibling characteristic, a friend’s, a mother’s or a girlfriend’s. Although men may display a more aggressive type of narcissism, women can be as narcissistic.

The Damaging Effects Of Crossing Paths With A Narcissist

Damaging effects of crossing paths with a narcissistWe have all encountered a person with narcissistic personality disorder. These dealings can lead to some toxicity in our minds and in our overall mental wellness. If this person is close to us, the encounter could translate to emotional injuries, spiritual injuries, and in some cases physical injuries.

A narcissist requires a lot of energy, which sometimes can be extremely negative. This level of toxicity varies from person to person, since some people are mildly narcissistic, and others are a lot more severe to the point of being a malignant narcissist. These people hurt and abuse others intentionally and should be avoided at all costs from day one.

The severe narcissist is the one that is the most damaging. They are deceiving and they twist the facts to suit their own reality. Often times, the person at the other end of the relationship is the recipient of guilt trips, shaming for not accepting certain conditions, ridicule, and belittling. Sometimes they are falsely told that they are crazy, or seeing thing (a term called “gaslighting”).

Whether you’re dealing with a mildly narcissistic person, or a server narcissist, they both can damage your psyche. They can present a lot of red flags and deal-breaking behaviors.

Can A Narcissist Ever Change?

Can a narcissist change?In order for a wellness balance to occur in the world of a toxic narcissist, they must change their ways of looking at not only themselves, but also at the world around them.

I’m really not sure if this is even possible because it requires them be present on a deeper level.

How can that be, when their needs are shallow and surface-related? Shallowness is the one constant in their life. There isn’t much depth to the way they relate to others.

In order for change to occur in any human being, they will need to rise up to a conscious level off of very low ego levels. It means hitting bottom and digging deep into problems and diving through the mud of life’s challenges. It means climbing up from the low levels of the self onto higher elevated and selfless levels. Somehow, this is not what the narcissist likes to do, since they don’t like change and are completely happy being in their own little bubble.

READ MORE: How Narcissists See Themselves (Their True Self And 3 Love Stages).

How To Recognize A Narcissist – Top 12 Narcissistic Traits

It is important to detect a narcissist early on. This narcissist can be a manipulative mother, a daughter, a father, a son, a sister, a brother, or an extended family member. They can also be someone in your life, like a friend, a co-worker, a present romantic person, or an ex.

A good book to add to your collection on the topic of manipulation is by George K. Simon Ph.D, titled In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing With Manipulative People. Some narcissists are extremely manipulative people.

Other types of narcissists, like Covert narcissists, may worry too much, may not be very effective in their daily functioning, may have high and unfulfilled expectations, and may be prone to stress.

So, without further ado, here are the top 12 characteristics of a narcissist. Could they fit someone you know?

Trait #1: Narcissists operate on a very low conscious level

  • A narcissistic sister, narcissistic brother, or narcissist friend may get obsessed with unimportant things.
  • Often times they are shallow and don’t have the depth of an average person.
  • They may be a malignant narcissist and have vindictive personality traits without putting themselves in the other person’s shoes. Watch out for those because these people can really damage others.
  • They may judge others on how much money the other people (don’t) have and put them down for being poor or for having simple clothes.

Trait #2: Narcissists often cancel plans

  • A Narcissist will cancel plans with her sister who just got out of chemotherapy just because she doesn’t really feel like going out. Forget that her sister may need the emotional, or even physical, support.
  • A brother may decide not to show up to his brother’s wedding rehearsal, just because he is still hung-over from the night before. Forget that he was responsible for the rehearsal  in the first place and that he needed to be responsible and sober the night before.
  • Narcissists cancel plans often because of selfish or irresponsible notions.

Trait #3: Narcissists break all the rules

Narcissists break all the rules

  • The narcissist does what the narcissist wants to do, regardless of the agreed-upon rules.
  • A malignant narcissistic ex female may call the ex’s work anonymously to say dirt about him and get him in trouble (i.e. “This teacher was drunk last night and had a fight with someone, and I have photos to prove it.”) This is after they both agreed to have defined breakup rules: No involving work people, and no involving family.
  • Some rules are made to be broken, but some rules that play with people’s physical, mental and emotional state really need to be followed.

Trait #4: Narcissists have unhealthy boundaries

  • The characteristics of a toxic person include breaking boundaries.
  • A family member may always get harassed by a narcissistic cousin. Even after telling him endless times that she doesn’t like him saying that she’s fat in front of other family members, the cousin continues to tease her about her being fat whenever he can.

  • A narcissistic romantic partner with wandering eyes may flirt with others and expect you to accept this fact.
  • They can justify their emotional abuse by saying: “as long as I come back to you, what difference does it make?”
  • You may ask them the if they flirted with someone, and they may confess to it.
  • They may feel relieved that they told you the truth, regardless of how that may make you feel. They will be brutally honest with you to feel “good” again.

Trait #5: Narcissists cannot accept criticism and can be vindictive 

  • They will “gaslight” you, which is a way to brainwash and cause you to doubt yourself if you go against them. If you have ever watched the classic 1944 movie Gaslight with Ingrid Bergman, then you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about.
  • The gaslighters can judge, ridicule and blame you if you don’t accept their behavior or reasoning. They will twist the truth so that they get their way, and then make you doubt your intuition or judgment, saying “it’s all in your head”.
  • A wife who suspects that a husband is cheating on her may ask him if he has someone on the side, and instead of owning up to it, he will say something like: “Here you go again acting so crazy. You need crazy pills! Stop imagining things”. The reality is that the husband may be having multiple affairs but he doesn’t want to get caught. The husband has no care about the wife’s feelings and prefers gaslighting her over fessing up to the truth over being discovered as a “bad person”.
  • The effects of gaslighting on victims of narcissistic abuse can damage someone for a long time. The “crazy making” (making someone feel like they are going crazy when they’re sane) is an oppressive and manipulative way that a toxic person can use. It is important to seek support and regain your self-esteem after dealing with a narcissist.

Trait #6: Narcissists project a false image of themselves

Narcissists project a false image of themselves

  • One of the traits of a toxic narcissistic person is that they may impress others with their new car, new house, new job, generosity, etc. They can exhibit perceived superiority in romantic, social, financial, physical, sexual, religious, materialistic, professional, academic, or cultural arenas.
  • This is their way to represent themselves because deep down inside they are very insecure, and the only way to feel good is to project a false image of who they really are. If someone only talks about themselves and does not allow you to engage in a two way conversation, then it’s a red flag.

Trait #7: Narcissists thrive on seeking the approval of others

  • Narcissists cannot be happy with who they are. They have a very hard time being alone for prolonged periods of time.
  • Some may seek constant praise, approval, and admiration because this is how they can feel better about themselves.

Trait #8: Narcissists are charmers 

  • They can be highly respected in public but very toxic in private.
  • They tell you about all their adventures and travels, or how important they are to the community. They have fantastic stories about who they know, and what they did for fun on a trip, but don’t you make the mistake of telling them about your adventures. You are not important.
  • If you’re at the love bombing stage with a romantic narcissist (when they shower you with over-excessive love notions), then you will get a lot reciprocity and attention. In other times, you can forget it!

Trait #9: Narcissists think they are great at romance

Narcissists think they're great at romance

  • This applies if you ever had a romantic relationship with a narcissist. They can love bomb someone immediately when they meet them without allowing the relationship to progress normally. This is a big red flag.
  • Once they get bored with your small flaws, they move on to the next person. Forget about working at anything, because they never really took the time to get to know you in the first place. This may not be consciously intentional, but it’s their love agenda, nonetheless.
  • Once the new supply bores them, or the relationship goes sour, they may “hoover” you back into their toxic game (just like a Hoover dirt duster does). This could last for an hour, a day, or months.
  • Once another supply is secured, you are then dropped like a hot potato, but not before feeling like a fool for believing that the narcissist cares about you. If you are a dumbass like most of us are, then you would have believed it for a minute. As this Russian roulette slow motion film plays out in your head, at one point you will say to yourself: “Wait a minute… why am I such an idiot? It’s time to stop this insanity.”

Trait #10: Narcissists (some) are obsessed with their endless selfies

  • Let’s face it; there are some good selfies, and some bad selfies. Posting selfies that illustrate a high point in someone’s life, like achieving a challenge or coming off a bad situation and posting about it, are great. Family reunions are great, positive moments are awesome.  These types of selfies can be motivational and help in personal development.
  • Excessive selfies of the same face, but in a different pose and without any form of message, posted 10 times per day x 7 days a week x 52 weeks per year is really exhausting.

Trait #11: Narcissists move from relationship to relationship

  • Narcissists are attracted to sensitive people, empathic people, or people who have what they don’t have: A deeper sense of self and a kind soul.
  • The narcissist can break up with someone today and be engaged next week to someone else. This is because they are in love with the idea of love. The inflate, idealize and worship their current love interest (well, only for a short period of time) until something non-perfect happens, like for instance getting sick, or wearing the same socks two days in a row. It really depends here on the level of toxicity of the narcissist. 
  • They avoid getting in too deep with the current love interest because they don’t want to be let down eventually. They will start looking for the next “better” person that comes along. They will rather dump someone quickly over having to now deal with a perceived flawed relationship.

Trait #12: Narcissists don’t like internal change

  • They may never truly reflect on growth or self-development, and may prefer the status quo over change.
  • These narcissists are happy going through life being in their tiny bubble and their small comfort zone. In a nutshell, they are not willing to work hard at anything.
  • One change they like is a fresh love. This can happen as quickly as they can change the motor oil in their cars because it is harder to work on even the smallest issues in a current relationship than to find fresh new supply who can adore them and they can adore for a short period of time.

Additional Resources On How To Spot A Narcissist

In order to maintain your sanity, you may want to practice the gray rock method. This is done by not becoming reactive and by avoiding all the drama that the narcissist may stir around you.

Also, there is plenty of information out there on finding wellness after narcissistic abuse. Here are a few of my favorites.

Classic Movie

Although this classic movie called Gaslight is from 1944, it applies to today just like it did then. The premise is based on emotional abuse and domestic violence.

Ingrid Bergman’s sanity is in question when Charles Boyer uses his charm to marry her for his own selfish reasons. His main goal is to gain complete control over here.

There is a sub-plot to the story (and a true reason why he married her, but I won’t spoil it) and you really have to watch the movie to appreciate this stunning display of what gaslighting feels like.

Ingrid Bergman won a best actress academy award for her role in this film.

General support group, videos, and reading material

I really like the Dana Morningstar’s Thrive After Abuse support group.

You can find a wealth of information on her website. Also, check out her Thrive After Abuse videos on YouTube. Check out her website to see when you can join the weekly free live stream.

Dana Morningstar recently published Start Here: A Crash Course in Understanding, Navigating, and Healing From Narcissistic Abuse, which is a good way to start understanding what you went through after narcissistic abuse. Dana has a clinical experience on the subject and also insights on how it feels to be out of an abusive narcissistic relationship.

Divorce Resource

If you’re going through a divorce, then Divorce Poison by Dr. Richard A. Warshak is another fantastic resource that can help you navigate your emotions, and understand where you are in the realm of things during or after a divorce.

It will give you proven techniques on buffering your family from the negative effects of a narcissistic ex and will help you get stronger.

What about you?

Do you know someone who is a narcissist or who fits any of these traits? Can you add anything to this list?

Share your experiences in the comments section below and let us know.

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