12 Traits of a Narcissist – A Guide to Recognizing Narcissists

Recognizing narcissistic traits and red flags is the first step in understanding how to protect yourself or someone you love from potential harm. This article will discuss the 12 most common traits of a narcissist, based on the diagnostic criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder as defined in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) published by the American Psychiatric Association.

1. Entitlement

Entitlement in narcissists can be seen as an overarching umbrella that often encompasses many other narcissistic traits.

It’s an ingrained mindset, persistently coloring their interactions and relationships with others.

This sense of entitlement manifests in various ways and can be broken down into several aspects:

Superiority and Privilege

Narcissists firmly believe they are superior to others.

This isn’t merely about confidence. It’s an inflated self-view which leads them to identify as exceptional individuals and a cut above everyone else.

Consequently, they expect privileges and advantages that they think align with their perceived status.

They feel they should always be prioritized over others, disregarding the needs or wants of those around them.

12 traits of a narcissist - superiority complex

Disregard for Others

Alongside their sense of superiority, narcissists’ entitlement often leads to a blatant disregard for the feelings, opinions, and needs of others.

They expect others to cater to their wishes and desires, often without reciprocation.

They may dismiss others’ input and concerns, focusing solely on their own agenda.

Reactivity to Unmet Expectations

Narcissists have high expectations of special treatment aligned with their sense of entitlement.

When these expectations are not met, they react negatively, often lashing out at others.

Their reactions can include blaming others for their disappointments, expressing anger, or throwing tantrums. These intense reactions are defensive mechanisms to protect their inflated self-image.


2. Grandiosity

Narcissistic grandiosity, another key trait of narcissists, reflects an exaggerated sense of self-importance.

This inflated self-perception goes beyond healthy self-esteem or confidence.

It’s a deep-seated belief in their superiority, which often manifests in various ways.

Desire for Recognition and Admiration

Narcissists with grandiose tendencies have an insatiable need for recognition and admiration.

They crave the spotlight and constantly seek validation from others to maintain their inflated self-image.

They believe they deserve special attention and admiration due to their perceived exceptional abilities or achievements.

12 traits of a narcissist craving the spotlight

Dismissive Attitude Towards Others

Grandiose narcissists often devalue others to elevate themselves.

They dismiss the achievements, skills, or worth of those around them to highlight their own superiority.

They may belittle others directly or indirectly, making comparisons that always put them on top.

Fragile Self-Esteem Beneath the Surface

Despite the outward display of superiority, grandiose narcissists often harbor a fragile self-esteem.

Their grandiosity serves as a facade to mask their deep-seated insecurities and feelings of inadequacy.

The constant need for validation and recognition is a testament to this underlying fragility.

Overcompensation Through Achievement and Status

Grandiose narcissists frequently overcompensate for their internal insecurities by chasing high-status positions, achievements, or material possessions.

They equate success with self-worth, so they are often driven to achieve and acquire as much as possible.

They use these accomplishments or acquisitions as evidence of their superiority, further fueling their grandiose self-perception.

Unrealistic Fantasies of Success and Power

Grandiose narcissists often indulge in unrealistic fantasies of unlimited success, power, or brilliance.

These fantasies serve as another coping mechanism for their insecurities. They immerse themselves in these imagined scenarios where they are always the best, the most successful, or the most powerful.

12 traits of a narcissist craving the spotlight

3. Exploitation

Narcissistic exploitation is a complex trait that involves manipulation, disregard for others, unreasonable demands, and control.

It’s a manifestation of the narcissist’s self-centeredness, where they see others as mere tools to be used for their own gain.

Manipulation Tactics

Narcissists are masters of manipulation.

They employ a variety of tactics to influence others, such as guilt trips, gaslighting, and playing the victim.

They use these strategies to control others and maneuver situations to their advantage.

Their manipulations often serve to further their own interests, even at the expense of others.

Disregard for Others’ Feelings and Needs

Narcissistic exploitation also manifests as a blatant disregard for the feelings and needs of others.

Narcissists prioritize their own desires over the well-being of those around them. They may ignore, dismiss, or belittle the needs of others, especially if those needs conflict with their own.

Unreasonable Demands and Expectations

Narcissists often impose unreasonable demands and expectations on others.

They may ask for excessive favors, demand constant attention, or expect others to conform to their way of thinking.

These demands often serve to assert their control and superiority, further enabling their exploitative behavior.

Power Dynamics in Relationships

Narcissists tend to dominate their relationships, often aiming for an imbalance of power that favors them.

They may seek to control others emotionally, financially, or in other ways.

This control allows them to manipulate situations and individuals to their advantage, further facilitating their exploitative behavior.

lack of empathy

4. Lack of Empathy

This characteristic isn’t merely about being unsympathetic.

Contrary to the common belief, narcissists are not incapable of understanding and recognizing the feelings and reactions of others.

In fact, they can often read emotions quite accurately.

However, their defining trait lies in their deliberate choice to disregard these feelings.

This conscious indifference significantly shapes their interactions and relationships.

Disregard for the Feelings of Others

Narcissists typically show a complete disregard for the feelings of others.

They are indifferent to the emotional experiences of those around them, especially when these experiences do not align with their own interests or desires.

This indifference extends to a lack of guilt or remorse when their actions cause others pain or distress.

Inability to Acknowledge the Needs of Others

Coupled with their disregard for others’ feelings is narcissists’ total failure to acknowledge and respond to the needs of others.

Their self-centeredness often blinds them to the needs or wants of those around them.

They prioritize their own desires, and they do not care who pays the price for their actions.

narcissistic personality disorder leads to a lack of empathy

Avoidance of Personal Responsibility

Another result of narcissists’ lack of empathy is their avoidance of personal responsibility.

They will never acknowledge the impact of their actions on others, often blaming others for their own mistakes or shortcomings.

Consequences of Lack of Empathy

The consequences of narcissists’ lack of empathy are far-reaching, affecting both themselves and those around them.

This trait results in superficial relationships characterized by manipulation and control.

It can also lead to the narcissist’s isolation, as their lack of genuine human connection inevitably pushes others away.

12 traits of a narcissist

5. Arrogance

Narcissistic arrogance manifests as an inflated sense of self-importance, a display of superiority, and a demeaning attitude towards others.

Overconfidence and Self-Assuredness

Narcissists typically exude an air of extreme confidence and self-assuredness.

They often present themselves as being superior to others, not only in their abilities but also in their knowledge and experiences.

This overconfidence, however, is usually disproportionate to their actual capabilities or achievements.

Belittling Behavior

Arrogant narcissists have a tendency to talk down to people, belittling their opinions or achievements.

They often devalue the contributions of others, dismissing them as insignificant or inferior.

This behavior serves to maintain their perceived superiority and dominance.

Dominating Conversations

Another way narcissistic arrogance manifests is through dominating conversations.

Narcissists often overtalk others, disregarding their input and pushing forward their own ideas or agenda.

They rarely listen to others, as they believe their own views and opinions are superior.

narcissistic arrogance

Ignoring Others’ Perspectives

Arrogant narcissists often ignore or dismiss others’ perspectives.

They are typically uninterested in viewpoints that contradict their own and may react negatively when challenged.

They have a strong need to be right and may refuse to acknowledge their mistakes or shortcomings.

Consequences of Narcissistic Arrogance

The arrogance of narcissists can have serious consequences.

It leads to strained relationships, as their dismissive and belittling behavior can alienate others.

Moreover, their unwillingness to listen to others or consider different perspectives can hinder their personal growth and learning.

narcissistic arrogance

6. Envy

The envy demonstrated by narcissists can be intense and usually targets anyone they perceive as superior or more accomplished in any aspect of life.

Constant Comparisons and Rivalry

Narcissists habitually compare themselves to others, turning every situation into a contest.

They harbor an intense sense of envy towards anyone who appears to be “better” than them, whether professionally, personally, or financially.

This competitive mindset fuels their envy, leading to negative sentiments and behaviours.

narcissistic envy

Craving for Attention

Individuals with narcissistic tendencies have an insatiable craving for attention.

They become envious when others receive the attention they believe rightfully belongs to them.

This envy can extend to family members, close friends, or even strangers if they are receiving what the narcissist perceives as ‘undeserved’ attention.

Discrediting the Achievements of Others

When confronted with someone else’s success, narcissists often respond by discrediting the accomplishment.

Instead of applauding the success of others, they will belittle it or attribute it to luck or unjust advantages.

This reaction is rooted in their inability to accept that others might be more successful or accomplished than they are.

Impact on Relationships

Narcissistic envy puts a strain on relationships. It leads to resentment, conflict, and mistrust.

It also hampers the narcissist’s ability to form authentic, supportive relationships, as their envy often prevents them from feeling genuine happiness for others.

narcissistic selfishness

7. Selfishness

Narcissistic selfishness manifests in various ways, from a disregard for others’ welfare to an obsessive need for admiration and attention.

Unbridled Pursuit of Personal Agenda

Narcissists are often willing to sacrifice the well-being of others without hesitation to further their own interests.

Their primary focus is on achieving their own goals, even if it means causing harm or inconvenience to those around them.

This relentless pursuit of personal agenda underscores their deep-rooted selfishness.

Obsession with Admiration and Attention

Narcissists have an obsessive need for admiration and attention, which feeds their sense of superiority and entitlement.

They constantly seek validation and praise from others, often at the expense of those around them. This craving for constant attention underlines their extreme selfishness.

Disregard for Consequences

Narcissists tend to ignore the adverse effects their actions might have on others—emotionally, physically, financially, or otherwise.

This disregard for the consequences of their actions is a clear indicator of their self-centered nature.

The 12 Traits of a Narcissist - (9) no accountability

8. Lack Of Accountability

A striking trait of narcissism is the lack of accountability.

Narcissists rarely accept responsibility for their actions, especially when these actions have negative consequences.

This trait manifests in various ways, from blame-shifting to projection.

Persistent Deflection of Responsibility

Narcissists are adept at deflecting responsibility away from themselves.

When faced with the consequences of their actions, they often attempt to shift the blame onto someone else.

Their refusal to take responsibility is a clear indication of their self-centered nature and lack of accountability.

The 12 Traits of a Narcissist - not my fault

Projection of Negative Traits

In more extreme cases, narcissists employ a psychological tactic known as projection.

This involves attributing their own negative thoughts, behaviors, and beliefs onto others.

The aim is not only to externalize their flaws but also to manipulate the perceptions of those around them.

Manipulation of Perception

Narcissists strive to maintain a false self-image in the eyes of others.

They often attempt to paint someone else as ‘bad’ or wrong to avoid taking responsibility for their own behavior.

By doing so, they can manipulate how others perceive them and maintain their inflated self-image.

not my fault

Avoidance of Blame

When a narcissist attempts to blame you for something they did themselves, it’s important to recognize this as a manipulation tactic.

Narcissists will go to great lengths to avoid blame and maintain their façade, even if it means making others look bad.

9. Manipulation

Manipulation is a prominent trait among narcissists.

They employ various manipulative tactics to achieve their desires and maintain control over others.

This trait manifests both in subtle and also in overt ways, from passive aggression and guilt trips to gaslighting and direct threats.

The 12 Traits of a Narcissist - (9) Manipulation

Subtle Tactics: Passive Aggression and Guilt Trips

Narcissists frequently use subtle forms of manipulation such as passive aggression and guilt trips.

Passive aggression might involve indirect expressions of hostility or resentment, while guilt trips are used to induce feelings of guilt in others to manipulate their thoughts and actions.

These tactics allow the narcissist to exert control without appearing overtly domineering.

Gaslighting: Distorting Reality

Gaslighting is another common tactic used by narcissists.

This involves manipulating someone into questioning their own memories, perception, or sanity, usually by denying or distorting facts.

Through gaslighting, narcissists can undermine others’ sense of reality, further asserting their control and dominance.


Direct Threats and Blackmail

In more extreme cases, narcissists resort to direct threats and blackmail to manipulate others.

These tactics are typically used when subtler methods fail, and they serve to maintain the narcissist’s sense of power and superiority.

The Objective: Power and Superiority

At the core of these manipulative behaviors is the narcissist’s desire for attention, power, and superiority.

By making others look or feel worse, narcissists attempt to elevate their own status and self-esteem.

This drive for dominance fuels their manipulative actions, underpinning their interactions with others.

narcissistic personality disorder risky behavior

10. Impulsivity

Impulsivity is a distinct trait of narcissism, leading to reckless behaviours and decisions without regard for the potential consequences.

This impulsivity can manifest in various ways, from excessive risk-taking to financial irresponsibility.

Reckless Risk-Taking

Narcissists are known for their impulsive nature, often engaging in dangerous behaviours driven by a desire for immediate gratification.

They tend to act on the spur of the moment, disregarding the potential risks or consequences of their actions.

This reckless risk-taking is a clear expression of their impulsivity.

Impulsive Decision-Making

The impulsive nature of narcissists extends to their decision-making process.

They often make spontaneous decisions without considering the potential consequences, prioritizing their immediate needs and desires over long-term considerations.

This lack of foresight can lead to harmful outcomes for both the narcissist and those around them.

Financial Irresponsibility

Impulsivity among narcissists often leads to financial irresponsibility.

This may take the form of irresponsible spending, misuse of bank accounts or credit cards, or unreasonable demands for money.

The narcissist’s impulsive nature can lead to financial havoc, potentially emptying bank accounts, maxing out credit cards, and destroying credit ratings.

narcissists are often financially irresponsible

11. Detachment

Narcissists often come across as detached and aloof.

This detachment can manifest in various ways, both physically and emotionally, reflecting the narcissist’s self-centeredness and lack of empathy.

Physical Detachment

Narcissists often exhibit physical detachment, which can be seen in their avoidance of physical contact or their tendency to spend less time with others.

This physical aloofness allows them to maintain a sense of control and independence, reinforcing their self-absorbed nature.

Emotional Detachment

Emotional detachment is another common manifestation among narcissists.

They may refuse to discuss certain topics or express their true feelings about a situation, making it challenging for others to connect with them on a deeper level.

This emotional inaccessibility serves as a protective mechanism, shielding them from vulnerability and maintaining their inflated self-image.

narcissistic rage

12. Narcissistic Rage

Narcissistic rage is a characteristic response to perceived threats against a narcissist’s self-esteem or self-image.

This intense reaction can take various forms, from verbal and physical aggression to displays of arrogance and contempt.

It often appears disproportionate to the situation, causing significant distress and damage.

The Trigger: Threats to Self-Esteem

The primary trigger for narcissistic rage is a perceived threat to the narcissist’s self-esteem or self-image.

Any challenge, criticism, or perceived slight can spark this intense, defensive anger.

As narcissists tend to have an inflated sense of self-worth, they are particularly sensitive to anything that may undermine this self-perception.

narcissistic rage

Manifestations of Narcissistic Rage

Narcissistic rage can manifest in numerous ways.

It can range from verbal lashing out, physical aggression, to displays of arrogance, entitlement, and contempt towards those who fail to meet their lofty expectations.

These reactions are typically excessive and disproportionate to the triggering event, reflecting the narcissist’s inability to handle any perceived affront to their self-image.

The Impact: Fear, Invalidation and Powerlessness

The impact of narcissistic rage on its victims can be severe.

It can leave them feeling frightened, invalidated, and powerless, as they bear the brunt of the narcissist’s uncontrolled anger.

The unpredictable nature of this rage can create a tense, volatile environment, posing emotional and potentially physical risks.

narcissistic rage

Final Thoughts about the 12 Traits of a Narcissist

When meeting new people and building new relationships it is very important to look out for these red flags and narcissistic traits. Pay attention to how someone behaves and don’t be afraid to take a step back if you feel uncomfortable or unsafe.

It is also important to keep in mind that narcissistic behaviour is deeply rooted and hard to change. Therefore, it is highly recommended to seek out professional advice if dealing with a narcissist.

Additionally, having compassion for yourself and the other person involved will go a long way.

Even if you decide to cut your losses and move on, understanding the situation can still provide valuable insight into how to better handle these difficult situations in the future.

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