14 Signs a Narcissist is Playing Mind Games With You

Narcissists are known for their manipulative behavior. They are experts at playing mind games and can be very subtle in how they do this, making it difficult for you to realize what’s happening. Here are 14 signs that a narcissist may be playing mind games with you:


One of the most insidious of the 14 signs that a narcissist is playing mind games with you is gaslighting, a manipulative tactic designed to distort your perception of reality.

When a narcissist resorts to gaslighting, they not only deny events that have occurred but also manipulate your words and actions in a way that makes you question your sanity. This technique is extremely potent because it targets your trust in your own memory, judgement, and self-perception.

For instance, if you confront a narcissist about their harmful behavior or an event that upset you, they might dismiss your concerns with statements like, “That never happened,” or “You’re just imagining things.

They may even accuse you of being overly sensitive or irrational. These calculated responses aim to invalidate your experiences and create a cloud of doubt around your recollections and feelings.

The end goal of gaslighting is to erode your self-confidence and make you dependent on the narcissist’s version of reality. By causing you to question your own memories and perceptions, the narcissist maintains control and keeps you off-balance.


In the early phase of a relationship, the narcissist might inundate you with an overwhelming display of affection, praise, and extravagant gifts. This tactic is known as love-bombing, and its purpose is to make you reliant on their validation and admiration.

The narcissist will bombard you with romantic messages, surprise you with gifts, or make over-the-top declarations of their love for you.

They will be incredibly attentive and interested in everything about you, creating an illusion of a fairy-tale romance that’s too good to be true.

However, it’s crucial to understand that this overwhelming attention is not rooted in genuine care or affection. Instead, it serves as a manipulative tool designed to make you feel extraordinarily special, thereby emotionally ensnaring you.

The narcissist aims to create a powerful bond quickly, often rushing intimacy, to secure your emotional investment in the relationship.

14 Signs a Narcissist is Playing Mind Games With You - love bombing


After successfully ensnaring you with their love-bombing tactics, a narcissist will transition into the devaluation phase. This stage is marked by frequent criticism, diminishment of your accomplishments, and efforts to make you feel insignificant.

For example, they might downplay your achievements with dismissive remarks such as, “Anyone could have done that,” when you share your successes.

Or they may invalidate your feelings by saying things like, “You’re too sensitive,” when you express emotional distress. The underlying purpose of this behavior is to undermine your self-esteem and increase your dependence on their approval.

This systematic devaluation can be subtle and insidious, gradually eroding your confidence over time.

You end up constantly seeking their validation, only to be met with indifference or ridicule. It’s important to recognize this pattern for what it is: a manipulative tactic designed to control and dominate you, not a reflection of your worth or abilities.

14 Signs a Narcissist is Playing Mind Games With You - devaluation

The Silent Treatment

Another common manipulative tactic employed by narcissists is the silent treatment. They use this form of emotional punishment to exert control and instill a sense of insecurity and fear.

If you upset a narcissist or challenge their authority in any way, they often respond by ignoring you for extended periods.

They will stop responding to your calls or messages, refuse to engage in conversation, or even act as if you’re invisible.

This could last for days, weeks, or even longer, depending on the narcissist’s intent.

The silent treatment is designed to make you feel anxious, guilty, and desperate for their attention. It’s a manipulative strategy aimed at making you beg for their acknowledgment and forcing you to conform to their expectations.

silent treatment - 14 Signs a Narcissist is Playing Mind Games With You


Triangulation is a deceptive tactic where the narcissist intentionally involves third parties into the relationship dynamic to create competition, stir up conflict, or incite jealousy.

This strategy aims to create confusion and instability in you, thereby making it easier for the narcissist to exert control.

For instance, a narcissist may frequently mention a friend, co-worker, or ex-partner, lavishly praising their attributes and accomplishments while subtly or overtly comparing you negatively to this person.

They might imply that you are lacking in certain areas where this other person supposedly excels, intentionally creating an atmosphere of insecurity and doubt.

The ultimate goal of triangulation is to destabilize your sense of security in your relationship with them, keeping you on your toes and constantly striving for their elusive approval.



Another one of the 14 signs that a narcissist is playing mind games is projection, which is a very popular tool in a narcissist’s arsenal.

Narcissists have a propensity for accusing others of the negative behaviors and attitudes they themselves exhibit.

In essence, they project their own shortcomings onto others, effectively deflecting any blame or criticism away from themselves.

For example, a narcissist who habitually breaks promises might accuse you of being unreliable. Similarly, if they frequently disregard punctuality, they might criticize you for not respecting their time.

This projection serves as a defense mechanism to avoid taking accountability for their actions while maintaining their self-perceived image of perfection. It’s essentially a way for them to shift blame and keep the spotlight off their own behavior.

14 Signs a Narcissist is Playing Mind Games With You - projection

Withholding Affection

Narcissists are skilled emotional manipulators, and one of their frequently used tactics is withholding affection.

If they sense disapproval or resistance from you, they will suddenly become aloof and distant. This could manifest as ignoring your attempts at conversation, rejecting physical intimacy, or subtly dismissing your feelings and needs.

This strategy serves not only to penalize you for your perceived misstep but also to compel you to seek their approval more fervently, thus bolstering their control over you.

Moreover, it’s important to recognize that this is a deliberate tactic designed to inflict emotional pain and create insecurity. Its purpose is not to resolve issues or improve the relationship, but to assert dominance and control.

depressed woman

Constant Lying

Narcissists are notorious for their habitual lying. They employ deception as a tool to manipulate, control, and craft their chosen narrative. Their lies can span from minor exaggerations to massive distortions of reality.

A narcissist might, for example, fabricate stories about their past achievements to make themselves appear more successful and impressive than they truly are.

Alternatively, they might deceitfully express their feelings to keep you emotionally tethered, declaring love and dedication one day, then showing apathy or even hostility the next.

These falsehoods serve to keep you in a state of uncertainty and confusion, making it easier for the narcissist to manipulate and control you.


Moving Goalposts

Narcissists are renowned for their adeptness at manipulating situations to their benefit. A classic example of this is the tactic of moving goalposts, where they incessantly change the rules or expectations, rendering it virtually impossible for you to achieve success or gain approval.

For instance, a narcissist may initially commend you on your work performance but later chastise you for not exceeding what was initially praised.

Similarly, they might agree upon certain parameters within a relationship, only to alter these terms unannounced and without consultation.

The ongoing shifting of benchmarks serves to maintain you in a perpetual state of uncertainty and self-doubt. This tactic effectively keeps you striving harder to meet their capricious and ever-changing demands, thereby ensuring their control over you.

confused - 14 Signs a Narcissist is Playing Mind Games With You

Playing the Victim

Yet another one of the 14 signs that a narcissist is playing mind games is when they constantly make themselves out to be a victim, deflecting blame and eliciting sympathy.

For example, when confronted about their manipulative behavior, a narcissist will manipulate the narrative to appear as though they’re the one being persecuted.

They will resort to statements such as, “You’re always attacking me,” or “I can never do anything right in your eyes.”

This tactic cleverly diverts attention away from their misbehavior and onto their alleged distress, further enabling them to evade responsibility.

playing the victim - 14 Signs a Narcissist is Playing Mind Games With You

Smear Campaigns

Narcissists often resort to smear campaigns as a tool to safeguard their image and manipulate how others perceive them.

This tactic involves spreading falsehoods or distorting the truth about you to others with the intent of damaging your reputation and isolating you from your social circle.

For example, should a narcissist feel their power threatened by your growing independence, they might initiate a campaign of disinformation among your mutual acquaintances, painting you as untrustworthy or emotionally unstable.

By tarnishing your reputation, they aim to isolate you socially and maintain control over the narrative surrounding your relationship.

narcissistic smear campaign 4

Controlling Behavior

Controlling behavior is a hallmark characteristic of narcissists, who want to dictate every aspect of your life. From dictating who you interact with and where you go, to influencing what you think and how you feel, they seek to maintain total control.

For instance, a narcissist may insist on selecting your clothing, controlling your financial expenditure, or determining your circle of friends.

They might also attempt to control your thoughts and emotions by dictating how you should interpret certain situations or how you should react to specific events.

14 Signs a Narcissist is Playing Mind Games With You


Intimidation is yet another powerful weapon in the narcissist’s arsenal. They will resort to threats, displays of aggression, or exertions of dominance to instill fear and ensure your compliance.

For instance, during a disagreement, a narcissist might adopt hostile body language, raise their voice, or encroach on your personal space to establish their authority.

They may also resort to threats such as ending the relationship or disseminating damaging information about you unless you give in to their demands.

These intimidation tactics are purposefully designed to induce fear, ensuring that you remain subservient and adhere to their dictates.

Frequently Asked Questions About Narcissistic FAG (Fear, Obligation and Guilt)

False Promises

Narcissists are adept at deception, and one of their favored manipulation tactics is the use of false promises. They often make grandiose declarations or commitments with no genuine intention of fulfilling them, serving to keep you hopeful and emotionally invested.

For example, a narcissist may promise to rectify their harmful behavior, fully aware that they have no intention of changing. They might vow to take you on an extravagant vacation, collaborate on a business venture with you, or commit to a long-term relationship, only to backtrack on these commitments later.

Concluding Thoughts on the 14 Signs a Narcissist is Playing Mind Games With You

Recognizing these 14 signs of a narcissist playing mind games is the first step towards protecting yourself from their manipulative tactics. These behaviors are all indicative of a narcissist’s attempt at manipulation and control.

While it is undoubtedly challenging to deal with a narcissist, understanding their tactics can empower you to stand your ground, protect your mental health, and seek the necessary help when required.

Remember, everyone deserves respect, kindness, and genuine love in their relationships. Don’t let a narcissist’s mind games convince you otherwise.

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