Narcissists typically have a distorted perception of reality and often lack the self-awareness needed to recognize their own behaviour as problematic. While some may acknowledge they may have narcissistic traits, they may not fully understand the extent and impact of their behaviour on others. So one question that is often asked but not always easily answered is – does a narcissist know they are a narcissist?
It’s a complex and layered issue with no definitive answer, but here we will explore what the research says about this topic.
What Is Narcissism?
Before we can even begin to answer the question of whether or not narcissists know they are narcissistic, it’s important to have a clear understanding of what narcissism actually is.
In psychology terms, narcissism is classified as a personality disorder characterized by grandiosity and excessive self-importance. Narcissists are typically preoccupied with fantasies about their success and power, and use others to reinforce these beliefs. They often engage in manipulative behaviour to maintain their sense of control and superiority over others.
Narcissism is also associated with a need for admiration and attention, which can lead to a sense of entitlement and a disregard for the needs and feelings of others. This can result in problematic behaviours such as exploiting others for personal gain, lacking compassion, and having a sense of entitlement.
It’s also important to recognize that people with NPD may not necessarily be fully aware of their disorder or the impact it has on others. Self-awareness and acknowledgement of one’s own issues and shortcomings can be difficult for anyone, but especially for those with NPD due to their inflated self-image and lack of empathy.
Main Characteristics of Narcissists
Narcissists often have an inflated sense of self-worth and overestimate their abilities, intelligence, talents, and achievements. They may exhibit a persistent sense of superiority, even in situations where there is no evidence to support their beliefs.
As a result they come to believe that they deserve special treatment, privileges, and rewards that others don’t. Overall, the exaggerated sense of self-importance that narcissists exhibit can be a significant barrier to healthy relationships, career success, and overall well-being.
Need for admiration
The need for admiration is a core characteristic of narcissism, and it can be a driving force in their behaviour. Narcissists require constant validation from others in order to feel like they are important and valued.
They may fish for compliments or seek attention in any way possible, and can become incredibly frustrated or even angry when they feel like they are not getting the admiration they deserve.
This need for constant admiration can make it challenging to form healthy relationships, as they may be more focused on what others can do for them rather than creating meaningful connections.
Lack of empathy
Another hallmark of narcissism is a lack of empathy. Narcissists often fail to understand the feelings of others, or to recognize when their behaviour is hurtful or inappropriate.
They will dismiss the emotions of others, or even use them to their advantage. As a result it is very difficult for them to form deep and meaningful relationships with others, as they may struggle to connect emotionally.
Narcissists believe that they are special and unique, and therefore deserve special treatment and attention from others. They invariably prioritize their own desires and demands, often to the detriment of those around them.
This sense of entitlement can also impact their behaviour in relationships. They expect others to do things for them without considering whether or not it is fair or reasonable to do so. This can lead to a power imbalance and a codependent dynamic where the needs of the narcissist always take priority over the needs of the other person in the relationship.
Narcissists are insidiously manipulative. They may use a variety of tactics such as guilt-tripping, gaslighting, or other forms of emotional manipulation in order to achieve their goals. This can contribute to a toxic and emotionally abusive dynamic in their relationships, and can make it very difficult for the other person to maintain their own feelings of self-worth.
Does a Narcissist Know They are a Narcissist?
The short answer is no.
The first thing we need to consider when examining the question of whether narcissists are aware that they are narcissists is the role of self-awareness in narcissism.
According to studies done on the subject, there is evidence that suggests that most narcissistic individuals do not have high levels of self-awareness and lack insight into their behaviour. In other words, they are not aware that their actions and attitudes come across as narcissistic to outside observers.
Studies also suggest that many narcissists do not even recognize their own behaviour as being problematic or damaging to themselves or others. This means that even if they are aware of how they are behaving, they may not think it’s wrong or harmful and may not see any need for change.
For example, a person with NPD may be aware of the fact that their grandiose behaviour makes others uncomfortable, but instead of trying to change it, they might leverage it to get attention or special treatment from their peers. This concept is referred to as “strategic self-presentation” in psychology circles and can lead to further difficulties in relationships down the line.
As a result, many narcissists never acknowledge their own narcissism, even if those around them can see it clearly.
This is why it is very rare for a narcissist to seek treatment. Some may recognize that they have difficulty maintaining relationships or that their interpersonal skills need work, but they may not be aware of how deeply rooted their issues are or realize that it’s NPD causing them. As such, it can be difficult for them to accurately assess themselves and accept help from others.
How Can Someone With NPD Get Help?
It’s important to remember that while some people with NPD may be aware of their condition on some level, most won’t be able to recognize its full extent without professional help.
If you suspect someone you know might have NPD or if you yourself feel like you might exhibit signs of the disorder (or another mental health issue), consider reaching out for assistance from your doctor or therapist.
It can take time and patience for someone with NPD to make meaningful progress in therapy, but given enough support and guidance from a qualified professional, anything is possible!
Treatment options for people with NPD
A narcissist may seek treatment when they recognize that their behaviour is hurting themselves or those around them, or when they begin to experience symptoms of depression or anxiety due to their lack of meaningful relationships and connection with others.
A therapist or other mental health professional can provide the narcissist with strategies to manage their thoughts and behaviours in order to create healthier relationships with themselves and others. With time, patience, and dedication, a narcissist may be able to learn new tactics to better understand their motivations and emotions while navigating relationships with greater understanding and compassion.
Individual psychotherapy. This form of therapy is focused on helping the individual understand and challenge their distorted thoughts, behaviours, and relationships with others.
Group therapy. Group therapy gives individuals a chance to interact with others who may have similar issues and concerns, as well as provides a supportive environment where they can work together to find solutions to their problems.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). This is a type of talk therapy that helps individuals identify patterns of thought or behaviour that contribute to the development of NPD and then develop strategies to change these patterns in order to better manage difficult feelings or situations.
Family therapy. Family therapy can help family members learn more about NPD and how it affects their relationships with each other so they can better provide support for their loved one affected by the disorder.
Medication. In some cases, medication may be prescribed in order to address symptoms of anxiety or depression associated with NPD; however, there is no known cure for this disorder.
Does a narcissist know they are a narcissist? The answer isn’t always straightforward. While some narcissists may have an awareness of their behaviour, it’s not uncommon for them to be unaware or resistant to help.
If you’re dealing with a narcissist, the most important thing you can do is safeguard yourself. You can’t control or change the behaviour of others, but you can control your own actions and reactions. Remember that you deserve to be treated with respect and kindness, and there is nothing wrong with setting boundaries or seeking support when dealing with a narcissist. Taking care of yourself is the most important thing you can do in any difficult situation.
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