Unmasking narcissism is no easy task. This psychological phenomenon, often misconstrued and misunderstood, is far more complex than just an excess of self-love or vanity. In fact, it’s a multifaceted personality disorder that can significantly impact relationships, work-life balance, and overall mental well-being. In this article, we delve into the intricacies of narcissism by exploring the 5 main habits of a narcissist.
By understanding these key traits, we aim to shed light on the nuanced behaviors that characterize this personality disorder.
What is a Narcissist?
A narcissist is a person who either has strong narcissistic personality traits or has full-blown narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).
While both these conditions involve a preoccupation with oneself and an inflated sense of self-importance, there are important distinctions between the two.
Narcissistic Personality Traits
Narcissistic personality traits encompass a range of behaviors and tendencies that can be found to some extent in all individuals.
It is important to acknowledge that everyone has moments of self-focus, desire for admiration, entitlement, and occasional lack of empathy. These traits, when experienced at normal levels, do not indicate narcissism
However, in some cases, these traits are stronger, leading to challenges in personal relationships, work, and overall functioning. It is in such cases that we start talking about a person being a narcissist.
That said, having strong narcissistic personality traits does not necessarily mean a person has Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Only when these traits significantly impair an individual’s ability to function in important areas of life and cause distress can a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder be made.
Professional evaluation and assessment are crucial to differentiate between ordinary narcissistic traits and the presence of a clinical disorder.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Narcissistic personality disorder is a diagnosed mental health condition where these traits severely impair a person’s ability to function in various areas of life.
The diagnostic criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) according to the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition) of the American Psychiatric Association are as follows:
Grandiosity: A pervasive pattern of grandiosity, both in fantasy or behavior, with a need for admiration.
Fantasies of Unlimited Success: A preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
Special Sense of Self-Importance: A belief in their own specialness and the need for excessive admiration.
Sense of Entitlement: A sense of entitlement, expecting to be treated as superior without appropriate achievements.
Exploitation of Others: A tendency to exploit others for personal gain, taking advantage of others to achieve their own goals.
Lack of Empathy: A lack of empathy, an inability or unwillingness to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
Envious of Others: Feelings of envy or a belief that others are envious of them.
Arrogant Attitude: An arrogant or haughty attitude and behavior.
To receive a diagnosis of NPD, an individual must exhibit at least five of these criteria.
It is important to note that a proper diagnosis should be made by a qualified mental health professional based on a comprehensive assessment of the individual’s symptoms and history.
Different Types of Narcissist
Covert and overt narcissists differ primarily in their presentation and behavior.
Overt narcissists tend to display their grandiosity and self-importance openly. They seek attention and admiration, often dominating conversations and asserting their superiority.
On the other hand, covert narcissists are more subtle in their approach. They may appear self-effacing or even shy, but behind this façade, they harbor a deep need for validation and manipulate others to meet their needs.
With this understanding, let’s now explore the 5 main habits of a narcissist in detail.
The 5 Main Habits of a Narcissist
People with narcissistic personality disorder often display specific habits, which can range from attention-seeking behavior to manipulation and exploitation.
The following are the 5 main habits of a narcissist, to help you understand how narcissism manifests in day-to-day life.
The 5 Main Habits of a Narcissist – (1) An Exaggerated Sense of Self-Importance
Narcissists have a pervasive and exaggerated sense of self-importance, believing that they are superior to the people around them for a multitude of self-deluded reasons.
This is why they demand preferential treatment, whether it’s in personal relationships, professional settings, or social interactions.
They expect others to cater to their needs and fulfill their desires without question.
Intense Preoccupation With Their Physical Appearance
One way in which narcissists demonstrate their exaggerated self-importance is through an intense preoccupation with their physical appearance.
They invest significant time, effort, and resources into maintaining an idealized image of themselves.
This fixation on external beauty stems from their belief that their appearance reflects their inherent superiority.
Delusions of Grandeur
To bolster their self-image, narcissists commonly resort to embellishing or inventing accomplishments and talents.
They exaggerate their achievements, skills, and experiences to create an illusion of success and superiority.
By distorting the truth, they aim to impress others, gain admiration, and reinforce their belief in their exceptional qualities.
The 5 Main Habits of a Narcissist – (2) Craving Constant Validation
Narcissists have an insatiable appetite for validation and praise, which act as a form of narcissistic supply or fuel for their inflated sense of self-importance and grandiose self-image.
The need for constant reinforcement can become all-consuming for narcissists, as they rely heavily on external validation to bolster their fragile self-esteem.
Without this external validation, they may experience feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, and even worthlessness.
This insatiable appetite for affirmation propels them to go to extreme lengths in their relentless pursuit of reassurance and adoration.
Their quest for validation may manifest in various ways, from fishing for compliments to showcasing their achievements or unique qualities.
They often exhibit attention-seeking behaviors, monopolizing conversations and steering them towards themselves, all in an effort to garner the admiration and validation they crave.
Demands and Manipulation
This relentless pursuit for validation can have profound effects on their relationships.
Narcissists are often demanding and manipulative, using tactics such as guilt trips, emotional coercion, or gaslighting to extract the desired validation from others.
They will also go out of their way to ensnare a posse of individuals who are more likely to provide the admiration they seek, while dismissing or devaluing those who fail to meet their expectations.
In addition they will try to brush off the successes of others. This stems from their all-consuming envy , which stems from their belief that any attention bestowed upon others should rightfully be directed towards them.
The 5 Main Habits of a Narcissist – (3) Poor Empathy
One of the main habits of a narcissist is their notable lack of empathy towards others.
Empathy can be divided into two distinct types: cognitive empathy and affective empathy. While affective empathy involves genuinely sharing and experiencing the emotions of others, narcissists primarily possess cognitive empathy.
Cognitive empathy refers to the ability to understand and recognize the emotions and perspectives of others without actually feeling them.
Narcissists, with their keen observational skills and knack for manipulation, excel in cognitive empathy.
They can intellectually grasp what someone else might be feeling or thinking, allowing them to exploit this knowledge to their advantage.
By understanding how others think and feel, they can craft their words and actions to exploit vulnerabilities and elicit specific responses.
They may charm and flatter individuals, appearing empathetic on the surface, while subtly steering situations to serve their own interests.
However, narcissists lack affective empathy- the emotional connection necessary to truly empathize with others.
They are unable to genuinely experience or share in the emotions of those around them.
This deficit in affective empathy contributes to their self-centeredness and disregard for the feelings and needs of others.
The 5 Main Habits of a Narcissist – (4) Struggles with Intimacy
Narcissists face significant challenges when it comes to establishing deep and intimate connections with others. Their aversion to vulnerability and fear of weakness often hinder their ability to form genuine and meaningful relationships.
The primary reason for their struggles with intimacy lies in the belief that allowing themselves to be vulnerable will undermine the meticulously constructed control they have over their self-image.
Narcissists fear that any display of dependence or emotional vulnerability could shatter the grandiose self-perception they work tirelessly to maintain.
This apprehension drives them to engage in superficial and short-lived romantic encounters, avoiding long-term partnerships or committed relationships altogether.
By avoiding intimacy, they can perpetuate an illusion of superiority and independence, upholding their inflated self-view at the expense of true emotional connection and intimacy.
For narcissists, the pursuit of validation and admiration takes precedence over nurturing deep emotional bonds.
They prioritize relationships that serve as a source of narcissistic supply, providing them with the attention and adoration they crave without requiring them to expose their vulnerabilities.
While narcissists may appear charming and charismatic on the surface, their inability to establish genuine emotional intimacy leaves a void in their relationships.
Their partners often find themselves yearning for emotional reciprocity and a deeper connection that the narcissist is unable or unwilling to provide.
The 5 Main Habits of a Narcissist – (5) Lack of Accountability
One prominent habit of narcissists is their consistent difficulty in acknowledging and taking responsibility for their actions.
Instead of owning up to their mistakes, they are quick to deflect blame onto others or find justifications for their behavior.
By refusing to acknowledge their faults or errors, they can maintain the illusion of perfection that is crucial to their inflated self-view.
Accepting responsibility would require them to confront their flaws and vulnerabilities, which goes against the very core of their narcissistic personality.
They will go to great lengths to protect this image, even if it means lying through their teeth or manipulating situations to shift blame onto someone else.
This lack of accountability thus reinforces their belief in their own superiority.
Psychological Defense Mechanisms
Psychological defense mechanisms are unconscious strategies that individuals employ to protect themselves from anxiety and emotional discomfort.
These mechanisms serve as a way to cope with unacceptable thoughts, feelings, or impulses.
Narcissists commonly rely on defense mechanisms to avoid taking responsibility for their actions.
One prevalent defense mechanism utilized by narcissists is denial.
They refuse to acknowledge or accept the truth of their wrongdoing, even in the face of overwhelming evidence.
By denying their actions or their impact, they can maintain their self-image as faultless individuals.
In addition, they also often resort to rationalization.
They come up with justifications or plausible explanations for their behavior, often distorting facts or twisting the narrative to make themselves appear blameless.
This allows them to shift responsibility onto others or external circumstances, absolving themselves of any wrongdoing.
By employing these defense mechanisms, narcissists safeguard their grandiose self-view and avoid confronting their flaws or vulnerabilities.
However, these mechanisms also perpetuate a cycle of manipulation, gaslighting, and damage to relationships.
Dealing with a Narcissist
Navigating a relationship with a narcissist can be challenging and emotionally draining. However, there are strategies you can employ to protect yourself and maintain your well-being.
Here are some tips on how to deal with a narcissist:
Set Clear Boundaries: Establishing firm boundaries is crucial when dealing with a narcissist. Clearly communicate your limits and what behaviors you will not tolerate. Stick to these boundaries consistently, as narcissists may try to push or manipulate them.
Practice Self-Care: Taking care of yourself is essential when dealing with a narcissist. Focus on activities that bring you joy, relaxation, and emotional support. Engage in self-care practices such as exercise, mindfulness, and spending time with supportive friends and family.
Don’t Take It Personally: Remember that a narcissist’s behavior is not a reflection of your worth or value. Their actions stem from their own insecurities and need for control and validation. Avoid internalizing their criticisms or seeking their approval.
Maintain Perspective: Keep in mind that you cannot change a narcissist. Accepting this reality can help you shift your focus from trying to change them to preserving your own mental and emotional well-being. Redirect your energy towards personal growth and cultivating healthy relationships.
Set Realistic Expectations: Recognize that a narcissist is unlikely to change their behavior. Adjust your expectations accordingly and avoid expecting empathy, understanding, or genuine emotional connection from them. Focus instead on protecting yourself and maintaining healthy boundaries.
Seek Support: Reach out to trusted friends, family members, or professionals who can provide guidance and support. Sharing your experiences with others who understand narcissistic dynamics can validate your feelings and provide valuable insights.
Limit Contact: If possible, minimize your interactions with the narcissist. This may involve reducing communication to essential matters only or, in extreme cases, cutting off contact entirely. Prioritize your well-being and surround yourself with positive influences.
Practice Emotional Detachment: Detaching emotionally from a narcissist can help protect your mental and emotional health. Maintain a sense of perspective and remind yourself that their behavior is not a reflection of your worth or value.
Final Thoughts on the 5 Main Habits of a Narcissist
In conclusion, gaining an understanding of the five main habits of a narcissist provides invaluable insight into the complexities of narcissistic personality disorder.
These habits form an intricate framework that impacts every aspect of a narcissist’s life.
Recognizing these five habits not only enhances our comprehension of narcissism but also serves as a protective measure.
When encountering individuals with these habits, awareness of their behavior can help navigate interactions effectively and safeguard our emotional well-being.
Frequently Asked Questions about the 5 Main Habits of a Narcissist
A narcissist is someone who has an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.
The five main habits of a narcissist are an exaggerated sense of self-importance, a constant need for validation, a lack of empathy, avoidance of accountability, and a sense of entitlement.
Yes, it is possible for individuals to display one or two of these habits without meeting the criteria for narcissistic personality disorder. A diagnosis of narcissism typically requires the presence of multiple habits along with other characteristic traits.
Setting boundaries is crucial when dealing with a narcissist. It’s also important to maintain your own self-esteem and not allow the narcissist’s behavior to affect your sense of self-worth.
Yes, narcissism is classified as a personality disorder by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). This condition, known as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), is characterized by a long-term pattern of abnormal behavior characterized by exaggerated feelings of self-importance, an excessive need for admiration, and a lack of understanding of others’ feelings.