What is a Narc? Identifying the Signs of Narcissism

It’s not uncommon to hear the term “narc” thrown around colloquially, but what does it actually mean? People often use this term to describe someone with an inflated sense of their own importance and value.

In reality, however, this description only scratches the surface.

A narc, or narcissist, is someone who either has very strong narcissistic traits or who has full blown narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).

In both cases, the narc usually comes across as highly sociable and confident, yet behind their charming façade there lies an insatiable need for admiration, a lack of empathy, and an inability to handle criticism.

High Narcissistic Traits vs Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Someone with high narcissistic traits may exhibit symptoms such as a grandiose sense of self-importance, an excessive need for admiration, and a tendency to be preoccupied with fantasies of success and power.

However, in order for someone to be diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), they must display these symptoms consistently over time and they must cause significant impairment in the person’s life.

what is a narc

Additionally, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), they must display at least five of the following characteristics:

  • an inflated sense of self-importance;
  • a preoccupation with fantasies of success, power, or beauty;
  • a belief that one is unique or “special”;
  • a excessive need for admiration;
  • a sense of entitlement;
  • an exploitative attitude toward others;
  • lack of empathy;
  • envy or jealousy towards others;
  • arrogance or haughtiness;
  • extreme frustration when receiving criticism.
in order for someone to be diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), they must display these symptoms consistently over time and they must cause significant impairment in the person’s life.

Narcs Are Difficult to Deal With

Narcissists can be difficult to interact with, and their behaviour can cause harm to those around them.

They may take advantage of people’s kindness with no intention of ever reciprocating the favour, ride roughshod over people in their constant quest for admiration, or become very angry when given the smallest or most constructive of criticisms.

In addition to these more obvious signs, there are also certain behavioural patterns associated with narcissism that may be harder to spot at first glance.

For example, those who suffer from narcissistic tendencies may have difficulty maintaining relationships due to their tendency to become easily jealous or possessive over partners or friends.

They may also display manipulative behaviour in order to get what they want from people in their lives.

what is a narc

Signs you are Dealing with a Narc

A Narc has a Grandiose Sense of Self-importance

Central to a narcissist’s grandiosity is their inflated sense of self-importance, which permeates every aspect of their lives.

This inflated sense of self-importance manifests in numerous ways.

For instance, narcissists will talk about themselves constantly, monopolizing conversations with tales of their own experiences, accomplishments, or talents.

They may exaggerate or even fabricate these achievements to present themselves in the best light possible, while diminishing or completely disregarding the accomplishments of others.

Narcissists also expect special treatment from those around them.

They believe they deserve privileges that others are not entitled to, simply because they consider themselves to be more important.

This could range from expecting preferential service at restaurants to demanding undivided attention from their friends and family at all times.

Moreover, narcissists often possess an unshakeable belief that they are superior to others, whether in terms of their intelligence, looks, or capabilities.

They will frequently compare themselves to others, always positioning themselves as the ‘winner’ in these comparisons.

a narc thinks he is a vip

A Narc Takes Advantage of People’s Kindness

Narcs are often skilled at manipulating others to serve their own needs and interests.

They ruthlessly exploit the innate human tendencies of empathy, compassion, and generosity to advance their personal agendas.

One of the ways narcissists take advantage of people’s kindness is by creating a dynamic where they are always receiving but rarely giving.

This could manifest in situations like borrowing money with no intention of repayment or constantly asking for favors while being unwilling to reciprocate.

Narcissists are also known to maintain a collection of people who are willing to continually boost their ego.

These individuals may be kept around solely for the purpose of providing the narcissist with praise and validation, satisfying the narc’s need for constant narcissistic supply.

what is a narc

A Narc is Extremely Sensitive to Criticism

Narcissists, by their very nature, are incredibly sensitive to criticism.

This sensitivity can be so extreme that even the slightest hint of reproach or disapproval can trigger an intense reaction.

Narcissistic Rage or Tantrums

Often, a narcissist’s initial response to criticism is one of anger or denial.

They can erupt into a rage that is totally disproportionate to the situation, leaving those around them stunned and confused.

This rage is typically an attempt to regain control over the situation and reassert their dominance.

Alternatively, in the case of vulnerable or covert narcissists, they may break down into tears, attempting to elicit sympathy and reassurance from others.

This is a manipulative tactic designed to divert attention away from their flaws and back onto their perceived victimhood.

narc fake crying

Narcissistic Denial

Denial is another common response.

Narcissists have a hard time acknowledging their mistakes or shortcomings.

They will automatically dismiss any criticism as unfounded or irrelevant, insisting that they are beyond reproach.

This denial is often so ingrained that they genuinely believe they are faultless, despite clear evidence to the contrary.

Narcissistic Devaluation

When faced with criticism, narcissists may also resort to devaluation.

They belittle their critics, attempting to undermine their credibility and thus invalidate their critiques.

They might accuse these individuals of being jealous, ignorant, or simply incapable of understanding their greatness.

a  narc is manipulative

Narcissistic Deflection

Deflection is another tool in the narcissist’s arsenal.

Rather than taking responsibility for their actions, they shift the blame onto others.

This can take the form of accusing others of the same faults they themselves have been criticized for, or creating distractions that steer the conversation away from their own failings.

Ultimately, the narcissist’s extreme sensitivity to criticism is a defense mechanism designed to protect their inflated ego and maintain their idealized self-image.

It’s a way of rejecting any evidence that contradicts their self-perception as perfect and superior.

A Narc Manipulates Situations and People

Narcs are skilled manipulators, adept at twisting situations and influencing people to serve their own needs, desires, or to maintain a sense of control.

Their manipulation tactics can be subtle or overt, but they’re usually designed to keep the narcissist at the center of attention and in a position of power.



One common manipulation technique used by narcissists is gaslighting.

This involves the narcissist denying or distorting reality in an attempt to make others doubt their own perceptions, memories, or sanity.

The purpose of gaslighting is to cause confusion and insecurity, making individuals more dependent on the narcissist for their version of reality.

Divide and Conquer - a strategic way of isolating victims

Narcissistic Dive and Conquer

Moreover, narcissists can create an environment of fear and distrust to manipulate those around them.

They will not hesitate to spread rumors, tell lies, or twist the truth to pit people against each other.

This ‘divide and conquer’ strategy helps ensure that they remain the focal point, as others are too busy dealing with the discord to challenge the narcissist’s position.

Love Bombing

Another manipulation tactic is the use of ‘love bombing‘, where the narcissist showers their target with excessive affection, praise, and attention.

This is typically done early in a relationship to win the person over.

However, once the individual is hooked, the narcissist often withdraws this affection, leaving their partner craving the positive attention they initially received.

narcissistic love bombing

Narcs Belittle or Criticize Those Around Them in Order to Feel Superior

Narcissists frequently resort to belittling or criticizing those around them as a means to elevate themselves. This behavior is driven by their constant need to feel superior and maintain an inflated sense of self-worth.

One way narcissists attempt to assert their superiority is by exaggerating their own achievements.

They might amplify the importance of their accomplishments, often out of proportion with reality. This allows them to position themselves as extraordinary, thereby overshadowing the successes of others.

Simultaneously, narcissists make it a point to find fault in the people around them, nitpicking over perceived shortcomings or mistakes.

They will focus on minor flaws, blowing them out of proportion to make their victims feel inadequate or inferior.

Moreover, narcs have a tendency to devalue the accomplishments and contributions of others.

They will dismiss or downplay others’ successes, attributing them to luck, triviality, or even claiming credit for them.

By doing so, they attempt to keep the spotlight firmly on themselves, ensuring that no one else’s achievements eclipse their own.

A Narc Appears Uninterested in Conversations About Topics Not Related to Them

A Narc Appears Uninterested in Conversations About Topics Not Related to Them

Narcs are totally self-centered, and they often exhibit a marked disinterest in conversations that do not revolve around them.

They thrive on attention and admiration, and topics that don’t involve them or their interests can seem irrelevant or uninteresting to them.

Even when discussions are about other people or subjects, narcissists often manipulate the conversation to focus on them.

They might interrupt others mid-sentence or dismiss what others are saying, only to bring up their own anecdotes or viewpoints.

They subtly shift the topic or blatantly hijack the conversation, ensuring they remain the central focus.

This self-centric behaviour can make engaging in meaningful conversation with a narcissist quite challenging.

Attempts to share personal experiences or discuss broader topics are met with indifference or redirection, leaving little room for genuine dialogue.

10 Ways to Manipulate a Narcissist - give them lots of attention

Narcs Project Grandiose Dreams and Fantasies That Have Little Chance of Being Realized

Narcs frequently imagine scenarios where they play the starring role, achieving extraordinary feats or attaining unprecedented success.

Fuelled by an inflated sense of self-worth, narcissists harbor a deep-seated belief in their invincibility.

They are convinced that they can accomplish anything they set their minds to, regardless of its feasibility.

This unwavering belief in their abilities can result in them setting outlandishly ambitious goals and fantasies that have little chance of being realized.

a narc is selfish

A Narc is Difficult to Interact With Due to Selfishness and Lack of Empathy

Interacting with a narc can be challenging, largely due to their pronounced selfishness and a marked lack of empathy.

They will routinely prioritize their own needs and desires above those of others, making interactions one-sided and emotionally draining for those around them.

This combination of selfishness and lack of empathy often results in a significant amount of conflict and tension in relationships.

The narcissist’s disregard for others’ needs and refusal to acknowledge different viewpoints inevitably leads to frequent misunderstandings and disagreements.

Over time, this can strain relationships and make it difficult, if not impossible, for others to connect with the narcissist on a deeper or more meaningful level.

how to deal with a narc

How to Deal With a Narc

Dealing with a narcissist can be challenging, but it is important to take a firm stance and stand your ground when dealing with them.

It is important to be assertive in your approach, but not to get caught up in arguments or power struggles, as this will only feed into the narcissist’s ego.

Instead, focus on communicating clearly and calmly, setting boundaries and expressing yourself in an honest yet non-confrontational way.

setting boundaries

Set Boundaries

Setting boundaries can be difficult when dealing with a narcissist, but it is an essential part of protecting yourself from their manipulative behaviour.

Establishing boundaries allows you to set limits on what you will and won’t accept from the narcissist, helping to maintain a professional and appropriate relationship with them.

Avoid Arguments

Narcissists often thrive on arguments and power struggles, so it’s best to stay away from engaging in these types of confrontations whenever possible.

Instead focus on calmly communicating your thoughts and opinions, without getting too caught up in debating specifics or pointing out flaws or mistakes.

how to deal with a narc

Communicate Clearly

When dealing with a narcissist it’s important to communicate clearly and concisely. This ensures that there is no confusion or misunderstanding about your intentions or requests.

Being assertive but kind can help ensure that the narcissist sees that you are taking them seriously while also being firm in expressing yourself honestly.

Stay Confident

A key component of successfully dealing with a narcissist is having confidence in yourself and your beliefs, even if they don’t align with the narcissist’s own views and values.

Staying true to what you believe, while remaining calm and composed, will help show the narcissist that you aren’t intimidated by their selfishness or lack of empathy, allowing you to stand up for yourself in the face of adversity.

By giving clear direction, staying composed and remaining confident in your beliefs and values, you can usually find a way to deal with the narcissist’s selfishness and lack of empathy.

stay calm


Dealing with a narc is challenging. However, understanding their behaviors and motivations can equip you with the tools to navigate these interactions more effectively.

Firstly, it’s crucial to establish clear boundaries. Narcissists often disregard the needs and feelings of others, so it’s important to assert your own needs and expectations.

Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ when necessary and maintain your stance even if they attempt to manipulate or guilt-trip you.

Secondly, try not to take their actions personally. Remember that a narcissist’s behavior is a reflection of their personality disorder, not a statement about your worth or value.

Their lack of empathy, constant need for admiration, and inability to recognize others’ needs are characteristics of their condition, not a judgement of you

Frequently Asked Questions about Narcissism

Frequently Asked Questions about Narcs

What is a narc?

A narcissist is a person who has an excessive interest in or admiration of themselves. They tend to display traits of extreme self-centeredness, a high need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others.

What are some common traits of a narcissist?

Common traits include grandiosity, a sense of entitlement, a constant need for attention and admiration, lack of empathy, and often a tendency to manipulate others for their own gain.

What causes narcissism?

The exact cause of narcissism isn’t known. However, it’s believed to stem from a combination of genetic, social, and psychological factors. It may also be influenced by childhood experiences such as excessive pampering or extreme criticism.

How do you deal with a narcissist?

Dealing with a narcissist can be challenging. It is important to set healthy boundaries, avoid engaging in arguments, and seek support from a mental health professional if needed.

Is narcissism a mental illness?

Yes, narcissism is part of a type of personality disorder known as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). This is recognized as a mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association.

How is Narcissistic Personality Disorder diagnosed?

NPD is diagnosed by a mental health professional using criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). This typically involves evaluating the individual’s self-image, relationships, and behaviors.

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