There is an increasing amount of attention and awareness about narcissism as a personality trait by the general public. Many people feel they are seeing this attribute in people they know such as bosses, family members, or even significant others. Many believe there is an increase in narcissism among younger generations. Most research, however, does not support this belief and medical practice shows clinical narcissism, at a pathological level, has been quite stable over many years at just 1% of the population.

Traits of Narcissism

Like many characteristics and attributes, narcissism falls on a spectrum that distributes across the population at large. Most people fall in the middle and there is a decreasing small percentage on each of the ends. True narcissism is often confused for people who talk a lot about themselves or seem cocky and arrogant. These qualities probably fall more in the middle of the population. At the extremes, those with a pathological level of narcissism crave admiration and recognition, yearn to be the center of attention, and truly believe they possess a higher status than others. The medical criteria for what is known as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) requires five or more of the following criteria present since early adulthood and occurs on a pervasive and consistent basis.

  1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
  2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
  3. Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should

associate with, other special or high status people (or institutions).

  1. Requires excessive admiration.
  2. Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable

treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.

  1. Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own


  1. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
  2. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
  3. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.


What is most important about determining the extent and degree of narcissism is the negative impact on the person’s functioning. Generally, the narcissistic personality needs to be impairing self-functioning, as well as impairment in interpersonal functioning and ability to have relationships. Many people may display or possess a couple of these symptoms from time to time, but usually not enough of them on a persistent basis, that it affects their ability to function and warrant a diagnosis of NPD.

How Narcissism Impacts Relationships and How to Deal with It

Many people are initially drawn to people who have narcissistic traits as they often appear to have great confidence and self-esteem which can make them appear charming and charismatic at first. Romance can spark quickly from first impression but relationships with narcissists rarely endure. Because of their intense self-centeredness and lack of empathy, narcissists struggle to understand their partners and reciprocate their needs. Most narcissists see relationship as a transaction and conquest wherein they thrive on the attention and sexual satisfaction to bolster their ego. They lose interest as expectations for reciprocal intimacy grows over time.

Dealing with narcissism starts with coming to grips with what you have on your hands. Observe them when they are not putting on a show and see how they interact with others and treat them. If you see manipulation, lack of tolerance, lying, and disrespect; this will likely be coming your way at some point. These traits are very enduring and resistant to change, so don’t fool yourself into thinking you are going to change another person. Don’t allow them to make themselves the focal point of interactions or you risk putting your own needs on the back burner. Speak up for yourself and set limits and boundaries. Expect that they may try to convince you that are being controlling and mean and prey upon your guilt. Get support from others to make sure you are seeing things clearly and acting appropriately. Move on if things are getting abusive, insulting, condescending, threatening or the like.

If you would like an outside, objective, and professional opinion about relationships you are in that may have narcissism, feel free to contact IPC so you can schedule a consultation with one of our psychologists or psychiatrists so we can help discuss treatment options. Please call us now at 763-416-4167, or request an appointment on our website: WWW.IPC-MN.COM so we can sit down with you and complete a thorough assessment and help you develop a plan of action that will work for you. Life is too short to be unhappy. Find the peace of mind you deserve.

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