Narcissism is a word that’s become popular in recent times to describe anyone who is a bit self-absorbed. You only have to look to social media to see how as a society narcissistic tendencies have increased and the word ‘Narcissist’ gets thrown about frequently. However, it is a serious personality disorder and requires that a person must meet certain criteria to have a clinical diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder or NPD. In the UK NPD affects up to 4% of the population but the numbers could be a lot higher as it’s believed many go undiagnosed.
So what is NPD and how will you know whether someone may have this disorder?
Narcissism or NDP is a spectrum disorder and is indicated by the following according to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health:
- Grandiose sense of self-importance
- Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love
- A need for excessive admiration
- Sense of entitlement
- Lack of empathy (Think Katie Hopkins, Donald Trump)
- Envy of others/Belief that others are envious of them
- He/she is special
- Arrogant/haughty behaviours or attitude
- Exploitive behaviour- (They will take advantage of people disregarding social and moral norms)
For a person to have a diagnosis, there needs to be at least five of the above present. The scale of narcissistic behaviour in these people can also vary greatly.
A narcissist is often difficult to spot especially at the beginning of a relationship as they construct a false persona to draw their intended target into a committed relationship.
So What Are The 3 Signs?
Although the above criteria have to be met to have a clinical diagnosis, there are some general traits and patterns that can be identified in everyday interactions that can bring awareness and help you to protect yourself. Here are just 3 signs or red flags:
1. The Relationship Happened Fast
Narcissists are highly skilled at turning on the charm and will come on very strong in the beginning. Think back to when you first met. It felt intoxicating at the beginning. You felt like you’d met your soul mate, your forever love. He/she told you they loved you within the first month! These people will fake superficial bonds very early on in a relationship and you feel as if your partner understands you in a way nobody else can. This is called love-bombing and all narcissists do this. They do this to secure your trust and approval. Remember one of the criteria above is lack of empathy so they will be unable to be emotionally responsive long term in a healthy way.
2. You Will Notice Something Feels ‘Off’
You feel a sense of unease, You find yourself confused, second-guessing yourself and finding yourself asking ‘what’s wrong with me’? They will point out your ‘flaws’ and ‘defects’ because they care so much and want to help you. It all feels a bit one-sided
You start to criticise yourself for having negative thoughts about your partner because you feel nothing is overtly wrong. You may have a niggling anxiety and not know or realise the cause. This is how they will make you feel.
3. They Gaslight You
Gaslighting is a very manipulative tool used by a narcissist and is deeply harmful to the relationship and your self-esteem. Your partner may make false accusations or tell you that you’re overreacting, ‘it didn’t happen,’ ‘you’re crazy’. They distort reality and do and say things that leave you doubting and challenging your faith in yourself, lowering your self-esteem. If your partner is frequently telling lies and then denying them or being deceptive, keep track of events yourself. You may want to write in a journal or save text messages and other communications.
These are just 3 of the common signs that could indicate you may well be in a relationship with a narcissist. There are many more warning signs or red flags that you are not in a healthy relationship. So what can you do?
How can you protect yourself if you feel like you’re being constantly undermined and manipulated?
Try these suggestions for steps to take for yourself.
- Accept your feelings but don’t take it personally. It’s important to remember that your emotions are natural and valid, especially when your partner lacks regard for you, is manipulative and deceptive. As much as it feels so very personal when they behave this way, Remember, no matter the behaviour of the narcissist it has nothing to do with you, they are the ones with the disorder.
- Set Boundaries– I also know how intimidating and difficult this can be with a narcissist especially if you’ve never done this before. Boundaries are a way of letting your partner know your values. Being clear on your own values can help you to be more confident in establishing and maintaining your boundaries when your partner inevitably tries to break them.
- Let your partner know when you feel like you’re being treated unfairly. Advocate for yourself directly and respectfully. State your position and stand firm.
- Stay connected. Does your partner try to isolate you from family and friends? Maintain regular contact so you’ll have a strong support network.
- Evaluate your options. You need to decide if this relationship is healthy for you. Think about what you want for your future. It may mean creating a healthy distance by going no contact. Remember this is about protecting yourself and making space for healing.
So there you have just three signs you may be in a relationship with a narcissist-There are plenty more. Being aware of the signs of narcissism can, I hope, bring some clarity on your situation and allows you to make informed choices about your relationship.
The undermining of who you are by a narcissist leaves you adrift with no sense of identity and no clear vision of how to operate in life again. I know because I have been there, I know what it feels like. I am a survivor of narcissistic abuse.
These days I’m a Women’s Transformational Workshop Facilitator, certified coach and Educator specialising in recovery and emotional resilience after narcissistic abuse.
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