5 Signs You’re in a Relationship with a Narcissist

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Although the word narcissism often has a negative connotation, “healthy narcissism” refers to having a positive self-image that includes appreciating and liking oneself and having good self-esteem. When people genuinely feel happy about themselves, they don’t have the need to demand that others validate how amazing they are.

However, that is not the case for people who have a pathological degree of narcissism, such as in cases of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). This is much more than just having an overinflated ego. Those with this condition demand the admiration of others, project a sense of superiority, and belittle those who don’t meet their needs. How can you tell if you’re in a relationship with a true narcissist?

5 Signs You’re in a Narcissist’s Clutches

Some of the hallmark signs that you’re involved with a narcissist include:

1. It’s all about them.

Narcissists have an exaggerated sense of self-importance and make everything revolve around them and their needs, not yours.

2. They sweep you up in their grandiose goals.

People with NPD are preoccupied with fantasies about unbridled success and power. They manage to convince their partners that these unrealistic goals are in fact attainable due to their unique and special talents.

3. Constant admiration is required.

Narcissists have a sense of entitlement and believe they deserve special treatment. You need to provide an endless supply of admiration to keep the relationship going.

4. No criticism allowed.

When questioned or challenged, your mate is likely to lash out with rage or anger.

5. You’re being exploited.

People with narcissistic personality disorder have a lack of empathy that often leads to the manipulation or exploitation of their partners.

If you are in a relationship with someone who has NPD, here’s what you need to know about the condition.

Abnormal Behavior in Narcissistic Personality Disorder

NPD is much more common in men, who make up 50%-75% of those who are diagnosed with it. The prevalence of this disorder is estimated to be less than 1% of the general population but it is higher in those who actually seek mental health treatment.

Generally speaking, the behavior of people with NPD is characterized by:

  • Expressions of grandiosity and boastfulness
  • Manipulation and exploitation of others to get their own needs met
  • A lack of empathy
  • A sense of entitlement, believing they deserve special treatment more than others do
  • Willingness to criticize or humiliate others in order to elevate their self-image
  • Becoming upset—even enraged—when they don’t get what they need

Despite the fact that people with narcissistic personality disorder can initially appear to be extremely self-confident, deep inside of themselves they actually feel quite empty and inferior to others—some are even depressed. A recent research study published in the journal, Personality and Individual Differences, looked at the underlying traits of people with NPD  and found that their unrelenting need for admiration and approval actually stems from deep feelings of insecurity.

People with narcissistic personality disorder can appear to be extremely self-confident, but deep inside of themselves, they actually feel quite empty and inferior to others. Click To Tweet

Brain Problems in Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Brain imaging studies have found that people who suffer from NPD tend to have abnormalities in the brain. In particular, a study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research found that narcissists have less gray matter volume in a region of the brain believed to be involved in empathy. Other brain imaging research found that people with NPD also have hypersensitivity in brain systems associated with distress and social pain networks.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder in Personal Relationships

Being in any kind of relationship with someone who has NPD—whether it’s a work colleague, friend, or intimate partner—can be very challenging and unbalanced. Because their needs take center stage, they have much less concern about the needs of others. This doesn’t mean they don’t care about the people in their lives, but rather they have a difficult time “seeing beyond their own nose.”

Those with NPD actually have very fragile egos so they have a difficult time managing criticism and may lash out at statements that threaten their over-inflated self-image. They also can get very upset when they lose. Although they tend to display airs of superiority, losing triggers feelings of shame which are difficult for them to manage. Even if it’s something as simple as losing a game of backgammon, they can’t tolerate the perception of being “less than” someone else.

People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder Can Be Exhausting

With what might appear to be a supreme sense of confidence, charm, and life-of-the-party personalities, narcissists can be intoxicatingly attractive to some people. But eventually, you may find yourself stuck in an endless cycle of doing whatever it takes to try to please them. Unfortunately—and no matter how much you do—it’s never enough because of the emptiness they feel inside. This can become exhausting and unhealthy for the person always trying to please someone who is never satisfied, and may lead you to develop symptoms of anxiety or depression.

Most people with NPD have little insight into their own mental health issues or about how their behavior adversely affects other people, so they often don’t seek treatment for their problems. However, if you have been negatively impacted by someone with NPD and are struggling, it’s important for you to reach out and get help from a psychotherapist who can help you process the complexity of the relationship, so you can make sense of them and move forward with your life.

If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health issues, it’s important to get support and treatment.

At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.


  1. Something to share with all Fox News /Trump fans.

    Can you provide counseling for that many people?

    Comment by Becky — November 25, 2019 @ 4:39 AM

  2. Interested in a scan. What does it cost.

    Comment by Steve — November 25, 2019 @ 6:33 AM

  3. I know that many people consider you all to be credible professionals.
    Why then do you continue to use inaccurate terms in your writings, such as ADD or DSM-V?

    Comment by Henry Virkler — November 25, 2019 @ 6:48 AM

  4. Good day,

    How would you treat someone that has borderline and is in a relationship as wife&husband and ist not able to run away from him instead of suffering?

    Greetings Marco

    Comment by Marco — November 25, 2019 @ 6:48 AM

  5. Hi Becky – Probably not the best forum for political candor or jabs. Just a thought, thank you.

    Comment by Darlene — November 25, 2019 @ 8:13 AM

  6. @Becky LOL That’s a LOT of delusional brainwashed people fed garbage by a propaganda machine. Don’t know if there’s any cure.

    Comment by Frank — November 25, 2019 @ 8:37 AM

  7. Thanks for this very helpful information. My eldest sister, now deceased, had a narcissistic personality disorder that started quite young as she was raised by two parents who were immigrants and needed her to be exceptional for their own personal gratification. Their other two children were always compared to her. It was brutal being my elder sister’s friend for both of her siblings. I loved her dearly—she was bold, eccentric and a very generous lady. However, she was in charge of every conversation, giving advice endlessly…and it was sad for us being her lowly sisters. Just had to “let her go” whenever conversing and when we were away from her as well.

    Comment by Linda Villani — November 25, 2019 @ 8:44 AM

  8. It would be interesting to hear a podcast on the traits of an anti-narcissist. I recall that someone once told us to deny ourselves, pickup our cross daily, and to follow him. I think he called himself the Son of God.

    Comment by Hans — November 25, 2019 @ 9:27 AM

  9. This is not a political forum and would let the professionals determine who is NPD

    Comment by Donald — November 25, 2019 @ 9:34 AM

  10. They’re NOT professionals! That’s why!!!

    Comment by Thank you!!!! — November 25, 2019 @ 10:32 AM

  11. Another good reason for a SPECT brain scan.

    I have always believed Dr Amen’s philosophy that you truly won’t know until you actually look inside, whether it’s a colonoscopy for intestinal cancer or brain damage/dysfunction from a brain injury.

    And sociopaths/psychopaths clearly have front lobe damage/issues whether it’s from birth or from a serious acquired brain injury. So many of the football players have behavioral issues during and/or following their careers in the NFL.

    Still hoping that we finally begin to acknowledge and promote ways to provide the help for people who need it. Clearly something our society as a whole finally needs to address.

    Comment by RobertinATX — November 25, 2019 @ 12:30 PM

  12. I have lived with a narcissist for 15 years. I have thought several I would lose my mind. I have never experienced someone with such self importance, lack of empathy and genuine disrespect for others. The closer you are to them, the worse you are treated. It’s hard to even have a conversation with him because he interrupts and completely talks over others. Friends have made themselves absent. He’s paranoid, often delusional and has never taken responsibility for anything the entire time I’ve know him. He even blames inanimate objects for things that are his fault. When I met him he was so polite and pleasant to be around. Funny and delighted to have me in his life and I him. We are still together because neither of us is financially able to support ourselves. I urge anyone who has met this kind of character, run like the devil away from him. They don’t get better, they don’t really care about you and they never will. Guard your money because he will make sure you won’t have 2 pennies to rub together. He resents you, your family, everything you have and are in life because the reality in his deep-seeded mind is that he knows he will never have what you have and be like you.

    Comment by Susan — November 25, 2019 @ 1:29 PM

  13. Do you think that some people’s “winning formula” in life is to look good, and try to keep things close to neighborhood ideals, may be labelled as “grandiose” if their judger is a guy who wants to see someone fall or a guy who only wears t-shirts and jeans and idea of a good time must involve sports. Going to dinner, movie or repainting a room may seem grandiose to them.
    Then if an argument breaks out about “needs”, balance and being high maintenance the person decorating priorities takes the heat. Even though having a cable bill with a sports channel is getting higher than an occasional dinner/movie out not to mention sporting events, fishing/hunting gear and the like.

    To me, the label for some people is just another way to be a name-caller and cast blame for unworkable relationships or to manipulate someone. Just my opinion…Communication, similar values and couple activities are key. I am interested in finding out how not to attract manipulators.

    Comment by ME — November 25, 2019 @ 1:49 PM

  14. If research is now showing that the cause of NPD is biological, how does that explain that most narcissists have experienced some type of abuse or neglect as children?

    Comment by Carol — November 25, 2019 @ 4:14 PM

  15. To ME, the label is narcissist and makes for a very difficult relationship! As far as not falling for someone with this particular issue – – I promise you, if you do fall in love with a narcissist, you will not know for sure until you have lived with him or her long enough until the narcissist is comfortable and sure to showing that side of themselves. Depending on circumstances one is not able to just get up and move on..one stays in that marriage or relationship for all sorts of reasons. A NARCISSIST IS A NARCISSIST, you have to know one to understand fully that it is not a “LABLE!!”

    Comment by Joanie — November 25, 2019 @ 8:44 PM

  16. Hey Susan,
    Thank you for your honesty about your narcissist husband. I too have been married or in relationships with narcissist. It’s been many years now and I’m still single however, I can spot them a mile away from years of therapy! I would much rather be alone than to be with another narcissist.

    Comment by Karen Perry — November 26, 2019 @ 8:08 PM

  17. It doesn’t say it’s biological.

    Comment by Yvette — December 2, 2019 @ 3:02 AM

  18. “Looking at the brain, however, can help identify abnormalities associated with NPD and show that issues may be biological, not moral.”quote, 3rd paragraph from bottom.

    Comment by Lindsey — December 6, 2019 @ 10:03 AM

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