5 Signs You’re in a Relationship with a Narcissist

a woman with her hand in her head with a man in the background

Are you dating—or married to—someone who is charming but overly confident? Are they constantly bragging about their accomplishments, exaggerating about their life experiences, and talking about all the amazing things they’re going to do one day? You may wonder if they’re a narcissist.

Being in a relationship with a narcissist can be challenging. They may lack empathy for your feelings or gaslight you. They can be manipulative and exploitative. How can you tell if they’re just obnoxiously self-centered, or if they have narcissistic personality disorder?

Look for these signs of narcissistic personality disorder.

People with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) go beyond these everyday characteristics—they express grandiosity, have a constant need for excessive admiration, and show a lack of empathy for others. Click To Tweet


Many people fall into the category of being overly self-confident, arrogant, and demanding, but this doesn’t necessarily make them narcissistic. People with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) go beyond these everyday characteristics. The latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the DSM-V, spells out the following 9 criteria for NPD:

  • Grandiosity or an inflated sense of self-importance
  • Lack of empathy
  • A strong sense of entitlement
  • A preoccupation with fantasies about power, success, ideal love, intelligence, or beauty
  • A belief in being so special that they can only be understood and can only associate with other exceptional people or organizations
  • A need for over-the-top admiration
  • Takes advantage of others and is exploitative
  • Is arrogant and haughty
  • Is envious of others or thinks that other people envy them

For a clinical diagnosis as a narcissist, a person only has to meet 5 of these criteria. The number of people who meet the criteria for a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder is estimated to range from less than 1% to over 6% of the population. This mental health disorder is far more common in men, who make up 50%-75% of those affected.


Many people fall into the category of being overly self-confident, arrogant, or demanding, but this doesn’t necessarily make them narcissistic. People with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) go beyond these everyday characteristics.

The latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the DSM-5, spells out 9 criteria for NPD. To qualify for a clinical diagnosis of narcissism, a person only has to meet 5 of these traits:

  • Exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • Preoccupation with success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  • A sense of entitlement
  • A belief that they’re special and can only be around others who are also special
  • Desire for excessive admiration
  • Exploit others for their own gain
  • Lack of empathy
  • Envious of others or a belief that others are envious of them
  • Arrogant

The number of people who meet the criteria for NPD is estimated to range from less than 1% to over 6% of the population. This mental health disorder is far more common in men, who make up 50%-75% of those affected.


Symptoms don’t tell the whole story. Brain-imaging studies have found that people who suffer from NPD tend to have abnormalities in the brain.

In particular, a 2013 study found that narcissists have less gray matter volume in a region of the brain believed to be involved in empathy. Other brain-imaging research has found that people with NPD also have hypersensitivity in brain systems associated with distress and social pain networks.


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. You may find that over time, you give up on your own needs and desires, which is known as deselfing.

  1. 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. When this success fails to materialize, it can leave you feeling resentful.

  1. Constant admiration is required.

Narcissists have a sense of entitlement and believe they deserve special treatment. They need you to provide an endless supply of admiration to keep the relationship going. If they don’t get the attention they want, they may get upset with you.

  1. No criticism allowed.

When questioned or challenged, your mate is likely to lash out with rage or anger. They may have a tendency to gaslight you by making everything seem like it’s your fault. This can contribute to relationship struggles or marital conflict.

  1. 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. This can make you feel used or taken advantage of.


Because of their supreme confidence, charm, and life-of-the-party personalities, narcissists can be intoxicatingly attractive to some people. They tend to go overboard when wooing a love interest, sweeping you off your feet, and making it seem as if you must be very special to be invited into their extraordinary world. And it feels that way…at first.

With time, however, you may realize that the narcissist’s exaggerated delusions of grandeur are merely fantasies. And you may find yourself stuck in an endless cycle of doing whatever it takes to try to please the narcissist, but no matter how much admiration you show them or how much you buy for them, it’s never enough.

Trying to stand up for yourself by saying no to their demands can backfire and set you up for harsh criticism and psychological manipulation intended to make you take the blame for not living up to their expectations. This toxic unhealthy relationship can lead you to develop symptoms of anxiety or depression.


If you’re involved with someone who has narcissistic personality disorder, it can be hard to get them to seek treatment. After all, they believe they are special and typically refuse to admit that they have a problem.

Looking at the brain with functional SPECT scans, however, can help identify abnormalities associated with NPD. It can also reveal signs of co-existing mental health disorders, which are common in narcissistic people.

For example, over 40% of those with NPD also have a substance use disorder, 40% struggle with anxiety disorders, and close to 29% suffer from mood disorders such as bipolar disorder or depression.

If you’re in a relationship with someone with narcissistic personality disorder, it can be just as important for you to seek psychotherapy.

Working with a mental health professional can help you learn how to handle your own feelings and find strategies you can employ to improve the marriage or relationship.


In some instances, you may decide to walk away from a toxic relationship with a narcissist. If so, make sure you prepare for a divorce or a breakup.

  • Write a list of reasons why you want out of the relationship and review it frequently.
  • Develop a plan, including having a new place to live if you are leaving or asking them to leave.
  • Build a network of trusted friends and family members who will support you through the process.
  • Be kind to yourself and remind yourself that you don’t deserve to be treated this way.
  • Don’t give them any second chances.
  • Seek support from a psychotherapist.

Maintaining your own mental health and sense of self-worth is critical in any relationship with a narcissist, whether you decide to stay with them or leave them.

Narcissistic personality disorder, marital conflicts, and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, 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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