5 Signs You’re in a Relationship with a Narcissist

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Is someone in your life constantly bragging in their social media posts, exaggerating about everything, and talking about all the amazing things they’re going to accomplish one day? How can you tell if they’re just obnoxiously self-centered, or if they’re suffering from narcissistic personality disorder? And what can you do if you’ve become trapped in their web to the detriment of your own happiness?


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.


Symptoms don’t tell the whole story about narcissists. 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.

In the quest to understand what causes NPD, researchers have also noted that there may be other biological factors associated with the condition. A 2020 study in the Journal of Personality Disorders found that people with NPD have increased levels of oxidative stress in the blood. This study also points to a connection between narcissism and interpersonal hypersensitivity.


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

1. It’s all about them.

Due to an exaggerated sense of self-importance, narcissists make everything revolve around them and their needs, not yours. When you’re in a relationship with someone with NPD, it’s common to feel like you’re losing yourself.

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’re expected to provide an endless supply of admiration to keep the relationship going.

4. No criticism allowed.

When questioned or challenged, your narcissistic 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.


In a fascinating study published in 2020, researchers asked the relatives of people who scored high in narcissistic traits to describe them. Their responses echoed many of the grandiose traits listed above, but they also included “interpersonal charm” as well as a host of vulnerable traits. These characteristics included hypersensitivity, insecurity, hiding the self, rage, emptiness, affective instability, devaluation, and victimhood. Additional traits commonly reported were perfectionism, vengefulness, and being suspicious. The researchers concluded that living with someone with NPD can be fraught with wildly contradictory attitudes and needs.


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. However, 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, however, can help identify abnormalities associated with NPD and show that issues may be biological, not moral.

In some instances, however, it can be just as important for you to seek psychotherapy to help you handle your own feelings and to find strategies you can employ to improve the marriage or relationship or to gain the courage to walk away from it.

Narcissistic personality disorder 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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