9 signs you’re dealing with a highly narcissistic person, according to psychology

Interacting with narcissists is challenging.

While they seem delightful at first glance, their incessant need for admiration and desire to dominate others can be overpowering.

It’s exhausting to be inside their head, but it’s equally draining to be around them.

That’s why you should know how to spot them in the wild.

Here are 9 signs you’re dealing with a highly narcissistic person, according to psychology.

You might want to keep your distance.

1) They’re superficially charming

Narcissists excel at masking.

Psychologists point out that they often cultivate a socially winning public persona, so they know how to dazzle someone with superficial charm.

They can be persuasive and engaging, using their charisma to build an extensive network of acquaintances.

In short, they make a great first impression.

A narcissist will shower you with compliments, be excessively agreeable, and even go the extra mile by offering their help or doing you a favor.

Once they win you over to their side, they take advantage of you and use you for their own gain.

They can’t help it.

2) They believe they’re special

I knew this guy in college who loved the spotlight.

He was attractive and seemed likable, so it didn’t take him long to establish himself as a force to be reckoned with.

Everyone wanted to be in his orbit, yet he was selective of who became part of his inner circle. He made others compete for his time and attention.

He believed he was special and acted like it, surrounding himself with people who treated him like a cult leader.

In reality, there was nothing special about him, which became obvious come finals time.

Unlike our colleagues, our professors stopped offering him preferential treatment after a few months, so he ended up failing most of his exams.


Some of his entourage eventually caught on to the fact that his magnetism was surface-level and broke free of his spell, but a few stood by him until we graduated.

I never knew what happened to him after, but I remember realizing years later that he was the first narcissist I ever crossed paths with.

See, narcissists believe they are unique and have a strong sense of entitlement, according to psychology.

They place unreasonable demands on others and expect to be treated like the overlords’ gift to humanity.

They think they’re the center of the universe and want others to recognize their superiority.

Which brings me to my next point.

3) They feed on validation

Narcissists have an insatiable need for validation, which serves as fuel for their self-esteem.

They feel superior, yes, but need to reinforce that superiority by collecting praise from those around.

Validation becomes a coping mechanism for them, as positive feedback temporarily soothes their fears of being unimportant.

So, they go to great lengths to earn it:

  • They exaggerate their talents or accomplishments
  • They position themselves as experts in a certain field, even if their knowledge is lacking
  • They engage in attention-seeking behaviors (loud talking, monopolizing conversations, etc.)
  • They fish for compliments every chance they get
  • They create conflict or manufacture drama to draw attention and sympathy
  • They take unnecessary risks to impress others

It’s sad when you think about it.

You’re much more powerful if you can derive confidence from within.

4) They have a fragile sense of self

Despite their self-assured façade, narcissists are riddled with insecurity and have a fragile sense of self.

According to psychology, their self-esteem is brittle precisely because it’s reliant on external validation.

Narcissists harbor deep-seated self-doubt, which they cover up with arrogance.

Underneath their false, shiny upper layers, they fear being exposed as inadequate.

So much so that their confidence fluctuates, leaving them prone to mood swings.

When others admire them, they‘re on top of the world. When others fail to recognize how special they are, they wallow in misery.

Moreover, narcissists tend to get defensive or aggressive when someone questions exactly what they bring to the table.

You never know what innocuous remark might set them off.

5) They can’t handle criticism

pic2602 9 signs you're dealing with a highly narcissistic person, according to psychology

On the topic of questioning their greatness, a big sign you’re dealing with a highly narcissistic person is that they don’t respond well to criticism, even when it’s meant constructively.

Remember that guy from college I previously mentioned?

He would fly off his handle whenever a professor would call him out for a mistake, especially if they did it in front of the entire class.

One time, he literally stormed out in the middle of a lecture because his answer to a question was wrong, and someone else had the audacity to figure out the right one.

According to psychology, critiques can trigger feelings of vulnerability in narcissists, so they react angrily or blow things out of proportion.

Someone with a solid and realistic sense of self realizes that everyone occasionally fails or makes mistakes.

Even if it stings, they can take criticism in stride, digesting the feedback and learning from their blunders.

Narcissists, meanwhile, are known to lash out when they’re called out for being human.

They can’t tolerate someone questioning their godlike guise.

6) They sulk when others succeed

On a similar note, people with narcissistic tendencies don’t take it particularly well when others succeed.

Even people who are close to them.

This displeasure is rooted in their need for constant validation.

When someone else steals the spotlight, it feels like a direct threat to their perceived superiority. They see the achievements of others as diminishing to their own.

This is because narcissists view life in terms of competition and comparison.

In their eyes, if someone else shines, there is less light for them to bask in.

They might fake excitement, but they’ll be fuming on the inside.

7) They have trouble relating to others

Narcissism is a spectrum, and not all narcissists lack empathy.

Some are able to empathize with others. They’re simply unwilling to do so, according to psychology.

Generally speaking, narcissists struggle to identify with the feelings and needs of others.

Once their charm wears off, they can seem cold or uncaring.

They prioritize their own needs and feelings, frequently dismissing everyone else’s.

Plus, their focus is exclusively on themselves and what they desire, so you won’t catch them making sacrifices for the greater good.

In fact, their behavior can be off-putting:

  • They talk over others or interrupt them during conversations
  • They minimize others’ emotions, dismissing their concerns as unimportant
  • They show little compassion when others are upset or in need of support
  • They blame others for their failures or shortcomings
  • They make insensitive remarks or jokes at the expense of others’ feelings

From a narcissist’s point of view, everyone else is beneath them.

Why waste time accommodating what they want?

8) They don’t have close friends

As a direct result of their struggles with empathy, narcissists typically have issues holding on to relationships.

They may have wide social circles thanks to their charm, but the bonds they forge are shallow.

Putting up with a narcissist is draining, so many are estranged from their families and don’t have old friends.

They can develop intense emotional attachments, but their love tends to be fleeting, psychologists warn.

While narcissists can learn to become more compassionate with time and therapy, not all of them are willing to do the hard work and curb their selfish ways.

Rather than cherishing the people they care about, they end up hurting them.

9) They try to manipulate you

A highly narcissistic person will stop at nothing to get what they want, not even manipulation.

Narcissists have a strong desire for control and dominance in their relationships, and manipulation is a tool they use to exert power over others.

They are highly skilled when it comes to manipulating situations to their advantage, reinforcing their sense of superiority in the process.

It’s one of the main traits that makes them so exhausting to deal with.

For a lot of them, relationships boil down to opportunities for personal gain.

They don’t shy away from exploiting others’ vulnerabilities to achieve their purposes, whatever those may be.

Protect yourself.

Final thoughts

Narcissists put themselves first. You should do the same.

Whenever you have to interact with someone who has narcissistic tendencies, set healthy boundaries to safeguard your well-being.

Being caught in their web for too long will wreak havoc on your mental health.

Picture of Alexandra Plesa

Alexandra Plesa

Alexandra Pleșa is a freelance writer obsessed with television, self-development, and thriller books. Former journalist, current pop culture junkie. Follow her on Twitter: @alexandraplesa

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