Health

Telltale Signs You're Dealing With a Narcissist

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It's easy to call someone a narcissist if you don't get your way -- when your partner wins the battle of what to watch on Netflix, it's NARCISSISM. There's no end to the self-interest of others, while you remain the most generous person you know.

Well, the truth is a bit more complex. Though narcissistic personality disorder is a real thing, Dr. W. Keith Campbell, author of The Narcissism Epidemic, has written extensively on the fact that narcissism is a spectrum: almost everyone has it to some degree. If you're worried about whether a person close to you has crossed the line from "mostly tolerable" to "stares in the mirror until losing the will to live," keep an eye out for these signs.

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They make it clear that their contributions to a conversation are the most interesting to them, and should be to everyone else

You know that co-worker who brings up irrelevant anecdotes from childhood at a department meeting just to hear the sound of her own voice? Or maybe it’s your friend who goes to the movies with you, and relentlessly talks about his opinions about what you saw without letting you get a word in. In these contexts, the narcissist isn’t necessarily voicing that he or she is self-obsessed. But actions speak louder than the words shouted over your dissenting opinion, and this person clearly doesn’t care what anyone else thinks.
 

They’re charismatic

They know how to “get” you, and may even make you feel like they understand you better than anyone else ever has. It sounds like it's a benevolent-enough quality, but for the narcissist, it's a form of manipulation. They bait you into their universe through the power of their charm. Many psychologists attribute narcissism to an underlying cause of low self-esteem, which might explain this tendency. They want to feel loved, and depended upon... until you expect some level of reciprocal vulnerability.
 

They’re well versed in the rules of the blame game

Blame may be a strong word, but it aptly sums up an overall behavioral pattern of narcissists. One day, your boss is showering you in praise, and the next day, you're being berated for a mistake you didn’t make. In this instance, the narcissistic behavior isn’t the criticism so much as the inability to look inward and have empathy for the target of their outburst. Narcissists hate to make mistakes, which they see as a sign of vulnerability.

They make you feel needy and crazy

This one’s related. That woman you met on Tinder who came on really strong and made you feel smart, desirable, and self-assured suddenly is answering your texts with one-word responses, after taking several hours to get back to you. She’s hot and cold, and you’re freaking out and feel needy in a way that you've never felt before.

OK, so I don’t have enough background on this imaginary woman from Tinder, but you catch my drift. Narcissists are often spotty in their displays of validation or affection. They make you feel what it's like to have their approval, then they pull away.
 

They've had "falling outs" with a lot of people --professionally, romantically, socially, and more

Sometimes you have a falling out with people, and the reasons aren't exactly black and white. But regardless of fault, narcissists may be more likely to have a lot of bad history with people in their lives, including bosses, colleagues, exes, old friends, and so on. On reality shows, they're the ones who bring the #drama.

This is probably because narcissists are typically entitled and lack empathy -- two qualities essential for building trust, reciprocity, and communication in important relationships. Thank God reality television has given them a place to thrive.

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They tend to be the jealous type

Narcissists want to be the center of attention, duh. They want you to want them -- they're pretty good at making you do just that, which is why they get jealous easily, or even talk about others being jealous of them.

This trait is a reminder that not all narcissists are “big personalities.” Some narcissists appear shy and quiet, but are stewing with resentment and jealousy.
 

The bottom line

Narcissists don’t have healthy boundaries when it comes to relationships. That’s because they don’t know how to make sense of reality in anyone else’s terms but their own.

The tricky thing is that narcissism doesn’t always look like vanity, or overt self-absorption -- though if you catch someone staring at a reflection of herself in a pond, you should probably head the other way.

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Charlotte Lieberman is a writer who's kind of freaked out because some of these are normal, right?! Follow her: @clieberwoman.