What does being a narcissist really mean?

The word “narcissist” is thrown around in conversations often these days. When we see someone who is charming or infatuated with themselves, we might say, “Oh, she’s such a narcissist.” But the real question we must look into, is what does being a narcissist mean?

Someone who is a narcissist has a mental health disorder. They have Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), which falls on a spectrum, much like autism or Parkinson’s Disease.

To have someone diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, we would have to get that person to a therapist. Good luck with that, right? I haven’t met a narcissist yet who wants to attend counseling unless there’s another motive that ultimately serves that person well.

Suppose you are speculating about a possible narcissist in your life. In that case, you can review the following symptoms, as printed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, Fifth Edition or DSM V. This manual was developed by mental health professionals as a guideline to diagnose mental health disorders, such as narcissistic personality disorder and borderline personality disorder, among others.

The DSM says if a person has five of the nine traits of a narcissist, that person is on the NPD spectrum.

Here are the traits, followed by a real-world example of each.

  1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).

    *A narcissist might expect to be recognized for something they didn’t accomplish, such as a sales award without the sales.
  1. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love.

    *A narcissist believes he or she is deserving of constant admiration and attention, for merely existing.
  1. Believes that they are “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).

    *A narcissist often believes that there is a pecking order in society and will only associate with people “good enough” to be in his or her presence.
  1. Requires excessive admiration.

    *A narcissist needs constant attention and admiration from others, or the narcissist will shun those people and look for others.
  1. Has a sense of entitlement (i.e., unreasonable expectations of, especially, favorable treatment or automatic compliance with their expectations).

    *A narcissist may consistently be late to appointments or social gatherings because they believe that nothing starts without their attendance. One narcissist was overheard telling his wife, “Let’s make a cameo at this party the go do what I want to do.”
  1. Is interpersonally exploitative (i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve their own ends).

    *Narcissists will cheat and steal, even from family, if it benefits them.
  1. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.

    *Narcissists cannot comprehend the feelings and emotions of others. And they don’t want to understand, because that would mean more accountability.
  1. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of them.

    *Narcissists continuously compete with others for status, wealth or attention, when other people didn’t even know there was a competition.
  1. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.

    *Narcissists will tell and show others how special they are, whether about wealth, intelligence, or sexuality. A therapist recently heard from a narcissistic client that the client wanted to have sex with dozens of women “to spread his seed because it is so valuable.”

If you think your partner may be a narcissist, you need to get into therapy. Find a counselor who understands narcissistic abuse and can help you navigate the road ahead of you. Narcissists seldom change, but with help, we can change ourselves and how we deal with them. Or, if we make the decision, how we no longer do.