Dr Matthew Cullen, Psychiatrist, St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney
A narcissist is a type of personality disorder, most commonly found in men.
It typically has a number of characteristics, including at its core, a lack of empathy for the other person.
What behaviours does a narcissist exhibit?
The narcissism, or the narcissist manifests its behaviour in several ways. For example, there’s a sense of grandiosity. There’s a sense of selfishness. There’s a sense of inability to listen to others. There’s a sense of them being unable to meet the needs of others. Often they can be quite charming, in fact.
How do you know if someone’s a narcissist?
So, working out whether someone is a narcissist can be quite difficult, it requires observation of that person over quite a long period of time. But, particularly, as one gets know that individual, certain patterns of behaviour start to emerge that start to indicate that person is, at its core a narcissist.
Finally, it’s a spectrum. At one end of the spectrum, a degree of narcissism, a degree of self-importance, a degree of grandiosity is, probably, quite helpful. It then moves along to be maladaptive, unhelpful, and, indeed, destructive in relationships.
How do you know if your partner is a narcissist?
Trying to work out whether your ex-partner, or indeed your partner, is a narcissist is a pretty common concern for a lot of people. Firstly, mostly it’s a female who’s concerned about their male partner, because narcissism is much more common in men than women. Often, the pattern works down a fairly predictable path. Firstly, the narcissist, or the theoretical narcissist, is very charming in the early days of a relationship. And it’s that charm, it’s that charisma, that draws in the individual.
Secondly, there’s this desire for praise and reinforcement from the narcissistic individual.
Thirdly, it, in one sense, doesn’t really matter how much you praise them or listen to them, there’s a sense that it’s never really enough. If you challenge a narcissist, they often react quite strongly. At its core, a narcissist probably doesn’t have a great deal of self-esteem, so they’re looking for praise, reinforcement, and challenging a narcissist is quite insulting, in a way, to their core personality.
And finally, they are always fishing for compliments, sometimes in a very subtle way. But no matter what you actually do to compliment them, they’ll always want more compliments.
Five ways to tell whether your partner is a narcissist
What are the five ways to tell whether your partner or ex-partner is a narcissist?
- They’re often charming in the early days of a relationship.
- They’re always fishing for compliments or they hog the conversation.
- They have this tendency to gaslight.
- There’s a lack of empathy. There’s a lack of ability for them to recognise your needs.
- They lack that as general rule, many close friends or other interpersonal relationships.
Where to get help / resources about narcissism
For more information about narcissism and narcissistic abuse, you can talk to your doctor to start with, or these organisations have resources or chat options that can help:
- SANE Australia – Information on narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). Help centre – https://www.sane.org/services/help-centre
- Beyond Blue – call 1300 22 4636
- Lifeline – telephone crisis support – 13 11 14
- Black Dog Institute – information and help for people affected by mood disorders