9 Dominant Traits That Reveal Someone Might Have Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Now you know so you don't fall for their lies.

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It's important to know and recognize narcissistic traits before you jump into a relationship with them.

Narcissism is not an on-off condition — it is not "either you have it or you don’t." It is a continuum. Some degree of narcissism is normal, even healthy.

Some degree of narcissism is normal. However, when the level of narcissism meets the criteria for a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), it is pathologically unhealthy.


RELATED: 5 Personality Traits Of Psychopaths Who Are Ordinary, Everyday People

(For the sake of simplicity in this article, the term "narcissist" will be used to refer to an individual meeting the threshold for Narcissistic Personality Disorder, not the healthy narcissism that aids us in self-care, protecting ourselves, and pursuing goals.)

In my research, I discovered that there are typically three types of articles written about narcissism and how to deal with a narcissist.

The most common seem to be those people who were damaged by narcissistic abuse or a relationship with a narcissist. These venting articles are filled with pain and bitterness, understandably because narcissists leave a wide swath of damage in their wake.


There are also scholarly articles based on scientific research identifying the underlying biological or psychological causes of narcissism (i.e. brain studies showing that narcissists’ brains do not respond to empathy in the way the brains of non-NPD people).

The third type of article on narcissism is apologetic, asking for understanding because the narcissist cannot help how their brain developed. While this is true, letting one’s guard down with a narcissist while attempting to understand and approach them with compassion instead, is ill-advised when the ties are close.

I have worked with countless clients over the years who have suffered in relationships with narcissists. I strive for objectivity in this cautionary article that's not written to condemn, only warn, though the traits described may sound very condemning. To sugarcoat the facts only makes victims more vulnerable.

When I was a child I read a story about an old schoolmarm that saw a bruised, broken, near-death snake on the side of the footpath. She lovingly took the creature home, gave it her bed, made it soup, and nursed it night and day back to health.


When it was robust again, it bit her. She looked at it, shocked, and cried, "Why did you do that after I sacrificed so much to save your life?" The snake replied, "Lady, you knew I was a snake when you took me in!"

Do not take this metaphor too literally — people are not snakes, not even narcissists. All people have inestimable value and inherent dignity. But, as a metaphor, it acknowledges that people with strong narcissistic traits and tendencies are just not good in relationships.

Not everyone is emotionally safe, so it is important to be able to recognize narcissistic patterns and themes of narcissistic behavior.

Here are 9 dominant traits that reveal someone might have narcissistic personality disorder:

1. Exploitative

The narcissist sees other people as cut-out figures on their storyboard.




Other people's value is determined by how those figures will play a role in the narcissist’s life to help the narcissist obtain desired goals rather than as valuable humans in their own right with their own needs and desires.

They base it on the criteria of "What have you done for me lately?" or, more pointedly, "How you can prove useful to me in the future?"

Since reality is fluid to a narcissist and others are merely tools to achieving their desired end, the narcissist will shamelessly maneuver the unsuspecting into giving them what they want, be it financial help, material possessions, a free vacation, use of a car, meals, allegiance, cleaning their house, protection, or anything else imaginable.


RELATED: The 5 Most Dangerous Types Of Toxic People

2. Manipulative

At a minimum, they are ingenious hinters. They are willing to cross conventional lines of social boundaries to get what they want.

For example, they are not above alienating affections within families to gain the preference of certain family members, or not above getting someone else to take the fall for their behavior. Think of a con man or a professional actor.

Narcissists are skilled at getting others to do their will because they develop an uncanny ability to mimic — mimic love, empathy, altruism, generosity, mimic interest in or concern for others.

Once others become enamored with the narcissist’s esteem and attention, they become more malleable to the narcissist’s will.


The most dangerous aspect of being in a relationship with a narcissist is since they can be so beguiling, it is easy to get caught up in their narcissistic delusion of entitlement. Their charm and showmanship incline people to favor them.

But, once you are snagged, to get along with them, long term, one must accept that their entitled sense of reality is correct (i.e. they do deserve what they want, otherwise, they are the "victim".)

3. Deceptive

The end justifies the means. Somehow they can convince themselves that their behavior wasn’t exactly cheating, stealing, or a lie.

For example, they can find a way to justify bilking an elderly parent out a significant sum of money by telling themselves that it was owed to them somehow, though it never was.


They reframe the deception, bending and twisting facts, even to themselves, to show themselves in a better light, and they believe their deception wholeheartedly and become indignant when called on it. When confronted about their deception, they believe that they are the victim.

4. Believing that they are exempt from rules

In the mind of a narcissist, rules, laws, customs, and norms do not apply to them. They are always a "special case", the exception. This grandiose thinking is one of the diagnostic criteria for NPD.

An example is a physically healthy adult narcissist who visits Mom on Mother’s Day and brings dirty laundry for her to wash. Or smoking in a non-smoking area or environment and or avoiding responsibilities while enjoying those same responsibilities being performed for them.

(For example, not contributing in a meaningful way to family get-togethers, but always attending to reap the benefits.)


While each of these is a small red flag alone, a consistent pattern of self-exemption from the norm of giving and taking, of considering others, indicates you are probably dealing with a narcissist.

The narcissists’ skewed sense of superiority upholds the mindset that rules and norms don’t apply to them — rules and norms are for the less special.

RELATED: 10 Undeniable Signs Of A Manipulative Man

5. Grandiose entitlement

Their self-perceived superiority entitles them to the best — the best job, home, attire, restaurants, vacation destinations, cars, the most prestigious friends, neighborhoods, and schools.



Evidence to themselves of their self-perceived superiority may include their appearance, achievements, intelligence, or status. They prioritize the attainment of that evidence of superiority above all else. Get in their way of that attainment at your peril.


But, their ambition is not the problem. The problem is that successes prove to them their higher inherent worth, justifying treating others less humanely. They often attribute other’s jealousy to relationship difficulties. In their minds, they are superior.

6. Poor reciprocity in relationships

A one-way street of all take and no give is a hallmark of relationships with narcissists. Or when they do give, it doesn’t cost them anything such as giving away things they have no use for anymore or giving other people’s things away.

In any case, there is always an angle in it for them such as buying loyalty, esteem, or affection. Giving of themselves is unheard of unless there is an angle in it for them, such as doing it for attention or admiration.

7. Poor boundaries

They take liberties that violate boundaries because they do not recognize boundaries. Sensitivity to boundaries is developed over time and requires observing and being concerned with the reactions of others to one’s behavior (i.e. empathy).


Also, narcissists are driven by their self-interested agenda and boundaries tend to thwart their will. Small examples include intruding in on and dominating personal conversations or taking over your host’s living space when visiting.

A more problematic example is the narcissist interfering in their child’s marriage relationship or seducing a friend’s partner.

8. Poor social discernment

How others are affected by their behavior rarely shows up on the narcissists’ radar, unless that person may later be able to thwart the narcissists’ objectives. On the other hand, they often have a sort of innocence in their obliviousness and are hurt when called on by their inappropriateness.


I had a client with a narcissistic adult family member who played inappropriate games with a young child family member because the child enjoyed this behavior and the narcissist did not see the long-term ramifications of this kind of play.

Another example might be a narcissist who gives a talk to a bereavement group that highlights her achievements rather than showing compassion toward fellow sufferers or honoring the deceased.

Often, there is something off about the narcissists’ social interaction, though they are excellent mimics of appropriate behavior. This behavioral inappropriateness that causes unease in others usually indicates they are pursuing their agenda, usually for attention, affection, or admiration.

9. Selfishness

Self-absorbed, self-interested, self-centered, self-indulgent, self-seeking, self-centered, stingy, egotistical, vain, prideful, and arrogant are all fitting adjectives for the narcissistic nature. A grandiose sense of self-importance is one of the diagnostic criteria for NPD.


Again, though the narcissist may be predatory-like in relationships, they do deserve humane treatment, but with firm boundaries. If they cannot get from you what they are looking for, they will move on to someone else. If you set boundaries from the outset of the relationship it is easier to maintain them.

However, if a narcissist has become accustomed to your compliance, it is harder to set and maintain new boundaries because they experience the change in the relationship as shaming and will blame you for hurting them.

Now that you have this list of personality traits, you are more aware of what a narcissistic personality looks like. Now, you can take better steps to ensure that you won't be a victim.

If you think you may be experiencing depression or anxiety as a result of ongoing emotional abuse at the hands of a narcissist, you are not alone.


Domestic abuse can happen to anyone and is not a reflection of who you are or anything you've done wrong.

If you feel as though you may be in danger, there is support available 24/7/365 through the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 1-800-799-7233. If you’re unable to speak safely, text LOVEIS to 1-866-331-9474.

RELATED: 3 In 100 Men Are Sociopaths — 7 Personality Traits That Give Them Away

Lauren Reiter is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker certified in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy, who helps her clients by providing a safe environment for their self-discovery and healing.