The variety of narcissists – NOT the spice of life


Narcissism is a Cluster B personality disorder according to the DSM-5. The criteria is as follows:

Criteria for NPD

According to the DSM-5, in order to diagnose NPD, the following criteria must be met:

A. Significant impairments in personality functioning manifest by:

1. Impairments in self functioning (a or b):

a. Identity: Excessive reference to others for self-definition and self-esteem regulation; exaggerated self-appraisal may be inflated or deflated, or vacillate between extremes; emotional regulation mirrors fluctuations in self-esteem.

b. Self-direction: Goal-setting is based on gaining approval from others; personal standards are unreasonably high in order to see oneself as exceptional, or too low based on a sense of entitlement; often unaware of own motivations.


2. Impairments in interpersonal functioning (a or b):

a. Empathy: Impaired ability to recognise or identify with the feelings and needs of others; excessively attuned to reactions of others, but only if perceived as relevant to self; over- or underestimate of own effect on others.

b. Intimacy: Relationships largely superficial and exist to serve self-esteem regulation; mutuality constrained by little genuine interest in others’ experiences and predominance of a need for personal gain.

B. Pathological personality traits in the following domain:

1. Antagonism, characterised by:

a. Grandiosity: Feelings of entitlement, either overt or covert; self-centeredness; firmly holding to the belief that one is  better than others; condescending toward others.

b. Attention seeking: Excessive attempts to attract and be the focus of the attention of others; admiration seeking.

C. The impairments in personality functioning and the individual’s personality trait expression are relatively stable across time and consistent across situations.

D. The impairments in personality functioning and the individual’s personality trait expression are not better understood as normative for the individual’s developmental stage or socio-cultural environment.

E. The impairments in personality functioning and the individual’s personality trait expression are not solely due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, medication) or a general medical condition (e.g., severe head trauma).

Source: American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC.

However, there are also sub-varieties of narcissists within the general parameters of the disorder. They are the same in some ways, but different in others:

Overt narcissist – these types aren’t hard to spot. They are loud, attention-seeking and arrogant. They don’t care whether the attention they receive is positive or negative, as long as they get their fix of narcissistic supply. They are totally self-centred, self-absorbed, self-entitled, superficially charming and want admiration for their looks / success / wealth /power etc. Bragging, exaggerating and basically telling lies comes easily to them as part of their grandiose and delusional nature, and they never listen. They know everything and are above the law. In short, they’re exhibitionists.

Covert narcissist – these types aren’t outwardly loud and self-aggrandising, and therefore harder to identify. They can seem shy, quiet, reserved and humble. They have a fragile self-esteem and are full of self-doubt, are sensitive to criticism and ‘play the victim’ extremely well. They will tell you all about how distressed they are, crying ‘crocodile tears’ in the process. They are easily bored and have to create drama. Being passive-aggressive, they seek to cause pain to others (and often the other doesn’t see it coming until it’s too late, as they’ve been set up). They are typically self-centred and status-seeking, and highly jealous and envious of others’ success, and of their talents and material possessions. They are highly manipulative, and enjoy blaming and shaming others. In sum, they are, ‘wolves in sheep’s clothes.’

Somatic narcissist – “Somatic” means, ‘related to the body.’ Therefore this type of narcissism concerns physical aesthetics and bodily exploits, as they feel superior because of their looks and well-honed bodies due to their exercise and dietary routines. They are vainly obsessed with how physically attractive they are, and how attractive they are sexually. Their bodies are used as a mechanism to attract attention, particularly in a sexual sense – using their prowess seducing others as a means of obtaining narcissistic supply.

Cerebral narcissist – These narcissists pretend to be highly intellectual to secure narcissistic supply. In contrast with the somatic narcissist, the body is seen as a chore, a mere burden to carry around as they impress and outsmart others with their superior intelligence. They might refer to difficult concepts to intimidate you and put you down, while they are blinding you with their brilliance. They will monologue and dominate the ‘conversation’ – since what they have to say is clearly more important than what anyone else is saying; that’s if they can get a word in. Pretension and elitism are typical of this subtype of narcissism.

Ignoring narcissist – These narcissists are emotionally distant and unavailable. They have no interest in others as they are only concerned about themselves. They are physically ‘there’ but pay no attention to anyone – unless they are upset or annoyed about something. If the ignorer is a parent, they won’t care about your school reports / sport / friends / parties /sleepovers, let alone give you any life skills. If you go No Contact, they won’t chase or ‘hoover’ you. You will however, be subject to smear campaigns since narcissists don’t like it when the shoe is on the other foot and they are the ones being ignored.

Engulfing narcissist – This is the opposite to the ignoring narcissist. Instead, there are no healthy boundaries between the parent and the child. The child is considered to be an extension of the parent; an object. The child will have no individuality; she or he will have to ‘like’ what the parent likes. The parent can’t ‘cut the apron strings’ and are overly involved in the child’s life, being far too controlling and demanding. If the child tries to become a separate entity, then the parent will try to guilt trip and manipulate the child with money, blackmail them etc. to retain the upper hand. Remember, you are not beholden to anyone.

Narcissism has many faces. Whatever the subtype, they all have in common zero self-awareness, are always blaming others, have no empathy or remorse, are disrespectful of your time and boundaries, and most of all they don’t care about you, it’s always, always about them.

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