So in my last blog, I wrote about the difference between a sociopath and a narcissist as they are compared in the DSM IV. (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders which is the guidebook for mental health diagnoses.) You can read the criteria for these disorders and still not recognize one in real life, (at least not until it’s too late!) I’d even studied personality disorders in graduate school and still didn’t really recognize a narcissist and later a narcissistic sociopath until they whipped through my life like a hurricane. It’s easy to get stuck looking for very clinical signs and not really translate the official “symptoms” into real life behavior. So in the next couple blogs, I want to run through the DSM criteria and give some real life examples of how they look in action! Because narcissists depend on exploiting others, they are extremely two-faced. Only their victims will see the worst of them.
Starting with Narcissistic Personality Disorder:
Has a grandiose sense of self-importance
My narcissistic mother thinks every man is in love with her. She frequently talked about all the men that wanted to date her–married or not. In her job, she overestimated her importance and bragged about all the things she did–some of which weren’t even true! She even went to modeling school and talked about how good she was at it. (No one ever hired her….)
My ex narcopath bragged that many of his ex-girlfriends were in love with him. (By the way, this is very common with narcs because they want to create jealousy in you.) He bragged that he was the only man one of his exes had ever loved, and even though she broke up with him, she was still secretly in love with him.
Another way a narcissist might show this sign is by constantly bragging about small achievements, and name-dropping.
Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
On many, many occasions, I have heard a narcissist insist that he or she was an expert in something that he or she really knew nothing about. No matter what the topic, my ex narcopath would angrily insist he was an expert and he was right. In the same way, my narcissist mother would insist that she knew more than any doctor, lawyer, professional, you name it, and would just dismiss their expertise. These people think they have far more talent and intelligence than they really do, and they will not listen to a word from anyone else.
My first narcissistic husband was hung up on the idea of perfect love. He kept calling our love “perfect.” Sadly, no one is perfect, but when a narcissist realizes that, you go from being “perfect” to being completely despised and worthless. They will always get bored with you and start looking for the next best thing.
One time, I went with my mother to a funeral for a friend of her friend. My mother didn’t know the deceased and was only going to enjoy a social event. She looked around the room and announced to me that this family wasn’t nearly as beautiful as the people in her family and said how lucky her relatives were.
Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
My ex husband–a narcissistic sociopath paid over $1200 to become a lifetime member of an elite club. He even stated in an interview that he joined the club so people could understand him and he wouldn’t have to keep repeating himself, (presumably to less “important” people.)
My narcissistic mother is this way with church and “good” people. She looks down on the “trashy” people who are not as “good” as she is.
Requires excessive admiration
My narcissistic mother gets upset and criticizes people she meets who don’t give her enough attention. One time, she dropped my son at day care and reported back that she didn’t like his teacher. Why? I asked. She claimed that the teacher didn’t say much to her when she dropped my son off. She had also happened to drop my son off late in the middle of a class of toddlers who were having lessons! Of course the teacher didn’t stop to fawn over her! I’ve heard her have similar issues with many people over the years. If they don’t admire her, she automatically dislikes them and thinks something is wrong with them.
My ex narcopath repeatedly yelled at me for not using sweet terms of endearment for him. He wanted me to give him loving nicknames, but of course he never did the same for me, nor did he treat me in a way that made me want to love him.
My first narc husband used to do “nice” things for me then pout and yell that I didn’t thank him enough. By the end of the relationship, I’d get nervous when he did something “nice,” because I knew nothing I ever did was good enough. I kid you not, one time he bought me concert tickets so I said thank you, sent him a thank you e-mail the next day along with an e-card, made him a special dinner, made him a special dessert, thanked him the day of the concert AND gave him a paper card. He was still mad! It was a losing battle.
Has a very strong sense of entitlement, e.g., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
It was not uncommon for my ex narcopath to just come up and grab something away from me–food, a laptop, a remote control…whatever he decided he wanted at that moment. At other times, he would demand that I do something for him and expect me to obey him. He didn’t ask, he just took and demanded. A few times I was shocked and hesitated at first, which led to him raging. He never even extended basic courtesy to me.
Narcissists in general will verbally abuse restaurant servers or customer service people who don’t do exactly what they want. I watched my ex-narcopath yell, scream and rage at waitresses more than once.
Is exploitative of others, e.g., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
A narcissist’s “friends” are never really friends as a normal person would have friends. They are always tools. I noticed with every narcissist I’ve met that their friendships were extremely shallow with no real interaction. They also triangulate frequently–that is they pick fights between two people who weren’t fighting, and they lie without a second thought.
One time, I got an unlisted phone number and paid to keep it private. I didn’t give it to my mother on purpose. She called and somehow talked someone into giving it to her. Next thing I knew, she was calling my new number over and over. When I asked her how she got it, she smugly said “I’m just good with people.” I’ve heard her say this many times over the years after she used someone. Narcissists know exactly how to flatter someone to get what they want. They are extremely two-faced.
Lacks empathy, e.g., is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
My narcissistic mother frequently destroyed or gave away my belongings. One time, she damaged a childhood book collection that was very special to me. I had been saving them for my own children and they were stored in a cedar closet in her house. She decided to put them in her damp garage and when I picked them up, they were saturated with mold. They were so bad, I could not salvage them. All my beloved childhood books and stories. I was heartbroken and cried. Not once did she apologize. In fact, she blamed me for storing them at her house while I moved. At one point, I asked if she was sorry that she’d put them in her garage and she said “no.” I don’t know about you, but if I destroyed something of sentimental value that belonged to someone else–even if it wasn’t on purpose–I’d feel so bad! I’d be apologizing and trying to do what I could to make things right.
Another time, I was getting divorced and asked my mother if she could help me pay for therapy until I found a job. She refused, that’s fine. But the shocker was when she told me to snap out of it and move on, then exclaimed that I had no idea how hard it was for HER to see me getting divorced. Yes, my divorce was far worse for her than it was me. Oh geez!
During my pregnancy, I experienced hyperemesis and vomited a LOT. I was so miserable. I kept forcing myself to eat, because letting my blood sugar get low led to even more sickness. My ex narcissist didn’t care one bit. He yelled at me for eating too slowly and more than once ordered me to skip meals because he wanted to go do something. Not one ounce of empathy or consideration for others.
Narcissists will not care if you get sick, if you are sad, if you have lost someone special, if something bad happens to you, etc…. You might even share with them and they’ll barely acknowledge you before moving on to a new topic. I remember when I first started getting to know my first narc ex and my 19 year old cat died. When I told him, he barely said anything in response to me and started talking about something else. Not one hint of compassion.
Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
My mother looked down on many people when I was a child. Beautiful women were “trashy” or “snotty” and she spoke of them with disgust. If someone didn’t like her, it was because they were jealous.
Many men who know my narcopath ex dislike him because, well, he’s a jerk. My ex thinks it’s because they are jealous of how easily he plays women.
Regularly shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
This can be seen in several examples. Narcissists just think they are more worthy than other people. They look down on others, but they won’t hesitate to use the people they look down upon!
Narcissists come in all varieties, so they don’t all do the exact same things; however, many of them tend to do similar things. They hate people who are prettier, smarter, wealthier or more successful than they are. They don’t have the ability to console people who are hurting, they can’t think of others, they use others, and they want the best from everyone without offering anything in return.
This doesn’t mean that anyone who does some of these things sometimes is a narcissist, though. To qualify as a narcissist, this has to be their normal behavior throughout their lives to the point that it destroys their ability to have relationships or live a functional life.