Mental Health

13 Symptoms and Behaviors of Narcissism You Should Look For

The term “narcissism” has become more widely known and understood than ever before.

Many people are relieved to finally have a description that fits their self-centered, egotistical partner, friend, colleague, boss, or family member.

They can understand now why narcissists have always made them feel frustrated, angry, and helpless over the almost total lack of sensitivity and empathy the narcissist shows for their needs and feelings.

This article contains 13 signs of narcissism you should look out for.

Ready? Let’s get started!

13 Symptoms and Behaviors of Narcissism You Should Look For

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual DSM-5 that therapists use as a guide, the person needs to have only 55 percent of the following characteristics to be considered narcissistic.

#1. They Feel Superior and Entitled

In the world of the narcissists there is a hierarchy for people, with the narcissists at the top.

The narcissists consider themselves to be the best, the most right, and the most competent. They believe that they own everything and control everyone.

They can also get that superior feeling by being the worst, the most ill, upset, or injured. This makes them feel entitled to receive soothing concern, and even the right to hurt you or demand apologies.

#2. They Have a High Need for Attention and Validation

13 Symptoms and Behaviors of Narcissism You Should Look For

Narcissists need constant attentions and validation from others to shore up their egos.

However, no matter how much you tell narcissists you love them, or approve of them, they never feel that it’s enough – deep down they don’t believe anyone can ever love them.

Despite grandiose bragging, narcissists are very insecure and afraid they’re not going to measure up.

#3. They Believe Everything Should Be Perfect

Narcissists believe they should be perfect, you should be perfect, and events should happen exactly as they envision them.

Their excruciating demands lead the narcissist to complain and be constantly dissatisfied.

#4. They Have a High Need for Control

The narcissists need for everything to be perfect along with their sense of entitlement, makes it seem logical to them that they should be in control—of everything.

Narcissists always have a story line in mind about how their life and each “character” in their life should be. So When you don’t behave as expected, or when things don’t go as they envisioned, they become quite upset and unsatisfied.

#5. They Don’t Take Responsibility For Themselves or Their Lives

13 Symptoms and Behaviors of Narcissism You Should Look For

Despite their need to be in control, narcissists never want to be responsible for the results, especially when things don’t go exactly their way or when they feel criticized and less than perfect.

To maintain their façade of perfection, they would place all the blame and responsibility on you – it has to be someone else’s fault. Other times, the blame is generalized (police, bosses, teachers, politicians, laws, and so on.)

#6. They Lack Understanding of Boundaries

Narcissists are a lot like a child who believes that everything belongs to them, everyone thinks, feels and wants the same things they do.

Narcissists can’t see where they end and you begin. They are shocked and feel insulted when they’re told no and would go to great lengths to get what they want through persistence, cajoling, demanding, etc.

#7. They Lack Empathy

Lack of empathy is one of the main characteristics of narcissism.

Narcissists are unable to understand what other people are feeling and would expect others to think and feel the same as they do.

They rarely are apologetic or feel remorseful or guilty.

However, narcissists are highly attuned to perceived threats and rejection from others and frequently misread subtle facial expressions and interpret them as negative.

Their lack of ability to correctly read body language and facial expressions make narcissists deficiently empathetic to your feelings and lead them to misinterpret sarcasm or joking as a personal attack.

Narcissists also lack an understanding about the nature of feelings. They believe that their feelings are caused by someone or something outside of themselves – not by their own thoughts, and interpretations.

#8. They’re Unable to Be Truly Intimate

Their lack of empathy and their constant need for self-protection, makes narcissists emotionally blind and alone.

They can’t truly love or connect emotionally with other people.

This also makes them emotionally needy. While they can’t respond to your pain or fear or even your need for care and sympathy, they desperately want others to feel their pain, to sympathize with them.

#9. They Think Emotionally

13 Symptoms and Behaviors of Narcissism You Should Look For

Your logical explanation of how hurtful the narcissists’ behaviors are to you won’t make sense to them. They are only able to be aware of their own thoughts and feelings.

Even when they say they understand, they really don’t.

As a result, narcissists make most of their decisions based on how they feel about something – not on whether it is a good choice to make for the family or for the budget.

#10. They Spilt Everything Into Either Good or Bad

In the narcissist world everything is split into good and bad parts.

Narcissists would blame any negative thoughts or behaviors on you or others, while taking credit for everything that is positive.

They also tend to remember things as either completely wonderful or completely horrible – they aren’t able to remember both the positive and the negative in a situation.

#11. Their Fear Motivates and Energizes Their Lives

Fear is the main emotions that motivates and energizes the narcissist’s life. Most of this fear is deeply buried and repressed.

Narcissists are afraid of being rejected, ridiculed, or just plain wrong. They might also fear losing all their money, being seen as bad, or being abandoned, which makes it difficult for the narcissist to trust other people.

Narcissists fear intimacy or vulnerability because they’re afraid you’ll see their flaws and imperfections and judge or reject them. This is why, the more intimate your relationship becomes, the less he’ll trust you.

Narcissists never seem to develop trust in the love of others, no matter how much reassurance they would get – Their fear of being “found out” and abandoned never seems to dissipate.

#12. They Project Their Anxiety Onto Others

13 Symptoms and Behaviors of Narcissism You Should Look For

Narcissists have an ongoing anxious feeling that something bad is happening or about to happen.

Some narcissists would hide and repress their anxiety, but others would constantly talk about the doom that is going to happen.

Whether they choose to repress it or openly talk about it, most narcissists project their anxiety onto their loved ones.

They might accuse you of being unsupportive, negative, not responding to their needs, or being selfish.

As you start feeling worse and worse, narcissists feel stronger, more superior and less anxious.

#13. They Harbor a Lot of Shame

Narcissists believe they are always right and don’t believe their behaviors affect anyone else, so they don’t really feel guilt.

However, they harbor a lot of shame buried in a deeply repressed part. They believe that there is something deeply and permanently wrong or bad about who they are.

They are constantly on guard to hide insecurities, fears, and rejected traits from everyone, including themselves. This is essential in order to maintain their façade or False Self.


Narcissists create a charming façade to show the world how superior they are, but hidden under that False Self are a multitude of limitations and dysfunctional emotional responses.

Related: 25 Signs You Are Dating a Psychopath (And How to Heal From Psychopathic Abuse)

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13 Symptoms and Behaviors of Narcissism You Should Look For


  • Portions of this article were adapted from the book Healing from a Narcissistic Relationship, © 2017 by Margalis Fjelstad. All rights reserved.

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