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Am I Dating a Narcissist?

Therapy 101, Relationships, Personality Disorders
4 min read

“Am I dating a Narcissist?” This is a common question that you may ask yourself when dealing with a challenging, self-absorbed partner.  However, we often do not ask ourselves, “Am I a Narcissist?”  There is a reason for this and to better understand these questions we first need to identify the symptoms and traits of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) if we hope to make changes in our relationships or for ourselves. 

NPD is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance (grandiosity), a deep need for attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and lack empathy for others. These individuals may be charming and charismatic and have robust defenses to mask their fragile psyche and sense of self. 

It is estimated that up to 5% of people have NPD. Individuals with narcissistic personality disorder often lack the insight into their traits and behaviors, so they may be unlikely to seek treatment. If they do seek treatment, it's more likely to be for symptoms of depression, drug or alcohol use, or another mental health issue

However, their perception and response to treatment or therapy is often internalized as a blow to their self-esteem, making it difficult to accept and follow through with treatment.  They experience shame, vulnerability, and insecurity, but these feelings are intolerable so they will often project these feelings on to others. 

Other common traits and behaviors include:

-A belief of superiority where others are shunned or looked down upon.

-Are often controlling and arrogant.

-Difficulty regulating emotions and anger that leads to significant interpersonal problems.

-Struggle to adapt to change and cope with stress

-May exaggerate achievements while expecting to be recognized and praised. 

-Expect loyalty and compliance to meet their expectations.

-Often meet others with rage and contempt when feeling threatened or slighted.

-Perceive others to be mistrusting and vindictive causing them to respond with similar behavior.

-Exploit and take advantage of others for personal gain. 

Many narcissists are also perfectionists where nothing that others do is perceived as right or appreciated.  These qualities make it extremely difficult to find empathy and compassion for these individuals, however, the traits of this disorder may be explained by adverse childhood experiences that include excessive harshness and criticism.  

Warning Signs that you may be dating a narcissist include but may not be limited to:

-“Love Bombing” & “The Magical Feeling”- Narcissists may use manipulation to overwhelm and shower a person with affection, overt acts of kindness, and gifts to get what they want. “The magical connection” could be a red flag.

-Their behaviors change once a partner commits to the relationship, where they become disinterested, devalue their partner, less attentive, more self-absorbed, and inconsistent (This typically begins after the “Honeymoon Phase”).

-You feel controlled and fear speaking your mind as it might jeopardize the relationship (Think “walking on eggshells” and “gaslighting”).

-You find yourself making excuses or defending their behavior (“They didn’t really mean it.”  “Things will get better.”).

-These relationships are often toxic and can leave you feeling anxious, full of self-doubt, depressed, hopeless, helpless, isolated, or powerless. 

Relationships are never without challenges and continual work so you both can grow together in positive ways.  However, you both must be willing to do the work and identify areas of the relationship that need improvement and/or opportunities for individual growth.  If you find yourself in a toxic relationship with a partner who suffers from NPD it is best to evaluate if change is possible and reflect on the type of support you need for yourself moving forward. 

 

About the AuthorRodman Walsh is a California based Therapist whose specialities cover relationship issues, personality disorders, general anxiety, and more. Click here to view Rodman's profile and schedule a free introductory call.  

See Rodman in Discussion: 
- How to Support Family Struggling with Mental Health Issues
The Experience of Living with BiPolar 1 Disorder


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