We’ve all been around a selfish person. Many of us have even been in a relationship with one. (Pause while we all nod our heads in agreement). But what happens when that selfishness goes to the extreme? When a person has a grand view of their place in the world and a complete lack of concern for anyone else? That, my friends, is when the word narcissist comes into play.
Being with a narcissist can drastically damage your mental and emotional health. Here’s how to spot the narcissist in your life and get yourself to safety.
Traits of a Narcissist
The term “narcissist” has become a bit of a catchphrase in recent years. At its most basic level, someone who is narcissistic is self-absorbed, egotistic, and doesn’t care about the feelings or needs of others. There are varying degrees of narcissistic behavior. Just because someone has selfish tendencies doesn’t necessarily mean they qualify as a clinical narcissist.
To be diagnosed with “Narcissistic Personality Disorder,” a psychiatrist or other mental health professional would need to assess the person in question. Often, true narcissists resist any medical intervention, so a diagnosis is unlikely. However, there are some common symptoms to look out for.
You might be in a relationship with a narcissist if your partner:
- Expects superior treatment from other people, including you.
- Believes they are superior to others and deserving of special privileges because of a “higher status.”
- Needs constant admiration, attention, and praise.
- Exploits others for personal gain.
- Has no consideration for the feelings of others. Often, this person is incapable of empathy and cares little for the needs of others.
- Requires unyielding obedience and loyalty from others.
- Believes self-worth is defined by success, wealth, intelligence, or power.
Narcissism isn’t your run-of-the-mill selfishness. It’s selfishness at the absolute extreme. There is absolutely no thought or concern for anyone else – which is, needless to say, not a recipe for a healthy partnership.
“Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome”
Not all abuse is physical. Emotional and psychological abuse is domestic abuse, period. If your partner has narcissistic tendencies, you likely suffer from “Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome.”
Narcissists are sneaky, so those impacted by their abuse often don’t recognize the abuse for what it is. The abuse gradually makes the victim feel like she is “crazy” or “overreacting.” Gaslighting is a favorite tool of narcissists, used to break down victims and make them doubt their own intuition.
Over time, those living with a narcissist start to display the following behaviors:
- “Walking on eggshells” around the narcissistic person, trying to prevent them from getting upset.
- Mistrust of others.
- Isolation from friends and family and a sense of loneliness.
- Low self-esteem.
- “Freezing” when you encounter conflict. Instead of communicating or standing up for yourself and your needs, you instinctually “freeze” and refuse to engage.
- Trouble making decisions.
- Constantly feeling like you’ve done something wrong or somehow deserve the abuse.
If you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, you probably spend all your time and attention trying to make your partner happy. The focus is always on your partner and never on yourself. Your needs, wants, and wishes are entirely disregarded, giving way only to what your partner wants.
How to Leave Safely
Mental health issues – including diagnosable Narcissistic Personality Disorder – are never an excuse for abuse. If you are experiencing physical, mental, or emotional abuse from a narcissist, it’s unlikely your partner will ever change.
We should note, too, that not all narcissists are abusive. However, their complete disregard for your needs and feelings doesn’t make for a healthy relationship. Too often, their behaviors will lead to emotional and psychological abuse, even if it’s unintentional.
Find someone you can talk to and make a plan to leave safely. Often, the most dangerous time in an abusive relationship is the hours and days before you leave. Contact an agency that can help you make a plan, like the National Domestic Violence Hotline, your local domestic abuse shelter, or our nonprofit partner, Domestic Abuse Intervention Service of Dane County, Wisconsin.
Reach out and get help if you are in an abusive situation. You deserve to be happy.