Recognizing narcissism

Narcissism has different variations, from high self-satisfaction to a severe narcissistic personality disorder. The problems often start in childhood and the narcissistic traits slowly but surely creep in. Although everyone has some narcissism in them, not everyone is a narcissist. There is a difference between narcissism and a narcissistic personality disorder that is not always well recognized. A narcissist can be recognized by a number of characteristics or symptoms that are typical.

What is narcissism?

It is said so often: ‘he or she is a narcissist’. Let’s start with the fact that everyone has narcissistic characteristics within them. Some more than others. However, this does not mean that the person is also a narcissist. We also seem to live in a narcissistic world: people are increasingly focused on themselves instead of on others. As a result, someone is more likely to be labeled as a narcissist. A narcissist is someone who exhibits certain behavior that causes real problems with the environment. The narcissist himself seems to experience little inconvenience from this, but can ultimately get himself into deeper and deeper trouble.


Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, saw narcissism as a normal phenomenon during the sexual development of children. For example, Freud believed that psycho-traumas were caused by sexual abuse during childhood. Later it became known that Freud was wrong on a number of points, including narcissism. Narcissism mainly occurs in adults but can develop early in childhood. Adolescents are also more likely to deal with narcissism. However, in adolescents it is often not recognized as such and the behavior is attributed to the hormones that arise during puberty.


It is not always possible to determine what causes narcissism. Narcissism in adults can be a sign of immaturity. Often the person reverts to his childish stage. Emotional neglect during childhood could play a major role in this. A serotonin deficiency could also play a role. This neurotransmitter plays a role in emotions, falling asleep and appetite. A deficiency of serotonin causes anger and aggression, among other things. Often the precise cause cannot be determined. It is important to know that no one chooses narcissism: it is a behavioral disorder that slowly but surely creeps in. However, narcissism can also arise suddenly, if it has been dormant for some time. All it takes is something to happen in the potential narcissist’s life and his behavior can suddenly change. Once started down this path, the behavior will often worsen. At a certain point, narcissistic behavior remains stable.

Symptoms and characteristics

Narcissism is not always clearly recognisable. There are narcissists who know how to hide this well, while other non-narcissists are labeled narcissists. Narcissism should certainly not be confused with selfishness or selfishness. It is striking that narcissism occurs more often in men than in women, while women are more susceptible to other psychological disorders.

Narcissism comes in different forms. For example, we are familiar with great complacency, but narcissism can also take very strong forms, with a pathological variant. In this variant, the narcissist has his own views that do not correspond at all to reality. When narcissism is severe, we also speak of a narcissistic personality disorder (NPS). It is not always easy for psychologists to discover the boundary between narcissism and NPD. The following characteristics occur with a narcissist or with a narcissistic personality disorder:

  • Appearing charming
  • Complacency
  • Exaggerating stories and own knowledge
  • Needs admiration
  • Lack of empathy
  • No sense of criticism
  • Thinks he is unique or special
  • Great predisposition to jealousy
  • Anger attacks
  • Dominant
  • Manipulative
  • Arrogant
  • Paranoid
  • Has an obsession with self or power

People who exhibit five or more of the above characteristics may be suffering from narcissism or narcissistic personality disorder. It is estimated that almost one percent suffer from NPS, while narcissism is even more common.

Famous narcissists include Napoleon Bonaparte and Pablo Picasso. Adolf Hitler and Sadam Hussein were also narcissists. Treating a narcissist is not possible. There are no drugs that cure a narcissist. The narcissist himself must want to change for himself and his environment. This can be done through behavioral therapy. The problem is that many narcissists do not recognize or acknowledge their deviant behavior. Often all the problems around him are due to the environment and not to himself.

read more

  • Narcissism: dealing with the anger
  • Jealousy and delusions of infidelity

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