What is Narcissism and How can I identify it?

Narcissism, ever heard of it? If not, you have been living under a very dark rock. That word has become fashionable, especially when referencing ex-partners, mothers, fathers, siblings, friends, and co-workers. Yet, according to the Cleveland Clinic, only 5% of the US population has been diagnosed with a narcissistic personality disorder. So why is everyone considered a narcissist?

This month we are discussing the book Should I Stay or Should I Go? Surviving a Relationship with a Narcissist by Ramani Durvasula, Ph.D., but before we get started, I want to explain what narcissism is so there is a better understanding. For this blog, I have taken information from both the book and the internet.

Let me start by saying that everyone to some degree is a narcissist, yes even you reading this blog and it does not necessarily mean that it has to be a negative thing. Believe it or not, there are different degrees to how much a person is engaging in narcissistic traits. Narcissism exists on a spectrum, with one end of the spectrum being those who have been diagnosed with a narcissistic personality disorder and the other end where we consider narcissism to be a healthy trait.

Healthy narcissism shows up in our traits when we have the desire to be liked, exhibit confidence that borders on over-confidence and have an expectation that things will come easy for us. Sound familiar? Therefore, being a narcissist can be healthy, because in some situations we all may have that natural leader in us, where we are confident, likable, and extroverted.

When does narcissism become a problem?

The issue begins when our behaviors start to affect those around us. So let us look at the diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder. According to The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) it states that a person has to have at least five of the following: overinflated senses of self-importance, constant thoughts about being more successful, influential, smart, loved, or attractive than others, feelings of superiority and desire to only associate with high-status people, a need for excessive admiration, sense of entitlement, willingness to take advantage of others to achieve goals, lack of empathy, arrogant and snobby behaviors towards others. It is believed that narcissism is ultimately a disorder of self-esteem because, underneath all of those narcissistic traits, they are unable to regulate their emotions and exist to obtain approval from others.

According to the literature, there are many different types of narcissism, but I am only going to briefly discuss the top five, which are overt narcissism, covert narcissism, antagonistic narcissism, communal narcissism and malignant narcissism.

People who exhibit symptoms of overt narcissism are typically outgoing, arrogant, entitled, overbearing, need praise, are competitive and lack empathy. This is the most common type of narcissism. They brag and exaggerate their accomplishments, put people down, are obsessed with their appearance and need constant validation. They are also obsessed with money, power, status, beauty and success.

Types of Narcissist


Covert narcissists may seem shy or insecure, but inside are very self-centered. According to verywellmind.com instead of being overt about the behaviors, “covert narcissists are more subtle and less obvious to others. A covert narcissist is someone who craves admiration and importance and who lacks empathy towards others.”


Antagonistic narcissists may make you feel that you are walking on eggshells. They can become highly critical of others to make themselves feel better, they are arrogant, take advantage of others, are quick to anger and are prone to arguing.


Communal narcissism is the opposite of antagonistic narcissism. These people are unlikely to seek the spotlight but can use their charm to control and manipulate others. They are easily outraged, and describe themselves as generous and kind, hypersensitive, with a need to always be right. They see themselves as victims and are quick to judge others. They appear altruistic but are more interested in social power and self-importance.

The last one is one of the most dangerous types of narcissism because they have traits of vindictiveness, sadism, or getting enjoyment from other people’s pain, they are aggressive while interacting with others, are paranoid and have worries about threats from others. They have a grandiose sense of self and a need for power and control.