What is a narcissist?

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A true narcissist is someone with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). It’s a mental health condition characterized by:

  • an inflated sense of importance
  • a deep need for excessive attention and admiration
  • lack of empathy for others
  • often having troubled relationships

What it boils down to, says licensed therapist Rebecca Weiler, LMHC, is selfishness at the (usually extreme) expense of others, plus the inability to consider others’ feelings at all.

NPD, like most mental health or personality disorders, isn’t black and white. “Narcissism falls on a spectrum,” explains Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist Dr. Fran Walfish, author of “The Self-Aware Parent.”

The most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders lists nine criteria for NPD, but it specifies that someone only needs to meet five of them to clinically qualify as a narcissist.

9 official criteria for NPD

  • grandiose sense of self-importance
  • preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  • belief they’re special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions
  • need for excessive admiration
  • sense of entitlement
  • interpersonally exploitative behavior
  • lack of empathy
  • envy of others or a belief that others are envious of them
  • demonstration of arrogant and haughty behaviors or attitudes

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