How Do I Know if Someone's a Narcissist?

How Do I Know if Someone's a Narcissist?

How do you know if someone's a narcissist?

Narcissism is a term that has recently gained a lot of attention. 

New terms like "covert narcissism" are found all over the internet and contribute to this new wave of interest, and misinformation. 

First and foremost, "covert narcissism" is not an official diagnosis and has little if any, evidence to support it as a clinical term at all. 

Narcissism on the other hand has mountains of clinical research and is so well documented it extends all way back to ancient Greece and the story of Narcissus over 2000 years ago (a beautiful young man who fell in love with his own reflection). 

In this post, you'll learn exactly what a narcissist is, and is not. 

Narcissistic Personality Disorder Therapists in Colorado

Dr. Michelle Palmieri, DSW, LSW

Dr. Michelle Palmieri, DSW, LSW

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 602-1342
Shannon Matlock, LPC, NCC

Shannon Matlock, LPC, NCC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 203-7021

What a Narcissist is NOT

It can be tricky to know if someone's a narcissist. 

To start, let's understand what a narcissist is Not.

A narcissist, or someone diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, meets a very specific set of traits over a long period of time.

So, as nice as it might feel to call someone a narcissist when they're being a jerk, chances are they are probably just a jerk.

A commonly talked about trait of narcissists is being selfish, and that is true, however, that does not mean that having selfish impulses once in a while (or even just being selfish) makes a person a narcissist. 

There are a lot of conceited, rude, arrogant, jerks out there, unfortunately, that doesn't make them narcissists either.


Understandable, spotting a narcissist is harder than the surface level of how someone acts once in a while, but don't worry now we'll look at how to know if someone's a narcissist.

What a Narcissist Is

Narcissism falls under the category of Personality Disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). 

In order for a disorder to fall under this category there are some boxes that need to be checked: 1) it's an enduring pattern of behavior 2) it's pervasive and inflexible 3) and is stable over time. 

Above we talked about how having a selfish impulse once in a while does not make you a narcissist, and now you know why- that does not count as an enduring pattern, pervasive and inflexible, and stable over time. 

We also talked about how even being a selfish person isn't enough to be considered a narcissist even if it is stable over time, why?

Along with checking the boxes above to be diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, you must also meet a minimum of 5 additional criteria out of 9 that are all inflexible, pervasive, and stable over time.

The criteria are as follows:

1) They exaggerate achievements and expect to be seen as superior

2) They are preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, beauty, power, brilliance, or ideal love

3) They believe they are "special" and can only be understood by other special or high-status people

4) They require excessive admiration

5) They have a sense of entitlement

6) They exploit others

7) They lack empathy

8) They are often envious of others and

9) They are arrogant 

Only if a person meets at least FIVE of these criteria and they are inflexible, pervasive, and stable over time, is someone truly a narcissist. 


We have discussed what a narcissist is not, and what a narcissist is.

We have identified the specific criteria that need to be met for someone to truly be considered a narcissist and the extra factors that need to be taken into consideration. 

One of the biggest mistakes people make is not having the appropriate training and misusing the information to determine if their friends or family are narcissists.

No one should be making diagnoses without specific and qualified training. 

This post is meant to be informative only.

Being involved with a narcissist can take a serious toll on your mental health, and being able to identify the signs of a narcissist is important, but as we have learned "signs" that someone is a narcissist does not mean you know if they're a narcissist. 

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July 14th, 2024

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