10 Ways to Spot a Narcissist

Who’s your favorite narcissist? Kim? Justin Bieber? The Donald? And who can forget Kanye? Imma let you finish, but first, what exactly makes a narcissist? Savvy Psychologist explains, plus offers 10 tips on how to spot a narcissist.

Ellen Hendriksen, PhD
5-minute read
Episode #60

Aside from the dead giveaway of a selfie stick, otherwise known as “the wand of narcissism,” there are lots of clues you’re dealing with a narcissist. Today we’ll cover the features of narcissistic personality disorder, plus 10 giveaways that you’re dealing with a narcissist.

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The foremost feature of narcissism is grandiosity, which means a narcissist think she’s more attractive, intelligent, and important than others. She’ll exaggerate her achievements and abilities and has a big ego, often without being able to back it up.  The narcissist’s own needs always come first, and when others express needs, she sees it as a sign of weakness.  She may be generous and beneficent in front of the camera (only for the admiration - it’s not genuine), but goes cold once no one is watching.

A narcissist also thinks he’s entitled - to a buzz of attention when he walks in the room, to the deference of others, or to preferential treatment. Waiting his turn is torture.  Exploiting the intern or blaming the waiter is typical.  He’s a victim entitled to better and is contemptuous of the successes of others

(See: Kanye’s rant against Taylor Swift, Kanye’s rant against Beck, Kanye's general persona...do I sense a pattern here?) 

How many of them are out there?  Narcissists comprise up to 6.2% of the population, but it often seems like more because they’re frequently found in highly visible positions of power, leadership, or celebrity.  The majority of narcissists are men, but women make up somewhere between  25-50% of this self-loving bunch.  

And what a miserable bunch they are: Narcissism has been linked to everything from child conduct problems to exercise addiction, not to mention the usual suspects of depression and anxiety.

A narcissist is like porn: you know it when you see it.  But there are clues; here are 10 giveaways you're dealing with a narcissist:

Giveaway #1: They Name Drop

A narcissist will rarely mention other people except to blame them for something (remember the intern and the waiter?), or to name drop. Why the latter?  They want to associate themselves with power, beauty, or fame.  And it’s not limited to people - prestigious institutions, name brands, and exclusive events all get mentioned by narcissists with unmistakable frequency.

Giveaway #2: They Edit Selfies

A 2014 study of 1,000 men across the country who use social media found that those high in narcissism did three things: they spent more time overall on social media, posted more selfies, and edited their selfies, like cropping out unflattering parts, using filters, or using Photoshop before posting.  

While it’s not necessarily surprising to find that narcissists do this, it is the first time that a study actually confirmed that, contrary to Meghan Trainor, it’s not just the magazines working that Photoshop.  

Giveaway #3: They Inflate Themselves and Devalue Others

Narcissists get particularly bitter if they sense they haven’t been adequately recognized for their talent, performance, or general awesomeness.  As a result, there are a lot of bitter narcissists out there; they think their time to shine is long overdue and genuinely wonder why they’re not on the red carpet or the A-list.

Giveaway #4: They Want to Be Idolized, But Don’t Care if You Like Them

You can call a narcissist an a-hole and they won’t care.  But tell them they’re plain or boring (or at least not the greatest ever) and they’ll go nuts.  Criticism or losing (Hello, Richard Sherman!) leaves them empty, humiliated, and angry.

Giveaway #5: They Need the Best of Everything

They insist on seeing only the “best” doctor, lawyer, personal trainer, or hairstylist. Working for the most prestigious company, driving the most luxurious car, sitting at the best restaurant table, and going to the hottest bar.


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ellen Hendriksen, PhD

Dr. Ellen Hendriksen was the host of the Savvy Psychologist podcast from 2014 to 2019. She is a clinical psychologist at Boston University's Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders (CARD). She earned her Ph.D. at UCLA and completed her training at Harvard Medical School. Her scientifically-based, zero-judgment approach is regularly featured in Psychology Today, Scientific American, The Huffington Post, and many other media outlets. Her debut book, HOW TO BE YOURSELF: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety, was published in March 2018.