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.

Giveaway #6: They’re Charming and Attractive...at First

Narcissists know how to work it.  They’re very seductive, are often physically attractive, and their confidence draws people to their flame. They’re magnetic, until you get to know them.  Which brings us to…

Giveaway #7: They Start Many Relationships

Narcissists often start out in a relationship with an inflated, idealized view of their partner.  But the partner quickly falls from the pedestal for three reasons: 1) getting to know the real partner, not just the image, lets the narcissist down, 2) the risk of actual intimacy is too threatening, or 3) someone seemingly better comes along.  Which bring us to...

Giveaway #8: They’re Always Looking for the Next Thing

A 2002 study found that narcissism is negatively linked to commitment.  Narcissists always think they can do better, so they are more likely to attend to what researchers call “alternatives” (that is, the hottie down the bar).  

Giveaway #9: There’s No Core of Self-Loathing or Insecurity

A team of researchers at the University of Georgia did a study in 2007 that was actually titled “Do  Narcissists Dislike Themselves 'Deep Down Inside'"?  It was an ingenious study that used implicit associations to measure how narcissists saw themselves.  And contrary to the popular belief that narcissism covers up insecurity or low self-esteem, it turns out, through and through, narcissists really do think they’re all that. Sound like someone you may know? (Cough, Gwyneth, cough).

And finally...

Giveaway #10: They Totally Admit it

In 2014, a study found that narcissists can be identified by asking this one simple question:

To what extent do you agree with this statement: “I am a narcissist.” (Note: The word “narcissist” means egotistical, self-focused, and vain.)

The study was rigorous - the researchers tested the question in 11 separate experiments and the results showed that people’s answers were accurate.  Despite having lousy empathy and commitment, at least we know narcissists have accurate insight.

To wrap up, remember the original narcissist, Narcissus, searched and searched for the ideal romantic partner until he found the one person who was flawless and perfect enough for him: his own reflection in a pool of water.  We also know that didn’t go so well: he drowned in that very pool. If only they had selfie sticks in ancient Greece.

Are you a narcissist?  Test yourself with this quiz.

What did you find? Did the results surprise you? Share your thoughts with us in Comments below or on the Savvy Psychologist Facebook page (we know they're going to be awesome!). 


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Bruno, A., Quattrone, D., Scimeca, G., Cicciarelli, C., Romeo, V.M., Pandolfo, G., et al. (2014).  Unraveling exercise addiction: The role of narcissism and self-esteem.  Journal of Addiction, 2014: 987841.

Campbell, W.K., Bosson, J.K, Goheen, T.W., Lakey, C.E., & Kernis, M.H. (2007).  Do narcissists dislike themselves “deep down inside”?  Psychological Science, 18, 227-229.

Campbell, W.K. & Foster, C.A. (2002).  Narcissism and commitment in romantic relationships: An investment model analysis.  Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28, 484-495.

Fox, J. & Rooney, M.C. (2014).  The Dark Triad and trait self-objectification as predictors of men’s use and self-presentation behaviors on social networking sites.  Personality and Individual Differences, 76, 161-165.  

Jezior, K.L., McKenzie, M.E. & Lee, S.S. (2015).  Narcissism and callous-unemotional traits prospectively predict child conduct problems.  Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 4, 1-12.  

Konrath, S., Meier, B.P. & Bushman, B.J. (2014). Development and validation of the Single Item Narcissism Scales (SINS).  PLoS One, 9: e103469.

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.