Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
February 23, 2024 ·  4 min read

Identifying a Narcissist – a Psychological Guide

Have you ever come across someone who seems overly self-centered, manipulative, and constantly seeking admiration and attention? It’s possible that you may have encountered a narcissist. But what exactly is narcissism, and how can you distinguish a narcissist from someone who is just egotistical? In this guide, we will delve into the key characteristics and behaviors of narcissistic individuals and provide you with valuable insights on identifying them.

Understanding Narcissism

Narcissism is a personality trait categorized by grandiosity, a strong need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. Individuals with narcissistic tendencies often exhibit behaviors that revolve around self-centeredness and a sense of entitlement. They feel superior to others and believe they are special, deserving of special treatment, and entitled to take advantage of those around them. (1)

Narcissist vs. Egotistical Person

It’s important to differentiate between a narcissist and someone who is simply egotistical. While egotistical individuals may display a high level of self-esteem and confidence, they are not necessarily manipulative or lacking in empathy. Egotistical people may exhibit self-centered behaviors at times, but they are more likely to listen to others’ viewpoints and consider their feelings.

On the other hand, a narcissist is characterized by a deep-seated insecurity masked by grandiosity and a constant need for validation. They often manipulate, exploit, and lack genuine empathy for others. They view relationships (friendship, romantic partner, sibling, parent-child, etc) as a means to meet their own needs.

Vulnerable vs Grandiose Narcissism

There are two types of narcissism: vulnerable (V) and grandiose (G). Vulnerable narcissists are more likely to be introverted, anxious, and depressed. They may have low self-esteem but still seek attention from others as a way of validating themselves. Grandiose narcissists, on the other hand, tend to be extroverted and confident in their abilities. They often have high self-esteem and believe they deserve special treatment because of it. (2)

Early Warning Signs of a Narcissist

When you first meet someone, it might not be evident that they are a narcissist. This is because these people are master manipulators and often come across at first as charming, wonderful individuals. In fact, while you become more involved with them and begin to see the truth, the people around you will likely not believe you. Why? Because all they see is the ‘amazing’ person the narcissist wants them to see. Identifying a narcissist can be challenging, but there are early warning signs that can help you recognize these individuals in your life. Here are some common behaviors associated with narcissism (3):

1. Reactive Anger (V)

Narcissists tend to become enraged easily when they perceive a personal slight. They have a low tolerance for criticism and often react with anger.

2. Shame (V)

Vulnerable narcissists are easily made to feel bad about real or imagined wrongdoings. They may exhibit hypersensitivity to perceived slights and failures.

3. Indifference (G)

Grandiose narcissists show a lack of concern for how others feel. They prioritize their own needs and desires above all else. Again, this may be apparent to you, but those around you likely won’t see it.

4. Need for Admiration (V)

Individuals with vulnerable narcissism constantly seek positive affirmation and validation from others to boost their fragile self-esteem.

5. Exhibitionism (G)

Grandiose narcissists tend to show off and boast about their perceived positive qualities to garner admiration and attention.

6. Authoritativeness (G)

Narcissists may present themselves as experts on every subject, demonstrating a sense of superiority and dominance over others.

7. Thrill-Seeking (G)

Grandiose narcissists derive pleasure from taking risks and engaging in activities that provide them with a sense of excitement and superiority.

8. Grandiose Fantasies (G)

Narcissists often have inflated fantasies of their own excellence and superiority in various aspects of their lives.

9. Cynicism/Distrust (V)

Vulnerable narcissists struggle to trust others and may display a general distrust of people’s intentions and actions.

10. Manipulativeness (G)

Narcissists may use manipulation tactics to control and influence others to fulfill their own desires and needs.

11. Exploitativeness (G)

Narcissists tend to use people for their own benefit, often without regard for the well-being of others.

12. Entitlement (G)

Individuals with narcissistic traits believe that others owe them recognition, praise, and special treatment without reciprocation.

13. Arrogance (G)

Narcissists lack accountability for their actions and may exhibit a sense of entitlement that exempts them from accepting responsibility for their behavior.

14. Lack of Empathy (G)

Narcissists struggle to empathize with others and understand their feelings and perspectives, focusing primarily on their own needs and desires.

15. Acclaim-Seeking (G)

Narcissists seek acknowledgment and admiration from others for their accomplishments and achievements, often craving external validation to boost their self-esteem.

Protect Yourself From the Narcissist’s Manipulation

By understanding these behaviors and characteristics associated with narcissism, you can become more adept at identifying potential narcissists in your social circle and relationships. It is crucial to be aware of these warning signs to protect yourself from potentially toxic and manipulative individuals.

Recognizing narcissistic traits and behaviors can empower you to navigate relationships more effectively and establish boundaries with individuals who exhibit harmful narcissistic tendencies. Remember that identifying a narcissist is the first step in protecting yourself and your well-being from manipulation and emotional harm.


  1. How to Detect Early Signs of a Narcissist.” Psych Central. Cathy Cassata. February 28, 2022.
  2. Grandiose and vulnerable narcissism from the perspective of the interpersonal circumplex.” Science Direct. Joshua D. Miller, Joanna Price, Brittany Gentile, Donald R. Lynam and W. Keith Campbell. September 2012.
  3. Informant Assessment: The Informant Five-Factor Narcissism Inventory.” NCBI. Joshua R. Oltmanns, Cristina Crego, and Thomas A. Widiger. January 1, 2019.