Narcissism seems to be the bane of the modern era. Here a narcissist, there a narcissist, everywhere a narcissist! In a society with a disproportionate focus on youthfulness, athletic bodies, a cosmetics and plastic surgery industries in the billions of dollars and a prevailing pathos that people are never good enough, it is no wonder seeking to be seen as or being perfect has become an obsession for many. But then again narcissism goes beyond classic surface, egotistical narcissism of Sheldon from Big Bang Theory TV show.
Narcissism presents itself on a continuum from mild to moderate to severe. There are also several forms of narcissism we commonly see…the overt classic and covert-closeted, hypersensitive and vulnerable narcissist. A covert narcissist is generally more shy, sensitive, and insecure. But those feelings of insecurity and weakness turn into defensiveness and anger. The most severe form of narcissism is often referred to as malignant narcissism. Signs indicating malignant narcissism usually include a combination of narcissism, aggression, antisocial personality disorder and sadism. Please take note that this condition does not have its unique criteria in the present-day Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), essentially psychology’s Grey Anatomy, thus making malignant narcissism an experimental and hypothetical diagnostic bracket. This invites cautious consideration. Malignant narcissism can be seen in action in the 2000 film, American Psycho, which was described by the Journal of Psychoanalytic Psychology as a depiction of the same. Yet, this doesn’t necessarily pronounce all narcissists as Patrick Bateman, of course, the term malignant has its significance.
Even though malignant narcissism isn’t featured in the DSM-V, Narcissistic Personality Disorder is. The early characteristics of a narcissist are quite positive and may simply win you over; narcissists happen to be exemplary at their practice of charming their target. Peg Streep explains at Psychology Today that nothing said or done by a narcissist is as it sounds or appears. Narcissists are exceptionally good at manipulation and may seem very engaging and attractive at the beginning. They shower their target with attention, affection and seemly love. Meanwhile, also on Psychology Today, a malignant narcissist was described by Carrie Barron, M.D., as an intelligent, soft-spoken, gracious, kind, highly-functional, seemingly emotional or tearful, charming and well-mannered person with the ability to create relationships. Conversely, because narcissists lack the capacity for empathy, its all a game of pretense.
…At first, he was so nice to her, so attentive and caring of her. But now she was an emotional wreck…after a relationship with a narcissist.
Gloria came into the office after her relationship with what she called a ‘malignant narcissistic monster’. She stated that at first, he was so nice to her, so attentive and caring of her. But now she was an emotional wreck which is not unusual after a relationship with a narcissist. Her self-esteem had been annihilated by her partner’s persistent demeaning behavior, insults and cruelty. Gloria expressed that she felt a shadow of her former self. Her partner was reported as being cruel, indifferent, unfeeling, and manipulative for which he took no responsibility for. Gloria experienced constant emotional invalidation. She is working hard to restore her shattered self-image.
All this shows how easy this kind of individual could be rendered appealing at first glance. However, Barron also termed a malignant narcissist as ruthless, scary and dangerous since they also have a combination of sadism, subtle paranoia and they also lack a conscience. Now, how do you recognize a malignant narcissist? Here are 8 traits that may help you to better understand Narcissistic traits.
Again, keep in mind that it is not officially listed in the DSM-V. Moreover, not everyone displaying these traits is a malignant narcissist and only a certified mental health profession can diagnose and declare a Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Entitlement Awareness – Everyone feels entitled to something every now and then. However, a malignant narcissist has this same feeling all the, for example, this for example most people, if not everyone may feel entitled to the last piece of cake since it’s their birthday. A narcissist, however, will feel entitled to that very last piece of cake whether it is their birthday. That’s the difference!
Lack of Empathy and Conscience – Have you ever heard some voice in your head whispering that you might be doing the wrong thing? Well, malignant narcissists lack that. They also don’t empathize with others. From Psychology Today, empathy can be simply described as understanding what someone else might be going through, or simply placing yourself in one’s metaphorical shoes. Barron goes on to explain that a malignant narcissist can’t respect, or even comprehend the practice of empathy. They can’t feel guilt or remorse and tend to pronounce or feel that they are the ones being offended or mistreated.
Sadistic – A sadist can be simply described as someone who enjoys other people’s sufferings. On Psychology Today, Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D., establishes that there are two kinds of sadists; everyday sadists and vicarious sadists. A vicarious sadist is someone who enjoys watching others being hurt, humiliated or even killed say in games, movies, etc. They don’t get involved in harming someone else in real life. On the other hand, an everyday sadist is someone willing to emotionally and/or physically harm any living creature. At times, these individuals may even enjoy it. They also engage in hostility disguised as humor and insults disguised as compliments with the intention to hurt you.
Egocentrism – Everyone can easily identify someone whose ego is way beyond control. This trait is termed as egocentrism. Krauss is featured in Psychology Today explaining that Egocentrism can easily cause a misjudgment of other people’s feelings and thoughts. Even so, you need to understand that one can simply be an egocentric without necessarily being a narcissist. In this case, one can see things from another person’s perspective. In the case of a narcissist, however, they become annoyed and/or even engraved when someone else fails to view things from their point of view.
Grandiosity – Someone who’s grandiose basically has a non-viable superiority sense which makes them render others inferior or with disdain. Grandiose individuals also tend to feel unique and believe that only a special few can understand them.
Paranoia – Shahram Heshmat Ph.D., in Psychology Today, describes an individual with paranoia as someone who reads far too seep into everything said and feel super suspicious without proper justification. Most of them feel like others are plotting against them and often criticize yet feel offended if criticized. As much as we feel a bit paranoid at times, we don’t feel that way all day. A narcissist feels paranoid all the time and often believes that people are out to get them. .
Manipulative in Nature – Honestly speaking, every single one of us must, at one point tried to manipulate a situation to favor us. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you are a narcissist. A narcissist tends to operate from this angle all day long. Psychology Today explains that someone of this nature doesn’t really have an interest in you but can easily manipulate you to become an involuntary participant in their ploy. Control is a hallmark of a narcissist.
Stonewalling – This is a technique in which the narcissist will delay or block a request, process, or person by refusing to answer questions, giving evasive replies; or refuse to communicate or cooperate. The narcissist will avoid contact if it suits him or her and absolutely will not consider the other’s point of view and can engage in evasive maneuvers. Stonewalling is behavior that belittles, demeans, disrespects and devalues the person being stonewalled. The intention is to hurt the other person…make them feel inadequate and unlovable.
At the beginning of a relationship with a narcissist, the individual may seem quite sincere, charismatic and complimentary. However, in the end, they may turn to a more gas-lighting technique-causing confusion by making their target doubt their memory, your feelings, thoughts, perceptions, beliefs, your knowledge of what’s true/the facts. They attempt to destabilize their target mentally, emotionally and socially. With such a list, pointing out an individual with malignant narcissism might seem quite easy, right? But this might not be the case. Barron further explains that if the said individual is a well-meaning and effective storyteller, others might involuntarily support his or her course, hence resulting in a terrible mess. As much as this might be true, the good news is that you know some of the traits to shine a light on and avoid entanglement with a narcissist and definitely a malignant narcissist.