Does a narcissist know they are a narcissist? (yes?)

In this blog, we will discuss whether a narcissist knows they are a narcissist, what they feel, how the narcissistic personality disorder is often confused with others, treatment options and frequently asked questions of how to deal with a narcissist.

Does a narcissist know they are a narcissist?

A narcissist may know they are a narcissist, or not. It differs from person to person and depends on the severity of the disorder. Therapists suggest that if you’re truly a narcissist, it’s not likely that you’ll recognize it in yourself. So if worry that you might be a narcissist, you don’t need to stress out that much.

Narcissists are totally self-absorbed and usually have no sense that there’s anything wrong with them. They may be seeing themselves as caring and positive people, as an inability to be self-critical is a part of their nature.

If you’re self-centred in a healthy way it’s possible that you could recognize narcissistic characteristics in yourself. In addition, other people in your life might raise the topic with you, and, because you’re not truly a narcissist, you might be able to actually hear their concern.

Seeing a mental health professional can help if you’re concerned. One of the problems is that, if you really are a narcissist, you likely don’t possess the self-awareness to recognize that there’s anything for which you need to seek help.

Actual narcissists can, sometimes, realize that something wrong is going on. This occurs when they are at their lowest point, and none of their narcissistic coping strategies is helping. It is an extraordinarily vulnerable state, which does not last very long. 

What is narcissistic personality disorder?

Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental condition in which an individual has an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for maximum attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. However, behind this mask of supreme confidence lies self-doubt and weak self-esteem that is vulnerable to the slightest criticism.

Is narcissism a mental health issue?

Narcissism, in its extreme form, is a mental health issue. However, having high self-esteem isn’t the same thing as being diagnosed with NPD. There is such a thing as healthy narcissism, which isn’t a disorder.

There’s a major difference between being self-centred, commonly called a narcissist, and having narcissistic personality disorder, which is a mental health issue. How do you differentiate them? If you can recognize only a few of the symptoms below, that’s someone who is self-centred. If you notice most of them, the person might have the disorder. Although, to get to the bottom of it you’ll need to consult a psychotherapist.

According to DSM-5, signs and symptoms of NPD are:

  • A grandiose sense of self-importance
  • A sense of entitlement and request for constant, excessive admiration
  • An expectation to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
  • A tendency to exaggerate achievements and talents
  • Constant fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
  • The belief in own superiority and a wish to only associate with equally special people
  • A tendency to monopolize conversations and belittle or look down on people they perceive as inferior
  • The expectation of special favours and unquestioning compliance with their expectations
  • Taking advantage of others to get the desired things or results
  • Lack of ability to recognize the needs and feelings of others
  • Envy of others and a belief in that others envy them
  • Arrogant or haughty behaviour, coming across as conceited, boastful and pretentious
  • Insisting on having the best of everything

What do narcissists feel?

Most of the time, narcissists feel underappreciated. They think they’re not getting the recognition they truly deserve from others and typically feel entitled to something better. As a narcissist, you’d often feel you’ve been wronged by other people, and thus are justified to be mean to them. Narcissists think other people deserve it because they constantly hurt them.

Do narcissists know they hurt you?

Although they’re often being mean, it is hard to say if narcissists know they hurt other people. 

Narcissists are self-protective and fine-tuned to disrespect, or to someone taking something from them. Underneath the shiny cover, they’re very insecure. People with narcissistic personality disorder are hyper-sensitive, lack empathy, and don’t feel bad when you feel bad, so they can hurt you without realising it.

On the other hand, narcissists’ own feelings are hurt very easily. Because of their high sensitivity, any small thing another person does can be seen as an attack. And as we said earlier, in such a situation narcissist’s logic is “you have hurt me, I must hurt you back”. So they do it on purpose. 

Do narcissists get jealous?

Narcissists are getting jealous easily, as it’s extremely hard for them to be not their partner’s focus. They require constant attention and approval of their grandiosity. So when you are in a relationship with a narcissist, you become their main source of validation. 

People with a high level of narcissistic traits strategically induce jealousy in their mates as a way to accomplish certain goals: gain control or a boost their self-esteem. They might flirt with other people in front of you and try to make you feel like you can’t measure up. And they do it on purpose.

Do narcissists know they are manipulative?

Narcissists are natural manipulators. Most of the time they know they are manipulative and enjoy it because it helps them meet their goals and feed their vulnerable self-esteem. Although, as we see further, there’re exceptions, when a narcissist is distressed by his own manipulation.

People with NPD will often gaslight you. Gaslighting is a form of narcissistic abuse. It may come in a form of blatant lies, false accusation of others, spinning the truth, or major distortion of reality. When you’re being gaslighted, you may start seeing wrong things and behaviours as totally normal things. At least, this is what an abuser wants you to believe.

Do narcissists feel shame?

As we covered so far, narcissists can be very cruel, but they do feel shame, lots of it. In fact, shame is one of the central feelings for a narcissist, while their inflated ego is an effort to deny it. Many narcissists origin from shame, particularly being shamed by parents and tutors when they were kids.

Narcissists know, at least intuitively, how much effort they put into making others admire them. Most often they know how they manipulate people and facts and are afraid to be compromised. This makes them feel even more shame.

How do you handle a narcissist successfully?

Paradoxically enough, while empathy is a lacking trait of narcissists, empathy is the key to handling a narcissist successfully.

When you talk to a narcissist or are in a relationship with them, remember about their fragile ego and the constant feeling of shame. This kind of awareness will give you an insight into many small things that take place in your communication.

While there’s a lot of “dealing with the narcissist” guides out there, we’d like to focus on a few most important points, which are common for most of them:

  • Be self-aware and acknowledge your annoyance. Narcissists can get under your skin. Recognizing where your frustration is coming from can give you the strength you need to stop it and shed a light on what’s going on between you and them.
  • Appreciate the intention. Vulnerable narcissists need much approval from others. Once you acknowledge that they are coming from a place of low self-esteem, you can provide them with just enough support and reassurance. Too much reassurance can fan their egocentric flames, but the right amount will allow them to calm down.
  • Don’t play their games. You don’t need to attend to everything a narcissist says or does, no matter how much they strive for your attention. You may want to acknowledge their feelings first but then turn to your interests anyway.
  • Recognize that your friend/partner/relative or yourself may need help. Many narcissists have low self-esteem, which makes them suffer for years. It’s important to recognize when professional intervention can be beneficial. It’s proved that psychotherapy can change even long-standing behaviours. 

Can narcissists change?

Narcissists can change, but it requires a great deal of work and a genuine desire to change.

As said by Wendy Behary, the author of “Disarming the Narcissist”: “One very common misconception is the absolutist belief that narcissists are completely incapable of empathy and completely incapable of change. Narcissists are capable of empathy once they engage in the hard work of truly knowing themselves at the deepest emotional level, facing the underlying shame and insecurity and loneliness that often lies beneath their blustery exterior.”

That being said, the main goal of the treatment for narcissistic personality disorder is to build up the person’s weak empathy and poor self-esteem, and have more realistic expectations of themselves and other people.


A tendency to narcissism is present in everyone to varying degrees. If you notice narcissistic traits in you, your partner, friend or relative, it doesn’t still mean you have narcissistic personality disorder. Yet, if you’re really concerned, a consultancy of a therapist can help.

Healthy narcissism is not a bad thing and helps us achieve our goals and have healthy ambitions. Pathological narcissism can be corrected if a person is self-aware enough to ask for help or can hear other people’s concerns and accept this kind of help from them.

Please feel free to comment on the content or ask any questions in the comments section below.

Disarming the Narcissist: Surviving and Thriving with the Self-Absorbed

Borderline, Narcissistic, and Schizoid Adaptations: The Pursuit of Love, Admiration, and Safety

Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us

Narcissists’ Overconfidence May Hide Low Self-Esteem

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD):

Narcissistic Sociopath (A Comprehensive Guide)

Covert Narcissist

The psychology of narcissism – W. Keith Campbell 


Narcissistic personality disorder – Symptoms and causes

Origins of narcissism in children

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition: DSM-5

At what age does narcissistic personality disorder develop?

Narcissistic personality disorder often develops in the teens or early adulthood, and it affects more males than females.

The study of 565 children in the Netherlands in 2015 is the first to look at the origins of narcissism. The research was conducted with children ages 7-12 and their parents and showed that the way parents treat their children can predict how narcissistic their kids would be. 

Narcissism isn’t a disorder that a person has or doesn’t have. Rather, it is a spectrum on which adults and kids gradually differ from one another, explained Eddie Brummelman, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Amsterdam and the main author of the study.

What creates a narcissist?

It’s not known what creates a narcissistic personality. As with many personality disorders, the cause of NPD is complex. It may be connected to parenting styles ― excessive adoration or excessive criticism, genetics or neurobiology.

Narcissistic personality disorder can be complicated with depression and anxiety, relationship difficulties, problems at work or school, physical health problems, drug or alcohol misuse, suicidal thoughts or behaviour.

What is a malignant narcissist?

Malignant narcissism is a psychological syndrome characterised with extreme aggression, antisocial behaviour, and sadistic actions. The malignant narcissist undermines families and organizations in which they are involved and humiliates the people around them. It’s also characterised with a need for power, lack of conscience and paranoid traits. 

What is a covert narcissist?

There is a soft type of narcissist, called a covert narcissist, which is denoted by introversion, hypersensitivity, defensiveness, and anxiety. This is opposite to the hyper-aggressive, super-loud type, but not less dangerous. Both types of narcissism share a common core of conceit, arrogance, and the tendency to give in to one’s own needs and disregard others.

What is narcissistic rage?

Narcissistic rage is an outburst of anger, or demonstrative silence – passive-aggressive behaviour. Both are intense and happen when a narcissist gets angry.