If you have or know someone with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), we don’t have to tell you the condition's impact. It affects every aspect of life.
Around 1 in every 200 people living in the US have NPD. And the prevalence is shockingly higher in males – about 75% of those afflicted.
But everyone has some narcissistic traits; it’s a spectrum. So, even if you or your loved one don’t have diagnosed NPD, you can have high narcissistic characteristics just below the threshold for diagnosis.
NPD can cause all sorts of problems in a person’s life. But the situation doesn’t have to stay hopeless; there are definitely things you can do when dealing with a narcissist.
What Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
A narcissistic personality disorder affects one’s personality. And this has an impact on a person’s whole life, bringing up difficulties in relationships, work, finances, or school.
As narcissistic traits are a spectrum, it’s challenging to describe symptoms that apply to all. However, here are some general signs and symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder:
- Belief in superiority compared to others around them
- A need for continual admiration from others
- An exaggerated sense of self-importance
- Obsessively concerned with power, success, beauty, and perfection
- Avoidance of those believed to be inferior to them
- Filled with envy and assume others are envious of them too
- Display arrogance, boastfulness, and pretentiousness
- Show low mood, including anger, depression, insecurity, and vulnerability
- Manipulative behavior
- Lack of empathy
But this sense of superiority and self-importance doesn’t lead to self-love. It’s common for those with NPD to be insecure and easily humiliated. Needless to say, someone with NPD may not take criticism well.
Do you think you’re living with a narcissist? Let’s look in more detail at dealing with a narcissistic family member.
Living With a Narcissist Family Member
It’s hard enough dealing with a narcissist from afar, let alone if you live in the same house. Whether it is a parent, sibling, or partner, their NPD will likely have had a massive impact on your life.
However, before we look closer at each scenario, it’s important to note that narcissists don’t act this way out of a bad will. First of all, they often lack self-reflection due to their condition. It can take a lot of time for someone with narcissistic tendencies to notice that their behavior, in fact, may be the problem.
So, you think your dad’s a narcissist. Being the child of a narcissist can be a harrowing experience. Your father may act as if he’s more important than you are or lack that basic empathy you experience from others.
It’s hard not to be disappointed with a narcissistic father; it can feel like you’ve been dealt a bad hand. But, you don’t have to continue to struggle.
So, what does a relationship with a narcissistic mother look like? A narcissistic mother may go above and beyond for you; she may sacrifice herself for you. But be wary of this – it comes at a price. It’s all for attention and control.
A narcissistic mother will help you out in what seems like a well-meaning gesture, only to assert control afterward.
For example, she may assist you with wedding plans only to become over-controlling and tell you you can’t do or wear certain things. She may offer to support you in childcare but then attempt to control your parenting style.
Those with narcissistic siblings are particularly vulnerable because of the disruption the condition causes to the family. And if you’re younger than your narcissistic sibling, you may be the target of manipulation and abuse.
Parents may not understand how to deal with NPD, and a significant amount of time and resources may be funneled into helping them. This can leave you feeling forgotten and alone.
NPD is a challenging condition to manage – the constant seeking for attention and control can leave little space for you.
You’ll likely need to build on your self-esteem when you have a narcissistic sibling, as they can lead you to believe you are inferior.
When dealing with a narcissistic family member, seeking outside support, such as from a therapist, can give you the space you need to fully express your emotional experiences.
Narcissists and Relationships
Narcissists reel you in. Their charm and confidence can be very magnetizing, to begin with. But a relationship with a narcissist can be complicated once you're committed.
But remember, narcissism is a spectrum. So, let's explore what moderate and more severe cases of narcissism in relationships may look like.
Moderate narcissism and relationships
As those with an NPD diagnosis only make up a small portion of the population, most people will only experience mild narcissism in a relationship.
Moderate narcissism may reveal itself through a lack of consideration. For example, it may feel like your partner doesn’t think about you before doing something or doesn't apologize because they might take your pain as manipulation. Perhaps your partner holds a grudge, and they find it difficult to let things go.
Maybe they become slightly defensive and closed off when you provide constructive criticism or suggestions on how they could do things differently. They could react similarly when asked questions, feeling like they are in the spotlight and becoming self-conscious and paranoid.
And it may reveal itself in pessimism; your partner may assume negative intent like you purposely did something to hurt them.
If you are wondering how to deal with a narcissistic partner, you can try the steps mentioned above.
Severe narcissism and relationships
It can be more difficult to stay in a relationship with someone who has severe NPD. They can make things exhausting to you due to their lack of empathy, preoccupation with their own importance, and attitude that only their idea of a perfect relationship can ever satisfy them.
Individuals with severe NPD may find it difficult to show genuine love and affection to anyone else because they might not love themselves.
You may find that you're not their first choice – they will choose themselves over you, given the opportunity. This can come across as selfish and inconsiderate. Perhaps your partner struggles to support you when you're upset and can say unthoughtful things.
They might see their other half (aka, you) as filling a gap – fulfilling a need. However, they might soon realize that this feeling of emptiness is much greater than they thought.
If the relationship becomes incredibly toxic and your narcissistic partner feels threatened, they may say highly hurtful things. They might attempt to manipulate and control.
How to Deal With a Narcissist
No matter if you are struggling with a narcissistic family member or a partner, there are some things you can do to set yourself in a better position. Here are the steps you should take when interacting with a narcissist.
Step 1: Recognize the impact of their behavior
The first step is recognizing how this relationship affects you. You may find yourself making excuses and allowances for another person because of their condition, but it’s vital to acknowledge the toll it’s taking on you.
Step 2: Set clear boundaries
Be prepared to push back to keep your boundaries. A narcissist will continue to push until they get what they want. Ensure you have a space that is just your own to go to when times are tough.
Step 3: Practice self-compassion
It’s easy to lose self-love when dealing with a narcissist. The continual mind games and unpredictability can leave you shaken. Make time to look after yourself, and remember to practice self-compassion.
Step 4: Be understanding of others’ lack of understanding
Due to the low prevalence of narcissistic personality disorder, most people don’t come into contact with someone with the condition. It’s a complicated disorder to understand if you’ve not been impacted by it.
Step 5: Keep your cool
A narcissistic person is likely trying to get an emotional response from you, and they’ll feel off of your anger/frustration/upset. Remaining calm keeps you in control.
Step 6: Prepare your responses
Think about an easy exit strategy beforehand, so it’s easy to implement when you’re in a difficult situation. And come up with some straightforward sentences to help keep things calm, such as “Let’s agree to disagree.”
Step 7: Seek therapy
It might be impossible to deal with relationships alone, especially if you are experiencing narcissistic abuse. Seek mental health support from a therapist to help you through this challenging period of your life.
How Online Therapy Can Help Deal With Narcissism
Regardless of whether the traits are moderate or severe, a relationship with a narcissist can be very lonely. Even if you choose to stay in a relationship and learn how to protect yourself, you might need a lot of patience and resilience you don’t necessarily have. And if you decide to end the relationship, you may come out feeling smaller than when you went into it.
Whatever the case, if you are struggling, you don’t have to stay alone.
Therapy for individuals dealing with narcissists
As we talked about above, you may find it hard to maintain your self-esteem around a narcissist, or might even be deeply traumatized by your experiences. It’s essential to work through these emotions you may have been burying or denying for days, months, even years.
Psychotherapy offers that opportunity. You’ll have 1-on-1 sessions with a trained, licensed mental health professional. You’ll explore your thoughts, feelings, and emotions, helping make sense of and understand them.
Therapy can help improve your self-esteem and identify your boundaries, which will enable you to assert these when you are around a narcissist. See the complete list of benefits of online therapy for NPD abuse here.
Therapy for narcissists
The prime treatment for NPD is psychotherapy, also known as talking therapy. Therapy helps encourage healthier and more intimate relationships, as well as solve personal problems or traumas.
Therapy can help a narcissist understand why they feel the way they do and understand the root cause of their discontent, negative perception of other people, and nurture stable self-confidence, so they won’t have to employ unhealthy coping strategies to boost it.
Online therapy vs. in-person counseling
You can choose whether you want to talk via audio or text messages. Your DoMental therapist will never leave you to suffer on your own!
Online therapy is also much cheaper than traditional in-person therapy. While you can expect to pay around $100–200 per in-person session, online counseling will only cost $29–$47 per week. That could save you up to $684 a month if you have weekly sessions.
A narcissistic personality disorder is devastating for all involved. The individual coping with the condition will likely experience low mood, lack of confidence, and continually hurt those around them.
And it’s not an easy ride for the loved ones either. It can feel like you’re in the firing line, but you don’t know when or where they will take their next shot.
Emotional difficulties that arise from NPD can be treated using talking therapy. Choose any type of therapy that you are comfortable with. You can opt for online counseling for more affordable, accessible and comfortable treatment.