What Is Narcissistic Behavior?

Nicole Etolen

Individuals who pervasively engage in narcissistic behavior typically suffer from a mental condition called narcissistic personality disorder. Their behavior tends to be erratic, manipulative and centered around themselves. In some cases, a person suffering from this condition can become both physically and emotionally abusive. This type of behavior is also extremely difficult to treat. Although women can develop the disorder, it is typically more common among men.

Narcissistic behavior is more common among men than women.
Narcissistic behavior is more common among men than women.

There are many different aspects of narcissistic behavior, but the main aspect includes behavior that enables sufferers to pursue goals that only benefit themselves. Typically, those with this condition are unable to relate to the emotions of other people, and see any form criticism as a personal attack. They may react with extreme rage or violence in these situations, or turn the words of their perceived attacker around to make themselves look like victims.

Narcissists are often manipulative and self-centered.
Narcissists are often manipulative and self-centered.

Another aspect of narcissistic behavior is one of a large sense of self-importance. Those with the disorder often act as though they are better and more important than others around them are. At the same time, however, those with narcissistic personality disorder actually have very low self-esteem. They typically require consistent praise and affection, and become angry or sullen if they are not the center of attention.

Narcissists are extremely focused on their physical appearance.
Narcissists are extremely focused on their physical appearance.

Researchers are not certain why people develop narcissistic behavior. While some patients are known to have suffered extreme emotional abuse and neglect as children, others came from homes where they received nothing but praise. Environmental factors are usually not enough to create the disorder; typically, the patients have some genetic traits that make them predisposed to mental conditions. Narcissistic personality disorder generally does not present until early adulthood, as when children display traits of the disorder, it is considered age-appropriate behavior

People who are narcissistic are more prone to being combative.
People who are narcissistic are more prone to being combative.

Narcissistic behavior can lead to several complications in both the sufferers’ lives and the lives of those around them. Many patients with this disorder also suffer from an addictive personality and become dependent on drugs or alcohol. They also have a hard time maintaining personal relationships, as their behavior can be very difficult to cope with. Some narcissistic personalities become depressed or suicidal, especially if they feel as though they are not getting the attention they deserve.

A narcissist may be overly competitive with their significant other.
A narcissist may be overly competitive with their significant other.

This type of behavior is difficult to treat because there are no medications for the disorder. Treatment typically revolves around various types of psychotherapy, including group therapy and family-focused sessions. The primary goal of treatment is to address the underlying issue of low self-esteem while helping the patient learn to better relate to others. Those with severe narcissistic personality disorder can take years to reach a breakthrough, or may never be able to alter their behavior.

Narcissists tend to dominate conversations.
Narcissists tend to dominate conversations.

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Discussion Comments


My husband is a narcissistic. He actually is a very learned and experienced individual, but he is never wrong, nor does he ever apologize. I, however, am always wrong, at least by his approximation.

An example: I virtually begged him not to claim me as a dependent on his taxes last year, for fear that it would mess up my financial aid (I am a college senior). Over the course of a month, we argued about it, with him repeatedly bringing me things he had looked up on the Internet that supported his opinion that he could claim me with out it damaging my scholastic career. Finally, sick of fighting over it, I relented by saying: "Fine! Claim me on your taxes since your so determined, but wait and see! It will mess up my financial aid and I won't be able to finish school!"

Guess what? I was right. However, he now says that we agreed that he should claim me on his taxes! Now I am having to sit out of school for a year!


I am glad I have read the description of this type of person. It was like my ex husband could just slip into the slot.

It is very sad because these people cannot genuinely see past themselves. I believe it has nothing to do with selfishness or arrogance. It's just the way they are. I am probably the only person who has been consistently in his life now for 25 years. He just walks all over other people, can't hold down jobs, runs friends out of town when they don't come up to scratch, shows short lived empathy when needed.

So now I actually can relate to this. He has been diagnosed bipolar, but I don't believe that is quite right either. To me, this is more him than anything else I have read.


My friend has long suffered from a narcissistic personality disorder. He is locked within his own world. He speaks of himself very highly, though he very primarily has me, and a few others, as his friends. He does not understand how to interpret other people's opinions other than to relate them to himself.

He is paranoid, which is exacerbated by regular marijuana use. He speaks only of his own activities and does not ask very many questions of other people. He is constantly looking for praise and hurriedly surmises people in their responses, likely assuming they are trying to seem more important than him, or belittle him or sound negative when said person/s are adding to or "going along with" the conversation.

He does not accept the opinion of any other human being on Earth and has stated this for eight or nine years straight; I have known him for 12. Often in conversation, when reciprocation should take place, I have watched his symptoms aggregate over the years and become progressively worse.

I have gained degrees within these years to which he imagines he could "just take the test" and pass, because our high school gave him the greatest education - deadpan stare, emotionless. He is jolly and super talkative when around new people but reclusive if they do not instantly attach - angry with them, at first for wasting his time.

It is going to be his unique experience when his own self-indulgence has led him to believe his guitar music will be “the greatest" one day. He is 29 years old and a virgin. I support my mentally challenged friend and see him growing out of it in these last few months. I also have found myself within such a position in my life as well but could not convey that to him. He takes criticism horribly.

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