By | September 7, 2023 | |

We are all narcissists in some way. Anyone can exhibit selfishness, egotism, lack of empathy, and insensitivity from time to time.

To some extent, being narcissistic is human nature and is required to live socially as we do. However, in some extreme cases, people develop narcissistic personality disorder, which can disrupt their whole lives.

This blog aims to provide insight and awareness about the different nuances of narcissism and the faces it can have.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is found more in men than women, and its onset is in early adulthood. The 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) describes this disorder as a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, the need for admiration, lack of empathy, beliefs about being unique and a sense of importance, and displays envy towards others (Meyerbröker et al., 2020).

These features can vary, as some NPD patients can display dramatically different disorder subtypes. Additionally, many comorbidities exist with Antisocial Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder.

Among the many subtypes of narcissism, the main differences can be seen between the overt, also called grandiose, narcissist and the covert narcissist. The overt narcissist is known to manage his self-esteem by over-self-enhancement and aggressively asserting himself for his entitled expectations. On the other hand, the covert narcissist does not openly exhibit the arrogance and aggressive features of NPD but secretly holds a sense of entitlement and grandiose expectations (Lancer, 2022).

Furthermore, Theodore Millon classified an additional four subtypes of narcissists. One of them is the unprincipled narcissist who lacks a conscience and acts immorally and dishonestly to outsmart others. Additionally, amorous narcissists use charm, seduction, and lies to lure their sexual conquests whom they exploit. The elitist narcissist sees themselves as special, lives a self-inflated life, and constantly markets themselves to gain prestige. Lastly, the compensatory narcissist lives in an imaginary world where he or she is the centre of attention and seeks admiration for fabricated or exaggerated accomplishments (Stranerie et al., 2021).

The American Psychological Association has developed a diagnostic tool for professionals to assess and treat patients. However, it is common for individuals to self-diagnose or be diagnosed by their partners. Nevertheless, it is crucial to address a common misconception here: having narcissistic traits does not necessarily indicate an unhealthy condition. Just because someone exhibits a trait similar to those seen in individuals with narcissistic personality disorder does not automatically mean they have the disorder itself.

Being a Healthy Narcissist

After reading the prior part of this blog, you may not want to be called a narcissist. However, this term can be a positive as well.

Once a child is equipped with positive self-esteem and is aware that they are worthy of other people’s care and attention, they will develop a healthy relationship with narcissism. Being healthy narcissists, they prioritise their needs but do not exploit others to fulfil them. They are capable of forming lasting relationships and establishing boundaries. Healthy narcissists exhibit self-confidence and empathy and can recognise their values and those of others.

Signs of healthy narcissism include self-love, assertiveness, healthy pride in accomplishments and abilities, and admiring others and their accomplishments (Degges-White, 2023).

The broad spectrum of narcissism is fascinating. Naturally, we were born and taught to exhibit some narcissism to function appropriately in society. Well adapted to society, children can become healthy narcissists, knowing they are worthy of care. However, in some cases, people develop maladaptive narcissism and even NPD. NPD can also manifest in multifaceted ways, exhibiting differences among individuals.

Degges-White, S. (2023a). Is it possible to be a healthy narcissist?, Choosing Therapy. Available at:,are%20planted%20early%20in%20life. (Accessed: 23 August 2023).

G., E.P.M. and Meyerbröker, K. (2020). Personality disorders. Abingdon: Psychology Press.
Stranieri, G.S., De Stefano, L. and Greco, A.G.G.G. (2021) ‘Pathological Narcissim’, Psychiatria Danubina, 33, pp. 35–40.

Lancer, D. (2022). Dating, loving, and leaving a narcissist: Essential tools for improving or leaving narcissistic and abusive relationships. Santa Monica, California: Carousel Books.

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