People with a personality disorder think they are superior and unique. There are a number of signs that you could be dating a person with NPD.

Someone who posts selfies on their social media or talks about themselves on a first date is a narcissist.

But a true narcissist is someone who has narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). Individuals who have NPD believe they are superior and unique compared to others, and they expect to be recognized and treated as such.

They are often unable to recognize the opinions and needs of others and are dismissive of others’ problems.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) lists nine criteria for NPD, but it specifies that someone only needs to meet five of them to clinically qualify as a narcissist.

  • grandiose sense of self-importance
  • preoccupation with dreams of success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  • They are special and unique and can only be understood by other special people or institutions.
  • excessive admiration is needed.
  • Sense of entitlement.
  • Interpersonally exploitative behavior.
  • There is no lack of empathy.
  • A belief that others are envious of them.
  • A demonstration of arrogant and haughty behavior.

What it boils down to, according to licensed therapist Rebecca Weiler, LMHC, is selfishness at the expense of others, plus the inability to consider others’ feelings at all.

Like most mental health or personality disorders, there are varying degrees of NPD severity.

“Narcissism falls on a spectrum,” says Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist Dr. Fran Walfish, the author of “The Self-Aware Parent.”

In outpatient settings, for example, people who have a narcissistic personality disorder may be high functioning and relatable, but in the inpatient settings, they can be aggressive and challenging. A person’s aggression typically indicates the severity of the disorder.

Additionally, people who have NPD often experience other physical and mental health conditions, like substance use disorder and anxiety, which may further complicate close relationships.

All that said, knowing the “official” diagnostic criteria doesn’t usually make it easier to spot someone with NPD, especially when you’re romantically involved with one. A qualified expert will typically have to administer a standard psychiatric interview to determine if someone has NPD.

Knowing the signs of NPD may help give you some context. Here are some signs to look out for.

People who have NPD gravitate toward grandiosity and fantasy. Your relationship might have felt like a fairytale at first — maybe they complimented you constantly or told you they loved you within the first month.

They might tell you how smart you are or how compatible you are, even if you just started seeing each other.

“Narcissists think that they deserve to be with other people who are special, and that special people are the only ones who can appreciate them fully,” says Nedra Glover Tawwab, LCSW, the founder of Kaleidoscope Counseling in Charlotte, North Carolina.

If someone came on too strong, be careful. We all love to feel lusted for. Real love has to be nurtured and grown.

“It is probably too early for them to really love you. If you feel like they don’t know enough about you to love you, they probably don’t.”

People with NPD will try to make superficial connections early on in a relationship.

People with NPD have an inflated sense of self-importance and are prone to exaggerating achievements and expecting to be recognized as superior.

“Narcissists love to constantly talk about their own accomplishments and achievements with grandiose,” says psychotherapist Jacklyn Krol, LCSW, of Mind Rejuvenation Therapy. “They do this because they feel better and smarter than everyone else, and also because it helps them create an appearance of being self-assured.”

Clinical psychologist Dr. Angela Grace, PhD, MEd, BFA, BEd, adds that narcissists will often exaggerate their accomplishments and embellish their talents in these stories in order to gain adoration from others.

They are too busy talking about themselves to listen to you.

“Grace says the warning is two parts. Your partner won’t engage in conversation about you, and they won’t stop talking about themselves.”

What happens when you talk about yourself? Do they ask follow up questions about you? Or do they just talk about them?

Narcissists may seem like they’re super self-confident. But according to Tawwab, most people with NPD actually lack self-esteem and require excessive attention and admiration.

“She says that if you don’t give them a lot of praise, they’ll fish for it. They want to know how great you are.”

“Narcissists use other people — people who are typically highly empathic — to supply their sense of self-worth and make them feel powerful. But because of their low self-esteem, their egos can be slighted very easily, which increases their need for compliments,” adds Shirin Peykar, LMFT.

The main difference between people with and without NPD is that they need others to lift them up and put others down. Peykar says that two things do not work for people with high self-confidence.

According to Weiler,cissists punish everyone around them for their lack of self-confidence.

Lack of empathy, or the ability to feel how another person is feeling, is one of the hallmark characteristics of a narcissist, Walfish says. People who have NPD are often unable to apologize and understand the feelings and perspectives of others.

“She says that cissists don’t understand the concept of feelings and don’t have the skill to make you feel appreciated.”

Does your partner care when you have a bad day at work, fight with your best friend, or fight with your parents? Do they get bored when you express your feelings?

Many relationships with people with NPD eventually collapse because of this inability to sympathize, according to Walfish.

It’s common for people with NPD to have frequent conflicts with others. Dig deeper into their connections and you may notice they have few close friends.

On top of this, people with NPD can be hypersensitive and insecure. As a result, they might lash out when you want to hang out with other people.

“They might say that you don’t spend enough time with them, that you feel guilty for spending time with your friends, or that you should berate your friends.”

Questions to ask yourself

  • “How does my partner treat someone who doesn’t want anything from me?”
  • Does my partner have any friends?
  • Do they have a desire to be a nemesis?

It may have felt like teasing, but then it became mean. Suddenly, everything you do, from what you wear to who you hang out with, is a problem for them.

Antagonism and hostility are well-documented traits in people who have NPD, and their toll on other people is large.

“They will call you names, hit you with one-liners, and make jokes that aren’t quite funny. Their goal is to lower others’ self-esteem so that they can increase their own.”

They say reacting to what they say may reinforce their behavior. Peykar says that a person loves a reaction. It shows them they have the power to affect another person.

If they insult you when you do something worth celebrating, get out of there.

“A person who is a narcissist might say that they were able to do that because they didn’t sleep well.”

They want you to know that you are not better than them. Because, to them, nobody is.

Gaslighting is a form of manipulation and emotional abuse, and it’s a hallmark of narcissism. People with NPD may tell blatant lies, falsely accuse others, spin the truth, and ultimately distort your reality — especially in response to perceived challenges of authority or fear of abandonment.

Signs of gaslighting include the following:

  • You no longer feel like the person you used to be.
  • You feel less confident and anxious.
  • You wonder if you are being too sensitive.
  • You feel like everything you do is wrong.
  • “You think it’s your fault when things go wrong.”
  • You are apologizing a lot.
  • “You have a sense that something is wrong, but can’t tell what it is.”
  • You wonder if your response to your partner is appropriate.
  • You make excuses for your partner.

They do this to make others doubt themselves in order to gain superiority. Peykar says that a lot of people who are pathologically good at manipulating people use that to get them to do things.

People with NPD are often described as being arrogant and having haughty behaviors or attitudes. That’s why fighting with a narcissist may feel impossible.

“There is no compromise with a narcissist. They won’t see a disagreement as a disagreement. They will see it as them teaching you some truth.”

If you feel like your partner, you may be dating a narcissist.

  • “Doesn’t hear you.”
  • “Won’t understand you.”
  • “They don’t take responsibility for their part in the issue.”
  • “Doesn’t ever try to compromise.”

Weiler advises avoiding arguments and negotiation with someone who has NPD.

The lack of control and lack of a fight are what drives a narcissist crazy. She says that the less power you can give them, the better.

And because they never think they’re wrong, they rarely apologize.

People with NPD are extremely vulnerable to humiliation and shame, and they often lash out at others when they feel their self-esteem has taken a hit.

If you insist you are done with the relationship, they will try to hurt you for abandoning them.

“Their ego is so badly bruised that they feel hatred for anyone who hurt them. Everything is everyone else’s fault. She adds that includes the break up.”

Chances are you have already experienced it in a relationship with someone with NPD.

Being in a relationship with someone who is constantly belittling, gaslighting, and not committing to you may feel emotionally exhausting.

How to prepare for the breakup

  • You deserve better, so remind yourself.
  • Strengthen your relationships with people who are sympathetic.
  • Friends and family can help remind you of reality.
  • Tell your partner to talk to a therapist.
  • You can see a therapist.

“You can’t change a person with NPD by loving them or changing yourself to their liking. Grace says that they will never be in tune with you, never empathizing to your experiences, and will always feel empty after an interaction with them.”

“She says that cissists can’t feel fulfilled in relationships or in any other area of their lives because they don’t have anything special.”

You will never be enough for them, because they are never enough for themselves.

Cut ties is the best thing you can do. Offer no explanation. Offer the only chance you have. Grace says to break up with them and not give them a second, third or fourth chance.

Krol recommends blocking someone with NPD from contacting you or harassing you with calls or texts once they have processed the rejection.

This article is not meant to diagnose your partner.

“The article is meant to outline unacceptable behaviors and reactions in the context of a loving, equitable partnership. It doesn’t make your partner a narcissist if you have one or six of these signs. It is a good cause for re-examining your relationship.”

Gabrielle Kassel is a rugby-playing, mud-running, protein-smoothie-blending, meal-prepping, CrossFitting, New York–based wellness writer. She’s become a morning person, tried the Whole30 challenge, and eaten, drunk, brushed with, scrubbed with, and bathed with charcoal, all in the name of journalism. In her free time, she can be found reading self-help books, bench-pressing, or practicing hygge. Follow her on Instagram.