Psychology Today on how to spot a narcissist

A Lovefraud reader informs us that the current issue of Psychology Today features an article about narcissists—how they behave, and how to detect them. It’s an interesting article, because narcissism is a component of sociopathy. All sociopaths are narcissists, but not all narcissists are sociopaths.

Read How to spot a narcissist, on PsychologyToday.com.

Note: The article quotes the theories of a researcher named Peter Jonason, among others. Lovefraud has written about Jonason’s ideas before—I don’t agree with them. You can read it here:

Psychopaths, silly science and James Bond

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68 Comments on "Psychology Today on how to spot a narcissist"

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Dear Donna,
Thank you for posting this article. This is my ex to a T. I still think my ex is perhaps a spath as well. But this article has confirmed that he is, indeed, a toxic and disordered person.

My ex’s father was having sex with my ex’s half sister behind his mother’s back. His half sister was a teenager at the time and my ex was just a young boy. He said his mother would go out food shopping and that he would be downstairs watching T.V. while his father and sister were upstairs having sex. He would be so angry with his mother for taking too long at the grocery store and not coming home in time to catch them.

When my ex was 18, he later found photos in the top of his father’s closet that showed many women nude but no faces showing. (the photo was only of the womens’ bodies) One of those pictures was of his sister. He said he recognized it because of a mole on the leg. I honestly think that is the point that broke him.

I asked him how he could still have anything to do with his father. He gave me two reasons. One, his sister told him to get whatever he could financially from his father for college. Two, he said his father had a funny idea about love.

My ex actually used the word love to describe his father’s behavior.

My ex is extremely concerned about his image. He was nerdy growing up, has a genius I.Q, and is obviously from a dysfunctional family. He spent his latter teenage years building a “cool” image for himself. He is still in that world. He has a successful job and nice family, but he is always trying to be the cool guy.

The many ways he has used and manipulated to get this image is quite frankly disgusting. He had no qualms about stealing, using people for sex, and even slashing a fraternity brother’s tires because he thought the guy was a jerk and deserved it.

One time we were at a restaurant and there were hearing impaired poeple using sign language at the table next to us. He was extremely pissed off about it. At first I though he was just kidding, but he was really angry. I asked him why he was so upset about the sign language and he said it was because he thought they were talking about him.

He cheated on his previous girlfriend with many women just so he could have stories to tell his friends. He slandered me to his friends and family all the while telling me he loved me. He used me for sex, judged and yelled at me constantly and was so cold and cruel with his emotions. His friends would also treat me poorly right in front of him and he woudl do nothing to defend me, but in private would make some excuse.

As I write this, I still can’t believe I actually fell for this tool.

To this day, he honestly believes that I was the controlling one and that I am jealous of him.

I know I went on a bit, but I want to thank you for LoveFraud. your book has been a great resource for me as well as this site.

Good article, Donna, thanks for posting it. Interestingly enough, my observations with several Ps is that the level of Narcissism (at least apparent narcissism) varies. Both my P sperm donor and my P son are “over the top” in N traits. My X-BF, was also N-is, but less apparent on first or even second meeting. He had more couth about it actually. The following clip from the article describes my P son and my P sperm donor to a “Tee”


In 1984, psychologist Robert Emmons posed the original narcissistic paradox: He noted that narcissists simultaneously devalue others even as they need others’ admiration. Back’s research on narcissism now allows psychologists to resolve this long-standing paradox. It appears that narcissists seek out people who maintain their high positive self-image, at the same time intentionally avoiding and putting down people who may give them a harsh dose of realism. “Seeking admiration is like a drug for narcissists,” notes Back. “In the long run it becomes difficult because others won’t applaud them, so they always have to search for new acquaintances from whom they get the next fix.” This could explain why narcissists so frequently change their social contexts and maintain only weak ties to others.

The “unique copiing mechanisms” mentioned in the following quote from the article, that allow the two of them (my P sperm donor and P son) to put down others who don’t fall for their “charm” and “superiority” is described very well in the following quote from the article. My P son sees himself as a “winner” even though he has not been a successful criminal (he gets caught) and he still views himself as SUPERIOR to non-criminals and people who HAVE lead a successful life. Even though he is in the view of “normal” people nothing but a low-life unsuccessful convict, somehow he can view himself as a BIG SUCCESS.

QUOTE: How can narcissists maintain their inflated self-image even though they know how they are perceived by others? Carlson argues that such people “might think arrogance is a positive trait, like extraversion.” Narcissists may also have unique coping mechanisms that allow them to reframe negative reactions. “They know that in certain situations [such as on first meeting] they are better than others and they use this positive information to generally reinterpret other experiences,” notes Back. Narcissists may conclude that others are just jealous (“haters!”), or just not smart enough to realize how “bitchin'” they really are.

The list from the article of how to spot Narcissists is a good one. It also describes my X-BF who was also a psychopath. Though he didn’t describe his family as “perfect” (quite the opposite actually) The rest of the items from the article describe him perfectly.


Bragging about one’s perfect family (no one’s family is perfect).

Hypergenerosity in public to demonstrate that one has power, but coldness once the camera is off.

Hypersensitive and insecure. This includes imagining criticism where it doesn’t exist and getting depressed by perceived criticism.”Vulnerable” narcissists are self-centered and overly defensive.

Prone to a vast array of negative emotions including depression, anxiety, self-consciousness, and shame owing to not being given their “due.” Such feelings can be an indication of egocentricity and self-absorption.

Repeatedly puts down other people, especially inferiors and strangers. Loves to talk about him or herself and mentions others mainly to name-drop.

Some good information here and well worth the read. Thanks, Donna.

Great article! Thanks Donna.
Another validation.


Wall Street is full of Narcissists. One former manager was particularly so. I would be in his office when I colleague would enter to ask a question. To the person’s face he was friendly and complementary, once the person left his office, immediately backstabbing.

We managed complex technical projects. When something went wrong, his first reaction was not to ask what happened but who to blame.

I was managing one vendor project that had many issues. I kept him informed and continually pleaded for senior management intervention. Even, from day one, I saw major problems with this vendor’s bid, but I was ignored, partly because the vendor’s project team were former employees of the firm, an obvious conflict of interest.

My manager not only ignored me, but continually told senior management all was green. When the project imploded, I was blamed. In one meeting, he told a managing director that he knew nothing of problems with this vendor and behind close doors put the blame totally on me.

Since I now did not have the support of my manager, others used me to shield themselves from their culpability in this project’s problems. All my other successes in the firm, and there were many, were ignored and my career there was ruined.

I became depressed and for the first time in my life needed anti-depressants. During this time I also developed a cardiac condition.

But their actions toward me (and others) were so egregious, I sought legal counsel and realized I had a way to fight back, since it was obvious that once my manager knew I had mental and physical health conditions, he had me by the you know whats.

When they finally illegally terminated me, only days after returning from short-term disability, I was prepared and had been gathering evidence for six months.

They stalled for two years but finally settled. I did get a tax-free sum that many would consider a windfall, but in the grand scheme of Wall Street it is peanuts and not quite what I considered fair, but to be honest I was not in any position to continue the fight in court.

At least I have enough to start a new life and next year, I plan to start a consulting business to help those who have been subject to workplace discrimination, since I was terminated due to health discrimination. My experience in fighting a Wall Street firm is invaluable to those seeking legal action against an employer and there is so much I know that no lawyer will tell a client, including mistakes made by my law firm that compromised my case.

If I can help people get money out of these bastards, that would be very rewarding. Maybe I am a rogue after all…

Thanks for linking the article Donna, it’s very good, IMO.

Oxy, I noticed that line too.
In 1984, psychologist Robert Emmons posed the original narcissistic paradox: He noted that narcissists simultaneously devalue others even as they need others’ admiration. …“Seeking admiration is like a drug for narcissists,” notes Back. “

And it occurred to me that a narcissist does not differentiate between, a sincere complement and a false complement. They don’t really care about what is at the root of the complement as long as they get complemented and admired. That’s why they surround themselves with false friends. To them what is on the surface is what makes something real. It’s not that they can’t comprehend, intellectually, the difference. Of course they can. But it FEELS the same to them, so they get the same high from false admiration as from true admiration. This runs parallel with their ability to believe their own lies while simultaneously knowing that they are lying. All that matters is that there are enough symbols surrounding them, to “prove” that the lie is real.

My spath, when pulling a con, made sure there were plenty of props and true believers surrounding him. That made the lie, real.

I think Narcissistic “admiration” extends to attention as well. They also love to be the center of attention, even when others may view their actions as inappropriate.

Hence the expression “the bride at every wedding and the deceased at every funeral…”

Thanks for sharing this article Donna. There were some very good points. For me, the last sentence resonated the most, “Responsibility is the ability to respond.”

I think for EVERY misstep I have made in life, and esp with my husband, it was because I failed to respond by taking appropriate responsibility. In fact, I turned much of my responsibility over to my husband, which enabled him to twisted my life where he had dominating control.

The ability to respond, that is taking responsibility for our lives, is the central key to taking back control.

Your comment reminded me, I thought my husband was the ONLY person in the world who loved to go to funerals b/c it was a SOCIAL event!


Wow, what a warped person!

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