9 Signs of a Narcissist: What Exactly is Narcissism?

The term narcissist gets thrown around quite often, especially when discussing an arrogant coworker or an entitled family member. When we hear the word narcissist, we can usually picture someone we have all encountered in our lives, someone who believes they are a blessing to those around them.

But what does being diagnosed as a narcissist mean?

The Diagnostic and Statistics Manual (or DSM for short) is the handbook for mental and psychiatric disorders diagnoses for professional clinicians. This book allows for diagnoses to be standardized and reduces the likelihood of people being falsely diagnosed. It is updated every few decades to reflect the new research in the field.

In it, they refer to Narcissistic Personality Disorder. And it has had the same nine criteria for diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder for over 20 years. However, because of challenges in diagnosing it, they considered removing it from the DSM altogether. It can be hard to diagnose because narcissists don’t just fit one profile; they can be socially-extroverted CEOs or introverted hermits, and narcissists frequently also have other mental disorders making diagnosis no simple matter.

If you want more information on why it can be so hard to diagnose, see the article “Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Diagnostic and Clinical Challenges,” published in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

While all of these criteria are signs of narcissism, they only need to fulfill five requirements for a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder.

The nine criteria of a narcissist are the following:

  1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance.
  2. Frequently fantasize about unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
  3. Believes they are “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people.
  4. Requires excessive admiration compliments easily swayed.
  5. Has an intense sense of entitlement.
  6. Is interpersonally exploitative (takes advantage of their friends).
  7. Lacks empathy, is unwilling or unable to consider others and their feelings.
  8. He is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of them.
  9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.

What you may notice about many of these criteria is that most people have a few of them to a degree.

However, before you go around diagnosing those people around you, it is essential to consider the purpose of the DSM. The DSM is intended to be used by professional psychologists and clinicians, with most people being diagnosed because it is causing massive problems in their lives or those around them.

So before you start diagnosing Denise in accounting or your Aunt Carol, consider if you really find them unpleasant, annoying, and arrogant.