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What Are the Signs of a Narcissistic Friend?

By Alicia Sparks
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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There are both obvious, surface symptoms of narcissism and less-evident, underlying personality traits of people with narcissism, or narcissistic tendencies. For example, a narcissistic friend might publicly exaggerate his achievements to others, but deal with a low self-esteem in private. He may expect praise from everyone, but secretly feel he doesn’t deserve it. Note that not everyone who exhibits narcissistic tendencies has narcissistic personality disorder or even diagnosable narcissism. Only a health professional trained in mental disorders and personality disorders can diagnosis a person with narcissistic personality disorder.

A narcissistic friend might see himself as superior to others, or in some way more special or better than others, and strive to make others recognize this and feel inferior to him. He may strive to be the center of attention and believe other people, whether family, friends, or co-workers, should follow his lead or plans. Sometimes, this friend may exhibit extreme jealousy of others or believe others are jealous of him.

At the same time, a narcissist might have a low or fragile self-esteem. He could have trouble accepting criticism, or he might feel embarrassed or ashamed of some aspect of himself or his life he doesn’t share. Usually, people with narcissism are easily hurt and feel rejection strongly. A narcissist who doesn’t outwardly exhibit these symptoms might seem unemotional or somewhat detached. Yet, typically these are symptoms he keeps hidden from others, so his friends and even his family members might not be aware of them.

It is possible to show narcissistic personality traits without having diagnosable narcissistic personality disorder. From time to time, perfectly healthy people fantasize about having more power than they actually have, become jealous of others, or set unrealistic goals. Such behaviors don’t mean the people have a personality disorder.

Generally, people who do have diagnosable narcissism or narcissistic personality disorder showcase these attitudes or behaviors on a regular basis. They have symptoms of narcissism that impair their lives in some way. Their relationships or jobs suffer, they begin to abuse drugs or alcohol, or they entertain thoughts of suicide. So, a narcissistic friend may be one who sometimes takes advantage of others or doesn’t pick up on the feelings and emotions of others, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he has a full-blown diagnosable personality disorder. He simply could have narcissistic traits or a type of subclinical narcissism.

Treatment for narcissistic personality disorder is usually a blend of psychotherapy and medication. Yet, suggesting a narcissistic friend see a doctor isn’t the same as suggesting a friend who’s just broken his hand visit the emergency room. Unfortunately, mental health stigma and other social nuances still prevent many people from seeking treatment. Still, if certain symptoms or side effects of the narcissistic traits arise, such as depression, substance abuse, or suicidal thoughts, it’s crucial for the friend to seek help. In situations with such extreme symptoms, family members and other friends might consider an intervention.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon1001936 — On Jul 30, 2019

I had a friend who has narcissistic behaviors. I felt like I was observing a one-act play when I was with her. She had to always be the center of attention when we went out, acting like everyone was her best friend and forgetting I was there. I always had to come to her house, she was constantly late, many times hours late. I would be sitting waiting at the restaurant and she would still be in bed! Whatever sacrifices I made, or kind acts I did, it was never enough. When I tried to speak to her, she would interrupt, or start cleaning, yell to her children. I seldom felt heard. She had many problems with alcohol and prescription opiates, both of which exaggerated the behaviors even more.

She never had any remorse, had an affair within her marriage, terrible temper tantrums, insistent accusations, and unkind personal remarks. I finally had enough and stopped speaking to her, removed her from my life, and I have never felt so free! A huge burden has been lifted off my shoulders. I put up with her as long as I did since her child was my godchild. Now I am the "villain".

It has been over a year and today I got a card in the mail saying how much she loves and misses me. Yep, I bet she does! I would miss me too! The free candy machine has been removed from her home. My advice is to run in the other direction. They have this charming way of sucking you in. I wish I had done so years ago and not wasted so much emotional and physical energy.

By anon984582 — On Jan 09, 2015

The lack of empathy and caring plus the emotional drain after talking to a person with narcissism are huge clues. I grew up withtwo2 boderline-narcissists and got tired of the drama and emo.

I left home at 17 because I wanted to be happy for a change. I realized that you can be ambitious, curious but still kind and to always try to do the right thing.

My life has been an adventure-now I am a therapist and try to empower those who are affected by a Society that places more value on money than on kindness and caring.

By Buster29 — On Feb 21, 2014

I had a friend in college who thought he was the best at everything he tried. I thought he was arrogant and a little selfish at the time, but not narcissistic. A few years later, I found out he started his own company after graduating college and it failed after two years. He wasn't the guy I remembered. He seemed completely deflated, and rarely talked about his past accomplishments.

I think the hardest time for a true narcissist is the emotional crash after realizing he or she has been bluffing with an empty hand all this time.

By Ruggercat68 — On Feb 20, 2014

Unfortunately, I don't believe most people with true narcissistic personality disorder would ever admit to having a mental health issue. Society sometimes rewards narcissistic behavior with promotions and other benefits. What others see as unhealthy narcissism could also be seen as drive and ambition. If someone is only in it for themselves, there's no telling how far he or she is willing to go in a competitive environment like business or politics.

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