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What Is a Cerebral Narcissist?

By L. Baran
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A cerebral narcissist is the type of person who flaunts his or her intelligence and perceived superiority to feel admired and loved by others. This personality type may also be referred to as a "know it all," or someone who has a comment or answer for almost everything. Narcissists are in love with themselves and obsessed with their own image and the way that image is perceived by others. Cerebral narcissists are so obsessed with their intellectual prowess that they may ignore or neglect their physical health and appearance.

Narcissism is often related to sexual behavior. Many psychologists suggest that cerebral narcissists rarely engage in sexual intercourse with others and prefer personal stimulation as a means of satisfaction. They may prefer the anonymity and lack of intimacy of pornography over close personal relationships. It is very difficult for such personality types to forget any criticisms from past relationships, as these are seen as attacks on their perception of perfection.

Relationships for the cerebral narcissist can be incredibly difficult, if not impossible. The individual will desire to control the behavior and thoughts of his or her partner and will resist any attempts at change or compromise. The partner must always appear less intelligent and knowledgeable, and must not challenge the ideas of the narcissist. Often, relationships will be short lived as the individuals are constantly seeking someone new to provide them with the praise and admiration they are seeking, or constantly looking for someone more superior with which to associate.

Medical treatment from a qualified psychological professional is often helpful or essential to help the cerebral narcissist relate more appropriately to the world and others in it. At times, those with this personality disorder can become violent or abusive if they do not get what they want, or can even become suicidal if they feel that they are not achieving the recognition they deserve. While they seek attention from others, they are typically very lonely and introverted and may need the assistance of others to seek the help they need.

While the cerebral narcissist and somatic narcissist share a number of personality traits, they differ in a number of ways. Somatic narcissists are obsessed with physical appearance and the image of health and beauty. They obsess about what is on the outside, while cerebral narcissists obsess about internal prowess. People can switch back and forth between the two types of personality disorder depending on what is happening in their lives and what they are hoping to gain from a situation or relationship.

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Discussion Comments

By anon993318 — On Nov 03, 2015

I am married to one. It is soul destroying and extraordinarily lonely.

By anon964665 — On Aug 06, 2014

Is it true that most cerebral narcs are bisexual?

By anon955380 — On Jun 06, 2014

The first part of the description should be clarified and a distinction should be added to distinguish the difference between a knowledgeable person eager to share this information with others and an intellectual narcissist. For example, teachers, smart people and students all are eager to share and show what they know. The reward for being smart is the basic foundation of getting good grades and being academically successful. You need this. However, the distinction between know-it-alls who do actually know a lot, and intellectual narcissists is that the narc feels insecure within themselves, maybe because their parents told them be smart. If you want to receive love and admiration, be smart.

It's a term in transactional psychology that a parent tells the child "they can be", but only if they are something, like smart. When the child grows older they realize that their worth is tied to something their parents or other peers want them to be, which is being seriously smart. When they begin to lose this, their sense of self worth tied to this also decreases and that creates an instability and feeling to not being safe, because basically what they were told was, "you cannot be if you are not smart".

This could apply to anything. For example, for beautiful kids, their self worth is tied to their looks because that was what was rewarded, so they go on to become sexual narcissists, like Kim Kardashian. So, please before you give stupid people the ammo to insult smart people with their own stupid interpretation of this information, think twice and check yourself before you wreck yourself.

By anon951922 — On May 18, 2014

My husband is a narcissist. I'm convinced of that now, and that his Mother passed it on to him. I'm convinced that my husband has the cerebral type while his mother has elite type or a different type

It is very difficult to be anywhere near them. He is asexual and constantly puts me down. He always acts like I am intruding on his space. He throws half my stuff out and thinks he is above everyone else. She is so jealous, I can't wear any new clothes nail polish or do anything that is going to outshine her or take attention away from her.

They both put themselves so far above everyone else and think everyone around them is there to serve them.

By anon951060 — On May 13, 2014

Sometimes they are closeted homosexual men, from my experience.

By anon936916 — On Mar 03, 2014

My mother was a college professor, and is a cerebral narcissist. She is 83 now, with dementia, and hasn't changed a bit.

By anon334270 — On May 11, 2013

I find therapy is not helpful. I tend to try to manipulate the therapists and it works well with the men. In fact, since I have been participating in talk therapy since I was a child in the single digit age bracket, I might be better at it then the therapist.

Sadly, they're almost always narcissists themselves and therefore can't admit therapy won't work. Additionally, I don't think they see this disorder as clearly in female patients.

By anon333666 — On May 07, 2013

I dated a cerebral narcissist. He neglected himself and was a hoarder, too. He bragged about only having sex two times with his ex -- one time for each child.

We started dating and he lost interest in sex after the first couple of times. He started accusing me of using him for sex and being superficial. It's the first time someone turned their nose up at having any kind of sex life in a romantic relationship for me. I was thinking once a week would be fine, but he preferred to be celibate or masturbate with a porn mag in secret.

The fact that he lost track of reality and boasted about only having sex twice with his ex -- to friends and family (who were completely puzzled by his comments too)-- is stunning. I think he was trying to imply that "he didn't do anything" and that "he was forced to have sex" - which is the strangest mindset of all for a man who initiated sex in the first place before using it to deprive, control and debase his female partners.

By anon313225 — On Jan 10, 2013

I know directly that narcissists of any kind are difficult and taxing, but as difficult as they are, narcissism is almost always rooted in the narcissist having an invalidating childhood - because they themselves were raised by one or more narcissist(s).

Narcissism is handed down and their behavior is over-compensating and demanding to have "recognized value". They only have this value if we stand as mirrors in front of them and say "yes, you are the stuff. Everyone wants to be you." I am empathetic to this aspect that they are wounded inner children with arrested emotional development. Theirs is a life not fully lived despite their achievements. Their primary emotions are either elated gratification and angry depression and they cycle between the two -- no in between. It allows me to let their behavior roll off my back, so to speak - as long as I have no formal partnership with them.

But intellectual narcissists are by far the most tolerable because they do not want your assets or your spouse; they want your envy. I can dodge this type of narcissist and keep out of the way of them. And yes, a sloppily dressed, asexual professor is just this type of narcissist. They were likely told that they were stupid as a child by a parent.

By DylanB — On Aug 12, 2012

@JackWhack – I know a guy like that. He isn't even a professor, but he does “profess” to know everything!

He is so hard to talk to that I try to avoid him, but for some reason, he seems to want my company. Maybe it's because I'm a great listener who rarely speaks. I think he needs someone to nod and agree, rather than someone to have an actual conversation with, and I have no desire to engage in conversation with him.

He is in my art history class, and he sits next to me every time. After class, he follows me to the student union, talking about useless information all the way. I eat my lunch while listening to him, and he doesn't even seem to notice that I never say anything!

By JackWhack — On Aug 11, 2012

I suspect that a few of my college professors were cerebral narcissists. They seemed to get downright nasty with any student who dared to challenge their opinions.

Thinking back, it seems that these professors also didn't put much effort into their physical appearances. I seem to remember them having scraggly hair and unkempt beards, as well as rumpled clothing.

I did everything I could to avoid talking to them directly. They could really cut you with their snide remarks and harsh criticisms. They would make you feel so unworthy and stupid!

By OeKc05 — On Aug 10, 2012

Wow, there really is a term for everything these days! Personally, I have just always called these people “smarty pants,” but “cerebral narcissist” does have a more intellectual ring to it.

I didn't know until I read this article that narcissists are actually divided into separate groups. I thought that one was basically the same as another.

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