How to spot a narcissist, according to a psychotherapist

While there are many articles out there to help you spot a sociopath and psychopath, can you spot a narcissist? After writing about whether social media is turning people into narcissists for Elle, psychotherapist Katherine Schafler decided to create a useful guide about the personality disorder. And even though Psychology Today noted that a narcissist is less likely to commit a crime than a sociopath, it’s still good to know what constitutes clinical narcissism.

As Schafler explained, less than 1% of people are diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder. That number comes from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5), which is a manual therapists and psychiatrists use as a diagnostic guide for patients. Schafler noted that narcissists don’t typically seek treatment, which helps explain the low number of recorded diagnoses. True narcissism has little to do with how many selfies you take. Social media doesn’t create narcissists, though it may become a useful platform for them.

Instead, you can find out if someone is a narcissist based on their capacity for empathy. As Schafler wrote:

“Basically narcissists consistently give zero fucks, and not in the liberated, good way.”

She explained that their inconsiderate behavior is constant and doesn’t just apply to the workplace or in their personal lives. Schafler gave examples: A narcissist will cut in front of you in line because they truly believe their time is more important than yours. Or they expect people to always provide fanfare for them when they arrive at an event. Essentially, they ignore other people’s feelings to cater to their own.

Schafler summed it like this:

"In short, narcissists order a trenta sized cup of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy every single morning, after shamelessly cutting ahead of you in line."

What’s more interesting is that narcissists are also highly sensitive. Schafler writes that they have a “pretty fragile sense of self-esteem,” so consider that another sign of a narcissist could be she or he getting easily offended by criticism. Schafler’s guide indicates that narcissists may be able to change their behavior — but they probably don’t want to. “That’s because narcissistic behaviors are egosyntonic for narcissists, meaning their behaviors fit in with their idea of who they are, so they see no real need to change them,” Schafler wrote. This can be problematic for those in their lives or professionals who are treating them in therapy.

Ultimately, if you think you know someone who is a narcissist in your life, you’ll need to have boundaries to protect yourself. But at least you know that your friends or family members who post constant selfies aren’t 100% narcissists…although there’s a tiny chance that they are.