The ability to sense a narcissist is difficult and requires years of refinement. Here I’ll share 6 red flags you may be spending time around a narcissist. Please take my advice with a grain of salt and consult books on the subject written by academics and professionals.

It is worth mentioning that there are plenty of abusive and narcissistic people that aren’t narcissists. Many psychologists think that we all have a thing called healthy narcissism too – a healthy amount of narcissism that regulates self-esteem and self-worth.

There are many types of narcissists (extraverted, shy, popular, self-effacing) and they come in many forms.

Lastly, narcissistic personality disorder is a personality disorder – it is very serious (part of Cluster B). It is a topic area that explores some of the most complex places of human psychology, and even experts are always learning.

Without further ado, here are 6 red flags you may be spending time around a narcissist.

  1. The first red flag that you may be spending time around a narcissist is that they communicate with mixed messages all the time. Let’s start from the beginning: People with NPD are incapable of forming human bonds. They are completely devoid of empathy and do not understand what love is. Their true self has been destroyed from their childhood and has been supplanted by a false self. Their form of communication is in idealization and devaluation cycles, and to receive narcissistic supply (attention for the regulation of self-worth, self-esteem, and mental functions). After the idealization and personality mirroring, they will be consumed by boredom and switch to devaluation (idealize-devalue-discard). A narcissist wants to bring you into their reality tunnel and hollow out your senses, using idealization and devaluation, personality mirroring, gas-lighting, mind games, triangulation, and death by a thousand cuts.
  2. Narcissists and psychopaths destroy you because they hate you. They despise your human qualities (empathy and love), things that they must pretend to feel everyday. To destroy you temporarily alleviates the reminder of the emptiness that consumes them (Mackenzie 2015).

  3. As aforementioned, an interactional style that involves idealization and devaluation cycles.
  4. Narcissists have what Sam Vaknin calls alloplastic defenses. They blame the world for everything. They are always upset at the world and have a constant victimhood mentality or a persecution complex.
  5. Narcissists use an excessive amount of guilt tripping and target other emotions like shame and fear because they know they are some of the most powerful emotions human beings have that influence our psychology.
  6. A staggering absence of remorse or accountability, which includes constant lying.
  7. Evidence of a highly abusive or traumatic childhood.

In summary, 6 red flags you may be spending time around a narcissist are

  • Mixed messages
  • Idealization and devaluation cycles
  • Alloplastic defenses
  • Excessive guilt tripping
  • A staggering absence of remorse or accountability
  • Evidence of a traumatic childhood

Other aspects of NPD will be beyond the scope of this article. If you have comments about red flags or comments in general, feel free to leave a comment below.

Sam Vaknin is considered by many the leading scholar in this large field (Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited). In the beginning of his book he has dozens of testimonials which include many mental health professionals such as Samantha Rodman Ph.D., Dr. Sanja Radeljk Ph.D., Alison Poulsen Ph.D., Cyndie Spanier Ph.D., and Heyward Bruce Ewart Ph.D.

Another favorite of mine is Jackson Mackenzie’s Psychopath Free, which explained concepts with strong verbal capacity.

Bonus video on the false self:


Psychopath Free, p. 84, 227.


Birch, Adelyn. 30 Covert Emotional Manipulation Tactics. Adelyn Birch, 2015. Kindle Edition.

Loric, Leyla. The Narcissist’s Secrets. Leyla Loric and Richard Grannon, 2016. Kindle Edition.

MacKenzie, Jackson. Psychopath Free: Recovering from Emotionally Abusive Relationships With Narcissists, Sociopaths, and Other Toxic People. New York: Penguin Publishing Group, 2015. Kindle Edition.

Vaknin, Sam. Malignant Self Love Narcissism Revisited. Skopje: Narcissus Publications, 2015. Kindle Edition.

Zaffuto, Gregory. From Charm to Harm: And Everything Else in Between With a Narcissist. Gregory Zaffuto, 2016. Kindle Edition.