What Is A Narcissist?
Working With Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Understanding The Narcissist
Ever called someone a narcissist? Narcissism is often used to describe someone who seems full of themselves – got someone in mind? Well, you might be surprised to learn that there’s a difference between having “narcissistic” traits and being diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NDP). Although we may throw around the dig “What a narcissist!” a little too readily, in our lifetime it’s likely that we will encounter someone with NPD.
So, what is a narcissist?
Well, narcissism or narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a clinical diagnosis where the person has an inflated sense of self-importance. More commonly found in men, the cause is completely unknown, but experts believe it stems from a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
A narcissist has an excessive need for admiration and a lack of empathy, or disregard, for the feelings of other folks. If you’ve found yourself having to navigate the difficult path through a relationship or friendship with someone with an inability to handle criticism of any sort, and a strong sense of entitlement, you may be dealing with a narcissist. But it’s complex, so stay with us…
People with this disorder have an unwavering obsession with the way they perceive themselves. They are in love with an idealised, grandiose image of themselves, and will do anything to prove this vision. Experts believe this occurs because it allows them to avoid deep feelings of insecurity. However, keeping up to speed with these delusions takes a lot of work – and that’s where the dysfunctional behaviours come in.
There’s more than one type of narcissist
Narcissistic personality disorder can manifest in different forms.
Adaptive narcissism is the healthiest form of the disorder – and this occurs when the person at hand leans into positive traits. They come across as friendly and warm and can often channel their narcissistic qualities into leadership skills.
Maladaptive narcissism is framed by toxic traits. There are several kinds of this form, with the most common including grandiose narcissism, covert narcissism and communal narcissism:
Grandiose narcissism tends to evoke extroversion paired with selfishness, overbearingness, and markers of being uncooperative. It’s rooted in an exaggerated sense of self.
Covert narcissism refers to those who are introverted, sensitive to criticism and suffering from low self-esteem. They can be defensive and passive-aggressive, but generally, they are less likely to have an inflated sense of self.
Communal narcissism refers to those who view themselves as warriors of fairness, presenting themselves to the world around them as supportive and selfless. However, this is typically motivated solely by a desire for superiority.
Narcissistic Behaviour: How does a narcissist act?
Narcissists are generally self-centred and arrogant in their thinking, behaviours and relationships. They have a severe lack of consideration for others and an unwavering need for admiration and ego-inflating attention.
If you’re dealing with a narcissist, you might find them cocky, patronising or demanding – seemingly with an extremely strong sense of entitlement. Manipulative behaviour or selfishness are key traits of a narcissist. These personality traits extend from the working environment, to family, romantic relationships and friendships. No arena in a narcissist’s life is safe from their behaviours.
Behaviours & Symptoms of NPD: The signs of narcissism
If any of the below sound awfully familiar, you may be dealing with a narcissist:
- Admiration is a drug; they have an inflated sense of self-importance and the constant quest for admiration feeds this.
- A narcissist thinks they are special and expects to be treated as such
- They perceive everything and everyone as a threat to them
- They think they are better than you, and likely everyone else
- They stretch the truth; a narcissist wants you to believe their skills or talents are much higher than reality
- They have an insatiable appetite for success and power
- A narcissist will be condescending or look down to to anyone they deem lesser than them, which is most people.
- A narcissist expects that you do exactly as they ask, and what they want
- A narcissist will manipulate people to get their way
- They struggle to exhibit empathy, particularly when others are having a hard time
- A narcissist is only worried about people they deem as higher or more successful than them; they are often very jealous of those they feel are higher up the ladder than them
- A narcissist loves to boast and talks about their life in a conceited way.
How therapy can help you deal with a narcissist
A narcissist can distort your sense of reality, where you can no longer see the forest from the trees. They employ tactics that are sometimes covert (like gaslighting) and sometimes very much in your face (like aggressive behaviour and confrontation). The truth is, it can be an extremely draining experience where you lose track of right and wrong.
A psychologist, counsellor or psychotherapist can help you to sift through the facts objectively so you can start to understand what you are dealing with. Dealing with a narcissist is no walk in the park; a therapist can equip you with the right tools and communication strategies to work through their obstacles, while being a trusted support for you as you begin to assert your boundaries.
I think I might have NPD
Admitting a weakness is tremendously difficult for anyone, but it’s especially hard for someone with narcissistic personality disorder.
If any of the above traits of narcissism ring true for you, it’s important to not beat yourself up. It can be a sobering and difficult experience coming to terms with the concept that you may be exhibiting narcissistic traits. Narcissism is a personality disorder – a condition that can be helped with therapy. Seeing a psychologist, psychotherapist or counsellor can help you to:
- Understand the root causes that are beneath your behaviour patterns
- Understand the cost of these actions on your relationships, so that you can transform how you show up at work, in your family, and in your romantic relationships
- Accept responsibility for your actions and recognize their impact on others
- Better understand, manage and regulate your emotions.
- Outline the influence your thoughts are having on your emotions and well-being
- Explore underlying issues that may relate to self-esteem, trauma or deeper anxieties
- Help you to better accept failures and criticisms, improving your resilience and reducing your need to overcompensate
- Allow you to hone in on your genuinely positive skills and traits, rather than those inflated by NPD.
Does “Grey Rocking” help with a Narcissist?
You may have realised you’re in a romantic relationship with a narcissist, or that you have to work with one on a daily basis. If you absolutely need to keep in contact with a narcissist, there’s a helpful method called ‘grey-rocking’ that can give you back your power. It won’t completely fix the problem, but it may buy you some time or space.
It simply refers to the idea of being as boring and as impenetrable as a grey rock in your communication style. If you absolutely need to respond, keep your communication short so they get nothing from you – narcissists feed off attention
The Indigo Project’s Katie O’Donoghue cautions that grey rocking should only be used while you’re also undergoing professional support from a therapist. This way, you can continue to set healthy boundaries.
“Continuous grey rocking may backfire because they’ll get frustrated and might escalate their behaviour,” she says. “But if it works for you and you’re able to manage your emotions and sense of self, then keep going.”
Find An Online Therapist To Help With NPD
Here at the Indigo Project, we believe that online therapy can play a powerful role in working through narcissism; whether you are suffering from the disorder or trying to work with someone with NPD.
We search high and low for our therapists so you can find your one.
Click through to meet our team of experts.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who is The Indigo Project?
We are a progressive online counselling practice, providing telehealth services in Australia. Our passionate and experienced local team includes psychologists, psychotherapists & counsellors, coaches and therapists that are trained to deliver online therapy to you in a safe and convenient way.
Whether you are looking for short or long term support through a challenging time, or looking to discover your potential, we want you to feel comfortable on every step of the journey.
Read more about Our Story
Telehealth: About Therapy and Online Counselling
What can I expect from therapy? What is therapy like?
Every therapist is different and their therapeutic style and personalities are all unique. However, all of our Indigo practitioners will hold a compassionate and non-judgmental space for you, where you are free to be who you are. Your therapist is there to listen to you, guide you, and help you overcome life’s challenges.
Generally, you’ll spend the first session getting to know each other, talking about your history and what it is you’d like to work through. From your second session onwards, you’ll get to go deeper, peeling back the layers and all the while learning practical strategies to help you transform and grow.
At Indigo we encourage our clients to have at least 10-20 sessions, because we believe that therapy is a long-term journey of commitment, growth and investment in yourself. After seeing your therapist for a while, you may continue to book occasional check-in sessions as you feel more confident doing life with the knowledge and tools you have gained.
Who is online therapy for?
Everyone is welcome to attend online counselling or therapy with one of our practitioners at The Indigo Project.
Online counselling or therapy via Zoom is an accessible, safe and convenient option for those who are unable to attend face-to-face appointments, or simply prefer to meet online. Whether it be a busy schedule due to work and family, health-related reasons or distance, online counselling can help you.
What issues are suited for online therapy?
Our team of trained clinical psychologists, psychologists, psychotherapists and counsellors attend to a range of common mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, stress, grief and loss, life transitions, relationship issues and more.
A number of practitioners also specialise in areas such as sexuality, gender and identity, addiction, sports and performance, personality disorders and therapy for children and adolescents.
Several therapists also provide services in marriage counselling and couples therapy.
Finding the best psychologist or counsellor for me - where do I start?
We highly encourage you to view our practitioners and use the filtering options to find a psychologist or counsellor who can help you with the issues you are seeking help for.
Meet our therapists and what they can help you with here.
If you need help, our Therapy Matchmakers team will be able to match you with a practitioner. Give us a call on (02) 9212 5469 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can support you on your journey.
What if I can’t see the therapist I had in mind?
Our therapists typically have capacity to see several new clients each month. However these openings can get filled up fast from those who have been on a waitlist. If there is someone that you particularly want to see but is currently unavailable, we can place you on a waitlist until there is an opening.
If you prefer to attend an online counselling session sooner, our Therapy Matchmakers can help you find an alternative practitioner based on your needs and what you are looking to achieve in therapy.
Meeting a therapist for the first time can feel like a first date. If you don’t connect with your therapist on your first or second session, we’ll pair you with a new practitioner and your next session will be on the house* as part of our Perfect Match Promise.
*Terms and conditions apply.
Can I make an appointment for my child or dependent?
If you are the parent or legal guardian of a minor, you will need to make an appointment online or via the phone.
We have many psychologists, psychotherapists & counsellors who have experience dealing with children and adolescents in therapy. See who can help here.
Someone I know needs counselling. Can I book an appointment for them?
Those who require online counselling or therapy will have to make an appointment directly with The Indigo Project via our online booking form or on the phone. We do not accept bookings on behalf of an individual or couple from a third party unless as part of an insurance plan, support scheme or similar arrangement.
We want marriage or couples counselling. Can we see a couples counsellor together?
Couples are welcome to attend online therapy sessions together with one of our couples therapists.
Do I need to do anything before my first session?
We recommend setting up for your online therapy session 5-10 minutes before it commences. Make sure your computer or phone microphone and video is working, and that you are comfortable and ready to sit through your session uninterrupted.
There’s zero pressure to prepare anything for your first session but if you find it helpful, you can jot down some points about specific things you’d like to work on or discuss with your therapist.
Are my therapy sessions confidential?
Everything you discuss with your therapist here at Indigo is absolutely confidential, and will not be shared unless you or someone else is at risk of serious harm.
How do I pay for my online therapy session?
For first time clients, payment is made via debit or credit card at the time of booking. For returning clients, there are a number of payment methods available such as authorised direct debit or online via the payments link on your invoice.
Who to contact if you are in crisis
The Indigo Project is not a crisis service.
- If you are in a crisis, if you are experiencing suicidal or homicidal thoughts, or somebody else is in danger, DO NOT use this service.
- Call 000 or use these contacts for immediate crisis support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week:
Lifeline 13 11 14 - A crisis support and suicide prevention service for all Australians.
Mental Health Line 1800 011 511 - The Mental Health Line offers professional help and advice for everyone. Operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636 - Beyond Blue provide support to address issues related to depression, suicide, anxiety disorders and other related mental illnesses.
Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 - A free service for people who are suicidal, caring for someone who is suicidal, bereaved by suicide or are health professionals supporting people affected by suicide.
Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 - A counselling service specifically for young people aged between 5 and 25.
Parentline 1300 1300 52 - Parent Line is a free telephone counselling and support service for parents and carers with children aged 0 to 18 who live in NSW.
What else does The Indigo Project do?
Our courses, workshops and events are designed to transform the way you think, feel and live.
Not ready to commit to therapy? Indigo founder Mary Hoang has created Get Your Sh*t Together, a self-directed digital course for those who want to develop greater self-awareness, tackle stress and anxiety, and learn practical skills to help heal, grow and thrive in life.
Mary has also written a book Darkness is Golden: A Guide to Personal Transformation and Dealing with Life's Messiness that combines her experience in the therapy room with unique audio experiences framed by her research in music psychology.
Although an online counselling practice, The Indigo Project believes in the power of community, and we often host events throughout the year. Keep an eye out for events such as Listen Up, a contemporary digital sound bath some describe as a “soundtracked therapy session”.
We are also available for corporate events, workshops and related projects. Please contact us at email@example.com if you’d like to know more.