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A Guide to Understanding the Mind of a Narcissist

For anyone who isn’t a narcissist, it can be hard to understand how their mind works and what makes them behave in the way that they do. 

Narcissists don’t learn from their mistakes as others, for example, because they truly believe they do not make any, as studies have shown. This is just one way in which the mind of a narcissist differs from someone without a narcissistic personality disorder. 

Furthermore, according to Drs alexander burgemeester, “Narcissists often bulldoze loved ones with their cruel actions. You may believe like your needs don’t matter. You might also doubt whether they care about you at all.” So, it’s no surprise that you’re in search of a little help when it comes to understanding the mind of a narcissist. 

Before you can truly understand the mind of a narcissist, you’ll need to know what exactly a narcissist is. We’ll walk you through the diagnosis, symptoms, and a few questions that will help shed light on the inner workings of a narcissist’s mind. 

What Is a Narcissist?

Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental condition that causes people to view themselves with an unreasonably inflated sense of importance, have a constant need for praise and attention, struggle to maintain relationships, and fail to empathize with others. 

This facade often masks deep-rooted self-esteem issues and is used as a form of protection against criticism to which they are extremely vulnerable. For example, perceived slights or a failure to provide adequate admiration will be taken as an insult or betrayal, potentially causing a strong reaction.

Even attempts to express your feelings towards a narcissist may cause a negative response, as they have difficulties with accurately interpreting emotions and can feel attacked easily. 

Signs and Symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Wondering if you or someone you know is a narcissist? The personality disorder goes beyond taking too many selfies and not knowing when to stop talking about yourself. 

Knowing how to spot the narcissists in your life will help you to avoid being manipulated as you can create and maintain healthy boundaries. Luckily, there are certain behavioral signs and symptoms that narcissists often display which will allow you to catch them out. 

Inflated Sense of Self-Importance

In a narcissist’s own eyes, they can do no wrong. Narcissists truly believe that they are better than other people, regardless of genuine merit or achievement. Exaggeration and complete fabrication are common, as is the need to shine in all conversations. 

Narcissists have total belief in their own ‘specialness’ and they think that only other special people could even begin to understand the way their minds work. 

Living in a Fantasy World

Material World? Yes, there’s no denying that narcissists like to be surrounded by the best things, but people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder also live in a fantasy world that makes sense of their delusions of grandeur in a way the real world doesn’t accommodate. 

It’s important to remember that trying to force a narcissist to accept reality will take away their coping mechanism for dealing with internalized shame or feelings of emptiness, which could cause them to become defensive or even angry in the worst-case scenario.

Needing Constant Praise

Narcissists want everyone else to think that they’re as amazing as they believe themselves to be, and they need a steady stream of constant praise and admiration to feed their ego.

Relationships with narcissists tend to be very one-sided, and they will typically seek out people who give praise freely and frequently without asking for much in return. If they do ask, or if they pause or slow their showings of admiration, a narcissist will view it as a betrayal.

Exploiting or Taking Advantage of Others Without Guilt

Empathy and the ability to empathize with others are what stops most people from treating the people around them badly, but narcissists are almost incapable of identifying with others. 

A narcissist is the center of their own universe, hence they center their own needs and place them above all else, regardless of who or what they hurt in the process. Although there is sometimes malicious intent, the majority of the time a narcissistic person is completely unaware of how they are affecting others - either that, or they know and they just don’t care.


As explained by Gabrielle Kassel, “gaslighting is a form of manipulation and emotional abuse, and it’s a hallmark of narcissism. Narcissists may spew blatant lies, falsely accuse others, spin the truth, and ultimately distort your reality.”

The following are all signs of gaslighting: 

  • You feel like a different person
  • You have less confidence in yourself than you used to 
  • You feel more anxious than usual 
  • You feel like you can’t do anything right 
  • You think you’re being too sensitive 
  • You apologize constantly when things go wrong 
  • You make excuses for the narcissist in your life 

Gaslighting is a way for a narcissist to maintain their hold over their partners or the people they are close to so that they don’t leave, and to perpetuate the cycle of them having superiority over everyone else. 


Narcissists experience more than just a case of a visit from the green-eyed monster, as their whole superiority complex is based on them being the best. This leaves no room for a narcissist to take pleasure in another person’s success, and instead, they’re filled with envy. 

There are some particularly competitive narcissists who go as far as to seek vengeance on anyone they view as a threat, even if the perceived threat is from their own children or family. 


When a narcissist feels threatened, often they will react negatively. Contempt is a common defense mechanism, and putting other people down is an easy way for a narcissist to feel better about themselves or to make others feel like they’re inferior, playing into the narcissist’s fantasy that they are superior.

Being patronizing or dismissive is a common trait among narcissists, but some resort to more aggressive tactics such as insults, name-calling, and even threats of force or violence. Narcissists will bully others to restore what they believe to be the correct social order. 

Can a Narcissist Love You?

Whilst a narcissist will enter into and even enjoy a relationship in its early stages, it’s more because this is a way to feed their craving for positive attention and to satisfy their desires. 

Narcissists love to be surrounded by people who will elevate their social status or benefit them in some way, so it’s not uncommon for a narcissist to seek out a partner who is particularly beautiful or talented. Alternatively, codependents who suffer from low self-esteem are another common target as they are easy to manipulate and provide plenty of praise. 

Aside from the whole being pretty self-obsessed part, narcissists are often charming with good social skills. They relish the cat and mouse chase of pursuing a romantic interest and can come on strong at the beginning with big gestures and early proclamations of love.

Narcissists can also be pragmatists, sometimes, and can form relationships out of convenience or to reach an end goal that they desire. However, most narcissists will not form a genuine attachment to another person, engaging in ludic love rather than amorous love. 

This means that they view love as a game, and their desire to ‘win’ is what drives their romantic pursuits. This also means that once won, their interest swiftly dwindles and they declare the game over, often leaving a devastated partner in their wake.

What Can You Say to Disarm a Narcissist?

If there’s a narcissist in your life who you find especially intolerable, you may be looking to understand their mind as a way to find something you can use against them.

Narcissists can be incredibly cruel in arguments as they act out in moments of anger or extreme emotion. Unfortunately, it’s also easy for arguments to escalate, as a narcissist feeds off of the drama and will have no remorse for taking it too far. 

There are a few ways you can disarm a narcissist, namely by refusing to give them what they want - which is attention and/or a reaction, most of the time - but it’s important to proceed with sensitivity and caution as narcissists can react strongly to the smallest slight. 

  1. Rise above it: As much as a narcissist will try to push your buttons, you can refuse to take the bait and control your emotions which will expose theirs. Trust us when we say that keeping your cool will do more to disarm a narcissist than any retaliation. 
  2. Reign in the praise: Praise, admiration, respect, and reverence are all practically a narcissist’s life source, so cutting off the supply will throw them off. 
  3. Negative attention is still attention: Like a lot of celebrities, narcissists don’t care if the attention they’re receiving is for negative or positive reasons. Avoid giving a narcissist negative attention as they will use this against you or hold it over your head.
  4. Empathy: Whilst they may not be able to experience it themselves, empathizing with a narcissist and showing them you understand their feelings can help to diffuse an argument. Acknowledging that they may feel hurt can help them see that you’re not attacking them, which can help to de-escalate a worsening situation. 

What Drives a Narcissist Insane?

If narcissists are so good at pushing other people’s buttons, it’s only fair to wonder what kind of keypad sequence would send them crazy in return. 

Here are just a few things that narcissists hate: 

  • Doing something they don’t like 
  • The success of others 
  • Financial insecurity 
  • Boredom 
  • Authority 
  • Commitment 

Narcissists generally hate it when they’re not in control, so anything that makes them feel this way will be seen as a threat and can cause an intensely negative reaction. 

Final Thoughts

If you need help for narcissistic personality disorder or if you know someone else who does, it’s worth contacting a doctor or seeking medical advice. Whilst NPD is not always simple to treat, there are several options including mood stabilizers, antidepressants, or psychotherapy to help with the condition. 

Understanding what you’re dealing with when it comes to narcissism is vital if you know someone with this personality disorder, as this can help you learn how to assert your needs, maintain boundaries, and even give you some sense of clarity. 

We hope this guide has cleared up a few things about the inner workings of a narcissist’s mind, and that you are now able to better understand the thinking behind their actions.

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