Do you know a woman who is unusually cruel, malicious, self-absorbed, and arrogant? If so, it’s possible that she may be a narcissist.
Narcissism seems to be a trending topic at the moment, with internet and social media are flooded with information on “how to spot a narcissist”. In fact, the word is fast becoming overused, and not always within the right context.
Furthermore, this trend of labeling people as “narcissists” appears to have almost everyone thinking that their ex was a narcissist. But the fact of the matter is that true narcissism, which is actually a personality disorder called NPD – Narcissistic Personality Disorder, is a lot less common than people think. In fact, evidence shows that only 0.5% of the American population are likely to be actual narcissists, that’s only 1 in 200 people.
Yet Instagram and Facebook are flooded with videos of people detailing their struggles with their narcissistic ex, and most of these videos are made by women. It’s true that we do seem to hear a lot more about “narcissistic men” than we do about “narcissistic women”. While research has indicated that NPD does appear to be higher among men, with 7.7% of narcissists thought to be male, and 4.8% thought to be women, female narcissists definitely still do exist, and in higher numbers than the statistics show.
What is Narcissism?
The term narcissism is often used to describe someone who is thought to be obsessed with their own image, and who is also overly selfish, arrogant, and self-centered. But what most people don’t realize is that narcissism is actually a personality trait of which there are several others – such as openness, extraversion, introversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, etc.
And although narcissism is commonly thought to be a severely negative thing, what might shock people is that we all actually have a certain amount of it, and narcissism in reasonable amounts is not only a good thing but also a very necessary thing.
In fact, narcissism is not all bad, and neither are any of the other personality traits. A certain amount of narcissism is indeed healthy as it is what makes us care about our appearance, and encourages us to wash, get dressed, and take care of ourselves and our own needs. But, as the saying goes “too much of anything is a bad thing” – and it’s when people fall heavily at the top end on the scale of narcissism that problems begin to appear.
If you think of personality traits like a sliding scale, everyone will feature somewhere on the scale of each trait, to a greater or lesser degree. For example, some people might register as a 3 for narcissism, while someone who is a true narcissist with NPD might register as a 9 or 10 on the scale.
The word “narcissist” actually has its origins in Greek mythology and is derived from the story of Narcissus. Legend has it that Narcissus was a very handsome young man who could love no one but himself, and he became so infatuated with staring at himself in a pond that he eventually drowned.
Although this is quite an unpleasant story, when you discover more about Narcissistic Personality Disorder, you will understand exactly why this story is well aligned with the definition of the condition.
Signs of Narcissistic Personality Disorder
This is a list of the generally well-accepted signs and symptoms of NPD that can apply to anyone whether they are male or female:
- A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (making themselves appear impressive)
- Need for admiration
- Fantasies about power, success, beauty, or an idealized vision of love
- Sense of entitlement
- The belief of being special, unique or high-status
- Lack of empathy for others
- Tendency to exploit others
- Arrogant behavior
The Dangers of NPD
As you can see from the list above, narcissists are not nice people to encounter. In fact, the nature of the disorder leads people with NPD to be abusive, vindictive, and extremely manipulative individuals.
One of the signature “strengths” of narcissists is their ability to be extremely charming and charismatic in public, they are then able to use their charm to hide their true nature and lure normal, healthy people into a false sense of security.
It’s for this reason that a narcissist will generally appear to be well-liked and may even seem popular in social situations. However, behind closed doors, their mask slips and they show their true, dangerous selves.
This often leads people to doubt the victims of narcissists, because people cannot believe that this funny, stylish, well-dressed, possibly attractive, charismatic, popular person could be any of the awful things that their victim claims.
The narcissist will use this to their advantage and may even try to turn the tables by insinuating that their victim is actually the abuser, and they will also use tactics to “devalue and degrade” the reputation of their victim by labeling them as “crazy” or a liar, etc.
Narcissists are dangerous to anyone around them mainly because they are literally unable to see anyone else’s needs except their own and also because of their naturally manipulative nature, which will leave anyone close to them feeling attacked, belittled, devalued, disrespected, and unloved.
These traits along with deep feelings of insecurity, inadequacy, and jealousy can lead narcissists to abuse partners and family members, sometimes knowingly, and sometimes not.
Common Misconceptions About Female Narcissists
Due to the common belief that narcissists are horrible, nasty, aggressive individuals, people generally tend to be less likely to suspect women of being one. This is partly due to social stereotypes of genders; with women tending to be perceived as “the nicer, kinder sex”.
In fact, stereotypes offer females certain protection via the assumptions of “the sweet girl”, a “nurturing mother” or “the kind little grandma”. This is actually what a true female narcissist would be aware of and also use to their advantage to manipulate and control others around them.
Furthermore, due to differences regarding the expression of narcissistic traits according to gender; many people fail to spot the signs of NPD in females.
Research suggests that even though a lack of empathy is a key part of NPD, males with the disorder appear to present even less empathy than females with NPD. One possible explanation for this could be the gender socialization of females towards empathetic behaviors etc, particularly more-so than men.
Therefore, this might explain why females appear to present with fewer incidences of NPD, because of the fact that they are possibly able to disguise the signs of it better with slightly higher levels of empathy, which in many instances may be used as “masking” – a false pretense to appear socially acceptable and “normal” to others.
There have also been theories around “sex bias” in favor of females around the diagnosis of NPD from healthcare professionals.
How to Deal with a Female Narcissist
The most effective way to deal with a female narcissist is to not deal with them at all. Literally.
What a lot of people do not realize is that Narcissistic Personality Disorder is not curable and there is no permanent solution for the narcissist.
NPD is actually the result of certain parts of the brain not being properly developed, often due to neglect or abuse in early childhood and as a result, they are unable to grow back regions of the brain that were never properly formed, to begin with. Sadly, there is currently no way to “fix” a narcissist.
Often, partners of female narcissists will want to try and help them, reason with them, etc, but in time they will realize that no amount of compromise or understanding can change someone with NPD.
Ultimately, the most effective way to deal with an individual with NPD is to completely cut all contact with them. This is a well-recognized approach by psychological professionals. This might seem overly harsh, but this is because there is literally no reasoning with them and they will continue to manipulate you in every way possible, every chance you give them.
Unfortunately, it’s how the NPD brain works, so the best approach is to go what therapists call “No Contact” and block them on every mode of communication; or if you are somehow tied to a narcissist e.g. with children, etc, then try to limit your interaction with them as much as possible.
If you are connected to a narcissist in some way that means you really can’t avoid them, then you can also use a tactic called going “Gray Rock”. This involves making yourself as uninteresting as possible, meaning that you keep conversations limited to yes or no answers and don’t react to ANYTHING they say, even if it’s an insult, see it as an attempt to provoke you, and Don’t. Take. The. Bait.
By appearing as boring and unresponsive as a gray rock, the narcissist will not be able to emotionally manipulate you as easily and you can do whatever business you need to with them and quickly remove yourself. Over time, hopefully, the narcissist will become bored with you and see that you have nothing to offer (not to them anyway) and they can keep moving like a drone in search of a new target.
If you or someone you know has suffered Narcissistic Abuse you can get more information about help and support here.
- female-narcissist-header: Taylor Deas-Melesh via Unsplash