5 signs you have a narcissist in the family, according to psychology

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Did you know that up to 5% of people may suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)? 

That’s one in twenty people, making it quite likely that you might be dealing with a narcissist within your own family. 

The challenge, though, lies in recognizing the signs. 

We often extend the benefit of the doubt to our family members, excusing behaviors that might be clear indicators of narcissism simply because they come from someone we love and trust.

With this in mind, today we dive into five expert-backed signs that someone in your family is a narcissist. 

By understanding these behaviors, you can better navigate your relationships and perhaps even encourage your loved one to seek the help they need. 

Let’s get to it.

1) They have an excessive need for praise

Has there been a time when you felt that no matter how much praise you showered on a family member, it just wasn’t enough? 

This could be a sign of narcissism.

As widely acknowledged by Mayo Clinic, narcissists can have “unreasonably high sense of self-importance and require constant, excessive admiration.” 

They crave constant praise and attention, often going to great lengths to obtain it.

They may exaggerate their accomplishments, dominate conversations, or even manipulate others to ensure they remain the center of attention. 

2) They have a grandiose sense of self-importance

Picture this: It’s a typical family dinner.

Everyone is sharing their day, and then there’s that one person who can’t stop talking about their achievements, disregarding others’ stories. 

This could be more than just an annoying personality trait – it might be a sign of grandiose narcissism. What’s that?

Well, there are two types of narcissism: vulnerable and grandiose. 

Basically, vulnerable narcissism often stems from neglect in childhood.

These types of narcissists tend to be very sensitive, and their narcissistic behaviors are used to protect them from feeling inferior.

This can come across as self-importance at times, but it’s down to a feeling of lacking. 

Grandiose narcissists, on the other hand, are self-confident and genuinely believe themselves to be better than others.

Worse, yet they expect to be recognized as such, even when their achievements don’t warrant it.

They tend to exaggerate their abilities and accomplishments, often appearing arrogant or pretentious. 

Sound familiar?

If you can check off some of the other signs, too, there’s a good chance you are dealing with a narcissistic family member. 

3) They can’t put themselves in others’ shoes…or just don’t care to

Remember that time when your cousin didn’t seem to care about your woes despite you spending hours consoling them during their tough times? 

As noted by the folks at Webmd, narcissists often struggle with empathy. Why?

Well, they may be so focused on themselves that they are unwilling to understand or share the feelings of others. 

But it could be that they simply can’t understand. 

As put by Professor Suzanne Degges-White, “It is not always that narcissists don’t “care” about another’s feelings; it is just that they are unaware that others might even have those feelings.”

4) They gaslight you or others

This is a dangerous one, but it can be tricky to catch, especially when dealing with family members.

As I mentioned, we tend to be blinkered in such close relationships. 

For those of you who don’t know what gaslighting is, it’s a form of psychological manipulation where one person seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a target individual or group, making them question their own memory, perception, or sanity. 

The term originates from the 1944 film Gaslight, where a husband manipulates his wife into believing she is going insane.

And as noted by the experts at Healthline, it’s a hallmark of narcissism. 

They note that people with narcissistic personality disorder “may tell blatant lies, falsely accuse others, spin the truth, and ultimately distort your reality — especially in response to perceived challenges of authority or fear of abandonment.”

This is often evident in the language they use.

They might say things like:

  • “You’re just too sensitive.”
  • “I never said that. You’re making things up.”
  • “You’re overreacting, as usual.”

However, the signs are not always so obvious.

They may also subtly question your decisions and memories in daily conversations, imply that you cannot be trusted to make sound judgments, or perhaps, worse yet, use your affection for them as a way to control you. 

Over time, this can erode your confidence and increase dependence on their perspective.

Sound familiar?

Pay attention. This is a form of manipulation and, left unchecked in the hands of a skilled narcissist, can leave you questioning your own reality.

5) They live in a fantasy world of their own making 

One of the clinical indicators of narcissism is “Fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.”

There’s nothing wrong with having dreams, though, right?

Right. But, as noted by Professor Degges-White in her Psychology Today post, narcissists have these dreams even when there is “ no evidence of this being possible.” 

It’s like they are a bit detached from reality. 

You might hear them say, “I will be the most successful person in my industry,” despite lacking any groundwork or plan to achieve this level of success.

Or perhaps, “I’m obviously the smartest in the family,” even if their claims stand on shaky ground with no real accomplishments or acknowledgments to back them up.

These grandiose visions can make dealing with the practical aspects of life and relationships difficult, as they expect others to buy into their delusions of grandeur and treat them accordingly.

This detachment from reality strains their personal and professional relationships and prevents them from acknowledging and addressing their actual issues and challenges.

It’s a self-sustaining cycle of fantasy that isolates them further from genuine connection and growth.

How to deal with a narcissistic family member

Dealing with a narcissistic family member can be challenging and emotionally draining. 

Understanding how to navigate these relationships effectively is crucial for maintaining your mental health and emotional well-being.

Here are some strategies to help you cope:

  • Don’t take it personally: Narcissists often project their insecurities and shortcomings onto others. It’s important to remember that their hurtful behavior is a reflection of their own inner turmoil and not a true evaluation of you. Detaching emotionally can help protect your self-esteem.
  • Keep your expectations realistic: Understanding that a narcissist might not have the capacity for empathy or self-reflection can help you manage your expectations. Recognize that deep, meaningful change is unlikely on their part, and focus instead on how you respond to their behavior.
  • Set clear boundaries: Experts recommend setting clear and firm boundaries to deal with narcissistic behavior. Decide what behaviors you will not tolerate and communicate these boundaries directly and assertively. For example, you might say, “I’m willing to discuss this with you as long as we can remain respectful toward each other.”
  • Help them get the help they need: Encouraging a narcissistic family member to seek professional help can be a delicate endeavor. Start by gently suggesting therapy as a means to improve their well-being rather than criticizing their behavior. Emphasize the benefits of talking to someone neutral and how it could help them reach their goals or improve relationships. Be patient and prepared for resistance, but continue to support them in a non-confrontational way. 

The bottom line

Narcissism can significantly disrupt family dynamics and relationships. 

If you recognize these signs in a family member, it might be best to approach the situation with understanding and empathy. 

Also, remember that narcissism is often rooted in childhood experiences

As always, I hope you found some value in this post. 

Until next time.

Mal James

Mal James

Originally from Ireland, Mal is a content writer, entrepreneur, and teacher with a passion for self-development, productivity, relationships, and business.

As an avid reader, Mal delves into a diverse range of genres, expanding his knowledge and honing his writing skills to empower readers to embark on their own transformative journeys.

In his downtime, Mal can be found on the golf course or exploring the beautiful landscapes and diverse culture of Vietnam, where he is now based.

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