29 Of The Most Blatant Signs of a Malignant Narcissist

Have you ever known a malignant narcissist?

You may not know the term, but if you've encountered one, you will never forget this toxic personality.

Like all personality disorders, narcissism lies on a spectrum with various degrees of intensity and dimensions.

While some narcissistic traits are commonly seen in adolescents, this doesn't necessarily indicate that the individual will end up meeting the criteria for this disorder as an adult.

However, of those who do develop a narcissistic personality disorder, some lie on the far and most dangerous side of the spectrum which classifies them as “malignant narcissists.”

Malignant Narcissist vs. Narcissist

The main difference between these two disorders is that malignant narcissism is not a diagnostic term.

Malignant narcissism is a mix of personality disorders that are diagnosable and can be co-occurring, resulting in an extreme form of narcissistic personality disorder.

The essential feature of narcissism is a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (an extreme sense of superiority), a need for admiration, and a lack of empathy.

However, malignant narcissism includes a bit more than that. Psychologists believe that it is a syndrome characterized by the presence of the diagnostic characteristics of narcissism, as well as some traits of antisocial personality disorder, paranoid trends, and ego-syntonic aggression.

These most severe cases of pathological narcissism are very difficult to treat. A person with malignant narcissism has the potential to ruin families, communities, and professional work environments and are extremely dangerous to have in your life.

How to Deal With a Malignant Narcissist

Having a narcissist in your life creates a toxic relationship that is very difficult to cope with.

It is frustrating to interact with such an extreme narcissist — much more so than dealing with someone who has some narcissistic traits but isn’t completely lacking in self-awareness and the capacity for change.

couple arguing, malignant narcissist

When it comes to the more destructive, harmful variety, the slightest suggestion that something may be wrong with this person is perceived as so threatening that he or she will have a fierce urge to strike out.

The problem with dealing with narcissists successfully is that confrontation is rarely effective. They take criticism as a threat and fight back.

A better way to approach disagreements with a narcissist is to keep your frustrations to yourself.

The best way to keep this sense of superficial peace is to accommodate or pacify them until you can extricate yourself from the relationship.

If you cannot get away from a narcissist (because they are your spouse, boss, etc.), then it is important to realize that attacking back will only feed their narcissism, which can put you in an even tougher situation.

How do you know if you have a malignant narcissist in your life?

Let's review some clear traits of malignant narcissistic behavior.

While having one or two of these characteristics does not automatically categorize someone as being a part of this population, knowing the signs will help you understand the disorder.

29 Of The Most Blatant Signs of a Malignant Narcissist

1. A Sense of Entitlement

It is normal for everyone to feel a bit entitled during certain times in their lives, such as a birthday or a personal celebration of some sort, but a malignant narcissist feels this sense of entitlement every day.

A malignant narcissist has constant unreasonable expectations of favorable treatment. They also feel entitled enough that they believe other people should automatically comply with their expectations.

This means that while it may be your birthday, the malignant narcissist feels like they deserve a gift more than you do.

2. An Exaggerated Sense of Self-Importance

Having confidence is great, but narcissists display an immeasurable amount of confidence and expect to be recognized as being superior people, even if they lack the corresponding achievements.

A malignant narcissist will often exaggerate or lie about their past accomplishments and talents in order to gain a sense of recognition.

However, they lack the innate sense of right and wrong to ever come clean to the people they deceive.

3. Preoccupation with Fantasies of Power

Narcissists are constantly thinking about their power, success, brilliance, and beauty. This gives them a tendency to seek out leadership or high-profile positions or careers.

Because of their need to be the center of attention in a working group or social situation, when they are not in this position, they spend time fantasizing about it and planning ways that they can get there.

4. Grandiosity

A person who is grandiose believes that he or she is so unique that they can't be understood by anyone who is not at their top-level status.

They have an unrealistic sense of superiority, believe they are better than everyone else and look upon other “inferior” people with contempt.

They adopt the stance that “I am everything and you are nothing, I have everything and you have nothing.”

They also believe they should only associate with high-status people or institutions. They only want to be associated with other people who are perceived as being successful, rich, and beautiful.

Finally, they help themselves to special privileges or resources that are not theirs because they believe they deserve them due to their superiority.

5. Paranoia

Paranoia can be described as feeling excessive suspicion without any justification.

People with paranoia may believe other people are plotting against them or over-analyze everything that other people say. They are often quick to criticize others but certainly are not open to criticism themselves.

We all feel a bit of this at times, but someone who is truly paranoid actually loses touch with reality.

For example, let's say you are walking through a crowded coffee shop and someone accidentally bumps into you.

You probably acknowledge the mistake with the other person and then move on. However, people suffering from paranoia may believe that this person was intentionally trying to cause them harm, perhaps steal their money, or was specifically targeting them for some reason.

Malignant narcissists are especially paranoid that other people may be trying to take their power away, hurt them, or take things away from them that they feel like they deserve.

6. Egocentricity

You can probably think of someone in your life who has an ego that is out of control.

This is the person who talks about themselves all the time, fishes for compliments, and pretty much acts like the world revolves around them.

However, it is easy to be egocentric without being a malignant narcissist. A person who is simply egocentric can still accept someone else's point of view.

A malignant narcissist, on the other hand, can become enraged if someone doesn't see things their way.

7. A Lack of Empathy

A malignant narcissist is completely unable to put his or herself in someone else’s shoes, which means they will never feel any remorse for their actions.

Malignant narcissists lack the ability to comprehend what other people may be feeling or to empathize with others. Further, malignant narcissists often believe that they have been the victims of the mistreatment.

Imagine confronting someone who has hurt you, and once the conversation is over, you've somehow accepted all of the blame for the other person's actions.

This is an example of what it would be like to deal with a person who lacks empathy. They have absolutely no remorse or conscience.


Related Post: How to Cope with a Lack of Empathy from Your Spouse


8. Cruel and Sadistic

Malignant narcissists can be especially cruel to the point where they actually enjoy causing other people pain, either mentally or physically.

This sadistic quality of enjoying the suffering of others can come in two forms — vicarious sadists and everyday sadists.

A vicarious sadist is a bit more benign in the sense that they might enjoy killing an opponent in a video game, but they never actually participate in harming another person.

An everyday sadist, which describes a malignant narcissist, is willing to inflict harm upon or humiliate another person and enjoy the process.

9. Manipulation

While we all try to use a situation to our advantage at times, a true manipulative nature causes a person to do this all the time.

Manipulative people are not interested in other people unless they are using the other person as a vehicle to help them gain control in some way.

When you first meet someone who is manipulative, he or she may seem charismatic, genuine, and appreciative, but they often resort to gaslighting.

Manipulators take things that other people say or do and twist them so much that their victims often end up confused and questioning their own reality.

unhappy couple, malignant narcissist

10. Projection

Projection is when someone transmits their actions onto someone else.

For example, let's say someone stole something from a store and then turned to the person they were with and called them a thief. That is projection.

This leads narcissists to avoid recognizing their own shortcomings by attributing them to other people.

They may be aware that these shortcomings exist, but they would never admit them. They simply insist that everyone else is guilty of doing what they're doing.

11. Requires Excessive Admiration

While it certainly doesn't seem like it, malignant narcissists have an extremely fragile self-esteem.

They require constant attention and admiration to alleviate their own concerns about how well they are doing or how loved they are.

Narcissists want to be welcomed with adoration and want others to feel indebted and awed because the malignant narcissist has gifted them with his or her presence.

12. Interpersonal Exploitation

Malignant narcissists expect to be given whatever they want, despite what the cost might be to other people.

For example, a boss who is a narcissist may overwork his or her employees without considering the negative impact that it might have on the employees' lives or wellbeing.

They also typically only form relationships with people whom they presume can advance their motives in some way.

In this case, the narcissist will give the relationship only as much time or effort as is absolutely required to get what they want.

13. Overestimates Others' Concern for Their Wellbeing

Malignant narcissists often assume that the people around them have an intense concern for his or her wellbeing.

Because of this, malignant narcissists tend to talk about their own problems or concerns in extensive detail, without stopping to recognize that other people have problems also.

However, if someone tries to talk to a malignant narcissist about their own problems, that person receives contempt and impatience from the narcissist.

14. Envious of Others

Malignant narcissists often resent other people's successes or possessions because they feel more deserving of these things.

They may brutally belittle the contributions of others, especially when others are receiving acknowledgment for their achievements.

For example, if a co-worker receives an award for grossing the most yearly revenue for the company, a malignant narcissist might tell other people that the recipient of the award cheated in some way or the process was rigged.

He or she would be unwilling to accept their co-worker's success and be happy for them.

15. They Easily Lash Out

Narcissists get very angry and are willing to humiliate others at the most minor offenses.

For example, if a malignant narcissist is telling an exaggerated story about an extreme adventure that they went on and someone questions the validity of the story, the narcissist would be prone to making a counterattack.

In this case, the narcissist might fight back by saying something like, “How would you know, it's not like you have the money to take the kinds of trips that I take.”

Because narcissists have a hyper-sensitive and fragile ego, they have to convince people that they are always right.


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16. They See the World in Only Black and White

To a narcissist, you are either their friend or their enemy. Things are either good or bad. You are either right or wrong.

They live within the contours of extremism, while other people are able to appreciate the various shades of gray in the world.

This primitive way of thinking is one reason why narcissists cannot accept their own failures. Failure is impossible to confront because there is an extreme amount of energy placed on being right.

Black and white thinking is an unfortunate default method against the world's complexities that most people grow out of as young children.

17. They Seek to Win at All Costs

The worst part of trying to win at all costs is that it usually involves cheating or hurting other people. However, this doesn't bother malignant narcissists.

They have such a deep-seeded need to be right and to be the best that their very survival depends on it. They will not give up until they have torn other people down to make themselves feel (and appear to be) superior.

They will do whatever they have to do to prevent themselves from experiencing loss, failure, or inconvenience.

18. They Resist Treatment

Malignant narcissists scoff at the idea of going to therapy. They tend to be happy because they never face the negative consequences of their disorder — only their victims do.

Because people usually go to therapy due to experiencing discomfort, malignant narcissists wouldn't feel the need to seek treatment.

If therapy does occur and a doctor suggests to a malignant narcissist that they might have this disorder, it would not be uncommon for the malignant narcissist to claim the doctor is crazy in some way.

19. Deceitfulness

Narcissists are often deceitful to get personal profit or pleasure, including power, money, and sex.

They regularly lie, malinger, con people, and are known to use aliases to get their needs met.

Additionally, many will become enraged if their lies are challenged by truth or facts.

couple arguing, malignant narcissist

20. They Seem Especially Charming at First

When you first meet a malignant narcissist, you may be amazed by their charm, charisma, and achievements. This is their way of trying to win you over.

Sometimes they offer gifts, charming words, admiration, or compliments that you truly want to believe.

It is understandable why someone would be attracted to such a person, but it can also be dangerous. If something looks too good to be true, it usually is.

21. They Are Shallow

Malignant narcissists are not emotionally regulated and have beliefs that go from one extreme to another.

Their decisions often hurt other people because they rank their relationships and the people they meet based on superficial standards.

They have an innate need to land on top, even if they are pretending to be altruistic or participating in an activity that is not all about them.

22. Dependant on Others' Views of Them

Narcissists are completely dependant on the world's views of them.

They need the world to constantly feed them the message that they are the best of the best and superior in some way.

Any negative opinion from others will cause a narcissist much pain.


Related Post: The Hidden Side of Controlling People


23. Reject Social Norms

Malignant narcissists don't find value in acting according to social norms because they believe society is beneath them. They don't see the point in trying to be tactful or avoid hurting people.

For example, a narcissist would reject the social norm of treating others as they would want to be treated.

They also don't value integrity or honesty and are willing to steal. They certainly show bad behavior without being bothered by it.

Rejecting social norms does not mean conforming to everyone around you, but rather it is more about being defiant of the basic principles on which our society is based.

This also means that people with malignant narcissism are willing to do illegal things without having a second thought.

24. Not Introspective

Malignant narcissists are never introspective. It may seem counterintuitive to have endless self-absorbance and self-reporting without any introspection, but this is a very different thing.

Narcissists never look at themselves and wonder what they could have done wrong or differently.

They certainly spend a lot of time obsessing over themselves, but they don't spend time considering how their words or actions impact other people.

25. Insecure Attachments

Malignant narcissists form insecure attachments with other people. This relationship style is one in which the bond is contaminated by fear.

Narcissists want to have followers, but because they have a deep-seeded low self-esteem, they are paranoid that people will try to turn against them.

They love and need people to follow them so they can rise to power.

26. Tries to Elicit Empathy

While the malignant narcissist will not offer empathy, they try to get it from other people by talking about others who have hurt them with an aggressive edge of anger.

The narcissist may present themselves as a victim, while also being bold and charming, so people will want to support them.

Often, their attempts at gaining empathy are through lies or extreme exaggerations of the truth.

27. Willing to Hurt People

As previously mentioned, the malignant narcissist is very quick to hurt someone emotionally, but they are also willing to hurt people physically.

If something is standing in the way of what they want, they will not hesitate to use physical force to remove the barrier.

They are also willing to become violent during fights or disagreements with others in which their superiority is being questioned.

28. Inexplicable Hatred

Malignant narcissists hate without a reason.

This often causes people around them to internalize these feelings of hatred and blame themselves for the abuse, which is particularly harmful to children of narcissists.

This negative self-assessment never seems to end as long as the malignant narcissist is around. But there is no logical defense of their hatred, nor is it anyone else's fault.

29. They Achieve Success in the Business World

Many malignant narcissists are able to work themselves up to the top and become CEOs or leaders in some way. This is often because they will stop at nothing to gain that power and control.

However, they will not be so successful in their personal lives.

Exhibiting these behaviors in a cutthroat business world may provide them with success, but these behaviors in a social world are not as effective.

It is easy to get wrapped into a malignant narcissist's web at first, but often, after someone sees how toxic this person is, they no longer associate with them.

Final Thoughts

With this comprehensive list, one may assume it is always easy to spot someone with malignant narcissism. But it is not always as simple as it seems.

If a malignant narcissist is an effective and believable storyteller, people around him or her who are well-meaning will unintentionally support his or her destructive tendencies and actions, reinforcing to the narcissist's abhorrent behavior.

The best thing you can do for your own mental health and well-being is to get away from this destructive personality. Don't waste your time trying to change or help a malignant narcissist because he or she will not change.

If you are in an intimate relationship with a malignant narcissist, you may need the support and guidance of a trained therapist in order to safely leave the relationship.