Mandy Kloppers

What Is Malignant Narcissism?

Malignant narcissists are by far the most damaging. Not only are they incredibly selfish and self-serving, as in: “What’s in it for me?”,  they also display some antisocial traits and even a sadistic streak as well as a poor sense of self and lack of empathy. There is often some paranoia involved with malignant narcissism as well.

The four components of malignant narcissism:

  • Narcissism
  • Paranoia
  • Anti Social Personality Disorder
  • Sadism

Some experts see little difference between malignant narcissists and psychopaths in that both have antisocial behavior and low empathy.

Typical signs of a malignant narcissism

  • They see the world in black-and-white terms, including seeing others as either friend or foe.
  • They seek to win at all costs and generally leave a great amount of pain, frustration, and even heartache in their wake.
  • They generally don’t care about the pain they cause others—or may even enjoy it and experience it as empowering.
  • They will do what it takes to prevent themselves from loss, inconvenience, or failing to get what they want in any situation.


Malignant narcissists never take responsibility for their actions. Part of the reason for this is because they fear being seen as a loser (which is what they worry might be true) and will do anything to resist any labels like this.

As a result, they are super sensitive to any kind of criticism. They find this very threatening as it could possibly expose their perceived weaknesses. They counteract this by acting confident, entitled, and feeling they are superior. They tend to lash out (or sulk and stonewall you if they feel slighted or disrespected. Narcissists demand respect even when they do everything to NOT deserve this title like lie, be unfaithful and be selfish.

Malignant narcissists possess many traits of antisocial personality disorder:

Antisocial Personality Disorder

According to the DSM-5, a person with antisocial personality disorder must be at least 18 years old and have a pattern of disregard for the rights of others including at least three of the following:1

  • Disregard for the safety of the self and others
  • Failure to obey laws or social norms
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Irritability and aggression
  • Lack of remorse for actions
  • Lying or manipulating others for profit or amusement
  • Pattern of irresponsibility

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

The following is an abbreviated summary of the diagnostic criteria for NPD according to the DSM-5:1

  • A grandiose sense of self-importance
  • Persistent fantasies about unlimited success and power
  • A belief that they are “special” and unique and can only be understood by or should associate with similar high-status people and organizations
  • Constant need for attention, admiration, and praise
  • A sense of entitlement and expectation of special treatment
  • A tendency to use others for their own needs or wants
  • A lack of empathy, or unwillingness/inability to recognize and honor the needs and feelings of others
  • Proneness to envy or having a belief that they are envied by others
  • A sense of arrogance shown in behaviors and/or attitudes

Narcissism vs. NPD

It’s important to note that not all narcissistic traits necessarily indicate a personality disorder, which according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), involves at least two of the following four areas:2

  • Affective (ways of responding emotionally)
  • Cognitive (ways of thinking about oneself and others)
  • Impulse-control-based (ways of controlling one’s behavior)
  • Interpersonal (ways of relating to others)

Even if your loved one isn’t officially diagnosed with NPD, narcissistic behaviors can still be difficult to deal with and have a negative impact on your relationship.

Common traits of narcissists

Though all narcissists are not cut from the same cloth, they do have many traits in common. Here are the most prevalent ones.

  1. Narcissists are excessively self-absorbed. They monopolize the conversation, hog the remote, run the show. They pay scant attention to what interests you.
  2. Narcissists view others as extensions of themselves. The narcissist sets the standards of behavior and does not tolerate differences – especially if your viewpoint would require her to alter her behavior.
  3. Narcissists don’t appreciate different perspectives. If you don’t think or feel the same way he does, something’s wrong with you.
  4. Narcissists crave constant validation from the world. Admire and respect them and all is well. Find fault with them and watch out! Open narcissists will go on the offensive; closet narcissists will cut short the conversation.
  5. Narcissists pursue admiration, attention, status, prestige and money excessively. All of this is mere window dressing, covering up a real self that’s insecure and vulnerable.
  6. Narcissists believe that they’re entitled to special treatment. If it inconveniences them, it’s a “stupid” law, a “retarded” restriction. So why fall into line? “That’s for peons; not for me!”
  7. Narcissists believe that they deserve the best, regardless of cost. Hence, they may recklessly purchase status items and indulge in expensive experiences to make them feel like VIPs.
  8. Narcissists may donate generously to a cause or to helping others out in order to reflect well on themselves. When a gift is a narcissistic display rather than a gift from the heart, it’s all about the narcissist receiving recognition or control, not about the cause.

Many people don’t realize that their partner (or family member or friend) may be a narcissist, discovering it only after much time has elapsed. Why isn’t it obvious at the very beginning?

  1. It’s difficult to accept that someone you care for has a narcissistic personality, especially when he or she is talented, charming, smart, and yes, even caring at times. Yet, if you are often bewildered by their endless entitlement and repeatedly feel taken advantage of, don’t let your wishful thinking stand in the way of recognizing ‘what is.’
  2. Narcissists are great masters of disguise, describing their behavior in the best of terms (i.e. I’m only doing this for your own good!). Hence, it may take awhile for you to ‘get’ what’s really going on.
  3. Narcissism, reinforced by our culture, is on the rise. Advertisements that proclaim that you “deserve the best” or “you’re worth it” make no connection between deserving it and affording it. Nor do they describe what makes you so worthy. Hence, many narcissists feel that they’re acting the way they should be acting and see nothing wrong with their behavior.
Scroll to Top