I'm a Psychologist and These Are the 5 Telling Signs Someone Is a Narcissist

Make sure to look out for these super destructive behaviors during conflict.

There are lots of different ways to identify a narcissist—but one of the best is to notice the way they argue. In a recent video, Annie Zimmerman, PhD, a psychotherapist and popular TikTok mental health expert, said it's "nearly impossible" to have a healthy argument with a narcissist, and that's because they tend to engage in certain destructive argument styles. Keep reading to find out the five red flags you should be looking out for.

RELATED: 8 "Small But Toxic" Things to Stop Saying to Your Partner, According to Therapists.

1
They deny any wrongdoing.

Woman is frowning and looking away from her boyfriend with her arms crossed, as he is looking worriedly into her face as they stand at home in their lounge
Vladimir Vladimirov/iStock

Narcissists tend to deny having any role in the problem, says Zimmerman, who goes by @your_pocket_therapist. "They aren't able to take ownership of their side," she explains.

Not only that, but if they do make an apology, Zimmerman says it'll typically be "meaningless or superficial."

Studies have shown that narcissistic people are less likely to feel guilty for their actions, which might help to explain why they are also less likely to take responsibility for them. They might downplay their hurtful actions or words, or even outright deny that ever happened.

Researchers have also discovered that people with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) have very little self-awareness. This can make it difficult for them to even recognize when they've done something wrong, let alone own up to it.

RELATED: 7 Body Language Signs That Mean Someone Is Lying, According to Therapists and Lawyers.

2
They use deflection to control the conversation.

Shot of a young couple having an argument at home
iStock

Not only do narcissists rarely take responsibility for wrongdoing, but they may actually shift the conversation back onto you, says Zimmerman: "Suddenly you find yourself talking about your flaws when it's you who raised the issue with them."

For example, they might say something like: "If you hadn't [XYZ], then I never would have done that." Or, they might bring up your past mistakes to distract you from the problem you're trying to confront them about. This takes the heat off them—and puts you in a defensive position.

3
They play the victim.

Senior man arguing with his wife who has her back turned to him as they sit on the couch
iStock

Studies suggest that people with narcissism tend to feel a strong sense of victimhood. It may appear that they're constantly implying that the world is out to get them.

According to Zimmerman, they make you feel like you've done something wrong and should feel sorry for them, rather than the other way around.

Playing the victim might involve words like "always" or "never." For example: "Why are you always giving me such a hard time after all I've done for you?" or "No matter what I do for you, it never seems to be enough."

RELATED: 5 Questions Your Partner May Ask If They're Cheating, Therapists Say.

4
They gaslight you.

Couple have relationship issues, arguing and fighting in living room
iStock

Gaslighting is a form of manipulation and emotional abuse that involves denying your memory of events. The aim is to gain control by getting you to doubt your reality—and sanity. Zimmerman says this is another common tactic for people with NPD: "[Narcissists] gaslight you into thinking that you're the problem for raising an issue."

For instance, they might say "That never happened," "I would never say something like that," "You're imagining things," or "You're exaggerating."

5
They attack you.

Tired frustrated black woman ignoring angry husband who is pointing his finger at her while she covers her face on the couch
iStock

In some cases, Zimmerman says a narcissistic person may become outright aggressive during conflict—for example, resorting to insults, criticism, and belittling.

The idea is that by attacking your character, they might diminish the self-confidence you need to stand up for yourself. In some cases, they might use threats to intimidate you into dropping the issue or avoiding confrontation with them.

For more relationship advice delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Rebecca Strong
Rebecca Strong is a Boston-based freelance health/wellness, lifestyle, and travel writer. Read more
Filed Under
Sources referenced in this article
  1. Source:
  2. Source:
  3. Source: