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10 Red Flags Your Friend Is a Narcissist, Therapists Say

Keep an eye out for these telltale signs that spell trouble.

Aside from family, friends are the people you turn to when you need advice or a partner in crime. They're the ones who are supposed to care about you and your needs—but unfortunately, that's not always the case. Unhealthy friendships can be detrimental to your quality of life and self-esteem, and that's especially true if a close friend turns out to be a narcissist.

"Narcissism occurs on a spectrum, from very little self-focus to extreme self-absorption. True narcissists—those who qualify for the diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder—are, by definition, extremely self-absorbed," clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, PhD, author of The Joy of Imperfect Love, tells Best Life. "Although a narcissist can act like a friend when it serves their needs, a friendship can easily be tossed aside if someone—or something—else comes along."

According to Manly, narcissists typically have low emotional intelligence, and they're also lacking in "important friendship skills," so you'll want to keep an eye out for certain behaviors. Read on for 10 red flags your friend is a narcissist.

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

They constantly monopolize conversation.

Talkative Guy with a Friend

We all know someone who loves to hear themself talk—and while not all of these folks are narcissists, regularly monopolizing conversation is a red flag.

"Even if you are disclosing exciting or tragic news, [a narcissist] will always find a way to divert the attention back to themselves," says Beth Ribarsky, PhD, professor and director of the School of Communication and Media at the University of Illinois Springfield. "Sometimes it is a bit subtle. For example, you might be talking about your dog that recently passed, and they might say, 'Did I ever tell you about my dog growing up?'"

They have a critical or demeaning attitude.

woman crying because friend is being mean
Nicoleta Ionescu / Shutterstock

Friends should be there to build you up and to offer constructive criticism if and when you ask for it. But a narcissist isn't going to wait for you to ask for feedback—they're just going to give it.

"Narcissists, while often highly charismatic, especially when in the public eye, tend to be highly critical, contemptuous, and even demeaning of others—including their closest friends," Manly says. "The narcissist can be extremely critical and condescending to the point of eroding a friend's self-esteem."

A tendency to "put you down" is also on Ribarsky's list.

"Narcissists want to ensure that you know they are superior, so they will often one-up you (i.e. their experience was so much worse than yours) or blatantly put you down," she says. "They will disregard your strengths and attempt to highlight their own."

RELATED: 7 Warnings Signs That You Have a Toxic Friendship.

The friendship feels one-sided.

annoyed woman comforting friend
Nicoleta Ionescu / Shutterstock

Another sign your friend may be a narcissist is if you get that nagging feeling that your relationship is one-sided, according to Courtney Hubscher, LMHC, LCPC, NCC, of GroundWork Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

"Does it seem like your relationship revolves around the narcissist's life, problems, and agenda? If you feel your role in the friendship is mainly as an audience to your friend's life drama, it could be a sign of a one-sided, narcissist-centered friendship," Hubscher says.

Similarly, if you're always there for your friend but they don't show up for you, it should send up red flags.

"When you need someone to vent to or help with a project, they're nowhere to be found," Ribarsky says. "They may even gaslight you into thinking you're being needy in the rare times you might need them."

They don't accept feedback.

young lesbian couple fighting with each other
iStock / LumiNola

A narcissist is probably quick to chime in with their two cents, but if you do the same, it's not going to be well-received.

"The narcissist, sadly, has a core that is deeply rooted in feelings of shame, insecurity, and inferiority; their inner vulnerability is cloaked by a bullying, often arrogant exterior," Manly says. "Yet, underneath the superior façade is a sad, lonely individual who is easily slighted by even a mild dose of constructive criticism or feedback."

RELATED: Why You Should Never Call Out a Narcissist—And What to Do Instead, Therapists Say.

They can't admit fault.

young black couple fighting
iStock / jeffbergen

Another thing narcissists struggle with is apologizing and owning up when they're wrong.

"Admitting they were wrong would only draw attention to their weaknesses. So, they often struggle with remorse. They will either deny wrongdoing or find an excuse outside of themselves," Ribarsky says. "When you tell them you were hurt when they didn't text on your birthday, they may put you at fault that you 'should have reminded them' or your 'expectations are unrealistic' or they were 'overloaded at work.'"

Manly also points out that these friends will not be able to offer a meaningful apology: Their need to be "right" will often prompt them to point the finger at someone else.

They're prone to outbursts.

Man with Angry Look in His Eyes

It's not unusual to have a temper: We all get emotional and wound up sometimes. But if your friend is constantly having angry outbursts, take note.

"Narcissists may be prone to temper tantrums and anger outbursts when they don't get their way; they have difficulty regulating their emotions, particularly in close relationships," Manly says.

They're manipulative.

manipulative friend
Antonio Guillem / Shutterstock

It's also important to clock signs of manipulation, which Hubscher says is "at the core of narcissistic relationships."

"Narcissists often use guilt, favors, or charm to control their friends," she says. "If you notice that your friend is often twisting the conversation or situations to their advantage and leaving you confused about reality, take it as a significant red flag."

They need constant attention.

conceited man admiring reflection

Ribarsky, Hubscher, and Manly all point to a need for attention and validation as a dead giveaway sign of a narcissist.

"The true narcissist loves being 'on stage' whether as the drama queen, champion, or know-it-all," Manly explains. "This need for attention and affirmation can make it draining to be around the narcissist. Narcissists tend not to truly care about others; they consistently turn the focus back on themselves."

Ribarsky notes that a narcissist will also fish for compliments as a way to reassure themselves. These friends want you to "know how amazing they are and how lucky you are to be friends with them," she says.

RELATED: 5 Biggest Red Flags Someone's a Narcissist, According to a Top Psychologist.

They lack empathy.

man ignoring woman
DimaBerlin / Shutterstock

Not every friend is going to be empathetic or able to understand every experience you have. But a narcissist isn't even going to try.

"Not surprisingly, narcissists tend to have difficulty in their relationships due to a lack of concern or interest in another person's needs, thoughts, or feelings," Manly says. "One of the most appalling traits of a narcissist is their willingness to do whatever 'must be done' to get their personal needs or agenda met. The narcissist will lie or manipulate to get whatever they want without regard for how this behavior affects others."

According to Hubscher, a narcissist may also get irritated or dismiss you entirely when you need support.

They're self-important.

arrogant woman looking at friend
BearFotos / Shutterstock

Hubscher defines narcissism as "a personality trait that involves arrogance, a grandiose sense of self-importance, and a need for excessive admiration," which differs from confidence.

According to Manly, narcissists want others to focus on their "achievements, talents, and perceived superiority"—and they're not interested in sharing the spotlight.

"The narcissist loves to be appreciated and praised, but when it comes to complimenting others, the narcissist is often silent," she says.

What should I do if my friend is a narcissist?

One Friend Not Listening to the Other

If you notice these signs in one of your friends, experts stress the importance of assessing your relationship.

"When you're feeling more drained than energized by your friendship, it is likely time to call it quits," Ribarsky shares. "Of course, relationships ebb and flow, but a narcissist will continually take and take until they don't think you have anything left to offer."

When cutting ties, Ribarsky recommends keeping an eye out for gaslighting, which a narcissist might use to "manipulate you back into the relationship." And while it's not always recommended, this is one of the situations where you can "ghost."

"Some will claim this is immature, but when it comes to saving yourself, making yourself a priority, and avoiding being sucked back into the toxicity of a narcissist—completely severing ties without communication might be best," she suggests. "Block their number, unfollow on social media, etc."

On the flip side, if you want to maintain the friendship, understand what that truly entails.

"Your mental health will fare better when you observe—and not respond to—the narcissist's self-absorbed tactics," Manly notes. "As narcissists lack empathy and compassion, it's important to manage your expectations; you'll likely never have a reciprocal, emotionally connected relationship with a narcissist."

Abby Reinhard
Abby Reinhard is a Senior Editor at Best Life, covering daily news and keeping readers up to date on the latest style advice, travel destinations, and Hollywood happenings. Read more