It’s not easy loving someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Dr. Craig Malkin offers a helpful guide to catching the signs of NPD early on in a relationship.
At the beginning of April this year, I was tapped by the Huffington Post Live team for a discussion on narcissism. I happily agreed to appear, for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that narcissism happens to be one of my favorite subjects. Early in my training, I had the pleasure of working with one of the foremost authorities on narcissism in our field, and in part because of that experience, I went on to work with quite a few clients who’d been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder. That’s where I learned that the formal diagnostic label hardly does justice to the richness and complexity of this condition. The most glaring problems are easy to spot — the apparent absence of even a shred of empathy, the grandiose plans and posturing, the rage at being called out on the slightest of imperfections or normal human missteps — but if you get too hung up on the obvious traits, you can easily miss the subtle (and often more common) features that allow a narcissist to sneak into your life and wreak havoc.
Just ask Tina Swithin, who went on to write a book about surviving her experience with a man who clearly meets criteria for NPD (and very likely, a few other diagnoses). To her lovestruck eyes, her soon-to-be husband seemed more like a prince charming than the callous, deceitful spendthrift he later proved to be. Looking back, Tina explains, there were signs of trouble from the start, but they were far from obvious at the time. In real life, the most dangerous villains rarely advertise their malevolence.
So what are we to do? How do we protect ourselves from narcissists if they’re so adept at slipping into our lives unnoticed?
I shared some of my answers to that question in our conversation, and I encourage you to watch it. But there were a few I didn’t get to, and others I didn’t have the chance to describe in depth, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to revisit the topic here. Tread carefully if you catch a glimpse of any of these subtler signs: