You hear the narcissist label used quite a lot these days—in ordinary conversation, in news articles, on television. Most people use the word to describe men and women who think a little too well of themselves and don’t have much regard for the feelings of others. It’s often deployed as a put-down and in the realm of politics, an attack weapon.
Listening to the way narcissist is commonly used, you might get the impression that all narcissists conform to a consistent pattern. But narcissism actually occurs along a continuum of expressions, with healthy self-esteem at one end and narcissistic personality disorder at the other. Even men and women who demonstrate its more toxic forms—those I refer to as “Extreme Narcissists” in my new book—don’t act alike. They have differing personality types and different modes of shoring up a grandiose self-image. They also affect your self-esteem in different ways when they interact with you.
From least to most toxic, here are five types of Extreme Narcissist you might encounter, with some advice for ways to handle them (and yourself) when you come into conflict. (Each type can, of course, be of any gender.) Bear in mind that Extreme Narcissists always need to prove that they are “winners” in comparison to other people they view as “losers,” though their methods vary.