We’re all familiar with the selfie-loving form of narcissism. These are the people who believe the world revolves around them and have an exaggerated form of, shall we say, self-love. However, malignant narcissism is an extreme form of narcissism that, according to Healthline, also includes antisocial behavior, paranoia, aggression, and sadism, either against the self or others. Healthline notes that because malignant narcissism can present itself in many ways, it can be difficult to lock down a certain set of traits associated with it. Still, there are some distinguishable symptoms that might make it easier for you to recognize whether you’re dealing with this kind of narcissist. After all, knowledge is power, and the more knowledge you have when dealing with a narcissist, the better.
What are the signs of malignant narcissism, anyway?
They Have Little Or No Empathy
According to a 2011 study reported by Psychology Today, those with narcissistic personality disorder tend “to have problems associated with the right anterior insular cortex — a region of the brain suspected to be associated with empathy.” Minimal empathy can look like having no remorse for hurting others and rarely apologizing (unless it benefits them in some way) and aren’t afraid to exploit or harm others if it means they have something to gain.
They Have an Enhanced Sense of Self
This is basically a fancy way of saying: they really do believe they’re the best thing in the world since sliced bread. Someone with malignant narcissism is not only preoccupied with their physical appearance and how they’re perceived by others but they also exaggerate their achievements and talents. They might even lie about something if it makes them sound and look better than you or anyone else. Example: “I was the smartest person who ever went to that college” or “I know better than most people. I am superiorly intelligent.”
They Aren’t Able to Handle Criticism or Being Wrong
Being wrong isn’t a reality that a malignant narcissist wants to live in. Even at the slightest criticism, the narcissist will become defensive and go in full-attack mode. If there is any evidence of their error or wrongdoing, the narcissist will insist that the facts and evidence are wrong, and that they are indeed correct. For example, if the narcissist takes a test and they flunk it, they will blame the test or even the test taker. They might say something like, “The test was wrong! The test taker doesn’t even know what they’re doing. I could’ve written a better test than that!”
They Aren’t Able to Self-Regulate Their Self-Esteem
Narcissists, for all of their boasting and bragging, are secretly insecure and have a weak sense of self. This causes them to seek external validation for their self-esteem. Psychology Today reports the narcissist requires “regulation from the outside world to maintain many facets of the self. Therefore, they often use people to stabilize their emotions and the feelings they have regarding who they are and what they want to do or be.”
They Lash Out Easily
Malignant narcissists have no qualms about lashing out or humiliating others for the smallest of errors, or for anything at all. This could range from you correcting them on a mistake they made, telling a joke they didn’t like, or coming across as “better” than them in any way. This causes those closest to the malignant narcissist to walk on egg shells in fear of poking the bear.
They’re Extremely Aggressive
In response to anger or embarrassment, or any other emotion, the malignant narcissist will become aggressive and increasingly hostile, even over the slightest infraction. This can range from verbally abusing someone to physically punching a wall. Essentially, says Healthline, a malignant narcissist will engage in behavior that is specifically aimed at injuring or destroying someone or something — and will gain pleasure from it, too.