Malignant Narcissism: What It Is and How to Identify It

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Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) has been a recognized mental illness throughout history, but it’s only recently that many people have become aware of it. It can be challenging to tell if a person has NPD or exhibits standard traits such as selfishness or thoughtlessness, which is why it’s essential to know how to identify this disorder.

While NPD is the only official diagnosis for narcissists, there are still different types of this disorder. One of them is malignant narcissism, which is considered the most harmful type. The condition can come in varying levels of severity, making it a complex situation to handle.

Knowing how to identify NPD and, more specifically, malignant narcissism can help many people understand their situation. It can also make it easier to ask for help from a professional therapist and prevent a person from further harming their mental health.

Here is essential information regarding malignant narcissism:

Understanding Malignant Narcissism

Malignant narcissism includes the general traits of NPD. However, it also has antisocial traits, sadistic tendencies, a poor sense of self, and a lack of empathy. It’s a mental disorder that makes people suffering from this condition highly manipulative.

Some of the causes of malignant narcissism include childhood experiences of abuse, too much parental pampering, overly authoritarian parenting, and inconsistent care. Some studies also show that people with close relatives who suffer from NPD have an increased risk of developing the disorder themselves.

Symptoms of Malignant Narcissism

It’s integral to note that not every person with narcissistic traits can be automatically diagnosed with NPD or malignant narcissism. However, these people can still do a lot of harm if they don’t receive the proper support that counselling could provide.

Some of the signs of malignant narcissism can also manifest in different severities. With that, here are a few of them that you can look out for:

  • Preoccupation with fantasies about beauty, brilliance, success, and power
  • Inability to manage criticism
  • The habit of lashing out if they feel slighted
  • Tendency to take advantage of others to get what they want
  • Excessive care about their appearance
  • Expecting to be treated as superior
  • Lack of empathy for others
  • Increased sense of self and inability to self-regulate
  • No remorse for hurting others and no interest in apologizing unless it benefits them
  • Showing an attitude of deserving the best of everything
  • Tendency to monopolize conversations and mistreat those who they think are inferior
  • Deep insecurity and a weak sense of self
  • Tendency to blame others for their bad behaviour

Malignant narcissism can also be an umbrella term to refer to people who suffer from a combination of Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD), NPD, paranoia, and aggression and sadism towards oneself and others. Some symptoms of APD include:

  • Not thinking about the welfare of the self and others
  • Disobeying laws or social norms
  • Having impulsive behaviour
  • Feeling irritable and aggressive
  • No remorse for one’s actions
  • Lying or manipulating others for mere profit or amusement
  • Being irresponsible

How to Handle Malignant Narcissism

If you believe you’re handling someone with malignant narcissism, it’s important to remember that you should also seek the help of a therapist. Dealing with such a complex condition can be detrimental to anyone’s mental health, so it’s essential to secure yourself with a reliable support system.

Aside from this, you can also establish healthy boundaries between yourself and the person with whom you believe is suffering from malignant narcissism. Don’t expect or force them to change. You also need to accept that they will be challenging to deal with because people suffering from malignant narcissism are unlikely to seek treatment themselves.


Malignant narcissism is not a recognized diagnosis in the DSM-5, the standard for diagnosing psychiatric conditions. However, it’s a narcissistic personality disorder or an umbrella term for someone suffering from multiple illnesses. Dealing with someone suffering from this condition can be challenging, which is why it’s crucial to reach out to a professional therapist and surround yourself with a strong support system.

Suppose you need a therapist to talk to. In that case, Chettiar Counselling & Associates offers free phone consultations to help people determine which of our counselling services in Cambridge, Ontario, best suits their needs. Contact us today to get the support you deserve.