It might seems narcissism is everywhere in the age of selfies and too-good-to-be-true Facebook lives. But experts say there's a difference between those who post excessively on social media and a true narcissist.
"The narcissist label is over-used these days, employed to ridicule or deflate just about anyone who seems a little too self-impressed. Narcissism means much more than having a large ego," Joseph Burgo, PhD, author of the new book The Narcissist You Know -- Defending Yourself Against Extreme Narcissists in an All-About-Me Age, told ABC News.
To begin with, he said, narcissism occurs along a spectrum of possible expressions -- from healthy self-esteem at one end to narcissistic personality disorder at the other.
"Even Extreme Narcissists on the more pathological side don’t all look alike." In common? A "grandiose, inflated sense of self-importance," but beyond that, 'Extreme Narcissists,' as Burgo calls them, demonstrate various traits and behaviors. Here are five signals you're dealing with an extreme narcissist.
Empathy and Emotions
"Extreme Narcissists find it hard if not impossible to empathize with the feelings of others, and for this reason, they lack interest in or feel uneasy around displays of emotions," Burgo said. "They also lack insight into their own emotions and when upset will often deny feeling that way. When hurt or frustrated, they often go on the attack or explode with rage."
Self-Image and Social Comparison
Burgo daid that "Although they may appear aloof or arrogant, Extreme Narcissists are preoccupied with the way they are viewed by others. Easily slighted, they tend to misinterpret innocent remarks as put-downs. They often ridicule or humiliate their partners and make contemptuous remarks about other people behind their backs."
"Because of their feelings of entitlement," Burgo said, "Extreme Narcissists make important life decisions without forethought to the cost or consequences. Or they make grandiose plans with little ability to follow through on them. They often lack self-control and spend beyond their means; they may overeat, drink too much, or abuse drugs."
"In their dealings with other people, Extreme Narcissists are self-absorbed, controlling, and exploitative. They may bully others to get their way. They usually dominate conversations and interrupt others. While they demand uncritical allegiance from friends and associates, they are suspicious of other people’s motives. They tend to be jealous and possessive."
Morality and Responsibility
"Extreme Narcissists lack a moral compass and often engage in illegal or unethical behavior, lying and distorting the truth for personal gain. They will blame others for their own mistakes. They will use guilt to manipulate other people, or play the victim in order to elicit sympathy. They often come across as self-righteous and bulletproof during arguments."
Once you’ve identified these qualities in someone at work, in your family, or perhaps in your bed, how then are you to cope with him or her? Here are a five of Burgo's tips for coping with the Extreme Narcissist you may know.
1. "Think of the Extreme Narcissist in your life as the emotional equivalent of a toddler and don’t expect more mature behavior from her. You’ll always have to be the 'bigger' one."
2. "As cowardly as the advice may sound, avoid ruffling his massive ego whenever possible. If you can do so without compromising your own sense of self worth, don’t challenge him head-on. It might provoke a vengeful attack."
3. "On the other hand, dealing with someone who has a strong sense of entitlement means you need to set clear limits and boundaries in order to protect yourself from exploitation. Expect anger and resentment as a result. Don’t let him bully you."
4. "Because an Extreme Narcissist often builds herself up at your expense, try not to let her get under your skin. Hold on tight to your own self-esteem and, if you begin to doubt yourself, remember that she wants you to feel that way."
5. "At the end of the day, coping with an Extreme Narcissist means managing your own reactions to the ways they treat you. Even if you’re successful, the only “reward” you can expect is blame and resentment for the limits you have set. Extreme Narcissists almost never change, and for this reason, the most useful piece I offer is simple: Stay as far away as possible."
More advice for coping with Extreme Narcissists can be found in Joseph Burgo’s new book, The Narcissist You Know – Defending Yourself Against Extreme Narcissists in an All-About-Me Age.