Leading Authority in Treatment of Narcissism and Emotional Abuse

Can a Narcissist Be Codependent

Can a Narcissist Be Codependent?

A narcissist and someone who is co-dependent are often thought to be opposites. But have you ever wondered “can a narcissist be codependent”, or whether a co-dependent can also be narcissistic? This is a question that has come up in our work with couples, and a complicated question at that. Perhaps you know someone who has some of the qualities of both.

While these two personalities are very distinct and have many opposite qualities, there are actually some overlapping characteristics. Dr. Hawkins talks about these distinctions as well as the commonalities between a narcissist and a co-dependent.

Can a Narcissist Be Codependent?

The dynamics of narcissism and codependency are fascinating subjects that often leave people with more questions than answers. Can a narcissist also exhibit codependent traits? It’s a thought-provoking query that merits exploration. In this article, we’ll delve into the intricate nuances of these two personality traits, seeking to understand if they can coexist within the same individual.

Narcissism and Codependency: Separate Entities

Before we delve into the overlaps, it’s crucial to differentiate between narcissism and codependency as distinct entities.

Narcissism, characterized by traits such as dominance, defensiveness, dismissiveness, and a lack of empathy, often represents a self-centered approach to relationships. Narcissists are primarily takers who prioritize their needs and desires above others’. They hold an inflated sense of self-importance and a deep-rooted sense of entitlement. These traits are typically absent in individuals classified as codependent.

On the other hand, codependency is marked by an individual’s inability to form a healthy relationship with themselves. They often struggle with self-esteem issues, find it challenging to meet their own needs, and tend to defer to others. Codependents are often known as people-pleasers, which can lead to depression and difficulty in recognizing their own desires. This is in stark contrast to the self-centered nature of narcissism.

Overlaps Between Narcissism and Codependency

While narcissism and codependency are distinct personality traits, there are areas of overlap where individuals can exhibit traits of both. These overlaps can blur the lines between these two phenomena, making it essential to explore the intersections. Let’s examine three of these overlapping traits in this section.

1. A Need to Feel Needed

One intriguing overlap is the shared need to feel needed. While narcissists often project an image of self-sufficiency and grandiosity, beneath the surface, many harbor a profound need to be needed. They struggle to cope when they are alone or when a relationship falls apart. This need for external validation and dependency on others’ attention can be seen as a form of codependency, albeit one that is masked by their narcissistic traits.

2. Sensitivity to Criticism

Another commonality between narcissists and codependents is a sensitivity to criticism. Both tend to react strongly to perceived slights or criticism, though the reasons behind their reactions differ. Narcissists, despite their outward arrogance, often have fragile egos and react defensively to protect their inflated self-esteem. Codependents, with their already low self-esteem, struggle to accept criticism constructively. This shared sensitivity to criticism underscores the emotional vulnerabilities that both narcissists and codependents carry.

3. Enmeshed Relationships

Enmeshed relationships are characterized by a lack of boundaries and a blurring of individual identities. While codependents are more readily associated with enmeshment due to their tendency to overly prioritize others, narcissists can also fall into this trap. Narcissists may struggle to distinguish themselves from their partners and maintain a healthy sense of individuality. This lack of separation and distinct self-identity is a shared challenge that both narcissists and codependents face.


In summary, the question of whether a narcissist can be codependent is complex and nuanced. While narcissism and codependency are typically seen as separate personality traits, there are overlapping characteristics that can manifest in the same individual. These overlaps highlight the intricacies of human behavior and the diverse ways in which individuals navigate relationships and self-esteem.

In the next part of this article, we will explore three more overlapping traits between narcissism and codependency, shedding further light on this intriguing intersection. Understanding these nuances can provide valuable insights into the complexities of human psychology and interpersonal relationships.

To learn how we can help, reach out to us at (206) 219-0145 or info@marriagerecoverycenter.com to speak with a Client Care Specialist

Also read: Secondary Abuse and The Church

About Dr. Hawkins:

The internet is inundated with hyperbole and misinformation about narcissism, leaving many people confused and hopeless. Get the facts on narcissism and emotional abuse from someone who has been researching, writing about and treating narcissism and emotional abuse for over a decade.

Dr. Hawkins is a best-selling author and clinical psychologist with over three decades of experience helping people break unhealthy patterns and build healthier relationships.

He is the founder and director of the Marriage Recovery Center and the Emotional Abuse Institute which offers education, training and counseling for people who want to break free of, and heal from, emotional abuse. Whether the perpetrator of the abuse is your spouse, partner, parent, boss, friend or family member, we offer practical advice for anyone trapped in a toxic, destructive relationship.

In addition to narcissism & emotional abuse, you’ll learn about the lesser known forms of abuse, including covert abuse, reactive abuse, spiritual abuse, secondary abuse, relationship trauma and much more.


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