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Narcissistic Personality Disorder-NPD

How Do I Know If Someone Has Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)?

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a complex psychological condition often characterized by a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, a need for admiration, and a lack of empathy. However, distinguishing between NPD and mere narcissistic personality traits can be challenging. In this article, we’ll delve into the distinctions between the two and explore how to identify them in individuals.

Understanding NPD vs. NPD Traits

Dr. David Hawkins, director of the Marriage Recovery Center and the Emotional Abuse Institute, provides valuable insights into the differences between NPD and narcissistic personality traits. While both may exhibit traits such as a sense of superiority, exaggeration of talents, fantasies of power, maneuvering for admiration, a sense of entitlement, and a struggle for empathy, the degree and overt nature of these traits differ between Narcissistic Personality Disorder and NPD traits.

1. Sense of Superiority

Both NPD and narcissistic traits manifest a sense of superiority, albeit in varying degrees. NPD tends to exhibit this trait more overtly, while individuals with narcissistic traits may display it in subtler ways.

2. Exaggeration of Talents

NPD individuals commonly exaggerate their talents, whereas those with narcissistic traits may do so to a lesser extent. The exaggeration of talents is a hallmark of NPD but may not always be as pronounced in individuals with narcissistic traits.

3. Fantasies of Unlimited Power

Fantasies of unlimited power are more prevalent in individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder rather than those with narcissistic traits. While the latter may harbor such fantasies, they are typically not as pronounced or central to their self-image.

4. Maneuvering for Admiration

NPD individuals often engage in maneuvering tactics to gain admiration, displaying a blatant “all about me” attitude. In contrast, individuals with narcissistic traits may also seek admiration but may not do so as aggressively or conspicuously.

5. Sense of Entitlement

Both NPD and narcissistic traits entail a sense of entitlement, where individuals believe they deserve special treatment or privileges. This entitlement is a core feature of narcissism, regardless of whether it presents as Narcissistic Personality Disorder or mere traits.

6. Struggle for Empathy

A notable characteristic of NPD is a profound struggle for empathy, reflecting an underlying emotional immaturity. While individuals with narcissistic traits may also exhibit a lack of empathy, they may be more open to developing this trait through intervention and self-awareness.

The 3Ds of Narcissism

Dr. Hawkins introduces the concept of the “3Ds of Narcissism”: dominance, dismissiveness, and defensiveness. Both NPD and narcissistic traits often display these behaviors, which can hinder interpersonal relationships and personal growth.

Intervention and Breakthrough

One way to distinguish between NPD and narcissistic traits is through intervention. The response to intervention reveals valuable insights into an individual’s capacity for change. While individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder may exhibit resistance and defensiveness, those with narcissistic traits may show varying degrees of remorse, insight, and willingness to address their behavior.


Identifying whether someone has Narcissistic Personality Disorder or narcissistic traits requires careful observation and understanding of the distinctions between the two. While both share common traits such as superiority, entitlement, and a lack of empathy, the severity and impact on behavior differ. By recognizing these differences and utilizing interventions, individuals affected by narcissism can embark on a journey towards self-awareness and personal growth.

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: 5 Steps to Treating Narcissism!

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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