How to Tell a Narcissist by Their Writing
By: Christine Hammond, LMHC
It is easy to spot a narcissist by their speaking. The constant references to self, comparing them with others always coming out on top, the verbal assaults to disarm and belittle others, and insisting they deserve admiration for some achievement are all indicators. But when it comes to writing, it might be harder to identify.
To make a far assessment, the DSM-5 criteria for Narcissist Personality Disorder (NPD) will be used. In bold are brief characteristics identified in the DSM and following are how it appears in articles, books, blogs, emails, and even texts.
· Expects to be recognized as superior. NPDs constantly demand attention. As such, their writing often has an air of superiority or “I’m better than you” tone. Sometimes, they are even bold enough to come right out and say they are the best. They tend to write to incite or provoke others but it is not for action. Rather, the victim feels placed in a position of defending themselves.
· Exaggerates achievements and talents. This usually comes in the form of someone who pretends they are an expert in an area that they actually lack any discernable creditability. The use of first person in the writing is typical as NPDs prefer to speak about themselves more than the subject matter. Always check the credentials of an author through an independent source. NPDs will often lie about their own accomplishments.
· Fantasies of success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate. This is perhaps best demonstrated in a new romantic relationship where the NPD will write just how perfect their connection to one another is. The tendency for a NPD is to move very quickly in a relationship and they will write the exact right thing. This bubble is burst once the NPD knows they have the heart and commitment of the other person.
· Superior attitude with need to associate with equally special people. Condensation is writing is the first clue especially when the NPD places them as the standard. Some NPDs will quote famous people as if they personally have a relationship with them when they don’t. For instance, they might say they are friends with a person whom they are only following on twitter.
· Needs constant admiration. In this case, attention is a nice substitute for admiration. All attention is good for a NPD including negative attention. They will intentionally overreach their influence in an attempt to garner more recognition. Or they might even complain about not being admired by others.
· Sense of entitlement. NPDs have an air of entitlement. They wrote a book and therefore it deserves to be published. It doesn’t matter what the quality of the writing is or the subject matter, all that matters is that they did it and it must be good or right. Anyone who refuses to give them what the NPD believes they deserve, will be bashed.
· Automatic compliance with their expectations. In writing, this often comes across as demands that the NPD expects exact compliance. “You must do…” are common phrases indicating that there is no allowance for a difference of opinion or point of view.
· Takes advantage of others. This is usually done in the form of blaming others for things that have gone wrong with the NPD. NPDs won’t accept responsibility for their actions, reactions, or responses. By placing the blame on others in their writing, they are passively-aggressively tossing the buck.
· Lacks empathy. NPDs often expect empathy for themselves but refuse to extend it to others. In writing this can come across as playing the role of victim as an effort to garner sympathy. However, NPDs will see others attempt as gaining sympathy as weakness.
· Believes others envy them. Statements like, “They are jealous of my ability to …” are typical responses especially when the NPD feels criticized. Sometimes the comment is more subtle or passive-aggressive in nature, especially when it is a writing that a superior might see.
· Arrogance. This is pervasive throughout the writing with no apology for their arrogance. There might be some slight sign of humility or remorse of it but is surrounded by countless attacks directed at other people. These assaults are intended to create a diversion to their narcissism.