How To Spot A Narcissist Before You Fall In Love

Women's Dating

How to Spot a Narcissist Before You Fall in Love

Dr. Wendy Walsh

Written by: Dr. Wendy Walsh

Dr. Wendy Walsh

Known as America's Relationship Expert, Dr. Wendy Walsh is an award-winning television journalist, radio host & podcaster, and the author of three books on relationships and thousands of print and digital articles. More than 1.5 million people follow her sage advice on social media. She holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and teaches in the Psychology Department at California State University Channel Islands and has been the host of "The Dr. Wendy Walsh Show" on iHeart Radio's KFI AM 640 since 2015. Walsh is also a former Emmy-nominated co-host of "The Doctors," as well as former host of the nationally syndicated show "EXTRA." She was named a Time Magazine Person of the Year in 2017 after speaking out about harassment at a major news network.

See full bio »

Edited by: Jon McCallister

Jon McCallister

Jon came to DatingAdvice in 2016 with more than 15 years of editorial experience behind him. He has experience editing, writing, and designing at numerous publications, including the Gainesville Sun. Jon enjoys researching emerging trends and seeking out the companies, organizations, and individuals making an impact in the modern world of dating. He excels at working closely with writers and editors to improve the quality of online content.

Reviewed by: Amber Brooks

Amber Brooks

Amber Brooks is a dating and relationship expert who has penned over 1,800 lifestyle articles in the last decade, and she still never tires of interviewing dating professionals and featuring actionable advice for singles. She has been quoted by the Washington Times, Cosmopolitan, The New York Post, and AskMen.

See full bio »
Discuss This! Discuss This!

It seems that we have reached a point in history where the internet is obsessed with the idea of narcissists. Single people are told to beware of unfeeling narcissists lurking on dating apps and in bars and restaurants looking for vulnerable empaths upon which to unleash their weapons of love bombing and gaslighting.

Hold up. 

A person with a truly diagnosable narcissistic personality disorder is much more rare than the internet would have you believe. Numbers are difficult to ascertain because most narcissists don’t go to therapy or join studies to be counted.

Many experts say the disorder affects about 5% of the population, and, yes, more men than women fall into the category. But there are a few things about narcissists you should know before you start seeing red flags that may not be there.

Watch Out For the Signs and Symptoms of Narcissism

First of all, a true diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder is complicated. It can have ranges of severity and many different subtypes. 

In the therapist’s diagnostic bible of mental health disorders, the DSM-5, an NPD patient has to have at least five of the following symptoms:

  • A grandiose sense of self-importance
  • A preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  • A belief that he or she is special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions
  • A need for excessive admiration
  • A sense of entitlement
  • Interpersonally exploitive behavior
  • A lack of empathy
  • Envy of others or a belief that others are envious of him or her
  • A demonstration of arrogant and haughty behaviors or attitudes

One thing to keep in mind is that a person might have only three or four traits on the above list, and still be pretty hard to live with!

Five Ways to Tell if You May Be Dating a Narcissist

Another feature of narcissism is that people with these traits tend to target highly empathetic partners. So, if you are known to be compassionate, you might be very vulnerable to their love tactics. So how do you spot someone with narcissistic traits early on? Here are five ways to spot a narcissist early on:

1. They are very charming. This is especially true when in public, but you notice a short fuse. You accidentally say the wrong thing, and they snap at you. They might apologize, but it feels way too early to be showing anger.

2. They have few friends. Narcissists may be powerful or prestigious but have no intimate friends. If you ask them about their childhood friends or family of origin, they are often estranged.

3. They play the victim very well. In the beginning, they will tell you stories of woe and hardship to gauge how empathetic you are and to help their own brain justify all the bad behavior that’s coming. 

4. They lack empathy. When you tell a sad story or offer a reason why the overtired waiter may not be at their best, they always seem to dismiss things and blame others for their own problems.

5. They control your style. It feels like they “love” you because they offer to take you shopping, but then you realize they are dressing you and criticizing your style. Lovers and family members of narcissists are expected to be extensions of their fragile self-image.

6. They seem too good to be true. Narcissists are great at “love bombing” and making you feel very, very special at the beginning. They are testing to see if you are so insecure that you’ll eat it up.

If a Narcissist is Courting You, Run!

Block them. Unfriend. Unfollow. Don’t worry, narcissists are used to this. People with high self-esteem and a secure attachment style naturally move away from unhealthy people.

You can learn to do this, too. The narcissist is looking for the person who will stay and take the abuse. Don’t hope that things will get better. Their behaviors are early signs that bigger pain is coming in the future.