Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Does anyone have any experiences they want to share about knowing someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder? I think I discovered a female family member that might have this. I knew something was off about her for a long time but I could never figure out personality disorder it could be. I would have never thought it would be Narcissistic because she is so negative and has such low self-esteem, but now I'm reading this is possible in women narcissists.  Does anyone have any experience with this disorder? What traits did the person have?
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  • Hi Diane,

    Yes, I do have experience of knowing someone with this personality disorder; my ex-fiancee of over ten years.  She suffered with what I would refer to as 'covert' Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  Since leaving her I have become a writer on the disorder and have written numerous articles and one book about it.  It's definitely possible in females, although not that common, but when it is present in females it's usually either covert narcissism or borderline narcissism (but not always, of course).  The problem with this disorder is that it goes so deep and it's so controversial, so confusing and so difficult to pick up on that you cannot just tell if someone has it or not - everybody is narcissistic to some degree but then there are also various subtypes of the disorder.  It can take even the most qualified mental health professional several years to come to the conclusion that someone is inflicted with NPD.  As for diagnosing them, that's another matter all together and is highly unlikely to ever happen.

    You say you knew something was 'off' about her for a long time but you could never quite put your finger on it - well, this is often how narcissists make people around them feel, or at least, people close to them, at first.  It's like you know that something isn't quite right but you can never quite work out what it is.  You say she is very negative with low self-esteem - does she only act like this around you or does she act the same around other people too?  Does she openly display this behaviour?  Or does she only do it when confronted about certain issues?  And do you think she does it for sympathy or so that she can manipulate people?  If you question her, does she try to twist things around and make out like you're the problem (projection)?  Does she deny things that you know are true and does she ever resort to mental/emotional abuse?
  • Hi Androl, it's so great to meet someone who has experience with this.
    To answer your questions: She is extremely negative, pessimistic and miserable but only in my company. Around others she acts very special and unique, morally and intellectually superior, haughty and arrogant with those she thinks are beneath her, sweet and saying all the right things to those she wants to impress. The mask comes off in private and she is completely different, depressed with terribly low self esteem.  I think it is her self esteem issue that confused me for so long and I couldn't figure out what her problem was. Sometimes I wondered maybe if she was borderline or histrionic but it didn't quite fit perfectly. 
    When she was younger she would fly into crazy rages, her face would get distorted and it was almost like watching an immature child. Always it was about how she was slighted, not obeyed, criticized, not agreed with, or somehow made to look like a "fool" but only in her twisted interpretation. Image to outsiders is very important to her, she is hyper aware of what she perceives to be their reactions to her, she twists innocent things people say to have a deep malicious meaning against her, she overanalyzes everything.
    She has real physical medical conditions and disabilities. This is another thing thats had me stuck, at least with my feelings towards her. She has legitimate health problems, but she uses them to get sympathy, special treatment, a way out, a reason why she is unique and suffers more than others, a reason why normal rules don't apply to her. I could never figure how exactly does she gets these real medical problems, when its almost like she wants and needs them to be unique, exempt, and in need of everyone's help. How could she manifest so many real health problems? Coincidence or just her good luck? 
    She finds weaker, sympathetic kind souls and uses them mercilessly to fulfill her every ridiculous whim, help her do her hair, take her sweater off, move this thing to there, no, move it back, make food while she watches over their shoulder and tells them how to do it, make her bed while she stands and watches, take out the trash - but you must do it immediately, you have to jump up and respond to her requests that exact second or she will go on and on and start to attack you -you're lazy, no good, why can't you do a simple thing for her, the trash is starting to stink, on and on until you have to jump up in front of her so she can watch you take out the trash. Then she'll say was that so hard? Was it necessary to make such a big deal about it? Oh I could just go on and on. 
    Now the "denying things she knows are true" has me questioning everything. I never thought she was an outright liar, but just forgetful or unconsciously twisted memories to her convenience. I never considered she was knowing lying about things, she would often say "your imagining things" and I would let it go because it is pointless to argue with her. 
    My heart has been torn for so long, feeling guilty I don't fulfill her needs as she wants, feeling love but then extreme anger against her, feeling she is horrible at one moment then feeling sorry for her at another. I guess what I am most grappling with now is, is it true they have no feeling of love for another if the person isn't perfectly playing the role they want? How can that be true? Does having no empathy for another mean they do not love the other either? From things I have read it sounds like I should just cut her off, but how can I do that, is she not human? 
  • Ok, you have basically just fed back to me the exact same things I was going through with my ex-fiancee who I loved very much and who I thought and believed loved me back.  You say she's negative, pessimistic and miserable when no-one else is around - in my experience, as soon as someone came in through the door or she received a phone call she would change into a happy more joyous person instantaneously.  Then when the call was over, or the person left, she would instantaneously change back into the miserable pessimistic person and this was constant - like Jekyl and Hyde.  It got to the point where she would manipulate and control me but nobody else was ever able to see it - the more depressed I got about it, the more she would control me.  The more I showed her my feelings, the more she would exploit them yet making out to everyone around us that everything was fine.  It was only when I confronted her that she would start to twist everything back round on me.  If I told other people what she was up to, she would tell them it was me doing it really.  She also had legitimate health problems but she would actively use those problems to gain sympathy from people so that she could manipulate them into doing things for her. They couldn't see it of course.

    I became paranoid and could never understand for the life of me why she treated me so badly in private, yet seemed to want to be with me and continued to make out to everyone that everything was okay... unless I said something to them - then all hell would break loose and she would tell people that I was the crazy one.  The more I tried to do something about it, the worse her behaviour would become and the worse she would treat me, especially if she thought I was looking for help or advice about it.  I never ever believed for a moment that she would be capable of lying to me or deceiving me, she was way too honest a person (or so I thought) and we often had visitors who would say things like "she's good as gold isn't she" and "she'd never do anything to hurt anyone" - they would say these things just about every time I saw them. Despite that fact, she had never let me have any money during the entire relationship - if I wanted or needed something then she would get it for me. Any money I had coming in went straight into her pocket - all just to maintain control.  Confront her about it and she would do everything within her power to make me feel guilty.

    In the end I found out that she had been living a double-life and having a secret affair with someone the entire time that we were together - and we now had two children together, one of whom was just about to reach their teenage years.  I couldn't believe it - I couldn't believe how another human being could be so seemingly cold and heartless enough to lie to my face for years on end without so much as a flinch, acting so flawlessly like she loved me.  I couldn't believe that she swore on her own kids lives that nothing like this was going on, yet in reality it was.  It turned out that she cheat on me on occasions such as when I was attending funerals - when she knew she could get away with it.  Any time I would confront her or tell her I knew or said anything about it to anyone she would  tell me it's all in my head and that I'm paranoid, I need to go to the doctor, I need help, I need medication, etc.  The worse thing about it was that I actually believed her for so many years - in reality it was nothing more than mental/emotional abuse being used to keep her sordid lies and affairs covered up - a pathological liar in denial and repression of who she really was.  Even today, after being seperated from her for several years, if I mention anything about it she will say it was me and spread lies and rumours about me.  It turned out that she was actually the source of most rumours about me during that relationship.

    Try to talk to people about it and they think I'm being far-fetched, even today - but it's the truth.  There is no pain like the pain of being victimized by a narcissist which most people don't understand.  It's all about self-esteem - self-esteem which has to be regulated by constantly and consistently attaining positive attention from other people as though it's a compulsive addiction - that's why she had to act so nice in their presence; she could not let them find out what a cruel and callous person she really is underneath it all (her false self).  Narcissists are emotional vampires and there is nothing you can do to help them.  They have no empathy and their focus is always on the self. Everything is I, me or mine and never us, we or ours. Everyone else are just pawns to be used as props in their life. Confront them and they will attempt to destroy you or will discard you as though you mean nothing.  They are not completely emotionless but they have no empathy and are stuck in first-person mode - they cannot understand the emotions and feelings of other people or how negative actions/statements/behaviour makes them feel.
  • All these long posts really informed me. Honestly, I knew nothing about the disorder before I read them. This is a great community.
  • Androl, I'm so sorry for your experience. I understand what you mean when you say no one will believe you. They are just so good at presenting that "public" image as their real self, that no one could imagine what they are like behind closed doors.  I've had the same experience as you too, when I meet some people she associates with they wholeheartedly say "you know this is a very special lady" or sing some other praise. 

    When I see her in front of others the "act" going on is so mind boggling that I can't stand the dichotomy. I'm just thinking how fake this all is, wondering how is she going to twist this situation when everyone is gone, and how is she going to use anything I personally reveal against me.  For years now I have not offered one iota of information about myself, because I have learned my lesson on how it will be twisted, used against me, and thrown in my face. Just recently I slipped and offered up a piece of sensitive info... it wasn't even 48 hours before she spat that info back in my face as a way to belittle and disgrace me.

    They seem to have their own twisted "reality", where they are at the center of the universe, they can not see from any other perspective than their own, and they very adamantly believe they are correct in all their assumptions.  The worst part of that is, if you are tangled up with them, they make you believe their view of "reality" is true, after all, they are so sure of themselves, so adamantly banging home their points, that you start to question yourself and your views, maybe she is right after all, maybe you are the one who is seeing things wrong. Your self esteem goes down as they control and puppet -master you around like their own personally donkey.  An outsider might say why would you let them do this to you - but they don't understand you were groomed by them, treated like gold to begin with, they were as sweet as pie, then they tested the waters with you, no, not yet, continued to groom you, until finally the day comes you are so enmeshed with them, that they can let it all out and you've got nowhere to go, as you look around bewildered and frightened, wondering what you did wrong to make this all go so sour. 

    I wonder how did you peg her so quickly Androl? How did you discover it was NPD? It took me more than 20 years to figure it out. If you don't mind me asking, how are your children? Do they believe in her world or are they able to see her for who she is?
  • Well, it took me over a decade to recognize the problem and escape from it, so I don't think it was that quick.  Some people clock it sooner, but it's usually already too late.  Then again, others end up in relationships with narcissists all their lives. There were warning signs intermittently throughout the relationship, almost like a subliminal thing, which just added up more and more over time.  When they happened individually they would seem trivial at first but would all add up to a bigger picture. She always managed to twist the situation to make me think I was just being silly or paranoid - and it worked and she continued to use that against me.  It got worse over time and the more I would push the worse it would get until the point of flat-out narcissistic abuse.  I didn't really know what NPD was or that it even existed until about seven years into the relationship.  As for the children, I think they recognize that she's different but they don't really know what the problem is.  They seem to have learned how to deal with it quite efficiently though.
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