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10 Main Types of Narcissism & 18 Steps to Treat and Help a Narcissist Change

Not all narcissists are the same, although it might seem that way. Learn the different types of narcissism and treatments to create positive changes.

Types of Narcissism

Narcissists have been around since the dawn of humanity. We’re only just starting to understand that there are different types of narcissism and how each type inflicts different levels of damage on other people. 

We also unfairly label selfish people with the title of “narcissist.” But it does no justice to the victims of true narcissism. So, what different types of narcissism should you be on the lookout for?

What is narcissism?

Narcissism is nothing new, and it’s important to realize that this is a personality disorder *Narcissistic Personality Disorder* which affects the way a person thinks, acts, and behaves. 

This type of person has a distinct lack of empathy and doesn’t feel emotions in the same way as someone who isn’t affected by NPD. The problem is, even if someone isn’t diagnosed as a narcissist, that doesn’t mean they won’t exhibit traits. [Read: 73 red flag narcissism signs & traits of a narcissist to read them like a book]

Traits of a narcissist

If you want to avoid being hurt or damaged by a narcissist, it’s important that you know what to look for. 

Let’s start with a quick rundown of some of the main traits of a narcissist, but understand that everyone is different. Certain traits might appear in a slightly different way from person to person.

  • Must be the center of attention at all times
  • With an enhanced sense of self, they believe they’re the best at everything
  • Regular use of manipulative tactics, which is often called gaslighting. This is a tactic used by narcissists which causes their victim to question their own sanity
  • A belief that their opinion is the only one and the right one
  • Must own the very best of everything
  • A total lack of empathy in terms of understanding or recognizing the feelings of others
  • An inability to love in the same way as someone who isn’t narcissistic
  • A lack of remorse when they cause someone pain or upset
  • They are never wrong in their own eyes

[Read: Empathic narcissist – what it means, 15 unique traits, and how to cope with them]

As you can imagine, being in a relationship with a narcissist is no picnic. 

So, understanding the types of narcissism out there is key to knowing whether or not someone you love falls into one of these brackets. As a result, you should start planning your escape ASAP.

Can a relationship touched by narcissism survive? It’s not unheard of, but it’s extremely rare. If you choose to stay, your relationship is certainly not going to be a happy one.

Does narcissism run in families? 

Yes, narcissism can definitely run in families. It is considered a mental condition that has both genetic and environmental roots. 

Usually, a narcissist will have at least one narcissistic parent and possibly siblings or other extended family members. [Read: 47 hurtful signs and effects of being the daughter of a narcissistic mother]

If the cause of someone’s narcissism isn’t genetic, then it may instead be a learned behavior. 

For example, in a narcissistic family, acceptance, and validation of other family members *and people, in general* is conditional. The unconditional love that a child is supposed to get just is never there. [Read: Unconditional love – what it is and isn’t, 37 signs you’ve felt it, and steps to find it]

Instead, the narcissistic parent/s has an obsessive need for attention and control. As a result, the child adopts this kind of behavior as they grow up and build relationships outside the family.

Narcissistic families also demand submission. The children have to submit to their parents’ unreasonable demands, and the younger children have to do the same to the older children. So, there is usually a dysfunctional “chain of command” in their families.

[Read: Narcissistic victim syndrome – what it is and how to escape the mess]

However, just because someone grew up in a narcissistic family doesn’t guarantee that the person will end up as a narcissist. But it does create a lot of the necessary conditions for developing this mental condition.

Types of narcissism

When you read up on narcissism, you’ll find several different types under different names.

You’ll usually see the main categories of a classic narcissist, vulnerable narcissist, and malignant narcissist, but there are subcategories within them that explore how the narcissist behaves.

Classic and vulnerable narcissists are the most common types, but if you do happen to come across a malignant narcissist, get out of there as quickly as possible. 

This type of person is not going to care whether you’re hurting or not, and they share certain traits with psychopaths. No fun, anyone would agree. [Read: Psychopath vs. sociopath vs. narcissist – 27 subtle ways to tell the difference]

Let’s break down the other subcategories:

1. Toxic narcissism

This type of narcissism is extremely negative and thrives on drama. They don’t care if they cause pain or upset in someone’s life, and some actually enjoy it. 

A mild toxic narcissist might be someone who always demands your attention. But when you can’t give it to them, e.g. perhaps you’re busy, they rebel against you and kick up a fuss. [Read: How do narcissists hook you – learn to dodge their toxic bait]

A more severe example is someone who causes you major issues, for example, they get you fired from your job or they abuse you.

2. Malignant/psychopathic narcissism

We’ve touched upon this one already, but we really need to give it more airtime, due to the seriousness of the matter.

This type of narcissist has psychopathic traits, and that means they could cause you serious harm, either mentally, emotionally, or physically. It could be a combination of all three. [Read: Malignant narcissist: 38 scary traits, causes & what makes them so bad!]

This type of narcissist is a variant of the toxic type, but much more severe and at the far end of the spectrum. Many serial killers and sociopaths fall within this bracket.

3. Vulnerable/closet narcissism

In terms of the types of narcissism you might see, this is one of the hardest to spot. This type of person doesn’t come over as grandiose or showing off as many others do. Instead, they’re quite quiet, possibly even hostile, but they drip with negativity. 

They’re jealous of others, they have no empathy, and they have a sense of entitlement that they enforce over others in a way that isn’t obvious. [Read: Gray rock method – what it is, 23 secrets, and how to use it on a narcissist]

This type of narcissist is also likely to attach themselves to someone who is very caring, e.g. an empath, or someone who is high in social standing, to be admired through association.

4. Classic/exhibitionist narcissism

This is the most common type of narcissism. It’s one you will associate with the word ‘narcissist’ most often. 

This is someone who is loud and proud, someone who doesn’t care about the views of other people, and who regularly takes advantage of others in any way they see fit. [Read: Narcissistic relationship – 36 signs, how it feels, patterns, and how to end it]

They’re self-centered, arrogant, and have a desperate need to be the center of everything. The truth is, this type of narcissist, as with many others, is lacking in self-confidence beneath it. They might also pull others down to make themselves look better as a result.

5. Seduction narcissism 

This is the type of narcissist we see in many films.

Seduction narcissism involves sucking someone in, then making them believe how wonderful they are and charming the socks off them, until they believe that they’ve ‘hooked’ their prey. [Read: 29 subtle signs to spot a narcissist and read NPD traits in a relationship]

Once that’s done, they usually go cold, cut off the attention, and probably start belittling or upsetting the person involved.

They get a kick out of attracting others, only to push them to one side when they’re no longer interested. In this case, they’ll simply move on to the next person, and the cycle repeats.

6. Antagonistic narcissism

An antagonistic narcissist is someone who lacks empathy and has a high need for admiration. [Read: 24 signs of people who lack empathy to know they don’t care what you think]

This type of narcissist is very focused on rivalry and competition. They are arrogant and like to take advantage of other people. In addition, they are also disagreeable and like to argue. It’s common for them to lash out angrily if they don’t get their way.

Antagonistic narcissists are also less likely to forgive people than people with other types of narcissism. They also have lower levels of trust as well.

This type can be very dangerous because they have the potential to cause a lot of harm to themselves and other people so, if you are in a relationship with an antagonistic narcissist, you need to protect yourself.

7. Communal narcissism

Communal narcissism is considered the opposite of antagonistic narcissism. Someone with this type values fairness and sees themselves as an altruistic person. So, there is a disconnect between their beliefs about themselves and their behavior.

Some characteristics of them include becoming easily morally outraged, thinking that they are empathetic and generous, and reacting strongly when they see things that are unfair.

This might sound like genuine concern for the well-being of other people, but it’s not. The difference is that for these people, social power and self-importance are central to these thoughts and beliefs. 

8. Grandiose narcissism

A grandiose narcissist is someone who has an excessive sense of self-importance, which happens with most types of narcissism. They like to show this off to everyone, too. 

That’s because they heavily rely on other people to validate their importance. They can even try to deceive them in order to gain admiration and recognition.

These types of narcissists will exploit and manipulate everyone around them. They also don’t have any empathy at all.

They might be a very charismatic, outgoing, “larger than life” personality too. It’s almost like you’re drawn to them and want to be with them. As long as you can serve them in some way, they want you around too.

9. Healthy narcissism

Healthy narcissism is when someone has the ability to prioritize their own needs and meet them in a competent manner. They don’t need to demand praise or attention from other people. 

Healthy narcissists recognize their own value as well as the value of other people. They can support friends and family when they’re successful and they don’t feel competitive like unhealthy narcissists do.

Even if things go wrong in their lives, they don’t dwell on the negative even or get overly upset. They take personal responsibility for their failures and don’t blame others for their mistakes.

Overall, healthy narcissists tend to have positive self-esteem, healthy ambition, resilience, and a strong sense of well-being. 

10. Spiritual narcissism

A person with spiritual narcissism is impressed with their own spiritual greatness. 

They have a deep belief that their own “awakened” perspective on spirituality and their own “special” achievements or abilities are superior, and they can’t tolerate lesser-evolved humans/souls.

Some examples of spiritual narcissism include claiming to have special access to God/ascended souls, thinking they’re the reincarnation of a great historical figure, and looking down on people with “low vibrations.”

They might even flaunt what they think to be spiritual abilities, such as their sixth sense. These include things like precognitive abilities, and the ability to channel evolved spiritual beings.

Many spiritual cults have a leader with spiritual narcissism. The followers are brainwashed by the narcissist into thinking they need to follow this “guru” in order to attain spiritual enlightenment.

Most narcissists aren’t likely to hurt you physically unless they are toxic or malignant narcissists. The main harm from being around a narcissist is emotional and mental damage, rather than physical. In some ways, that is even harder to deal with.

The scars cannot be seen, and often linger for many years after the relationship ends.

Should you tell a narcissist that they’re a narcissist?

Now that you know the types of narcissism, you probably want to know whether or not you should tell a narcissist that they are, in fact, a narcissist. That is a good, yet tricky, question. There are both pros and cons to telling a narcissist that they’re a narcissist. So, let’s look at the pros first:


1. There is a chance they might change their behavior

They may or may not believe you when you tell them that they’re a narcissist. Even if they do, there is a small chance that they might try to change their behavior or seek treatment.

But as unlikely as it is, the possibility isn’t off the table.

2. Telling them gives them an opportunity to improve

If you tell them, at least you are offering the opportunity to improve their lives and relationships for their own sake. You would have to paint a picture for them about how things could be better if they change.

3. If you cut ties with them, then they have an explanation

If you have decided that you need to get out of a relationship with a narcissist, then you might feel like you want to tell them why. Of course, it may not do any good. But it could be a wake-up call for them.

[Read: Am I a narcissist? 24 Narcissistic Personality Disorder causes and big signs]


1. It won’t wake them up

It’s very unlikely that telling a narcissist that they’re a narcissist will lead them to a moment of clarity or enlightenment. They’ll probably just respond the same way they always do.

2. It could lead to confrontation

They could get angry or violent. They’ll probably gaslight you and try to convince you that you are the one who is the narcissist and that they are the victim.

3. It can be a form of “narcissistic supply”

When you confront a narcissist, it proves to them that they are able to affect you emotionally. And this might make them feel more powerful. It might have the opposite effect that you intended.

Can a narcissist be a good person?

Many people think that narcissists are inherently cruel people. However, that’s not entirely true. There are some who can be good people too.

Frequently, narcissists are very intelligent and charismatic. These qualities can be used for good or for bad. For example, they can make really good leaders and motivators, but they can also be manipulative and self-serving. 

Whether or not a narcissist is a good person or not depends on their level of empathy. If they can empathize with other people and understand their feelings, then they can be good people. 

However, if they lack empathy, then they will probably be cruel and even abusive. 

Narcissists are very complex people. They aren’t all bad or all good. Most are usually in a state of flux somewhere in between.

Can narcissism be treated?

Yes, narcissism can be treated, but it’s not an easy process, to say the least. [Read: Can a narcissist change? Why it’s hard and subtle signs they’ll change for you]

Some of the treatments that can be used include psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy. Therapy can also help the narcissist repair and rebuild the relationships with loved ones that are most likely damaged by their NPD traits. Another possible treatment is medication.

But in order for therapy to be successful, they have to make an ongoing commitment to going. That’s the hardest part because a lot of narcissists will admit that they have a problem that needs to be treated in the first place.

How to treat different types of narcissism

As we just mentioned, there are different treatment options for people with NPD. Now, we’ll get a little more specific, starting with the types of therapy available.


1. Psychotherapy

Psychoanalysis is a form of talk therapy. Through one-on-one sessions, narcissists can explore the reasons behind their feelings and behavior. [Read: Relationship therapy – 25 clues to know if it’ll help your romance]

As they begin to understand their past, their current emotions come into focus. This helps them manage their thoughts and feelings better so they can start changing the way they react to them.

2. Cognitive behavioral therapy

The focus of CBT is to identify unhealthy patterns of thought and behavior and replace them with healthier ones. The narcissist practices the new skills with their therapist and has homework assignments between sessions.

Some common CBT techniques are journaling, situation exposure, cognitive restructuring, scheduling positive activities, and guided discovery and questioning. [Read: 28 self-improvement secrets to improve yourself and transform into your best self]

The challenge is to get the narcissist to actually complete this homework.

3. Schema therapy

This is an integrative approach to therapy that combines both psychotherapy and CBT. It aims to identify and understand the unhelpful patterns and coping mechanisms that formed from their early childhood experiences.

Once the person uncovers these “schemas,” they can learn to modify them. It will take practice, but eventually, narcissists can find new ways to meet their emotional needs and change their behavior toward others.

4. Gestalt therapy

Gestalt therapy is also a form of psychotherapy. [Read: 25 honest, self-reflection questions to recognize the real YOU inside]

The narcissist focuses more on the present than the past or the future. Earlier life experiences are considered in the context of how they are affecting the narcissist today.

They are encouraged to reflect on what’s going on in their life presently. Then, they work on improving self-awareness and personal responsibility.

5. Mentalization-based therapy

MBT helps narcissists improve their ability to reflect on themselves. It also helps them reflect on other people’s thoughts and emotions too. [Read: How to show empathy and learn to understand someone else’s feelings]

The therapist will teach the person to connect emotions to behavioral patterns. They will explore the intent behind other people’s behavior and work on thinking things through before reacting.

6. Transference-focused psychotherapy

In TFP, the narcissist takes their emotions about someone else and directs them toward the therapist. The reason for this strategy is that it makes it easier for them to talk things through. That way, the therapist can help them gain insight into their thoughts and feelings.

7. Dialectical behavior therapy

This is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy that focuses on mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and relationship skills. [Read: 5 reasons couple’s therapy isn’t working for you]

It could even include individual and group therapy sessions where the narcissist learns and practices new coping strategies.

8. Metacognitive interpersonal therapy

This therapy is a step-by-step treatment that dismantles the narcissistic process by looking at problems as they pertain to their own life. That way, they can recognize negative patterns and behaviors in relationships. 

The hope is to promote change by creating distance from the old behaviors in favor of building new ones. The therapist also looks for barriers to effective therapy and works to help improve them. [Read: How NOT to be an asshole – what makes one, 41 signs, and how to fix yourself]

9. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy

In EMDR, the assumption is that narcissism is based on early childhood traumas. This step-by-step process has eight phases.

During these phases, the narcissist is encouraged to examine negative memories, traumatic events, and emotional triggers. Meanwhile, the therapist directs eye movements to divert their attention. The goal is to lessen the impact of traumatic memories.


Now that we’ve discussed the therapy treatment options, let’s get more specific about the medications. [Read: What causes narcissism? The facts and theories to read a narcissist]

1. Antidepressants

Antidepressants treat depression. Doctors frequently prescribe SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

This class of drugs has fewer side effects than other antidepressants. Some of the common ones are fluoxetine, sertraline, and paroxetine. 

2. Mood stabilizers

To reduce mood swings, a doctor might prescribe mood-stabilizing drugs such as lithium. [Read: Moody friend? How to get along when you don’t want to dump them]

3. Antipsychotic drugs

This type of medication can also help with symptoms of depression and anxiety. Aripiprazole and risperidone are two kinds of antipsychotic drugs.

Don’t judge how difficult it is to get away from a narcissist 

You might wonder why it’s so hard to get away from a narcissist. Surely, if someone is treating you so terribly, you just hold your head up high and walk away, right? It sounds simple. In practice, it’s not. [Read: Breaking up with a narcissist: 28 must-knows, what to expect & how to do it]

A narcissist will go back to their charming, wonderful self when they realize you’re about to leave. They’ll start with gaslighting techniques to make you question your decision and even your own sanity. 

Leaving a narcissistic relationship is far harder than it might sound. It can cause severe emotional damage to a victim for many years. Having a loving and trusting relationship after this type of experience is hard for many.

[Read: 16 subtle signs a narcissist is abusing you already]

But no matter how hard it can be to leave a narcissist, it is possible. If you’re trapped in a narcissistic relationship, you can leave, even if you don’t feel like you can.

Understanding the types of narcissism around will help you to identify whether you have this type of person in your life. Nobody should have to put with any type of abuse.

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Carol Morgan LP
Dr. Carol Morgan
Dr. Carol Morgan has a Ph.D. in communication and is a professor at Wright State University where she loves corrupting young minds. As a relationship and succes...