5) Spotting the Red Flags

Early Signs of Narcissistic Behaviour

Early signs of narcissism might include excessive charm, a grandiose sense of self-importance, an insatiable need for admiration, and an apparent lack of empathy. If however you have grown up with a narcisstic parent these things may be harder to spot as red flags and may actually attract you to the person as the behaviours are actually familiar and in a strange way comforting.

Subtle Signs: Covert Narcissism

Covert narcissism is a subtler form of narcissism, often harder to spot. Signs might include passive-aggressive behaviour, a victim mentality, and a quiet sense of superiority.

Extreme Signs: Overt Narcissism

Overt narcissism is easier to spot. Signs include overt arrogance, a lack of empathy, a sense of entitlement, and frequently belittling or dismissing others.

Reflective Exercise: Case Study Analysis

This exercise will involve analysing a provided case study to identify narcissistic traits. It’s a practical application of your knowledge that can help you identify red flags in real-life situations.

Subject: Susan, a single mother in her late 40s. She has one son, Daniel, who is 15 years old.

Background: Susan is a successful businesswoman who is highly respected in her professional circle. However, her home life tells a different story. She displays many narcissistic traits, including a lack of empathy, a strong need for admiration, and a tendency to manipulate.

Day-to-Day Interactions:

  1. Lack of Empathy: Susan often dismisses Daniel’s feelings and needs. For example, when Daniel shares that he’s stressed about school, she brushes him off, telling him that his problems are insignificant compared to hers.

  2. Need for Admiration: Susan often turns conversations back to herself and her achievements. For instance, when Daniel wins an award at school, Susan quickly shifts the conversation to discuss a business award she once received, undermining Daniel’s accomplishment.

  3. Manipulation: Susan regularly guilt-trips Daniel into doing things he doesn’t want to do. For example, she might pressure Daniel into attending networking events with her, telling him that he doesn’t appreciate all she does for him if he doesn’t comply.

Long-Term Impacts on Daniel:

  1. Low Self-Esteem: Due to Susan’s frequent dismissals and criticisms, Daniel begins to doubt his worth and capabilities, leading to low self-esteem.

  2. Difficulty in Forming Relationships: As Susan is his primary role model, Daniel struggles to form healthy relationships. He often falls into the caretaker role, feeling the need to constantly please others at the expense of his own needs.

  3. Guilt and Confusion: Susan’s manipulative tactics often leave Daniel feeling guilty and confused, questioning his own perceptions and feelings.

Possible Reasons for Susan’s Behaviour:

Narcissism often arises from a complex combination of factors, including genetic and environmental influences.

  1. History of Trauma or Neglect: Susan may have experienced trauma or neglect in her past that led her to develop narcissistic traits as a coping mechanism.

  2. Lack of Healthy Role Models: Growing up, Susan may not have had healthy relational role models, leading her to develop a skewed understanding of relationships.

  3. Societal Pressure and Influence: As a successful businesswoman, societal pressure and the constant need to prove herself might have bolstered Susan’s narcissistic tendencies.


  1. Name one narcissistic trait displayed by Susan.
  2. How does Susan respond when Daniel shares his feelings about school stress?
  3. How does Susan react to Daniel’s accomplishments?
  4. Give an example of how Susan manipulates Daniel.
  5. What impact does Susan’s behaviour have on Daniel’s self-esteem?
  6. How does Susan’s behaviour affect Daniel’s ability to form relationships?
  7. Why might Daniel often feel guilty and confused?
  8. Name one possible reason for Susan’s narcissistic behaviour.

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Daily Change Summary

Recognising early warning signs of narcissism can prevent falling into harmful patterns of relationships. With understanding comes the power to protect yourself and foster healthier relationships.