There are many types of personalities in this world, some of which are easy to create relationships with.
Others are almost impossible to deal with and can actually be harmful to your overall well-being.
One of these types is the narcissist, people who are known for being toxic individuals that need help in order to fully function in relationships.
It’s important to know how to deal with narcissistic individuals and to know how to steer clear of their fears.
Narcissists are most afraid of being considered average and losing their ability to feel special and empowered.
Anything from a slight off-putting comment to a partner that has learned to stand up for themselves can threaten the ego of a narcissist and lead them to feel fear and retaliate.
Recognizing this as a true fear of a narcissist can help you in emergency situations when you need to save yourself from tactics like gaslighting.
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According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, 5th edition, or DSM-5, the definition of a narcissist is someone who shows various traits including:
- Requiring excessive admiration, such as compliments and validation from others
- Having a sense of entitlement, meaning they feel they deserve the very best or at least better than others
- Interpersonal exploitativeness, meaning they want to exploit others for their own personal gain
- Showing both a lack of empathy for others and feeling others are envious of whatever powers or personality features of theirs they perceive as being “special” or “extraordinary”
It’s important to understand that narcissists are already seen in a negative light by popular media.
Most recently, and quite famously, actress Amber Heard has been accused of having narcissistic personality traits as shown by her alleged treatment of her ex-husband, famous Hollywood actor Johnny Depp.
However, although there are negative stigmas in society about narcissists, we must also recognize that this is a legitimate personality disorder that requires treatment from a therapist or other mental health professional.
Underneath a narcissistic personality, there is someone that is deeply troubled and vulnerable and susceptible to their own negative perceptions of themselves.
In fact, researchers from the New York University’s Department of Psychology recently examined the cases of people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).
Their research showed that most true narcissists are actually suffering from a condition known as vulnerable narcissism, while people with grandiose narcissism (such as those that we prevalently see portrayed in media) are actually people with subsets of psychopathy.
Why is this important? Well, for starters, it shows that people with narcissistic personality disorder are just like us – capable of changing their ways and in need of help.
It’s up to us to recognize their fears, understand how to help them, and understand when it’s time to walk away.
Unlike people with grandiose type narcissism, people with vulnerable narcissism are thought to be suffering from incredibly low self-worth and low self-esteem.
This low self-esteem then leads narcissists to need validation and to seek compliments in order to improve their self-worth.
However, when a vulnerable narcissist’s self-esteem doesn’t improve from the attention and compliments they receive, and when people begin to dislike them due to their attention-seeking and self-centered behavior, the cycle continues and leads the narcissist to seek validation once more.
It’s important to remember that people with narcissism might do things to improve their self-esteem and get ahead such as:
- Put other people down
- Put themselves ahead of others regardless of who gets hurt
- Try to remind you that they are better
- Outright lie about their accomplishments
- Over-inflate on the accomplishments they do have
The biggest fear of a narcissist? Ignore their pleas for attention.
Don’t pay any attention to the false put-downs or to the way in which they try to accuse you of being jealous or not supporting them.
These are all manipulative techniques that are commonly used in people with a narcissistic personality disorder.
According to studies and Scientific American magazine, there are certain traits that people with narcissistic personality disorder exhibit, and other fears that result from these traits once their ego and self-esteem are hurt and put into question. These include:
Alcohol and substance abuse disorders are incredibly complex and don’t often have a single attributing factor.
However, it has been shown that narcissistic people also have a tendency to engage in alcohol and substance abuse and be affected by these disorders. What does this mean for you?
If you know someone that struggles with alcohol or substance abuse, then it’s clear there are a wide range of other fears associated with these as well. These can include:
- Fear of not being able to take drugs or alcohol
- Fear of quitting substances or alcohol
- Fear of not knowing how to cope without substances
- Fear of losing the support system that enables them to do drugs and alcohol
Although it might be tough to break the co-dependent cycle that is so prevalent with substance use disorders and narcissists, it’s necessary in order to preserve your peace.
For people with a narcissistic personality disorder that have a co-occurring substance use disorder, remember it will be a long road to recovery ahead of them, full of self-doubt and fear.
You have no obligation to stay with someone in this situation, although they might lie and say they need you in order to prevent some of their fears from coming true.
Antisocial behavior is much more than simply being shy.
There is evidence that suggests bullying in adolescence can lead to antisocial behavior, especially in adult males.
For people with narcissism and antisocial behavior, this means they do not respect the boundaries of others, leading to issues such as:
- Criminal behavior
- Abusive behavior
- Bullying in adolescence and adulthood
- Trouble with relationships
- Trouble forming friendships
- Inability to listen to authority
All of this antisocial behavior coupled with narcissism creates an incredibly toxic personality.
For people with antisocial behavior that bully others, their biggest fear is someone who stands up for themselves.
Sometimes, the best thing to do to avoid giving a narcissist the attention they seek through antisocial behavior is to ignore the behavior.
Do not react or start a fight with someone who is narcissistic and has antisocial behavior.
Instead, stand up for yourself and set boundaries by walking away. You do not need to verbally or physically argue with a narcissist who is bullying you.
Remember, their biggest fear is having no attention and not being able to hurt someone.
The more you show that you stand up for yourself and you aren’t letting the narcissist’s behavior affect you, the more afraid they will be and the more in a position of power you will be!
There has also been evidence that shows aggression is another common factor in the personality of someone who is a narcissist.
It’s important to not entertain people who have aggressive personalities.
This includes narcissists who engage in abusive behaviors and who might want to start a relationship with you.
Narcissists in abusive relationships fear losing people under their control.
Remember, people that have narcissistic personality disorder are suffering from low self-esteem.
They will put others down, including their intimate partners, in order to improve their level of self-worth.
When this happens, you will find that the narcissist will lie and use tactics such as:
- Expressing fear of losing you
- Expressing lies that they fear you’re the only one they’ll ever “love” (this love is not real, of course)
- Expressing thoughts of suicide and threatening to kill themselves if you leave
Although these “fears” might seem as if a narcissist truly loves you, remember that their true fear is losing someone that improves their self-esteem by being under their control and a victim to their threats and insults. You are worth more than this, and can walk away!
If you’re in an abusive relationship or have a family member who is narcissistic, you might feel guilty or even afraid when they express their fears.
For instance, you might want to break ties with a parent who is narcissistic.
But the minute you decide to set boundaries and avoid visiting them or continuing the parental relationship, then your parent might express fears of losing their child, of not being loved, or even fears that they have failed as a parent.
Never engage in someone whose behavior is manipulative.
If being with someone who is narcissistic makes you feel terrible, get professional mental health so you can better understand your own emotions. Your therapist or another professional can also help you:
- Validate your emotions
- Get rid of any lingering guilt
- Make a safety plan if you need to leave a narcissist who fears losing your control
- Avoid going back to a narcissist or abusive relationship
- Understand how to get rid of any co-dependent relationships
- Understand how to evaluate your own feelings
- Avoid being the victim of a narcissist in the future
Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental illness that is characterized by a need to get ahead, a fear of being vulnerable and showing signs of weakness, and a need for validation.
This leads to an overall fear of not being better than others and losing control of people, such as victims of abuse, which make the narcissist feel better about themselves.
Although many narcissists do have a tendency to be aggressive and antisocial, it’s important to know that many of these issues stem from insecurity and low self-worth.
Therefore, you should never feel that a narcissist is all-knowing and powerful, or that you aren’t deserving of better treatment.
Both people that are narcissists and those that are victims of a narcissist relationship should seek professional therapy to understand these fears and improve their overall mental health.