Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a mental condition and a personality disorder whereby an individual exhibits excessive admiration and love for oneself. At an unconscious level, they believe that other people’s feelings are far less important than their own, to a damaging extent that profoundly affects their relationships with others.

NPD was officially classified by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1968, and today, it is widely recognized that there are narcissists everywhere. According to the abovementioned Manual, an individual has to exhibit at least five or more of the nine specific narcissistic personality traits to be classified as one.

These nine distinct traits are:

  1. Having a grandiose sense of self-importance.
  2. Constantly preoccupied with fantasies of power, beauty, perfect love, and mostly aspirational things to the highest degree.
  3. A sense of entitlement.
  4. A deep belief that he/she is special and choosing to associate himself/herself only to select people and groups.
  5. Deep need to be admired by other people.
  6. Lack of empathy / incapability of putting oneself in other peoples’ shoes.
  7. Manipulation and exploitation of other people.
  8. Feeling envious of others and believing that they are envied by people.
  9. Arrogant behavior.

A narcissist can be a co-worker, a friend, a family member, or even a romantic partner. They walk and talk like normal people, until you engage with them on a regular basis, and realize the imbalance in your relationship. They can be excessively vainglorious and even harmful if provoked.

Since the basic qualities of narcissists encompass so many aspects, they have been further classified into different types. Today, many therapists and psychiatrists categorize narcissists based on their actions. Quite often, narcissism is formed out of deep emotional injuries or trauma from childhood. Elinor Greenberg, therapist and author of “Borderline, Narcissistic, and Schizoid Adaptations: The Pursuit of Love, Admiration, and Safety” believes that a person’s narcissistic traits somehow depend on their type of upbringing.

There are at least three distinct types of narcissists today – the exhibitionist narcissist, the closet narcissist, and the malignant or toxic narcissist. These types are different from one another in many ways.

The Exhibitionist Narcissist

The stereotypical type of narcissist is what we call the exhibitionist. The exhibitionist narcissist would be the type to have a grandiose sense of self-importance, with little to no clue of a sense of emptiness within. This type of person presumes that the way they think and act is normal, and everyone is just like them, with no concept of what an appropriate and normal behavior actually is. This person constantly seeks affirmation, adoration, and longs to be admired by others.

Exhibitionist types are the ones who have a great sense of entitlement, believing themselves to be special, greater, and better than other people. Some exhibitionist types grew up in homes where they were constantly encouraged to value themselves more highly, made to believe they were special compared to others, and have formed a mindset that they are superior to the rest.

The Closet Narcissist

The closet type of narcissist has a different persona. The closet narcissist is a covert type, and they have a deeper need to please others and seek validation. This type of narcissist possibly grew up in homes competing and co-existing with another stronger type of narcissist(s) where they ended up being the more subdued one. But as a closet narcissist, they are still people with a deep need to feel special but they don’t loudly proclaim it, unlike the exhibitionist type.

Instead, they associate themselves with special brands, people, and groups, which serve to represent them as special being closely linked to these. They also tend to be more passive-aggressive, unlike the exhibitionist who offends people loud and proud. The closet narcissist still does anything that they want to do and ends up sabotaging and manipulating others. They make themselves look like the victim and secretly take pleasure in other people’s misery. Being associated with them can be more damaging due to their passive-aggressive, manipulative style.

The Malignant (Toxic) Narcissist

The third type of narcissist is called malignant or toxic. Taken from the word itself, a malignant narcissist is a lot more dangerous and offensive than the first two types. This toxic type of narcissist takes psychological gratification out of other people’s misery. They add a sadistic effect to their narcissism, deriving satisfaction from dominating others and making them feel bad about themselves.

This type of narcissistic disorder is more severe and is characterized by features of psychopathy, sadism, paranoia, aggression, and narcissism all rolled into one. Now that can be very toxic indeed.