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This Narcissist Test Will Tell You If Someone Has Narcissistic Tendencies

Kelly Gonsalves
Author: Expert reviewer:
December 21, 2022
Kelly Gonsalves
Contributing Sex & Relationships Editor
By Kelly Gonsalves
Contributing Sex & Relationships Editor
Kelly Gonsalves is a sex educator, relationship coach, and journalist. She received her journalism degree from Northwestern University, and her writings on sex, relationships, identity, and wellness have appeared at The Cut, Vice, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and elsewhere.
Kristina Hallett, Ph.D., ABPP
Expert review by
Kristina Hallett, Ph.D., ABPP
Board-certified Clinical Psychologist
Kristina Hallett, Ph.D., ABPP is a board-certified clinical psychologist with a background in neuroscience. She is also the Director of Clinical Training at Bay Path University, and an associate professor in Graduate Psychology.
December 21, 2022
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If you've ever wondered if your partner is a narcissist, the good news is that it's usually easy enough to read through a list of narcissistic traits and determine whether they accurately describe the person in question. However, diagnosing someone with actual narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is another thing entirely—and can only be done by a licensed mental health professional.

That said, if you're just beginning to notice some signs and need a quick gut check, we've put together a simple narcissist test that'll tell you if your partner or someone else you know may be displaying some narcissistic tendencies, as well as a guide to understanding the clinical diagnosis and how to proceed if all signs point to yes, this person is a narcissist.

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How to spot a narcissist in your life. 

Narcissism is a pattern of behavior marked by grandiosity (believing and acting like you're superior to everyone else), a constant need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. While most people will likely display some narcissistic behavior once in a while, people diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder exhibit a significant number of narcissistic tendencies and do so pervasively throughout their lives.

"A pathological narcissist will demonstrate self-centeredness in all aspects of their life, which ultimately leads to destructive behaviors in their relationships," licensed therapist Alyssa Mancao, LCSW, previously wrote for mbg. "With narcissistic personality disorder, these behaviors are pervasive, severe, and are evident in that person's history of social and emotional relationships. They strive to be the center of attention and are ongoingly mean to others at the expense of someone else's feelings."

To tell if someone's a narcissist, she says, look for someone who fully believes they are better than everyone else, expects special treatment from others, and consistently ignores the needs and feelings of others in the pursuit of their own interests.

The narcissist test for partners or someone you know. 

The following narcissist test is designed to help you identify narcissistic behaviors in someone you know, whether a spouse, partner, friend, family member, or someone else. The narcissist test is based on the criteria for narcissistic personality disorder listed in the DSM-5, as well as the Narcissistic Personality Inventory1, a scientifically validated measure of narcissism used in personality research.

This test is for educational purposes only and not intended to be used for diagnostic purposes. For a NPD diagnosis, a person must see a licensed mental health professional.

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Narcissism vs. narcissistic personality disorder.

Not every person with narcissistic traits has narcissistic personality disorder, according to Mancao. Narcissism refers to a set of personality traits and behaviors, which anyone might exhibit to some extent or in certain circumstances.

Here's an example: You could have a person who is generally kind and considerate, but they also happen to think extremely highly of their own physical appearance and believe they should be admired by others in a way that's a bit excessive. Such a person might perhaps have high levels of a sense of grandiosity—one narcissistic trait—but not a ton of other narcissistic behaviors, such as demeaning others, lacking empathy, or acting entitled to special treatment in their day-to-day life. You could theoretically describe aspects of this person's behavior as "narcissistic," but that doesn't mean they have NPD.

"What separates healthy narcissism, people who have narcissistic traits, and people with narcissistic personality disorder (pathological narcissists) are the frequency, intensity, and impairment in their relationships, as well as the insight and awareness of how their behaviors affect others," says Mancao.

According to clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, Ph.D., we all naturally engage in some narcissistic behaviors from time to time. "True narcissism, however, is a different matter altogether," she previously wrote at mbg. "A person with narcissistic personality disorder is at the opposite end of the healthy narcissism spectrum. Their thought processes and behaviors are dramatically 'me-oriented.' Others' needs are generally unimportant or a mere afterthought."

How narcissistic personality disorder is diagnosed. 

Only a licensed mental health professional, such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist, can diagnose someone with narcissistic personality disorder.

Typically, the clinician will talk to a person over the course of one or more sessions to understand their long-term patterns of thinking, behavior, and interactions with others. They may also have you take a questionnaire or personality test to gather further insights about your way of moving through the world.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, narcissistic personality disorder is diagnosed when a patient exhibits five or more of the following criteria:

  1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
  2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
  3. Believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).
  4. Requires excessive admiration.
  5. Has a sense of entitlement (i.e., unreasonable expectation of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations).
  6. Is interpersonally exploitative (i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends).
  7. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
  8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
  9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors and attitudes.
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Is there an accurate narcissist test? 

There are several narcissist tests and questionnaires that exist, some of which are backed by research2 and used to clinically assess levels of narcissism in an individual. Other narcissist tests are more for educational purposes or to be used as a rough gut check.

For example, a 2014 study3 demonstrated the validity of a one-question narcissist test. The one question?

On a scale from 1-11, to what extent do you agree with the statement, "I am a narcissist"?

They also included a quick definition for the test-takers: The word "narcissist" means egotistical, self-focused, and vain.

Yes, it's really that simple.

Another test backed by research is the so-called narcissist eyebrow test. A 2018 study found that people could accurately tell who was a narcissist based on their eyebrows—with more distinctive eyebrows being the clue. That isn't to say that all bushy-browed people are narcissists (especially given the fact that bushy brows are a popular beauty trend right now), but the study did show that people can pretty accurately tell who is a narcissist just based on physical features.

Other narcissist "tests" are not at all scientifically validated, such as the so-called narcissist smile test, which claims that you can tell if someone is a narcissist based on how they react if you smile, look them in the eye, and tell them "no" in response to something they ask of you. Someone who becomes enraged or dramatically upset is said to be a narcissist, but there's no research behind this test.

What to do if you suspect someone in your life is a narcissist:

1.

Determine whether it's safe to continue engaging with this person.

Narcissists are often prone to abusive behaviors, which is why many experts recommend breaking up with narcissists as soon as you're able to do so.

That said, according to psychology and relationship expert Margaret Paul, Ph.D., it is possible to make a relationship with a narcissist work in certain situations. "There's a lot of nuance and differentiation among narcissists," she previously wrote at mbg. "Some narcissists are worse than others; some are simply annoying but tolerable, while others' selfishness and self-importance manifest as outright cruelty toward the people around them."

So, what you'll need to determine is whether or not it's safe to engage with this particular narcissist. Look out for any signs of abuse, including yelling and cruel language directed at you, controlling behavior, attempts to isolate you from your loved ones, and general feelings of fear, tension, and unease in the relationship.

"Your well-being should never be put at risk," says Manly. "If the situation is negatively affecting you or your well-being, put yourself out of harm's way by creating distance and getting the support you deserve. And if you ever feel unsafe in your relationship, it's important to leave immediately and reach out for help, whether from loved ones or from trained advocates."

(See the bottom of this article for organizations you can reach out to if you need support.)

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2.

Gauge their willingness to change.

Whether or not this person actually is a narcissist, if you're experiencing actions and behavior from them that are negatively impacting you, then something needs to change—whether it's the person's behavior or your ongoing participation in the relationship.

Depending on your relationship with this person, you may be able to have an open conversation with this person about what's been upsetting you and determine an action plan together on how to interact in a way that feels better for both of you. If needed, you may also gently suggest they seek out support from a mental health professional to work on healing some of their more harmful behaviors. A partner or parent who you're close with might be more amenable to suggestions like this than a colleague at work, of course, so proceed thoughtfully.

Paul says that any relationship with a narcissist can only work in one of two ways: Either the narcissistic partner must be proactive about changing, or you need to fully accept that nothing will ever change and actually be OK with that.

"Narcissists generally refuse to acknowledge their own flaws and see everyone else but themselves as the real problem," she adds. "If this is the case, then you either need to 100% accept that nothing is going to change—that you get what you see—or you need to leave the relationship."

3.

Set strong boundaries.

Whichever path you choose, the key to dealing with a narcissist is setting strong boundaries as to what you will and will not tolerate. You may not be able to change a narcissist's way of seeing the world, but you can be clear about what you expect from them and what behaviors will not be accepted in your relationship.

"Set clear and consistent boundaries around personal accountability," Manly recommends. "For example, if the narcissist 'forgets' to honor your birthday, you might say, 'I feel very disrespected and unloved when you don't remember my birthday. Let's go out tonight for a belated birthday dinner and do a bit of gift shopping. In the future, I'd feel cherished if you'd plan for my birthday in advance.'"

There are also other, less direct ways of setting boundaries. For example, when the narcissist is doing something harmful or attempting to get a rise out of you, you might simply choose to disengage, become unresponsive, or ignore them completely. This is known as the "grey rock method." By not giving them a reaction, you're depriving them of the attention they're craving, and they'll eventually get the picture that they can no longer treat you that way and expect you to play along.

"If someone is trying to be dominant or controlling, the grey rock method is a very effective practice in shutting people down, holding your own boundaries, and maintaining your own control," somatic psychologist and licensed therapist Holly Richmond, Ph.D., LMFT, previously told mbg.

And of course, boundaries could also mean cutting off contact with this person and refusing to interact with them at all, period.

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4.

Learn to lovingly tolerate their behavior.

"Provided there is no abuse at play and you feel good about remaining in the relationship, there are ways you can learn how to lovingly tolerate—and even connect with—the narcissist in your life," says Manly.

It will involve staying curious and compassionate about why the narcissist is the way they are (spoiler alert: it's almost always because, deep down, they are desperately insecure), choosing your battles with them carefully, and embracing a sense of humor about their often childish antics, she says.

And as Paul adds, it'll also involve seeking out other sources of care and learning to take care of yourself extremely well—because you won't get that from the narcissist in your life. 

If you're up to it, though, there are ways to make this relationship work. Here's Manly's full guide to lovingly tolerating a narcissist.

FAQ

What is narcissistic personality disorder?

According to the DSM-5, narcissistic personality disorder is defined as "a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts."

How can I tell if my partner or someone else I know is a narcissist?

There's no surefire way to know if someone has narcissistic personality disorder without a diagnosis from a licensed mental health professional. However, the average person can likely read through the list of common signs of narcissism and determine whether they seem be aligned with the person in question.

What is the best narcissist test?

The best narcissist test is seeing a licensed mental health professional who can give you a proper assessment as an individual and, if necessary, a diagnosis. Otherwise, there are several online narcissist tests, such as our narcissist test for partners, that are based on the diagnostic criteria for NPD as well as scientifically validated measures of narcissism.

The takeaway. 

There is no narcissist test that will tell you definitively whether or not someone in your life is a narcissist or has narcissistic personality disorder. However, a simple test like this one can give you some insight into whether your partner may be displaying some narcissistic tendencies. From there, it's up to you how you want to proceed, whether that means learning to make peace with the narcissist's behavior or choosing to walk away for your own sake.

If you are in immediate danger, call 911. For anonymous and confidential help, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224) and speak with a trained advocate for free as many times as you need. They're available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also speak to them through a live private chat on their website or text START to 88788.

Kelly Gonsalves
Kelly Gonsalves
Contributing Sex & Relationships Editor

Kelly Gonsalves is a multi-certified sex educator and relationship coach helping people figure out how to create dating and sex lives that actually feel good — more open, more optimistic, and more pleasurable. In addition to working with individuals in her private practice, Kelly serves as the Sex & Relationships Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and she’s been trained and certified by leading sex and relationship institutions such as The Gottman Institute and Everyone Deserves Sex Ed, among others. Her work has been featured at The Cut, Vice, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and elsewhere.

With her warm, playful approach to coaching and facilitation, Kelly creates refreshingly candid spaces for processing and healing challenges around dating, sexuality, identity, body image, and relationships. She’s particularly enthusiastic about helping softhearted women get re-energized around the dating experience and find joy in the process of connecting with others. She believes relationships should be easy—and that, with room for self-reflection and the right toolkit, they can be.

You can stay in the loop about her latest programs, gatherings, and other projects through her newsletter: kellygonsalves.com/newsletter