Grandiose narcissists will display a pattern of superiority and pretentiousness that may differ from typical narcissists. They crave excessive praise and admiration from others, and may flaunt lavish lifestyles in order to achieve this. While not a diagnosable mental health condition, grandiose narcissism has a reputation for being treatment resistant. However, recognizing the signs of it can help combat the behavior.
What Is Grandiose Narcissism?
Grandiose narcissism is a term used to describe a person with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) who shows a certain set of symptoms that differ from the norm.1 Whereas other types of narcissists may have an underlying sense of insecurity or fragility, a person with grandiose narcissism will believe, without doubt, that they are special, unique, and superior.
Overall, those with grandiose narcissism are more assertive and extroverted than their counterparts with standard NPD. Because of this, they will also display a strong distrust of experts. According to the grandiose narcissist, the expert could never know as much as they do. Anyone who disagrees with the narcissist will always be wrong.2
Below are common symptoms of grandiose narcissism:1
- A need for admiration
- A lack of empathy
- An exaggerated sense of importance, confidence, or self-esteem
- Persistent fantasies of increased success, power, or happiness
- A belief that they should only associate with special or powerful people
- A belief that they should receive special attention, treatment, and gifts
- A tendency to take advantage of other people or situations
- Lacking care, compassion, and empathy for others
- Being envious of others and thinking that others are envious of them
- Appearing arrogant, conceited, or self-absorbed
- Anger, hostility, and verbal or physical aggression when confronted
Grandiose Narcissism Vs. Vulnerable Narcissism
Narcissism is a mental health diagnosis with a lot of variation. On one end of the spectrum is the grandiose narcissist, a person with extremely high confidence, self-esteem, and a sense of superiority. On the other end of the spectrum is vulnerable narcissism; these are people whose confidence is fragile and tenuous.
Sometimes called a hypersensitive narcissist or covert narcissist, the vulnerable narcissist could present much differently than the grandiose narcissist. Rather than driving an expensive car, wearing fancy clothes, and living in a lavish house while having a boastful and brash personality, the vulnerable narcissist could be introverted and plagued by anxiety, shame, and depressive symptoms.3,4
With narcissism, there is not one type that is “better” as they are each problematic versions of the same condition. With grandiose narcissism, the person will likely be happier as they live in blissful ignorance of how their actions affect others. They will only become angry and frustrated when people question them or cannot live up to their expectations. Vulnerable narcissists could feel worried and sad. They will become defensive and angry towards others as a way of masking their vulnerabilities.4
Signs of a Grandiose Narcissist
Like people with other personality disorders, the grandiose narcissist can be challenging to identify at first. They could appear to be a high functioning member of society, a business leader, and very successful, but over time, they tend more clearly toward grandiosity.
Below are common signs of grandiose narcissism:1,2
- Flashy and showy presentations of expensive cars, clothes, and homes
- Being boastful and frequently bragging about their accomplishments
- Being inauthentic with compliments
- Being quick to anger when contradicted or disagreed with
- Asking for special treatment or consideration
- Sticking to their views or opinions, even when there is plenty of evidence against these
Signs of Grandiose Narcissism in the Workplace
Perhaps, one the the most significant signs of grandiose narcissism is a lack of reciprocity. People with this condition will ask for another person’s time, patience, effort, sacrifice, and money without ever returning the favors. Relationships with these grandiose narcissists are always one-sided and out of balance.
A grandiose narcissist could be a hugely successful person, a leader, a company CEO, or a public figure with many adoring fans. These people are driven to accomplish great things in order to demonstrate their superiority. From the outside, the narcissist’s qualities will seem appealing or attractive. However, this view may only be temporary or possible from afar.
Because grandiose narcissists are only concerned with fulfilling their own needs and interests, their decisions may not benefit the entire group or organization. The selfishness of grandiose narcissism will ensure that all people will not reap the same rewards.2 For example, a narcissist who is the president of a company won’t care if employees or stockholders are dissatisfied in their position or performance. As long as they are getting paid and living the lifestyle they want, they have little interest in others. Furthermore, they will not care enough about other people’s opinions to even take the situation seriously.
5 Ways to Deal With a Grandiose Narcissist
Living, working, or engaging with a grandiose narcissist is difficult. They will not care about your point of view if it doesn’t align with theirs, or they won’t believe you if you say something critical. If they respond, it will likely be with intense anger, discouraging you to mention anything in the future. Despite challenges, there are steps you can take to keep your friends and loved ones safe and secure when dealing with a narcissist.
Here are five ways to deal with a grandiose narcissist:
1. Identify the Narcissist
As illustrated, a grandiose narcissist is quite different from a vulnerable narcissist, so treating and responding to them in the same way will not be effective. Take some time to identify the key characteristics of the person you interact with and notice how they present themselves, respond to adversity, and engage with others. The grandiose narcissist will usually seem happy, confident, loud, and the center of attention. A vulnerable narcissist could slink away from social situations and appear more quiet or introverted.
2. Set Reasonable Expectations
If you’re setting out to deal with a grandiose narcissist, you must be reasonable and realistic. Like other personality disorders, narcissism is a character trait that tends to be static and stable over time. It does not shift and fluctuate like depression or anxiety do. In many situations, the narcissist will not be interested in changing or doing things differently. According to them, their life is going perfectly. Putting too much pressure on the situation can cause stress and frustration in the narcissist, so set your expectations low.
3. Offer Information & Assistance
Rather than trying to be covert or sneaky, let the other person know what you notice about their condition and how their life could be affected if they continue on this path. Let them know that you are interested and invested in helping them deal with grandiose narcissism. However, it is up to them to create the change.
4. Set & Enforce Boundaries
People with grandiose narcissism are notoriously manipulative and selfish. Given the opportunity, they could put friends, family, and employees in dangerous or distressing situations without pausing to consider the risks. Let them know that you won’t tolerate this type of behavior and describe the consequences of any manipulation. Most importantly, you must follow through on the planned repercussions. Otherwise, the manipulation will continue.
5. Be Prepared to Leave
Sometimes the only way to appropriately deal with a grandiose narcissist is to leave them, especially if you’re in a romantic relationship. Whether the narcissist is a family member, friend, coworker, or romantic partner, you have to know when being together is causing too much pain, stress, and hardship in your life. They may not be willing or able to change, but you can adjust your level of contact with them.
Can Grandiose Narcissism Be Treated?
Any mental health condition can be treated, but the prognosis for grandiose narcissism is poor. First of all, grandiose narcissists are rarely willing to attend treatment independently because they view their life as being great. Second, if they do present to treatment, the prospect of creating meaningful change is limited, since their confidence and sense of superiority are high.
Despite persistent debate, there is no preferred form of therapy used to treat narcissistic personality disorder. No one approach produces consistently positive outcomes, so providers may rely on psychodynamic therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), or other therapy styles.5 Similarly, there are no medication options specifically utilized for NPD. However, prescribers may offer medications to help manage some of the effects triggered by narcissism.5