By Lynn Cadet

Living with a narcissistic family member can feel like a heavy load on your shoulders. Once you recognise it, the burden seems to ease. Relief and enlightenment follow as you begin to piece together why this person acts the way they do and how your life has been affected by the emotional toll of dealing with them. You wonder what you can do to lessen the pressure and influence on your life.

But before that, we should first understand the definition of narcissism. A narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of entitlement, a deep need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. They are unable to care for others’ needs or process the world outside of themselves. Although the number of people diagnosed with this disorder is low, many people interact and feel the adverse impacts of people with NPD.

Sadly, when this person is a family member, it can cause tension. They are not like a colleague or a friend who you could easily cut ties with or avoid. You share roots with this person that stretch out wider, making the situation more complicated. You have to think about your other familial relationships and how distancing yourself will disturb the regular flow.

Let’s look at ways to recognise the indicators and find methods for dealing with one as a family member.

How To Spot And Confirm A Narcissist 

Narcissism encompasses more than vanity or selfish personality traits. People with narcissistic personality disorders are clinically unwell. They cannot understand people outside of their needs and always want to be the centre of attention. No matter what, their desires have to be met and are of a higher priority compared to anyone else. 

Here are the telltale signs of someone with this tendency:

  • Dehumanising others: They find no problem in belittling others. As they see people as a means to an end, they will devalue or even discard you if you don’t deliver on their expectations. People with this disorder also intentionally seek out or interact with people who can offer them value, like social status, a job, or social fulfilment.
  • Exaggeration: Since they obsess over appearances, they exaggerate their skills or accomplishments to boost their importance.
  • Rejecting criticism: Narcissists do not take criticism well. They have a high sense of pride, often used to mask their low self-esteem. When someone calls them out, they become angry and defensive, making it difficult to challenge their harmful patterns. The need for approval constantly drives their actions. 
  • Mood swings: Because narcissists struggle psychologically, their ability to regulate their emotions is fragile. They cannot balance their feelings, resulting in aggressive impulses, verbal abuse, and manipulation.
  • Pride and envy: Their envy, caused by their need to be the best, influences their attacks on anyone that seems more successful than them. If someone demands more attention than them, they will try to knock them down to retain their position as the most powerful person in the room.

Ways To Handle A Narcissistic Family Member

Narcissistic family members spread a lot of emotional harm, which can damage the receiver deeply. It’s unfair how they treat their loved ones, but they don’t even realise the pain they cause, creating a toxic atmosphere for everyone involved. They can cause their children or relatives to feel insecure, unworthy, unlovable, and overly sensitive because they don’t know how to show love or care. People familiarised with narcissism often tend to attract it into their lives in other forms, like in their work, social and romantic relationships. 

Instead of simply accepting it, you can follow some of these tips to help guide your interactions with your resident narcissist: 

  • Avoid confrontation: Although you may have the urge to call them out, that doesn’t always pan out well. As stated above, narcissists do not take kindly to criticism. Calling them out can result in horrible consequences and worsen the situation because narcissists cannot see their faults and consider it an attack. Instead, they will gaslight you, pushing the blame onto you. Try to give them negative feedback in small doses or sandwich it with two compliments to make it easier for them to swallow. 
  • Set boundaries: Communicate your limits and express your discomfort with the situation. Avoid arguments with these family members and instead disengage from the conversation. If cutting them off is your best option, then you should take that step. 
  • Seek professional counselling: Dealing with a narcissistic family member can cause lasting emotional damage. Lean on a support system to help you process their harmful behaviour and build back the confidence they tried to steal from you.

I hope this information can help you stand up to these aggressors and seek what you need to heal those wounds. Life is too short to live in a toxic, unhappy situation.