Narcissism is more than just a trait or a simple personality quirk; it’s a complex and sometimes damaging pattern of behavior that can have a profound effect on those who get caught in its web.
Narcissists are notorious for using people to feed their insatiable need for attention and validation. And in this article, we’ll delve into the subtle and not-so-subtle signs that a narcissist is using you.
Keep in mind that these signs are not definitive proof, but they can provide valuable insight into the nature of your relationship with someone who may be a narcissist.
1. The “love-bombing” phase and sudden devaluation
I once had a friend who would constantly praise me and tell me how important I was to them. She would go out of her way to help me and make me feel special.
But suddenly, all of a sudden, she’ll withdraw her affection, leaving me feeling confused and hurt. Out of nowhere, she’ll criticize me, make passive-aggressive remarks, and even belittle me in front of others.
This sudden shift from love-bombing to devaluation is a classic sign of a narcissist using someone for their gain.
A key tactic narcissists use to draw people in is an intense period of admiration and affection, often referred to as “love-bombing.”
During this phase, the narcissist may shower you with compliments, gifts, and seemingly endless attention. It can feel exhilarating and create a strong bond between you and the narcissist. However, this phase is usually short-lived.
2. Their sense of entitlement and grandiosity
A hallmark of narcissism is an inflated sense of entitlement and grandiosity. Narcissists believe they deserve special treatment and may become angry or resentful when they don’t receive it.
They view themselves as superior to others, and as such, expect others to cater to their whims. This sense of entitlement can manifest in various ways, such as insisting on having the best of everything, disregarding the needs of others, or demanding that their preferences take precedence over everyone else’s.
In a relationship with a narcissist, you may find yourself bending over backward to accommodate their demands, only to be met with further dissatisfaction and criticism. And this ongoing cycle can make it challenging to assert your needs and desires, leaving you feeling unimportant and undervalued.
3. The emotional rollercoaster they create
Narcissists have a knack for taking you on an emotional rollercoaster, making you feel on top of the world one moment and utterly dejected the next.
This intense fluctuation of emotions can create a sense of addiction to the highs, making it difficult to break free from the relationship. You might find yourself desperately trying to regain their approval, only to be met with further disinterest or disdain.
If you don’t recognize it early enough, this can cause emotional turmoil and can be incredibly exhausting, leaving you feeling drained and confused about the true nature of the relationship.
4. They make you doubt your reality
I was involved with someone who would regularly shift the blame for his actions onto me.
Whenever I confronted him about a hurtful comment or action, he would deny it ever happened or claim that I was being overly sensitive. Over time, this gaslighting eroded my self-confidence and left me questioning my judgment.
Narcissists have a way of twisting the truth and manipulating your perception of reality, a tactic known as gaslighting.
They’ll deny events ever occurred, blame you for their mistakes, or insist that you’re misremembering things.
[Related: 6 Signs Someone is a Narcissist]
5. Constantly seeking praise and admiration
A narcissist thrives on being the center of attention and receiving admiration from others. They will often go out of their way to seek praise, even if it means manipulating you or others around them.
If you find that someone in your life is constantly fishing for compliments or steering conversations toward their accomplishments, this could be a red flag.
Narcissists are often unable to feel empathy or validate others’ feelings, so they rely on external sources to feel good about themselves.
6. The narcissist is never at fault
I experienced this firsthand with a former roommate who would never take responsibility for any issues that arose in our shared living space.
If he left a mess or neglected to pay a bill, he would always have an excuse or find a way to blame me or someone else. This refusal to accept responsibility is a hallmark of narcissistic behavior and can be incredibly frustrating for those who interact with them.
Narcissists have an incredibly difficult time accepting responsibility for their actions or admitting when they’re wrong. Even if it means shifting the fault onto others or creating elaborate rationalizations for their behavior, they will go to great lengths to avoid blame.
7. Using you as an emotional crutch
Narcissists are experts at exploiting the emotions of others for their gain.
You’ll often notice that they frequently turn to you for emotional support, but when you need a shoulder to lean on, they’re nowhere to be found.
In a healthy relationship, both parties should be able to rely on each other for emotional support. However, if you find yourself constantly being a sounding board for a narcissist’s problems, with little to no reciprocation, they may be using you to prop up their fragile self-esteem.
8. Controlling and manipulative behavior
One of the most insidious ways a narcissist may use you is through control and manipulation.
For instance, they might use guilt, coercion, and other tactics to get their way, making you feel like your needs and desires are unimportant or even selfish.
Pay close attention to how this person reacts when you assert your boundaries or express your own needs. If they become angry, defensive, or try to make you feel guilty, it’s a strong indication that they’re attempting to maintain control and manipulate you.
9. You feel like you’re walking on eggshells
Living with a narcissistic family member, I found myself constantly trying to anticipate their needs and avoid doing anything that might upset them. I would suppress my feelings and opinions to keep the peace, which took a significant toll on my mental
When you’re dealing with a narcissist, it’s common to feel like you’re walking on eggshells, constantly trying to avoid triggering their anger or disapproval. Why?
Narcissists have unpredictable mood swings and this means they’ll sometimes lash out at you for seemingly minor issues. Over time, this can lead to a heightened state of anxiety and a loss of your sense of self.
10. Taking advantage of your generosity
Narcissists often view people as objects that exist solely to serve their purposes. If you have a giving nature, for instance, a narcissist may see you as a perfect target for their manipulative tactics.
They’ll want to take advantage of your kindness, asking for favors or expecting you to go out of your way for them without ever offering anything in return. This one-sided relationship dynamic can leave you feeling drained and unappreciated.
11. An obsession with image and status
Narcissists are often preoccupied with their image and social status. They’ll go to great lengths to maintain a perfect façade, even if it means lying or manipulating others.
In some cases, they may expect you to play a specific role in their life to support this image.
I recall a colleague who was always concerned about how she appeared to others. She’ll constantly share her achievements and drop the names of influential people she knew.
Then she would also expect me to act as her cheerleader, praising her publicly and helping her maintain her carefully crafted image. This obsession with image and status is a good sign that you may be dealing with a narcissist.
[Interesting: 12 Signs Someone Thinks They Are Better Than You]
12. The relationship is filled with drama and chaos
Narcissists often create a whirlwind of drama and chaos to keep you emotionally off-balance and focused on them. Sometimes they manufacture crises and pick fights to provoke a reaction from you.
We’ve all come across people who thrive on drama. Unfortunately for me, I actually dated one of them. She would frequently instigate arguments, only to play the victim and demand an apology later.
She also had a habit of creating chaos in other areas of her life, such as her friendships and work, which would inevitably spill over into our relationship.
This kind of constant state of turmoil is another indicator that a narcissist may be using you.
13. The narcissist plays the victim
I once worked with someone who would always complain about how he was constantly mistreated or misunderstood. He weaved elaborate tales of woe, describing the unfairness he faced in his personal and professional life.
It was emotionally exhausting to be around him, as he would suck you into his vortex of drama, making you feel compelled to provide support and understanding.
This pattern of playing the victim is a classic narcissistic strategy to use others for emotional validation.
[Read: 18 Subtle Signs of Gaslighting]
14. They create a cycle of dependency
A narcissist may work to create a cycle of dependency within a relationship, ensuring that you rely on them for emotional validation and support.
This dependency can take many forms, such as isolating you from friends and family, undermining your self-esteem, or making you feel guilty for wanting to spend time away from them.
By fostering a sense of dependency, the narcissist can maintain control over you and ensure that you remain within their grasp.
Over time, this cycle of dependency can become increasingly difficult to break free from, as you may start to believe that you’re incapable of functioning without the narcissist’s guidance and support. This is an unhealthy dynamic, and it can be incredibly damaging to your self-worth and overall well-being.
15. Sabotaging your success and happiness
For instance, when you start a new job that you’re excited about, the narcissist would make snide remarks about how the position wasn’t really that impressive or how you probably wouldn’t last long.
And this behavior will often leave you feeling defeated and questioning your abilities. This kind of sabotage is another sign that a narcissist may be using you to feed their ego.
Narcissistic relationships can be incredibly challenging and emotionally draining. This is why recognizing the signs that a narcissist is using you is a crucial first step in understanding the dynamics at play and making informed decisions about your well-being.
Keep in mind that not every person displaying these behaviors is necessarily a narcissist; however, if you consistently notice these patterns, it’s essential to take them seriously and consider your options.
Remember, you deserve to be in a healthy, supportive, and mutually respectful relationship.
- Featured image by cookie_studio from Freepik