Maybe we throw around the N label too freely.

Hand with pointing fingerletter_N

I’ve written about this before, but I think it’s something important we ACONs need to remember that can save us and others untold heartache.

We need to be careful about labeling someone a narcissist until we have gotten to know them well enough to be sure. I think ACONs and other victims of abuse are sometimes very quick to label people narcissists who may actually have some other, less malignant disorder such as Borderline Personality Disorder, OCD (some people with OCD can seem very cold), Histrionic Personality Disorder, or even Aspergers (Aspies are often accused of being unempathic just because they don’t express their emotions very well). Some conditions are easily confused with NPD because the behaviors shown may be similar.

Narcissists are actually a small minority of the population, but when you’re a codependent, high empathy type of person, they can seem to be everywhere because we attract them like flies to honey. That being said, the times we live in and a society that rewards narcissistic behavior have probably made NPD more common than it used to be.

Whenever we do pin the N label on someone, it’s our own subjective opinion. In most cases, the person in question probably does have NPD (we are all adults here and it isn’t that hard to see the red flags), but remember it’s an informal diagnosis, not a bona fide diagnosis made by a mental health professional.

15 thoughts on “Maybe we throw around the N label too freely.

  1. I seriously give a damn about a professional diagnosis because I know my dad would never go to a shrink. I am diagnosing him a Narc of which ever category and I think I am even being very nice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There’s nothing wrong with us diagnosing people who have abused us, even if it’s not an official diagnosis. We just have to be careful when we don’t know a person that well, because such a label could hurt an undeserving person with another disorder. It limits us from potential friendships and makes our already low level of trust for others even lower. We become afraid to give ANYONE a chance. I see this happen a lot–I’ve seen a lot of abuse victims (myself included) who will call someone a narc just because we don’t like someone.

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  2. I do have “spidey senses” that I appreciate and rely on. Sometimes I see a well pulled together person, that everyone just loves and I can diagnose them as N right away. I actually hate to think I have less ability to do this than a professional in mental health. They don’t necessarily have the formative years of training like I do.

    I can’t really describe what it is I’m talking about lol. When I feel scared of someone for no reason. They might not have given me a reason, but I feel I have to cower, be afraid around them. Was it something they said? What did they do?

    I think its from being raised by a sociopath, I learned to read cues long before anything bad was going to happen, and this is set into my hard wiring. So I guess it just happens really fast that it escapes my notice now.

    I do agree, I think many people will prematurely diagnose them, it might be a fad to do just that. But I would never hurt the narcissist, I just keep the information to myself, to help me out. If I shared it someone might think me crazy. lol

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    • Joan,
      I think the vibes we get from narcissists are legitimate. Although we can’t diagnose them officially, we can informally and know then we must stay away from them. Yes, there are many people I meet who give me the heebie jeebies even though I can’t explain why. And you are right, they are usually people everyone else likes. If you’e an empath or HSP you are going to be more aware of these vibes than the normal person who may only see the false front that is being projected by the person. Some of us can “see” deeper than that.

      You are correct about ACONs being hypervigilant because we were trained to be so by our narcissistic parents by being hurt so many times by them. So we are always going to be on guard, and be less likely to give someone the benefit of the doubt. Even ACONs who are not empaths can usually “feel out” a narcissistic person because of that hypervigilance, so it serves as a big mental “WARNING” sign. We should heed it but also be careful not to label people we just don’t like a narc– I’m trying to learn to stop and think before I slap that label on them. Maybe not everyone does this, but it’s a bad habit I’ve gotten into so I assumed others might have the same tendency.

      Most of the time it turns out I’m right though and the person I’m getting “N” vibes about really is dangerous (at least to my mental health) and someone I need to stay away from.

      You don’t sound at all crazy and your post made perfect sense. 🙂


  3. This is interesting you call “narcissists” less malignant than borderlines. Because, developmentally, narcissistic conditions have usually been considered to be healthier and stronger than borderline conditions. This is expressed in the developmental picture I posted on my blog here:

    Almost every psychodynamic writer I’ve studied has been of the position that narcissistic patients are healthier or less “ill” than borderlines. Only Masterson that I know of thinks the opposite.

    I would guess that what is happening is that the more abusive, unempathic narcissistic partners (of ACONS) are the primary source from which perceptions of “narcissists” are drawn, so a lot of the healthier, less abusive narcissistic individuals higher up the continuum do not get considered. In that way it then comes to seem that “narcissists” are sicker than borderlines. What do these words mean anyway….

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    • Narcissists probably are “healthier” in some respects than Borderlines, as their behaviors are more adaptive to an increasingly narcissistic society. But doesn’t that beg the question of how pathological the society we live in may be?

      When I said narcissists are more malignant than borderlines, I was referring to their malignancy to others rather than in a general sense or to themselves. Narcissism is more “adaptive” than BPD, but it also claims more victims because borderlines at least have the capacity for empathy and love even if their own drama gets in the way of that a lot.

      I continue to be impressed by the incredible amount of academic knowledge you have about Cluster B disorders. 🙂


      • I’d say that most people people who get labeled BPD are unable to empathize and love in a mature way. I think you give “borderlines” too much credit. Of course, people labeled “borderline” can become able to have empathy and love, but they need to become somewhat free of their borderline symptoms to do that freely.
        I see what you are saying, that maybe more people who are associated with the NPD label function better in our society, so they may more commonly come into contact with and hurt healthier people by getting into relationships with them where they “use” them. That may be correct.

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        • I agree that borderlines are emotionally immature. Some borderlines don’t have much empathy or love for others and can act very much like narcissists (and are often misdiagnosed as having NPD) but for a borderline, I think it’s easier for them to be healed because they are not wearing a False Self over a diminished or destroyed True Self. Of course a willingness to get better and insight must be present in people with both disorders.


          • Yes I agree in some sense. This is why Masterson used to write that the narcissistic patient’s “strong shell” of protective defenses made them harder to reach and redirect into consensus reality than a borderline patient.

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  4. Thank you for writing about this. I do think that a lot of people are much too free with the word “narcissist,” perhaps because they are confused about what it actually means — they seem to think it’s just a fancy synonym for “egotist.”

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    • I agree. A mere “egotist” is not really the same thing at all. They may occur together, but there are a lot of conceited, insufferable, egotistical people who still don’t fit the qualifications for NPD.

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  5. Uh, I think I might have encountered a *genuine* example a few days ago…

    First, there’s the receptionist. She’s like, uh numb, or cowed, or something – still, it’s real obvious (to me) that not only is she running on instinct/autopilot, but she’s dead inside – not only do I not matter, she doesn’t either. When I speak of leaving the lights off (unless she needs ’em to work – that’s when I get that, er, *drone* aspect.

    I catch myself whispering in her wake ,”dominance, power, control.” I say that whenever some Norm is demonstrating this rubbish.

    A few minutes later, the *head wretch* gets to me. Very controling, *masterful*, lots of other red flags. Somehow I know this person’s gaming me, and after about three minutes of loaded coments with ugly, insulting subtexts – “so you can mange ten or twelve miles on foot occasionally. Why in the f**k aren’t you doing that every f*****g day, d**n your eyes!”

    When I get subtext from Norms in general, and Preds in particular, it’s usually ***really*** angry, and nearly as often, it’s filled with profanity – almost as if I’m particularly vulnerable to this form of manipulation.

    The gaming continues, until something snaps inside of me: I slam both fists down, yell “enough!”, followed by ” quit gaming me!”

    Pred wants me gone, claiming she’s a ‘polite’ person.

    As I lease, I say “I’ve sweat blood for you people.” – which is true enough.

    On the way home, I recognize that, while this was probably not the best way of dealing with this kind of BS, It DID get me out from under a *bad* pred (predator; includes, but is not limited to NPD types) with minimal damage to myself.

    Since preds tend to be vengeful, I did what I could to ‘head them off’ once home.

    Lady Ns tend to have this, *mask of sacharine*, or at least *this* one did. It was slipping, though – either that, or I was a *lot* better at reading people compared to my usual *blind and deaf* state. I suspect the latter had something to do, as I was reading people unusually well on the way home.

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    • She sounds like a hateful person. I have know a lot of female narcs like that–the fake cloying politeness (especially here in the South, sorry to say) but you KNOW it’s fake because of the dead predatory eyes.
      I don’t think you overreacted, sometimes these people cannot be dealt with *gently* like a normal person. They are trying to control you, size you up as prey–you do what you need to do to keep your soul and your sanity intact.


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