The Signs of Grandiose Narcissism and How to Deal With It

Grandiose narcissist looking in the mirror.

Getty / Antonio Saba

Grandiose narcissism is a pattern of grandiosity, self-importance, and entitlement. It is characterized by exaggerated feelings of superiority, an obsessive need for admiration, and a lack of empathy toward others. Grandiose narcissism is also known as "overt narcissism."

What Does the Term Grandiose Narcissist Mean?

A grandiose narcissist is someone who displays an excessive sense of self-importance in a highly visible and showy manner. Their inflated sense of self-esteem often comes at the expense of relationships or activities that would benefit them in other ways. They rely heavily on others to validate their importance—even going so far as to deceive others in order to gain admiration and recognition from them.

Grandiose narcissists tend to be manipulative, exploitative, and lacking in empathy for those around them.

According to Alena Scigliano, M.S.Ed., LPC, licensed psychotherapist, author, speaker, and clinical expert in narcissistic abuse, "Grandiose narcissists are typically the types of narcissists who are outgoing, larger than life, charismatic and draw others into their orbit. They're the ones you want to be around and who make you feel privileged when they want to be around you. They are often highly successful professionally or portray themselves as such. They'll be the most charming person you can imagine as long as there is something that they want from you." 

What Are the Signs of a Grandiose Narcissist?

The signs of grandiose narcissism include an inflated sense of self-importance, a need for admiration, and recognition from others, and a lack of empathy. Grandiose narcissists may also display the following behaviors:

  • Arrogant or haughty behavior
  • Exaggerated stories or accomplishments
  • A tendency to domineer conversations or belittle other people's opinions
  • An obsession with money, power, and prestige
  • Anger when confronted about negative behaviors
  • A need for excessive attention or praise
  • A lack of remorse or guilt when they hurt someone
  • An inability to accept criticism
  • An inflated sense of entitlement

Grandiose narcissists can be highly successful in life—as long as their need for external validation outweighs any negative consequences of their behavior. In the long run, however, their grandiosity often creates more problems than it solves.

What Do Grandiose Narcissists Want?

At their core, grandiose narcissists crave and thrive on admiration, recognition, and validation from other people. They often feel a deep need to be seen as superior or special in some way, even if it means exploiting or manipulating others in order to achieve the recognition they seek.

According to Scigliano, “Grandiose narcissists want to feel special, important and admired. They want to be respected, revered, recognized as superior, and remembered."

However, grandiose narcissists lack insight into their own behavior and blind themselves to the harm they cause. As such, they may never truly understand what drives them or realize how their actions affect those around them.

Grandiose Narcissism vs. Vulnerable Narcissism

Grandiose narcissism is different from a vulnerability-based form of narcissism that relates to neuroticism, called "vulnerable narcissism."

Vulnerable narcissists are low in self-esteem, often feeling insecure and inadequate. They may be hypersensitive to criticism and display passive or destructive behaviors like avoidance, manipulation, or aggression when they feel threatened.

Also called "covert narcissism," this type of narcissism is characterized by feelings of shame, guilt, and self-doubt. Research indicates that vulnerable narcissists are more realistic about their abilities compared to grandiose narcissists.

Grandiose narcissists, on the other hand, do not suffer from such a deep sense of insecurity and instead feel more powerful than those around them. In fact, research shows that grandiose narcissists may ignore expert advice and at the same time blame others for their poor decisions. They are also less likely to be bothered by criticism and are more likely to display behaviors like manipulation, aggression, and deceit.

Grandiose narcissists want power, recognition, admiration, and money above all else. They will do anything to get it—even if it means hurting or manipulating other people in the process. In contrast, vulnerable narcissists are often more passive, seeking external validation to make up for their own low self-esteem.

How to Deal With Someone Who Has Grandiose Narcisissm?

Grandiose narcissists are often difficult to deal with and can cause a lot of problems in relationships. Here are some tips for managing your interactions with someone with grandiose narcissism:

  • Set boundaries: Let them know what you will and won’t accept, such as inappropriate or aggressive behavior. Be firm but also allow them to save face.
  • Don’t take their criticism personally: Grandiose narcissists often use criticism as a tool for control, so don’t take it to heart.
  • Avoid engaging in power struggles: Grandiose narcissists thrive on competition and winning. If you engage, you will only be reinforcing their need for dominance.
  • Take time for yourself: Spend some time away from them to recharge and maintain a sense of balance in your life.
  • Seek professional help: If the person’s behavior is having a negative impact on your life, it may be helpful to seek out professional counseling or therapy.

Ultimately, the best way to deal with someone who has grandiose narcissism is to stay emotionally detached while setting boundaries and avoiding power struggles. By doing so, you will be better equipped to manage any toxic behaviors they display.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do you know if someone is a grandiose narcissist?

    Grandiose narcissists are characterized by an excessive need for admiration and recognition. They often display attention-seeking behaviors, like bragging or exaggerating their accomplishments, and may take advantage of others for personal gain.

  • What are the long-term effects of living with a grandiose narcissist?

    Living with a grandiose narcissist can have serious long-term effects on an individual’s mental health, including anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. It can also lead to feelings of guilt or shame due to the manipulative behavior displayed by the person with grandiose narcissism. If you are living with someone who has grandiose narcissism it is important to take care of yourself and seek professional help if needed.

  • Is grandiose narcissism an official diagnosis?

    Grandiose narcissism is not an official diagnosis listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), which is included in the DSM-5, is similarly characterized by a pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, lack of empathy, and other related behaviors and traits. NPD can be diagnosed by a mental health professional using the criteria outlined in the DSM-5.

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Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Arlin Cuncic
Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety."