Spotting a malignant narcissist

Malignant narcissists can be highly manipulative, and they don't care who they hurt as long as they get their own way. They generally don’t care about the pain they cause others—or may even enjoy it and experience it as empowering—and will do what it takes to prevent themselves from loss, inconvenience, or failing to get what they want in any situation.

They see the world in black-and-white terms, including seeing others as either friend or foe. They seek to win at all costs and generally leave a great amount of pain, frustration, and even heartache in their wake. Among the variants of narcissism, however, malignant narcissists are by far the most damaging.

While there is only one official diagnosis for narcissists, there are different "variants" of narcissism or different types of narcissists, and narcissism comes in varying degrees of severity. A 2012 review of the research on narcissism identified several of these variants including grandiose narcissists, who seem to require excessive praise and attention, and vulnerable narcissists, who tend to have a lot of anxiety and need a lot of supportive attention. 

In fact, some experts see little difference between malignant narcissists and psychopaths in that both have a sadistic, antisocial streak, and very little empathy. There is often some paranoia involved with malignant narcissism as well. Signs and symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) and the severity of symptoms vary. People with the disorder, particularly malignant narcissists, generally:

  1. Care quite a bit about their appearance and can come across as quite charming

  2. Expect to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it, and will discount any evidence that doesn't support their belief of their own superiority

  3. Exaggerate their own achievements and talents, even to the point of lying

  4. Are often preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate

  5. Are highly manipulative

  6. Tend to project their bad behaviour onto others, meaning they may accuse you of the very behaviour they are conducting

  7. Monopolize conversations and belittle or look down on people they perceive as inferior

  8. Aren't opposed to taking advantage of others to get what they want

  9. Fail to see or value the needs and feelings of others

  10. Have no remorse for hurting others and rarely apologize unless it will benefit them in some way

  11. Insist on having the best of everything and believe that they deserve this

  12. Can’t handle criticism and lash out if they feel slighted in any way

  13. Have a poor sense of self and weak ability to regulate their feelings and actions

  14. Secretly feel insecure and have a week sense of self

If the description of a narcissist sounds familiar and has you concerned, this is probably a good thing. Knowing that you may be dealing with someone who could hurt you and having some concern for yourself in this situation can help you to protect yourself from the pain that a malignant narcissist can cause, at least to an extent.

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What are romance scams?

Romance scams happen when victims are deceived into ‘false’ relationships by fraudsters who aim to steal their money or personal information. Romance fraud is typically carried out by criminals using fake profiles.

All frauds require the offender to establish trust and rapport with the victim. In romance fraud, the victim believes there to be a genuine relationship. Techniques include attempts to build rapport with and gain the trust of the victim by claiming to adhere to the same religious faith or spiritual beliefs and articulating an intense desire for and attraction to the victim.

Types of romance fraud

  • ‘Foot-in-the door’ technique, in which the perpetrator initially asks for a small sum and, then having gained this small sum from the victim, manufactures new or escalating crises requiring larger and larger sums of money.

  • ‘Face-in-the-door’ technique, in which the perpetrator initially asks for a sum of money so extreme that most would refuse, followed by a request for a far more modest sum(s) to persuade the victim to part with their money.

Scammers can be experienced in spinning stories to lure in their victims. Phases of a romance scam normally tend to follow the pattern below:

  1. The victim being motivated to find an ideal partner

  2. The victim being presented with the ideal profile

  3. The grooming process

  4. The sting (crisis) - where the scammer needs money from the victim

  5. Continuation of the scam

  6. Potential sexual abuse

  7. Re-victimisation

If you’ve lost money to a romantic scammer or think that they may have stolen your personal information, you can contact Action Fraud, who treat reports in confidence.