Narcissism Is a Spectrum, and You’re On It

Photo by jurien huggins on Unsplash

Narcissism Is a Spectrum

Like many disorders, behavior associated with NPD ranks on a spectrum. The idea that an individual is not a “narcissist” because that haven’t been formally diagnosed with NPD is a gross oversimplification. While diagnosing anyone without the appropriate credentials and clinical procedure is always ill-advised, it is critical that we identify behavior in ourselves and others if we intend to a) change it/treat it (for ourselves), b) bring it to their attention (for others, when appropriate), or c) create space between ourselves and another individual whose behavior may be harmful to us.

We all exhibit narcissistic behaviors—especially in the modern age.

Calling someone a narcissist when they have not received a formal diagnosis is also a gross oversimplification. It’s all too easy to point our fingers at someone who is exhibiting narcissistic behavior and cry “narcissist!”, and it does an injustice both to those who have been formally diagnosed, and to the rest of us—all of whom exhibit narcissistic behaviors.

Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay

High on the Spectrum


Individuals who constantly exhibit narcissistic behaviors (and would likely be clinically diagnosed with NPD if given the opportunity) are considered high on the spectrum.


High-on-the-spectrum narcissists tend to leave a trail of emotional violence in their wake, and usually without the faintest idea that they were somehow involved.

Low on the Spectrum

Low-on-the-spectrum narcissists share the same wounds as high-on-the-spectrum narcissists, although not to the same extent. Low-on-the-spectrum narcissists are also individuals who were not sufficiently emotionally validated in childhood, leading them to require validation from others in adulthood. This is actually an enormous majority of people, and can be recognized as more prolific in certain generations where detached parenting was largely the norm.

“I’m insecure. Does this mean I’m on the spectrum?”

It depends. As explained in this article, concealed insecurity is one of the hallmark characteristics of NPD.

  1. Why are you doing it?
  2. How is it affecting others—what is it making them feel?

Develop self-awareness, and the rest will fall into place.

If you suspect that you exhibit narcissistic behaviors, the best place to begin is by developing self-awareness. Narcissistic behaviors originate from being deeply out-of-touch with your own emotions. Self-awareness is a critical tool for understanding, accepting, and owning your emotional responses.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Amanda Dollinger

Amanda Dollinger


The highest purpose of words is that they be used to connect one another.