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Narcissistic Personality Disorder with Real-World Examples

Narcissistic Personality Disorder with Real-World Examples

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a relatively uncommon disorder, but it can be challenging to treat. Individuals with NPD may also have other disorders like substance use, mania, and depression.  Pretty much every week, the idea of narcissism will come up in a session.  It’s a popular topic in the psychology world and one could argue that it’s the the spouses, children, parents, and friends of those who display narcissistic behaviors who often seek out therapy.

Cluster B: Personality Disorders

The current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5-TR) indicates personality disorders as a “Cluster B” diagnoses.  There are four Cluster B personality disorders including NPD, as well as Antisocial, Borderline, and Histrionic Personality Disorders.

Personality disorders can be difficult to treat because they involve deeply ingrained patterns of behavior and thought that have likely developed over a long period of time. In many cases, these patterns are rooted in past traumas that have shaped an individual’s sense of self and their relationship to others. This can make it challenging to address the underlying issues that contribute to the disorder.

What Does NPD Look Like?

People with NPD may exhibit a variety of characteristics, including a need for constant attention and admiration, a lack of empathy for others, and exaggerated feelings of self-importance. Individuals with this disorder often have difficulty recognizing their own behavior as problematic. They may have a sense of entitlement that leads them to resist authority or rules, making it difficult for them to comply with treatment recommendations.

The nature of NPD can make it challenging for individuals to seek treatment or even acknowledge that they have a problem. Because symptoms of NPD can change over the course of an individual’s life, treatment may need to adjust over time to remain effective.

To receive a diagnosis of NPD, an individual must meet at least five of the nine criteria outlined in the DSM-5. The rest of this post will go through the nine criteria and include examples of behavior from the celebrity, sport, and political arenas.  In case you were wondering, the people used in the examples are not my clients. Therefore, I have not officially diagnosed these individuals with anything.  The following examples represent behaviors that were in the news that suggest symptoms of NPD.

1. Grandiose Sense of Self-Importance

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and it’s okay to recognize and celebrate your strengths while working on areas of growth.  However, sometimes individuals with NPD may have an exaggerated sense of their own importance or value compared to others. 

Someone with a grandiose sense of self-importance may interrupt others frequently in conversation, believing that their own thoughts and opinions are more important than anyone else’s.  They may also become defensive or angry when you challenge their ideas, unable to tolerate anyone questioning their expertise or authority on a topic.

I’ve watched a couple of the documentaries about Lance Armstrong. He put on a great show to the public (I drank the kool-aid at the time) all while showing multiple criteria for NPD.

Narcissism Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong:

One real-life example of a highly regarded person whose career was affected by NPD symptoms is Lance Armstrong, a former professional cyclist. His behavior on and off the bike was affected. He often exhibited grandiose behavior, such as insisting that he could beat cancer because he was Lance Armstrong. He also had a need for admiration and had a tendency to belittle others.

Armstrong’s NPD led him to engage in unethical behavior that ultimately led to the downfall of his career. He was accused of using performance-enhancing drugs, and he vehemently denied the allegations despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Armstrong’s grandiose sense of self-importance and need for admiration made it difficult for him to admit that he had done something wrong.

In the end, Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, and his reputation was severely damaged. His NPD behavior made it difficult for him to maintain relationships with his teammates and cycling officials, and it ultimately led to his downfall.

2. Preoccupation with Fantasies of Unlimited Success in One or More Areas

Narcissism Kanye West

While it’s okay to have goals and aspirations, it’s not uncommon for individuals with narcissistic personality disorder to have REALLY big goals and aspirations. Sometimes, this mindset can lead to excessive focus on the idea of achieving unlimited success in one or more areas.

They may spend a lot of time researching successful business people and comparing themselves to them, feeling inadequate if they don’t measure up. They may also be unwilling to take on lower-level roles or work their way up in a company, feeling like they deserve immediate success and recognition.

I’m not really of the generation where Kanye West was relevant, but my kids made me listen to Taylor Swift (Okay, I wasn’t complaining).  When he yanked the award away from her at that award show, it was obvious he was not playing by the same rules as the rest of us.

Kanye West:

Kanye West is a well-known rapper, producer, and fashion designer who has achieved immense success in the entertainment industry. However, his preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success in various areas has caused several difficulties in his personal and professional life.
West has displayed some of the criteria for NPD. He shows an inflated sense of self-importance, a lack of empathy for others, and a preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, and brilliance. These traits have led him to make grandiose statements about his abilities, including his claim that he is the “greatest living artist and greatest artist of all time.”
One of the main difficulties that West has faced due to his NPD is his tendency to engage in impulsive and erratic behavior. In 2009, he infamously interrupted Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech, claiming that Beyoncé should have won the award instead.

3. Belief That One is Special and Can Only Be Understood By Others Who Are Also Special.

Even though everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, sometimes people with NPD may describe themselves as unique or gifted and want to be surrounded by only those with a similar status.
I think this also applies outside of the world of celebrities.  The politics of small towns, local organizations, and even the parents at kids’ sports can bring out the worst in the grab to sidle up to the popular crowd.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Mariah Carey’s music.  She is of my era. I remember first hearing her range when I was still in high school and thought, “Dang, she’s my age.” It was only later when I heard about the diva behaviors.  Whatever, I still randomly sing, “It’s a sweet, sweet fantasy baby ...” without near the range.
Narcissism Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey:

Mariah Carey is a well-known singer, songwriter, and actress who has achieved great success throughout her career. However, her belief that she is special and can only be understood by others who are also special has caused significant difficulties in her life.
Carey’s behavior has been characterized as demanding and diva-like. She has been known to make outrageous demands, such as requiring a room filled with white roses or puppies, and insisting on being carried everywhere she goes. She has also been involved in numerous public feuds with other celebrities and has been accused of being difficult to work with.
While many celebrities may exhibit diva-like behavior, Carey’s actions have been particularly extreme. Her behavior has been linked to her NPD, which has caused her to believe that she is entitled to special treatment and that others should cater to her every whim.
Unfortunately, Carey’s NPD has also had a negative impact on her personal life. She has been married and divorced multiple times, and has had reportedly difficult relationships with her family members. Her belief that she is special and can only be understood by others who are also special has made it difficult for her to form meaningful relationships with others.

4. Requires excessive admiration.

Narcissism Teal Swan
People with narcissistic personality disorder require a lot of admiration and can be sensitive to criticism or self-doubt. They may become upset or defensive if they feel there is not enough praise or recognition.
Everyone needs validation and encouragement. But it’s also important to be able to accept constructive feedback a without becoming overly defensive or upset.
I first saw links to Teal Swan videos on YouTube.  I’m assuming all my self-help listens made her jump on my YouTube algorithm.  At first, I thought it was pretty good stuff … then it got weird.  The damning documentary, The Deep End, may not have been altogether fair. However, I had made a hard-pass on her videos long before the documentary came out.


Teal Swan

Teal Swan, a self-help author, motivational speaker, and spiritual teacher, has been accused of exhibiting traits of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). One of the ways in which she demonstrates this is by requiring excessive admiration from her followers.

For instance, Teal Swan requires her followers to make videos testimonials about her, which they must then publicly share on social media. This not only shows that she craves admiration but also that she wants others to see it. She wants to perceive her as larger than life and as someone who has a significant impact on her followers. This behavior is typical of individuals with NPD, who often seek admiration and validation from others.

Overall, Teal Swan’s excessive need for admiration is a clear indication of her NPD. She is a prime example of how individuals with NPD can use their charm and charisma to manipulate and control others to satisfy their own needs.

5. Possesses a Sense of Entitlement.

People with narcissistic personality disorder may feel that they deserve special treatment and may be confusing or upsetting when others don’t do things for them.

They may feel entitled to more than they’re given and may struggle to understand why others don’t see things the same way.

It seemed like the O.J. Simpson trial dominated the news cycle for years.  I knew O.J. as the incredible football player (The Juice)  and his “Naked Gun” character Nordberg.  It was hard to believe this apparently likable guy had so much darkness going on in the background.

Narcissism OJ Simpson

O.J. Simpson

O.J. Simpsons a former American football player and actor who was famously acquitted of the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman in 1995. However, Simpson’s sense of entitlement, which may be from NPD, has caused him difficulties in other areas of his life.

For example, in 2007, Simpson was arrested and charged with armed robbery and kidnapping after he and several accomplices attempted to steal sports memorabilia that Simpson claimed to have owned. Simpson was ultimately convicted and sentenced to 33 years in prison, with a minimum of 9 years before parole eligibility.

During his trial, Simpson’s sense of entitlement was on full display. He refused to take responsibility for his actions and instead blamed others for his situation. His behavior ultimately led to his conviction and imprisonment.

6. Is Interpersonally Exploitative

Narcissism Putin

People with narcissistic personality disorder may form relationships based on how they can benefit from them, rather than on mutual respect and kindness. They may be attracted to people who boost their self-esteem, and may not consider the other person’s needs or feelings.

This can lead to a pattern of taking advantage of others for their own gain, which can be hurtful and damaging to the relationship.

When I consider Putin, I can’t help but remember the video of him publicly reprimanding members of his staff.  His coldness and the look of fear on his staff spoke volumes.

Vladimir Putin

Reports have suggested that Vladimir Putin exhibits interpersonal exploitative behavior, which is a common trait among those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). One of the examples of such behavior is the case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a Russian businessman who was once the richest man in Russia and a political rival of Putin. In 2003, Khodorkovsky was arrested and charged with fraud and tax evasion, which many have argued were politically motivated charges.

During Khodorkovsky’s trial, Putin made several public comments suggesting that Khodorkovsky was guilty. Putin’s comments were widely seen as an attempt to influence the outcome of the trial and to discredit Khodorkovsky. This is just one example of how Putin’s interpersonal exploitative behavior, a trait commonly associated with NPD, has caused difficulties for those around him.

Another example of Putin’s exploitative behavior is his treatment of political opponents. Critics of Putin have been imprisoned, exiled, or even killed. One prominent example is the case of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian spy who was poisoned with polonium in 2006. Litvinenko had accused Putin of ordering the assassination of another critic of the Russian government, and many believe that Litvinenko’s own assassination was ordered by Putin in retaliation for his criticism.

7. Lacks Empathy for Others

People with certain personality traits may have difficulty empathizing with others. While they may understand empathy at an intellectual level, it can be challenging for them to identify with the feelings or experiences of others.

This can lead to difficulty building and maintaining meaningful relationships with others, as well as a lack of understanding or consideration for the needs and feelings of those around them.

The name Kim Jong-Un brings fear to much of the world.  It’s not his physical size or even the size of his country, but rather it’s his blatant disregard for life.

Narcissism Kim Jong-Un

Kim Jong-Un

The North Korean regime, under Kim Jong-un’s leadership, has been accused of committing numerous human rights abuses.

One real-life example of Kim Jong-un’s lack of empathy for others is his treatment of political prisoners. According to Amnesty International, the North Korean government has imprisoned an estimated 200,000 people in political prison camps, where they face inhumane conditions, including torture, forced labor, and starvation. In some cases, entire families are imprisoned, including children and elderly relatives. Kim Jong-un has shown no concern for the suffering of these prisoners, who are often held without trial and subjected to brutal treatment.

Another example is the assassination of Kim Jong-nam, Kim Jong-un’s half-brother, in 2017. Kim Jong-nam was killed by two women who smeared his face with a deadly nerve agent while he was in a crowded airport terminal in Malaysia. The assassination was linked to Kim Jong-un’s desire to eliminate potential rivals to his leadership. Despite the fact that this assassination endangered countless innocent bystanders, Kim Jong-un showed no remorse for the harm caused.

Overall, Kim Jong-un’s lack of empathy for others is a significant problem that has led to widespread suffering in North Korea and beyond. His willingness to use violence to maintain power and disregard for the well-being of others are hallmarks of narcissistic personality disorder, and have had devastating consequences for countless individuals.

8. Is Often Envious of Others and Believes Others are Envious of Them.

Narcissism Paris Hilton

People with certain personality traits may exhibit symptoms of envy towards others and may believe that others are envious of them.

This can lead to a pattern of devaluing the successes of others and overvaluing their own accomplishments.

Paris Hilton has definitely changed the narrative around her “party-girl” and “tone-deaf” personas when she started speaking out against the “troubled-teen” industry back in 2020.  It is a great example to show how narcissistic characteristics can often be a cover for a deeper wound.

Paris Hilton

Paris Hilton has been very open about her struggles with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). In a 2011 interview with Piers Morgan, Hilton revealed that her NPD had caused her significant difficulties, including difficulty forming genuine relationships, trust issues, and feelings of loneliness and isolation.

One of the most challenging aspects of her NPD was her belief that others were envious of her. She had developed a deep-seated belief that she was superior to others and that they were jealous of her and her lifestyle. This belief caused her to become envious of others, leading to a vicious cycle of envy and loneliness. She would become envious of people who had something she did not, such as a happy relationship or successful career. This jealousy would then lead her to feel even more isolated and alone, fueling her NPD.

In addition, Paris Hilton admitted that her NPD had caused her to become overly defensive and to lash out at others who she perceived as being critical of her or not giving her the attention she felt she deserved. She would often respond aggressively to perceived slights, leading to damaged relationships with friends and family.

Paris Hilton’s struggles with NPD highlight the difficulties that people with this disorder face. Despite her wealth and privilege, her NPD made it challenging for her to form healthy relationships and lead a fulfilling life.

9. Shows Arrogance and Haughty Behaviors or Attitudes. 

People with certain personality traits may come across as snobbish, disdainful, or patronizing. They may believe that they are better than others and may act in ways that make others feel inferior or unworthy.

It’s important to remember that everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, and that it’s okay to celebrate your accomplishments while treating others with kindness and respect.

Charlie Sheen almost felt like a cartoon character with some of his quotes and behaviors.  It was in such a contrast to his work from the past.  I loved Wall Street and Major League and it was hard to believe he is the same guy.

Narcissism Charlie Sheen


Charlie Sheen is a well-known actor who has publicly struggled with addiction, legal troubles, and erratic behavior. He has also exhibited symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, which may have contributed to some of his difficulties.

Sheen’s behavior has been characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance, a need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. He has made grandiose statements about his own abilities and accomplishments, and has been known to belittle and ridicule others who disagree with him.

In 2011, Sheen was fired from the television show “Two and a Half Men” after a series of public outbursts directed at the show’s creator, Chuck Lorre. Sheen made derogatory and insulting comments about Lorre’s appearance and personal life, and refused to take responsibility for his own behavior. This behavior may have been driven in part by his NPD behaviors, which can make it difficult for individuals to accept criticism or admit fault.

Overall, Sheen’s struggles with addiction and behavior have been well-documented, and his NPD may have been a contributing factor to some of his difficulties.

5 Gaslighting Examples in Relationships

5 Gaslighting Examples in Relationships

Gaslighting examples, displaying that sneaky form of emotional abuse. It is like a twisted game of “Is it real or is it in my head?” The abuser tries to make their partner doubt their own memory, reality, and sanity, leaving them feeling confused, anxious, and paranoid. It all starts with little things that make you question your own judgment, but then it escalates into a full-blown mind warp. (Also see The Impact of Narcissism on Relationships.)

The following are some examples of gaslighting you may experience in a relationship:

1. Gaslighting Example: Denial of Truth

Your partner denies things that have happened or things you have said, making you question your own memory and perception of reality. Your partner may deny they said something hurtful to you, even though you clearly remember the conversation.


Sarah started to notice Alex would deny things that had happened or things she had said, making her question her own memory and perception of reality. At first, she brushed it off, thinking maybe she was just forgetful. But as time went on, Alex’s behavior became more frequent and intense. He would deny things Sarah was sure had happened, making her feel like she was losing her mind.

Sarah confronted Alex about his behavior, but he told her she was overreacting and nothing was wrong. Sarah started to feel like she was going crazy and began to doubt herself. She became anxious and paranoid, wondering if she could trust her own memory or if she was losing her mind.

It wasn’t until Sarah talked to a friend who had experienced gaslighting when she realized what was happening to her. She began to recognize the signs and sought help from a mental health professional. With the help of therapy, Sarah was able to rebuild her self-esteem and confidence and set boundaries with Alex. Eventually, she realized she deserved to be treated with respect and kindness and ended the relationship.

2. Gaslighting Example: Blaming

Your partner blames you for things that are not your fault, making you feel guilty and responsible for things you didn’t do. Your partner may blame you for her own mistakes or shortcomings, leaving you questioning if everything that does not go perfect in his life is somehow your fault.


The relationship was going great for the first few months for Tom and Rachel. Tom started noticing small indications something was not right. Rachel began blaming him for simple actions or decisions he made that she labeled as “mistakes” or for things that were out of his control. Over time, Rachel’s blaming only became more frequent and intense.

Tom tried to talk to Rachel, but she responded with anger and defensiveness. She told him he was overreacting and he needed to figure out his own insecurities. As time went on, Tom began to feel more and more responsible for Rachel’s behavior. He started to question his own judgment and wondered if he was the cause of all their problems.

One day Rachel said to Tom, “What have you done lately to help my happiness?” and it clicked with Tom that Rachel’s happiness is not in his control. The experience of being blamed for everything had a profound effect on Tom, but with the help of therapy and support from loved ones, he was able to learn to trust his own decisions again.

3. Gaslighting Example: Withholding

Withholding information, affection, or attention can be used as as a way to punish and promote insecurity. Your partner may stop talking to you for days without any explanation, leaving you wondering what you did wrong.


From the outside Emily and Mark seemed like the perfect match for the first few years of their relationship. However, Emily was feeling more and more left out as Mark seemed to be withholding information, affection, and attention leaving her feeling punished and insecure.

It started small, with Mark giving Emily the silent treatment for a few hours or not responding to her messages. But as time went on, Mark’s withholding became more frequent and intense. He would stop talking to Emily for days without any explanation, leaving her wondering what she did wrong.

Emily tried to talk to Mark about his behavior, but he told her she was overreacting and she needed to learn to recognize when he needed space.

As time went on, Emily began to feel more and more insecure in the relationship. She started to question her own behavior and wondered if she was causing Mark to withdraw. Her final straw was during an event they attended. He was kind and friendly to anyone but her – not just his friends, but also strangers or people she knew he did not like. She finally saw Mark’s withholding behavior for what it was.

Emily started on her quest to rebuild her confidence. With the help of her therapist and supportive friends and family she was able to understand her own worth.

4. Gaslighting Example: Projection

Your partner accuses you of doing things they are actually doing, making you question yourself without reason. For example, your partner may accuse you of cheating on them, even though they are the ones who have been unfaithful.


Max was charming and attentive at first, but as time went on, Lily began to notice Max’s behavior was becoming increasingly unpredictable and erratic. He would accuse her of things she had not done, and he would become angry and defensive whenever she tried to talk to him about it.

One day, Max accused Lily of cheating on him. Lily was shocked and hurt by the accusation. She had never cheated on Max, and she couldn’t understand why he would think she had. Max became more and more convinced of her infidelity, even though Lily tried to reassure him that she was faithful.

Lily started to question her own behavior. She wondered if there was something she had done to make Max think she was cheating. She tried to reason with him and explain she had not been unfaithful, but Max refused to listen. He became increasingly paranoid and controlling, even going so far as to check her phone and social media accounts for evidence of her supposed infidelity.

Lily eventually learned Max’s accusations were actually projections of his own infidelity onto her. Max had been cheating on Lily, and he was using gaslighting to make her doubt her own behavior and cover up his own wrongdoing. Through this experience, she learned she was not crazy or irrational. She deserved to be in a relationship where she was valued and respected.

5. Gaslighting Example: Minimizing

Your partner downplays your feelings or experiences, making you feel like they are not important or valid. Your partner may tell you that you are overreacting or being too sensitive when you express your feelings.


Ava loved Jack deeply and thought he felt the same way about her. But, as time went on, she started to notice Jack would often downplay her feelings or experiences. Whenever Ava tried to express her emotions, Jack would tell her she was overreacting or being too sensitive. He would make her feel like her feelings were not important or valid and she was making a big deal out of nothing.

At first, Ava tried to brush off Jack’s behavior, thinking maybe he just didn’t understand her. But as time went on, Jack’s minimizing became more frequent and intense. He would be dismissive of both her feelings and experiences. Ava felt like she was walking on eggshells around Jack. She started to doubt her own emotions and wondered if she was being irrational.

Through therapy and support from her family, Ava learned her feelings were valid and important. She deserved to be in a relationship where she was valued and respected.

Trusting Your Perspective

Recognizing gaslighting can be a difficult and confusing experience. Trusting your instincts is the first step in protecting yourself from this harmful behavior. If you feel like you are being gaslit, know you are not alone and help is available. Seeking support from a mental health professional can help you develop coping strategies to deal with the effects of gaslighting and rebuild your self-esteem and confidence.

It’s important to set boundaries with your partner and communicate your needs clearly. Remember you deserve to be treated with respect and kindness. If your partner is unwilling to change their behavior or seek help, it may be necessary to end the relationship. This can be a difficult decision to make, but prioritizing your mental health and well-being is crucial.

Reclaiming your truth and breaking free from the mind games may feel overwhelming, but working with a therapist or counselor can provide a supportive and empathetic space for healing. With time and support, you can overcome gaslighting and regain your confidence.

Reclaim your truth and break free from the mind games – work with Dr. Guess to overcome gaslighting and regain your confidence.

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