Creepy Behaviors That Reveal A Narcissist’s True Colors

Creepy Behaviors That Reveal A Narcissist’s True Colors

Narcissists are usually pretty charismatic and can be masters of disguise, which then makes it hard to spot the cracks in their carefully constructed facade. However, behind the charm, there are often some pretty dark tendencies. Here are some of the creepy behaviors that slowly reveal their true characters.

1. They create intense, whirlwind connections, then suddenly disengage.

Narcissists thrive on the rush of idealization, Verywell Mind explains. They shower you with attention, affection, and mirror your interests with uncanny accuracy, creating the illusion of an instant soulmate connection. It’s intoxicating… until it abruptly stops. This emotional whiplash isn’t about genuine connection, unfortunately — it’s about power. They get hooked on the thrill of winning you over, but as soon as they feel that you’re invested, they pull away, leaving you confused and desperate for their approval.

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2. They exploit your empathy and weaponize guilt.

Sharing your vulnerabilities with a narcissist is a dangerous game. Rather than supporting you, they subtly exploit your openness. Any negative experience you’ve had becomes ammunition to make you feel guilty, paint themselves as the victim, and deflect responsibility for their own hurtful behavior. When you challenge them, they might pretend to be fragile or easily triggered, exaggerate past traumas, or claim you’re “too sensitive” to manipulate you into overlooking their toxic behavior. Don’t fall for it!

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3. They pathologically lie, gaslight, and distort reality.

Narcissists don’t simply tell half-truths; they distort reality to fit their preferred narrative. They might lie about anything from mundane to major events, and they’re not fazed in the slightest even when you point out the contradictions. Gaslighting you – making you question your own memory or sanity – is a powerful tactic they use to maintain control. They want to decimate your confidence in your own judgment, which then makes you more reliant on their skewed version of events.

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4. They lack genuine remorse or the ability to truly apologize.

If a narcissist does say “sorry,” it’s usually hollow and strategic. The focus is likely on how their actions impacted them, e.g., “I’m sorry this hurt you; I don’t want to lose our friendship.” They might deflect (“You did this, too!”) or minimize your feelings. True apologies involve acknowledging the hurt they caused without conditions, accepting full responsibility, and a commitment to change. Narcissists aren’t really down with this.

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5. They constantly compare you to other people in negative ways.

One minute they’re telling you how special you are, the next they’re referencing an ex-partner, friend, or colleague as seemingly better at everything. This subtle undermining slowly but surely unravels your self-esteem. The narcissist’s goal isn’t to improve you; it’s to fuel a sense of insecurity that makes you desperate to win their favor and prove you’re worthy of their conditional love.

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6. They use jealousy as a tool to control and manipulate.

Flirting with other people in front of you, deliberately talking about their exes, or making up BS stories of people being interested in them isn’t about their desirability; it’s about stoking your jealousy. Narcissists want you to feel insecure and off-balance, making you work harder for their attention. Healthy relationships involve trust and security; narcissists thrive on creating distrust and making their partners feel they have to constantly compete for affection.

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7. They disappear or use the silent treatment as a form of punishment.

smiling woman sitting at desk

When you don’t conform to their expectations, try to hold them accountable, or prioritize your own needs, they might ice you out. Prolonged silence, unanswered texts, and vanishing from social media are weapons. The confusion and desperation it creates in you reaffirms their sense of power. Healthy people address conflict through communication; narcissists inflict punishment through withdrawal, making you terrified of rocking the boat ever again.

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8. They use charm or intimidation to isolate you from other people.

serious woman talking on phone outdoors

Your support system poses a threat to a narcissist’s control. They’ll either try to win over your loved ones with their superficial charm (then subtly turn them against you behind your back) or try to undermine those relationships altogether. They may criticize your friends, sow seeds of doubt about family members, or become irrationally jealous of the time you spend with those outside their sphere of influence. Their goal is to make you dependent solely on them for validation and support.

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9. Every conversation subtly revolves around them.

serious man making business speech

Even when you’re sharing a personal victory or discussing a problem you’re facing, the narcissist finds a way to steer the conversation back to them. They might one-up your experience, downplay your problems, or use your vulnerability as an opportunity to rehash a time they faced something “so much worse.” True intimacy requires mutual sharing and support; with a narcissist, you’ll constantly feel like a supporting character in their own star vehicle.

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10. They engage in smear campaigns and play the victim with flying monkeys.

man with striped shirt looking serious

When a narcissist senses you’re pulling away, they often preemptively rewrite the narrative to smear your reputation. They play the victim, spinning tales of your “abuse” to strategically garner sympathy and isolate you from your support system. “Flying monkeys” are the people they manipulate to rally to their cause, Psychology Today explains, who unknowingly become instruments of the narcissist’s campaign to discredit and further hurt you. This damage control tactic aims to maintain their image and preserve their ability to manipulate other people.

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11. They project their own flaws and insecurities onto you.

man with serious face in autumn park

Narcissists can’t handle genuine introspection. To protect their fragile ego, they project their worst qualities onto you. If they’re prone to jealousy, they’ll accuse you of being unreasonably possessive. If they’re dishonest, they’ll scrutinize your every word for signs of lying. It’s a way of externalizing their inner shame and avoiding painful self-reflection. You’re left feeling defensive, trying to disprove untrue accusations and perpetually off-balance.

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12. They sabotage your success or create chaos during good times.

A job promotion, a blossoming new relationship, or even simply feeling good about yourself can threaten a narcissist’s control. They cannot tolerate your happiness if it’s independent of them. They might suddenly pick a fight, dredge up unresolved past issues, or find a way to rain on your parade. Subconsciously, they need to be the center of attention, and your positive momentum disrupts the balance and makes them feel insecure.

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13. They constantly switch between hot and cold.

One day they’re showering you with affection, the next, they’re withholding and emotionally distant. This erratic roller coaster is intentional. It maintains a state of uncertainty, making you crave those moments of love-bombing and desperately strive to regain their approval. This cycle of intermittent reinforcement creates a kind of addiction, keeping you bound to the narcissist despite the pain and confusion they inflict.

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14. They never truly respect your boundaries.

Portrait of handsome Caucasian man with modern technology for communication standing on urban setting and posing, bearded user of smartphone in optical eyewear for vision correction looking at camera

When you say “no,” assert your need for space, or attempt to create healthy limits, the narcissist views it as defiance. They might pout, guilt-trip you, or outright ignore your boundaries. They have an inflated sense of entitlement and believe the rules shouldn’t apply to them. Respecting your boundaries would imply that you are a separate individual with autonomy, a concept they instinctively fight against.

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15. They have a terrifying, unpredictable temper.

serious blonde woman sitting on bed

Narcissistic rage is unlike healthy anger. It’s volatile and disproportionate, fueled by even a minor perceived slight to their fragile ego. They might hurl insults, inflict emotional abuse, threaten, or become physically intimidating. The rage aims to silence criticism, instill fear, and force you back into submission. These outbursts reveal the true nature lurking beneath their charming mask.

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16. They drain you of energy and leave you feeling empty inside.

angry woman indoor portrait

Interactions with a narcissist are exhausting. You’re constantly navigating their moods, walking on eggshells, and analyzing your every word to avoid triggering them. They erode your self-confidence, leaving you a shadow of your former self. Even if you intellectually recognize their manipulative behavior, the emotional toll can leave you feeling empty, anxious, and questioning your own worth.

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Harper Stanley graduated from Eugene Lang College at The New School in NYC in 2006 with a degree in Media Studies and Literature and Critical Analysis. After graduating, she worked as an editorial assistant at The Atlantic before moving to the UK to work for the London Review of Books.

When she's not waxing poetic about literature, she's writing articles about dating, relationships, and other women's lifestyle topics to help make their lives better. While shocking, she really has somehow managed to avoid joining any social media apps — a fact she's slightly smug about.