While we often talk about narcissists as if they are a completely different species, the fact is everyone is a little narcissistic now and again. But, are you or your loved ones too narcissistic? Here are the levels of narcissism, from healthy to dangerous, to help you determine what is normal and what isn’t.
Level 1 — Normal Healthy Levels of Narcissism
Everyone exhibits some degree of narcissism in their day to day lives. These narcissistic tendencies can take the form of —
- Natural desire to be liked
- Confidence bordering on over-confidence
- An expectation that things should come easy to you
The Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) is a test for people with levels of narcissism that don’t necessarily meet the clinical definition of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). This test has is used to measure narcissism in the general population, showing that the average NPI score is between 15 and 18 out of 40. Additionally, the average level of narcissism has been increasing between 1980–2006. Although I don’t have access to more recent data than this, the trend has likely continued to this day.
- Take the Narcissistic Personality Inventory for free
- Also: “How to Tell If You Are a Narcissist | One Sure-Fire Test Better than Any Quiz”
Even a high score in this test is nothing to worry about since it doesn’t diagnose NPD or clinical narcissism.
However, because narcissism is an inevitable part of our personality, it is incumbent on everyone to understand and counter narcissistic tendencies when they lead us down the wrong path. A desire to be like can both serve as motivation to succeed and as a reason to act unethically in search of success. When we leverage the first and reject the second, we use narcissism to our advantage.
Level 2 — The Well-Adjusted Narcissist
It is common for people with moderate levels of narcissism to be well-liked because of their narcissistic traits. Narcissists with this level of NPD, which are sometimes clinically diagnosable, are often described as —
- Natural Leader
I think many Hollywood stars and famous politicians fall into this category.
Narcissists with this level of affliction have found outlets for their narcissistic personality traits and fit into society. While they may not reign in their qualities much, they have managed to avoid or control narcissism’s most destructive aspects. At least for the time being.
For other jobs where you are likely to find a well-adjusted narcissist, see —
Level 3 — The Borderline Narcissist
Borderline narcissist is the first level where narcissism starts to affect the lives of its victims negatively. While narcissists at this level can be fine much of the time, they will have occasional narcissistic outbursts.
Note: This level doesn’t necessarily refer to narcissists who have borderline personality disorder. You can read more about this here:
Signs of a narcissist on the borderline of dysfunction includes —
- They are fun to have around so long as you follow their lead
- Sometimes, they seem to blow up for no apparent reason
- Losing anything competitive makes them aggressive or depressed
- They always have to be the center of attention
Borderline narcissism is the moderate severity of narcissism and can often mean that a narcissist is at a crossroads. Here they have the potential to either reign in their egotism and return to manageable levels or to let their selfishness take over and rise the ranks to a grandiose narcissist.
Level 4 — The Grandiose Narcissist
Grandiose narcissists are those that have let narcissism take over their life. In this level of severity, narcissism is the driving factor in most major life decisions. Grandiose narcissists will choose —
- Romantic partners
- Children or lack of children
— primary based on their inflated sense of self-importance and how they believe their decisions reflect on their image
At this level, negative traits of narcissism will significantly impact relationships. This, in turn, drives a narcissist to frequently change jobs and move between romantic partners much more quickly than average.
You can find additional signs of high levels of narcissism here:
Level 5 — The Malignant or Psychotic Narcissist
Malignant or Psychotic narcissists are extremely dangerous. In such individuals, their level of narcissism is too high that they will lash out and intentionally hurt others because of it.
Examples of behavior than you might see from a malignant narcissist include:
- Strict adherence to an ideology that makes them superior while allowing them to be aggressive towards their opponents
- Seeking to destroy, symbolically castrate, or dehumanize others
- A deep-seated paranoia, irrationally so
- Love conspiracy theories
- A tendency to commit aggrieve crimes like burglary, assault, or murder
- Gravitate towards fanatical groups like cults or terrorist organizations
- A rage-fueled by a desire for revenge
- Torturing animals
- Assertions of dominance over the weak or children
- Having no neutral opinions of other people: either cutting them down or idolizing them
More details on recognizing malignant narcissists in this article:
Are there different levels of narcissism?
While expression of narcissistic traits naturally varies from individual, Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is diagnosed clinically if you meet five of nine criteria without assessing levels of narcissism. Sub-clinically, the Narcissistic Personality Inventory is a widely used measure of narcissism that assigns a narcissism score with one point for each question answered.
What is a healthy level of narcissism?
Having healthy levels of narcissism means you can be confident, self-promoting, and driven to success without dangerously overestimating your abilities, refusing to take criticism, or manipulating others to get ahead.