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Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a personality dysfunction identified by a pattern of disruptive behavior. However, the first image that comes to mind when most people hear the term “narcissist” is a manipulative, pathological lying, borderline sociopathic male.
Little do they know, narcissism does not discriminate. Female narcissists exist and chances are you’ve encountered at least one. She could be your bestie, romantic partner, sister, mother, or boss. Depending on her type of narcissism, her demeanor could be boastful, quiet but vindictive, hostile, calculating, or cruel.
By the time you get to the final thoughts on the subject, you’ll be well aware of the types of female narcissists, narcissist traits female narcs display, and the trouble they cause in interpersonal relationships.
What Is a Female Narcissist?
A narcissistic female is a woman who tends to act superior to others, lacks empathy, and can be cruel and vindictive. These are just a few of the dysfunctional traits or characteristics consistent with narcissistic personality disorder.
The Diagnostic Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-5) outlines several other toxic personality traits seen in both male and female narcissists alike, from as early as childhood. The core difference is narrowed down to how and why the traits manifest.
How Does Someone Become a Narcissist?
Researchers believe a person’s upbringing is largely responsible for narcissistic personality traits. The traits may also develop from having an oversensitive temperament as a child. Some narcissists are created as a result of excessive praise for good behavior during childhood. Others learn manipulative and exploitative behaviors from their parents or peers.
Narcissist behavior can be adaptive (healthy/functional) or maladaptive (unhealthy/dysfunctional). People showing low-range or healthy narcissism are those who are capable of using their traits to achieve success.
The dark side of narcissism comes out when an individual begins to exploit, manipulate, and emotionally abuse others.
Differences Between Female and Male Narcissists
A review of studies found that men tend to be more narcissistic than women. However, the narcissist female-to-male ratio isn’t the only difference.
Typical characteristics tend to manifest differently and less severely in women, making the female version harder to spot, according to a review assessment done on female narcissism.
Consequently, narcissistic women may get away with a lot more bad behavior than men who show similar traits. A lot of times, people simply paint them as being mean.
The opinion of narcissism experts is that male narcs tend to openly display a lot of anger in relationships. On the other hand, female narcissists are usually the ones behaving more viciously.
However, they may resort to more passive-aggressive responses such as withholding communication or affection. Experts also say females have greater empathy but are more prone to jealousy and envy than males.
Not only that, female narcs compete with their fellow females for superiority. Males generally don’t compete against other men but against themselves to achieve their goals.
To be fair, though, the traits and intensity of the behaviors depend on the type of narcissist.
Types of Female Narcissists
Narcissists, man or woman, come in different shades – as the famous licensed clinical psychologist, Dr. Ramani Durvasula, puts it. Overt and covert types are the most common. There is also a communal type. The types of narcissists to fear the most are the antagonistic and malignant ones.
Overt female narcissists
Otherwise known as classic or grandiose narcissists, they mostly interact with an air of superiority. They’ll make themselves appear well put together and confident.
At the same time, they’ll boast and brag about their accomplishments as a way of fishing for compliments. They’ll, make grand gestures, exaggerate details, and act entitled.
Also known as the undercover or vulnerable narcissist, this type keeps to themselves… primarily due to low self-esteem, poor self-image, and lack of self-confidence.
Having a reserved nature makes it harder for others to see their narcissism until they lose their cool and blow up.
It’s confusing to see someone who appears shy and reserved suddenly spazz out on you. The real personality comes out once the narcissist’s mask falls off.
Be prepared to witness more toxic behaviors moving forward.
An antagonistic female gets vengeful and destructive when others do things that provoke her. She’s usually on edge, flies off the handle very quickly, and loves to argue.
She’ll bait you into a disagreement or physical fight and also uses aggression and put-downs to gain control.
This type is labeled as malignant because of their harmful and sometimes dangerous behaviors, e.g., physical abuse.
Malignant narcissists lack the most empathy and have traits and characteristics that closely resemble those seen in people diagnosed as antisocial or sociopathic.
15 Female Narcissist Personality Traits and Warning Signs
As with male narcissists, the following traits and behavior patterns seen in females usually depend on if they’re leaning toward grandiose, vulnerable, communal, antagonistic, or malignant narcissism.
The degree to which their actions negatively affect others also depends on where on the narcissist scale they fall.
Narcissism ranges from mild to extreme. The Higher the Score, the Darker the Core is the title of an article written by researchers Emanuel Jauk and Scott Barry Kaufman. The title says it all!
#1. She has a fake persona
Nothing much is genuine about a female narc. If you’re someone with Spidey-senses like I am, you can sense her insincerity from a mile away. She sports a superficial charm and her energy screams, “fake!”
Like other narcissists, she’s wearing a ‘mask’ to hide her true personality and intentions. You’ll see the cold and cruel side only after she successfully has you under her control. By now, she must have done something nefarious, such as gaslighting or cheating, to create a trauma bond with you.
A pattern of causing you emotional trauma and polishing it over with love and affection afterward (intermittent reinforcement) is part of the emotional abuse.
#2. She thinks she’s the baddest chick in the room
Even though it may not be the case, a female narcissist struts around, head up, chin high like she’s better than every other woman that ever walked the planet. She swears she’s God’s gift to men.
Underneath all of the makeup, designer clothing, and stilettos is a fake, insecure woman who lacks self-confidence. In actuality, she envies other women who are genuinely confident and happy with themselves. Within herself, she feels like the least valuable person in the room.
#3. She’s unaware of the feelings of others
A hallmark trait of narcissism is a lack of empathy. Add a lack of compassion as well to the list of negative traits.
Empathy is being able to imagine yourself in the same situation as another person and feel how they might be feeling at the time. Since she lacks the ability to emotionally connect on an emphatic level, she’s able to effortlessly say nasty things to make others feel inferior. Hurting and angering people inflates her fragile ego and makes her feel superior.
#4. She antagonizes people
Wherever this woman goes, drama follows. She’s argumentative and exhibits a higher level of hostility than a male narc. Her belligerence and constant lashing out at others with intense anger are emotionally abusive behaviors.
It’s only a matter of time before her abrasive personality destroys the trust and happiness in close relationships.
Of course, this usually happens after the mask slips and she’s no longer able to keep up her fake persona. By the time you realize what hit you, you’re already emotionally invested in the relationship or friendship.
#5. She uses others for personal gains
I have a so-called friend, Annalisa, who only contacts me whenever she needs something. If she ever asks how I’m doing, it usually comes as an afterthought.
She has shown the same pattern of behavior for more than 20 years now. I suspect she’s a narcissist only because I noticed several other narcissist traits female narcs have.
Narcissist women are generally selfish and exploitative, similar to male narcissists. They’ll stick around only if they can benefit from you in some way or another.
They’re always calculating what’s in it for them (narcissistic supply), whether it’s attention, money, sex, or social status.
#6. She manipulates and exploits others
Narcissists have trouble with positive communication and expressing their needs, so they rely on dubious tactics to get their needs met. These include control, threats, coercion, manipulation, gaslighting, and guilt-tripping.
The female narcissist tends to manipulate others by caretaking or playing the victim to win their affection.
Sometimes she’ll withhold sex as she deems fit to gain gifts, money, or favors. Getting what she wants boosts her confidence.
She feels powerful, but only for a short time until her low self-esteem and sense of emptiness start acting up again.
#7. She’s never satisfied
People diagnosed with NPD are often described as being empty shells with an emotional void that’s impossible to fill. The female narc will do all manner of things, including seeking affection and attention from multiple partners, to feel whole and worthy.
What do you know? She still wants more and keeps on chasing after whatever material things she could get her hands on just to feel satisfied. She may experience moments of pleasure but feels worthless once the emotion subsides.
It isn’t uncommon for female narcissists to turn to sex, alcohol, or drugs to cope with feelings of emptiness.
#8. She does things to make you feel crazy
Gaslighting is one of the manipulation tools of narcissism used to create mental confusion. In a relationship with this female, she may lie to you straight to your face about things you can prove are lies with solid evidence, including photos.
If you question the tall tales, she will lie again, dispute the evidence, or say, “You don’t have a clue what you’re talking about.” Don’t take this BS. Find out how to turn the tables on a gaslighter and pathological liar.
#9. She acts out of character when criticized
A narc female tends to act sweet, kind, and loving until you say something she perceives as a put-down. She wants to be the only one leveling judgment and criticism.
Ironically, she’s highly sensitive to criticism and feedback and will quickly lose her temper over it. She’ll become difficult to converse and reason with. You may witness reactions disproportionate to the statement made, such as aggression or hostility.
Loved ones sometimes think the woman has Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) due to her erratic behavior. It’s not surprising since both NPD and BPD are cluster B personality disorders.
#10. She fears abandonment
She acts like she’s independent and has it together, but underneath she’s anxious and fears abandonment. Although she may not be aware of the effects her emotionally intense, antagonistic, or passive-aggressive ways have on others, she knows that people don’t stick around long.
Her behavior sabotages her chances for healthy relationships and pushes her partners away. This causes anxiety and fears of abandonment and loss.
However, the fear of loss isn’t due to her love and care for you. Narcissists lack empathy and have difficulty experiencing emotions such as love, guilt, and shame. What she really fears is losing all the benefits she’s getting from the relationship, and will do almost anything to avoid the loss.
#11. She demands a lot of attention
If the woman you suspect is a narcissist also likes being the center of attention, then she just might be a narcissist. She’s demanding, period, mainly because of a sense of entitlement.
She truly believes she’s better than everyone and deserves to get special treatment. She’ll go out of her way to be seen, e.g., by frequently posting racy photos on Instagram.
Some female narcissists are intentionally loud and aggressive. They know behaving in that manner will turn attention to them. They tend to be clingy and controlling in relationships to keep their man’s attention solely on them.
#12. She competes with her girlfriends
Competitiveness is seen in both genders. However, the female narc competes against her own female friends and loved ones. She craves attention and admiration, so she'll do anything to steal the spotlight from them.
To her, they are a threat. She’s vain, superficial, and materialistic and will go to great lengths to outdo them. Like Snow White’s stepmother, she wants to be counted as the most beautiful, most fashionable, and smartest of them all.
#13. She uses her sexuality to control men
Even though she might be drop-dead gorgeous, she’s still insecure at the core and has low self-esteem. To compensate for her insecurity, she uses sexual dominance and control to keep her man interested.
She’ll likely use seduction tactics to attract men and get whatever it is she’s after. It could be sex, money, social connections, property, commitment, marriage, or even kids.
Because narcissists are generally loyal only to themselves, she is okay with dating more than one man at the same time to maximize the material benefits.
A lack of commitment and fidelity might explain why many females with NPD have a history of short-term relationships.
#14. She’s extremely jealous, spiteful, and vindictive
Jealousy comes into play largely because of her competitiveness, lack of self-love, and inability to validate her own self.
Beautiful and intelligent women are instantly seen as a threat. Even with friends, she’ll act jealous and envious of their achievements.
If you do something she doesn’t like, she’ll hold that grudge and try to get even. At times, she can be delusional, thinking other women are jealous of her because of her looks, success, material possessions, or the man she has.
#15. She’s emotionally distant from her children
Narcissistic mothers are more likely to be emotionally detached from their children just as they are from their partners. They might also have a greater tendency to neglect, abuse, or abandon their children.
Self-centeredness and not being able to feel for others make it easier to emotionally and physically leave their kids.
The narcissistic female friend I referred to earlier abandoned her three children. She divorced her husband and left him with their three girls, all under the age of five. She left and immediately moved in together with another man.
To this day, I can’t wrap my head around how she was able to carry on like they didn’t exist.
Final Thoughts on Female Narcissist Traits
Behavior experts and therapists explained that some narcissists behave badly to cope with stress and low self-esteem. Regardless, dealing with a narcissist is difficult and it changes you. You run the risk of emotional harm caused by their persistent lying, controlling, manipulative, and exploitative ways.
You have to set boundaries and take other steps to protect yourself from the effects of their abusive behavior. What’s daunting is how relentlessly they go after their own needs and won’t hesitate to ignore your boundaries to get their way.
Sometimes you have to call them out, turn the tables on them, delete them from your life, or make them miserable. Want more tips? See 17 Ways to Make a Narcissist Really Fear You.
Finally, if you want to identify YOUR personality type, then take one of these 11 personality tests to better understand what makes you tick.