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Narcissism & Codependency

Have you ever wondered if you're in a relationship with someone who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder?  These relationships exist with romantic partners, family, friends, colleagues, and even strangers. Below is a list of common traits that someone with NPD might exhibit. 


  • Lack of empathy. Empathy is the ability to be aware of, care about, and share the feelings of another person.


  • Self-absorption and lack of interest in others. 
    Have you ever found yourself in a conversation with someone who is intent on telling you all about themselves, their experiences, thoughts, and feelings?  But once you offer a comment or thought, the person looks immediately disinterested and impatiently waits for an opportunity to turn the conversation back on themselves?  


  • Constant need for attention, praise, support, and reflection.  Someone with NPD will surround themselves with friends who have been carefully selected because they consistently provide them with these things. The narcissist in relationship can be imagined as a person standing in a circle of friends.  Instead of each friend’s unique face, a mirror sits on each set of shoulders, reflecting the image of the narcissist.


  • Defensive behaviors.  Defensive behaviors include manipulation, lying, anger, criticizing, blaming, and guilt trips.

Are you in a relationship with a narcissist? Consider quizzing yourself below.

If you're curious about whether or not you may be in a relationship with a narcissist, be it romantic, familial, professional, or social, consider answering these quiz questions to learn more.


If you scored a 70% or more, you are likely dealing with someone on the narcissistic spectrum. This page will offer insight into how therapy can help you navigate this relationship. 

Self-awareness is not self-centeredness, and spirituality is not narcissism. 'Know thyself' is not a narcissistic pursuit.

                           - Marianne Williamson

How to deal with a narcissistic person
Counseling for narcissistic relationships
Therapy can help you...
  • Clarify the often confusing and baffling perspective and behavior patterns of the narcissist as well as help you process through feelings such as hurt, confusion, anger, disappointment, and loss that have surfaced as a result.


  • Develop new and healthy ways of being in relationship by first helping you realize you are a separate person with your own needs, feelings, rights, preferences, opinions, and ability to make your own decisions.


  • Protect and prioritize yourself by learning assertiveness skills, including how to set limits and boundaries and assert your needs.


  • Prepare yourself for the narcissist's defensive behaviors that emerge as you begin to set boundaries and assert your needs.  Teach you how to maintain and follow through with limits and boundaries despite these defensive behaviors.


  • Learn the importance of self-care when dealing with narcissistic individuals and help you integrate it into your daily routine.

How does Codependency Fit in?

If you think you may be in relationship with someone who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder, you may struggle with some aspects of codependency.  While it is difficult to hone in on one all-encompassing definition, codependency can be summarized by excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner or other person. However, codependency has many characteristics and shows up in a variety of ways.  For the purposes of outlining key points in the NPD and Codependent dynamic, consider these three characteristics that come into play relatively consistently:


  • People-pleasing. Have you ever self-described as a people pleaser?  Maybe others have commented on how generous, thoughtful, and amicable you are?  Of course, we all like to please someone we care about, but codependents often go the extra mile. Saying “No” is anxiety producing and even the idea of it fills you with discomfort. As a result, you are consistently sacrificing your own needs in order to accommodate other people.  


  • Poor boundaries. Personal boundaries are limits, rules, or guidelines that we create to identify acceptable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave towards us and with us. They also define how we will respond when someone crosses those limits.  People who struggle with codependency have difficulty establishing and maintaining boundaries around their feelings, thoughts, and needs. Instead, they often sacrifice these things because they feel responsible for other people’s feelings and problems.

  • CaretakingDo you find yourself putting other people's problems, struggles, and needs before your own? If you’re struggling with poor boundaries, you may be putting other people ahead of yourself. You may even feel rejected if another person doesn’t want help. A key aspect of the codependent dynamic is a perpetual need to sacrifice yourself in order to help or fix the other person.

The Story of Narcissus

          In Greek mythology, Narcissus was the handsome youthful son of the river god, Chephissus.  His beauty was so captivating that he became the object of love and adoration of many women, but he rejected their advances.  Among the love-struck maidens, was the nymph, Echo, who, as a result of displeasing Hera, the goddess of marriage, was condemned to a life of silent thoughts and feelings; all she was able to do was echo back what was said to her.

          Therefore, upon falling in love with Narcissus, Echo was unable to tell him.  She could only watch and worship him at a distance.  One day, as Narcissus was walking in the woods, he became separated from his companions.  When he shouted, “Is anyone here?”  Echo joyfully answered, “Here, here.”  Unable to see her hidden among the trees, Narcissus cried, “Come!”

          “Come, come,” replied Echo as she stepped out from the trees that had shielded her.  With outstretched arms, Echo rushed toward Narcissus.  But he refused to accept her love.  She was so humiliated that she hid in a cave and, over time, disintegrated, until nothing was left of her but her voice.

          To punish Narcissus, Nemesis, the avenging goddess, made Narcissus fall hopelessly in love with himself and his own beautiful face. He spent the remainder of his life gazing in admiration at his image reflected in a pool.  Unable to remove himself from his own reflection, he laid on the ground at the edge of the water until he gradually pined away. At the place where his body had lain, a beautiful flower grew---it was named, Narcissus.

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