Narcissists have an inflated sense of self-importance and lack empathy.
As parents, narcissists may invalidate their childrens' emotions and be unable to offer emotional support.
A parent who has an excessive need for admiration and takes advantage of others could be one, psychologists say.
Narcissism is a personality disorder that exists on a spectrum. Anyone can exhibit signs of narcissism, like a lack of empathy and tendency to be hyper-critical, but 6% of the population is diagnosed with the most extreme form, narcissistic personality disorder, or NPD.
As parents, narcissists may exhibit qualities like extreme self-importance and view their kids as an extension of themselves. The children of narcissists might not realize how their parents' actions affected them until later in life.
Since children don't spend much time with a variety of adults, limited experience can make it difficult to see how your parental relationship could be negatively affecting you, Meghan Marcum, chief psychologist at AMFM Healthcare, told Insider.
"The child grows up in a household where these traits are constantly present and therefore does not have the context to consider how their parent might behave differently from other parents," Marcum said.
But as a child becomes an adult and compares their experiences to their peers, the signs of a narcissistic parent, like an excessive need for admiration and taking advantage of others, may become more obvious, according to Marcum.
Your parent's support feels conditional
Narcissists have an inflated sense of self-importance. As parents, they may view their children as extensions of themselves, which can result in shows of affection and support, but only when it makes them look good, according to Marcum.
She said this is more common in narcissistic mothers than fathers, who use more overt tactics like aggression to assert their superiority.
If you feel like your parent doted on your appearance or certain accomplishments you achieved, but was hypercritical at other times, it could mean they're a narcissist, according to Psychology Today.
Marcum said narcissists can become jealous if someone else becomes the center of attention, their children included, because it takes away from their need for excessive admiration.
Your parent often tells you your emotions are wrong
Since narcissists are hyper-focused on themselves, they often invalidate others' emotions to center their own, Marcum said.
Narcissists also lack empathy, so they have trouble relating to your emotions, including ones like fear, sadness, or disappointment. As a result, they might brush off your troubles or turn it back on themselves, rather than offer you empathy or support.
As an adult, you doubt yourself constantly
If a narcissistic parent continues to invalidate their child's emotions, it can lead to constant self-doubt as an adult, said Marcum.
"This happens because the supportive and loving environment needed to foster mental health is not present," she said.
You always feel like you have to be the best version of yourself around them
According to Marcum, feeling like you have to walk on eggshells around your parent could be another sign they're a narcissist.
It can lead children to be highly self-critical, avoid conflict, and feel like they have to be perfect at all times, a habit they could carry into future relationships, said Marcum.
"This leads to problems with attachment and an overall distorted view of what is typical and healthy in relationships," she said.
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