A Tidal Wave Of Narcissists?

Cloudbusting

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I'm not on social media a huge amount, however I use it to a small degree and I tend to read forums etc.

Over the past year, I've noticed a trend of an increasing number of people determining other people's actions and behaviour to be narcissistic. These people are often talking about family and friends and obviously I don't know these people personally so I can't really comment, but it's not uncommon to see people writing about how they've cut others out of their lives for 'narc' behaviour. When I've read some of the situations involved (one sided of course) some of it strikes me as unpleasant/rude, but not truly narcissistic...

I guess what surprises me is the number of people I've seen calling others 'narcs' as if it was a defining character trait. We all have a capacity for narcissism and I have certainly witnessed this, but I have rarely thought another person is a 'narc', or actually has narcissistic personality disorder. In fact, I'm more convinced of a couple of psychopaths I think I've come across (admittedly, probably an 'overdiagnosed' condition over the past 10 years).

I wonder what this says about our society. Is it sloppy/misunderstood language, or is it just a convenient catch all term for bad behaviour that's currently in vogue? On the other hand are we becoming less tolerant as a society and happy to cut off others, a personal form of cancel culture?

Just some observations really, interested to hear what others think.

P.S. To be clear, I understand sometimes you have to cut people out of your life for very good reasons (that don't need to be explained to the entire internet!) but the linguistics of this has intrigued me.
 

EnolaGaia

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Are you sure all the references to "narc" are alluding to "narcissism"?

At least in popular American parlance, "narc" has a long history as a label for someone who sells out / betrays / snitches on someone so as to get them busted for drug violations. A cop specializing in drug investigations and / or a drug-related informant was called a narc as early as the 1960s. The use of the label spread to anyone who worked to root out or unmask drug offenses by the late Sixties / early Seventies. Since then, the term also came to be used as a verb meaning to snitch on someone in relation to drug offenses.
 

Cloudbusting

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Are you sure all the references to "narc" are alluding to "narcissism"?

At least in popular American parlance, "narc" has a long history as a label for someone who sells out / betrays / snitches on someone so as to get them busted for drug violations. A cop specializing in drug investigations and / or a drug-related informant was called a narc as early as the 1960s. The use of the label spread to anyone who worked to root out or unmask drug offenses by the late Sixties / early Seventies. Since then, the term also came to be used as a verb meaning to snitch on someone in relation to drug offenses.

I understand where you're coming from, but I'm almost certain that 99% of the 'narc' references I've seen are short hand for narcissist.
 

EnolaGaia

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Interesting, I've never heard 'narc' as referencing a narcissist, only a drug undercover officer.
At least in my area.

Learn something new every day ... Yep - "narc" is now slang term for a narcissist. I've found online references to this usage dating back at least as far as 2012, apparently originating with the woman who wrote a book about her divorce experience entitled "The Narc Decoder". See:

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/post_4269_b_2346919
 

Ronnie Jersey

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Wonder what area 'Cloudbusting' lives in - our slang terms may be different in the NYC area. LOL
However, I also notice that there is a general feeling of being 'self-obsessed' or 'self-absorbed' with little concern for others when out and about.
 

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When I worked at a roofing company, I was amazed to hear all the different pronunciations of the word 'roof' -
Roof - rhyming with 'poof'
Ruf - rhyming with 'woof'
Ruff - pronounced as 'rough'

I answered the phones, and sometimes didn't understand what the customers were on about!
 

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Interesting, I've never heard 'narc' as referencing a narcissist, only a drug undercover officer.
At least in my area.

In English slang a 'nark' is, or was (maybe not so common now) slang for an informer - as in 'copper's nark'. I'm not sure the derivation is known; the theory that it's from the Romany for nose is apparently unproven, although it would kind of make sense.
 
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catseye

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Nowadays practically every reference to a 'narc' online is referring to someone who has been 'diagnosed' as a narcissist, usually by the person they have injured/argued with or generally come up against.

I've noticed it too, @Cloudbusting, and it drives me mad. From teenagers on Reddit 'my narc mum makes me clean my room when I'd rather be gaming' to other fora where almost everyone is suddenly being called a 'narcissist' because they disagree with someone else's opinions. Some people are using 'narc' interchangeably with 'selfish' almost as though selfishness has stopped existing and ramped up to become a pathological condition.

I do not believe for one second that all of these people are 'narcissists'. It just makes their oponent feel better if they can pathologise behaviour like a professional - a problem which is currently running riot pretty much everywhere, you've only got to look at a few fora online to find that every second person has now been diagnosed as 'on the spectrum', 'a passive-aggressive bully' and, for all I know 'someone whose mother clearly didn't give enough cuddles.'
 

Eponastill

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I'm not on social media a huge amount, however I use it to a small degree and I tend to read forums etc.

Over the past year, I've noticed a trend of an increasing number of people determining other people's actions and behaviour to be narcissistic. These people are often talking about family and friends and obviously I don't know these people personally so I can't really comment, but it's not uncommon to see people writing about how they've cut others out of their lives for 'narc' behaviour. When I've read some of the situations involved (one sided of course) some of it strikes me as unpleasant/rude, but not truly narcissistic...
I do know it's all over youtube. I mean I do watch some videos with a sort of psychological element to them, so videos mentioning it would come up for me with the algorithm or whatever. But yes I too have noticed people in real life mentioning it as well (mostly as a way to express their dislike for other people's behaviour). So I think discussions mentioning it are kind of out there in a zeitgeisty sort of way at the moment. At least amongst the sort of people that watch too much youtube. (and probably other platforms that I don't use).

Maybe before you would have just called those people an a-hole. But now you can call them a narcissist it sounds more credible and scientific and as though you're Right. And also it makes however they're behaving sound like entirely their responsibility, and nothing to do with your own interactions with them. hmm am I a cynic. Well I think there's a bit of over-diagnosing going on! And I admit to having been caught up in it myself, feeling smug to have spotted some symptoms in a colleague I was finding difficult. But actually it stifles your relationship with people to just write them off as narcissists and to colour everything they do with the term. Everyone can be a bit selfish. Surely a true narcissist has an unusual brain and we don't meet many true narcissists. Thank god.
 

Tunn11

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Nowadays practically every reference to a 'narc' online is referring to someone who has been 'diagnosed' as a narcissist, usually by the person they have injured/argued with or generally come up against.

I've noticed it too, @Cloudbusting, and it drives me mad. From teenagers on Reddit 'my narc mum makes me clean my room when I'd rather be gaming' to other fora where almost everyone is suddenly being called a 'narcissist' because they disagree with someone else's opinions. Some people are using 'narc' interchangeably with 'selfish' almost as though selfishness has stopped existing and ramped up to become a pathological condition.

I do not believe for one second that all of these people are 'narcissists'. It just makes their oponent feel better if they can pathologise behaviour like a professional - a problem which is currently running riot pretty much everywhere, you've only got to look at a few fora online to find that every second person has now been diagnosed as 'on the spectrum', 'a passive-aggressive bully' and, for all I know 'someone whose mother clearly didn't give enough cuddles.'
From my younger days it was the accusation that they had not had proper potty training!

Best comeback to the narcissist accusation I heard was: " How can I be? Some of my best friends are daffodils."
 

Coal

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Surely a true narcissist has an unusual brain and we don't meet many true narcissists. Thank god.

I suspect there's a general conflation of; narcissism as a trait (behaving a bit like a narcissist to varying degrees), with narcissism as a pathology, so narcissism to such high levels it's characterised as a pathological disorder (narcissistic personality disorder).

Societally, I’d suggest we've normalised narcissism as a trait to some extent - behaviours that would have caused a certain amount of negative feedback (showing off) are now accepted and encouraged in some circles and it’s edging towards the stage where not ‘celebrating’ other’s uniqueness marks one out for censure.
 

maximus otter

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It's another aspect of today's medicalisation of everything. Your kid can't be a bundle of energy: he must have ADHD. You can't be a drunk driver: you must have PTSD. You can't be a stroppy bastard: you must have Oppositional Defiant Disorder.

Because it's a "medical condition", you are absolved of all responsibility. The substandard health care you have received is the issue, you are the victim; and in today's society, the most enviable status of all appears to be that of victim.

maximus otter
 
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Tunn11

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It's another aspect of today's medicalisation of everything. Your kid can't be a bundle of energy: he must have ADHD. You can't be a drunk driver: you must have PTSD. You can't be a stroppy bastard: you must have Oppositional Defiant Disorder.

Because it's a "medical condition", you are absolved of all responsibility. The substandard health care you have received is the issue; you are the victim; and in today's society, the most enviable status of all appears to be that of victim.

maximus otter
South Park of course had a take on that, a bit over simplistic but....

 

PeteByrdie

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Unfortunately, 'narcissism' and 'passive-aggressive' are terms that belong in psychological analysis but which can be used by anyone to dismiss people who make them feel bad. Like many such terms, extending far beyond psychology, it can be used quite correctly to describe someone's behaviour, but can also be used by someone displaying those behaviours to dismiss those opposing them.

Everyone thinks their own behaviour and feelings are legitimate, partly because, frankly, people are not taught what they should be that their feelings don't actually mean anything. So, outside of any professional analysis, a genuine narcissist might think a partner or friend who doesn't take their feelings into account is narcissistic, when that other person has probably long since stopped living their lives around them.

Similarly, passive-aggressive behaviour is built around a compulsion to score points, a compulsion that I've noticed those people often are unaware of. It tends to bring out similar behaviour in others, who the instigator can then accuse of that behaviour.
 

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It's another aspect of today's medicalisation of everything. Your kid can't be a bundle of energy: he must have ADHD. You can't be a drunk driver: you must have PTSD. You can't be a stroppy bastard: you must have Oppositional Defiant Disorder.

Because it's a "medical condition", you are absolved of all responsibility. The substandard health care you have received is the issue, you are the victim; and in today's society, the most enviable status of all appears to be that of victim.

maximus otter
I thought I was the only one noticing this, and am surprised it is rampant over there in the UK as well, I thought you guys were more sensible.
Nowadays, almost every day we hear about this or that child being 'autistic' - so they must be treated 'specially'.
I'm not trying to belittle the condition, but how can all these children suddenly be 'autistic', just a few years ago we never heard that term at all.
Yes, you're right - the 'victim' status makes us special. Ridiculous.
 
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Cloudbusting

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Wonder what area 'Cloudbusting' lives in - our slang terms may be different in the NYC area. LOL
However, I also notice that there is a general feeling of being 'self-obsessed' or 'self-absorbed' with little concern for others when out and about.

I'm from the UK Ronnie, so yes our slang is definitely different! I suspect a fair amount of what I've read online comes from the UK and US, although I can't say for definite. I don't think I've actually heard someone use language like this irl, like a throwaway 'oh X is a real narc'.

Nowadays practically every reference to a 'narc' online is referring to someone who has been 'diagnosed' as a narcissist, usually by the person they have injured/argued with or generally come up against.

I've noticed it too, @Cloudbusting, and it drives me mad. From teenagers on Reddit 'my narc mum makes me clean my room when I'd rather be gaming' to other fora where almost everyone is suddenly being called a 'narcissist' because they disagree with someone else's opinions. Some people are using 'narc' interchangeably with 'selfish' almost as though selfishness has stopped existing and ramped up to become a pathological condition.

I do not believe for one second that all of these people are 'narcissists'. It just makes their oponent feel better if they can pathologise behaviour like a professional - a problem which is currently running riot pretty much everywhere, you've only got to look at a few fora online to find that every second person has now been diagnosed as 'on the spectrum', 'a passive-aggressive bully' and, for all I know 'someone whose mother clearly didn't give enough cuddles.'

I couldn't like this comment more, you've described exactly what I'm finding! And yes I totally agree, it's not just the narcissism 'diagnosis' running rampant. For example, I have recently seen many women complaining online about their husbands not helping with the housework/kids, or simply not being the most sociable chap in the world, and you can guarantee there will be replies saying 'are you sure he's not on the spectrum?' It's bonkers. I actually listened to a podcast episode a while ago all about how there seem to be an increasing amount of women who think their husbands have autism.

I do know it's all over youtube. I mean I do watch some videos with a sort of psychological element to them, so videos mentioning it would come up for me with the algorithm or whatever. But yes I too have noticed people in real life mentioning it as well (mostly as a way to express their dislike for other people's behaviour). So I think discussions mentioning it are kind of out there in a zeitgeisty sort of way at the moment. At least amongst the sort of people that watch too much youtube. (and probably other platforms that I don't use).

Maybe before you would have just called those people an a-hole. But now you can call them a narcissist it sounds more credible and scientific and as though you're Right. And also it makes however they're behaving sound like entirely their responsibility, and nothing to do with your own interactions with them. hmm am I a cynic. Well I think there's a bit of over-diagnosing going on! And I admit to having been caught up in it myself, feeling smug to have spotted some symptoms in a colleague I was finding difficult. But actually it stifles your relationship with people to just write them off as narcissists and to colour everything they do with the term. Everyone can be a bit selfish. Surely a true narcissist has an unusual brain and we don't meet many true narcissists. Thank god.

Yes, I totally agree. Most of the time (based on what people write which may not be the full picture) I'd argue the behaviour described as arsy at best... it's like 'narc' and other words are used to sound more credible.

All of your replies reassure me I'm not going mad and it is a bit bonkers! I swear I was born in the wrong decade lol. I can't claim to be the best writer in the world and I know I get words wrong at times but I just detest hyperbolic and sloppy language.
 

Coal

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I'm getting old, when I was a kid being on the spectrum would have had something to do with fighting the Mysterons.
Heh. I know a coupla people who are 'on the spectrum' genuinely (and are comfortable with it) and I'm just outside 'aspergers', though I admit that's a self report result, so may well be off 10 or 20%.

It bothers me that all too often people use 'on the spectrum' in the same way they used to use 'nerd' as a perjorative, meaning "Someone smarter than me who doesn't find me fascinating or like the things I do, so there must be something wrong with them."

...I'd remind those folk; "Remember who's working on Internet banking and who designed your smart-phones" :)

'Wambs' eh? :roll:
 

Tunn11

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Heh. I know a coupla people who are 'on the spectrum' genuinely (and are comfortable with it) and I'm just outside 'aspergers', though I admit that's a self report result, so may well be off 10 or 20%.

It bothers me that all too often people use 'on the spectrum' in the same way they used to use 'nerd' as a perjorative, meaning "Someone smarter than me who doesn't find me fascinating or like the things I do, so there must be something wrong with them."

...I'd remind those folk; "Remember who's working on Internet banking and who designed your smart-phones" :)

'Wambs' eh? :roll:
I've worked with someone genuinely on the spectrum as well. I only knew because I had to do sickness reviews cos he'd broken his leg! There was all sorts of speculation over the years about various people (mostly well intentioned) being on the spectrum but never about him. He was an interesting guy to talk to, very bright, weird sense of humour.
 

Coal

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I've worked with someone genuinely on the spectrum as well. I only knew because I had to do sickness reviews cos he'd broken his leg! There was all sorts of speculation over the years about various people (mostly well intentioned) being on the spectrum but never about him. He was an interesting guy to talk to, very bright, weird sense of humour.
I know one such. Very bright, smart, outwardly very social. In the office. Outside the office is a mystery to most and deliberately so, they spend it with 'people like them' (I've known this person for some years, professionally).
 

PeteByrdie

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I thought I was the only one noticing this, and am surprised it is rampant over there in the UK as well, I thought you guys were more sensible.
Nowadays, almost every day we hear about this or that child being 'autistic' - so they must be treated 'specially'.
I'm not trying to belittle the condition, but how can all these children suddenly be 'autistic', just a few years ago we never heard that term at all.
Yes, you're right - the 'victim' status makes us special. Ridiculous.
I think autism was rarely diagnosed before. My ex's daughter was autistic, and she showed a lot of qualities I've been fighting against in myself my whole life. Sure enough, an online test suggested I was likely autistic. I don't trust those tests, and anyway parkinsons disease is my problem for the rest of my life, but it makes me wonder whether I would have been diagnosed had I been born today. Whether we're correctly treating autism is another matter.
 

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Call me incurious, but I'm really quite uninterested in whether a person has a special name or label for their poor behaviour. And I certainly don't need a dose of medicalisation to justify my desire not to interact with anyone who demands hard work for little reward.

Your diagnosis is a matter for you and your doctor; out here in society, most of us (just about) are doing our best to get along well enough to get by. If you can't manage it, then perhaps society's not for you, chum. Have you considered the monastic orders? Perhaps just housebound solitude?

You say narcissist, I say see you next Tuesday.

Upshot's the same.

There have always been enough of them around (no more or less than before), I suspect. They only seem a bigger presence because we're handing out platforms to all-comers lately.
 

catseye

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There were always children who were regarded as a little 'odd' even back in the day (I'm over 60). Often called 'very shy' or 'difficult' or 'never listens and just does their own thing.' Some were just called 'delinquent' 'extremely naughty' or 'educationally sub normal'. I'd suspect a lot of these were probably on the spectrum but because that wasn't a thing and nobody had any idea what to do with them, it was usually a hard slap, told to do more reading or even ignored and ending up in a 'special school'. I've no doubt that fear of what might happen to them caused a lot of autistic children to suppress their natural behaviour. Although I don't remember tics or echolalia in any child who would have been called 'normal' back then. Maybe nowadays children know that their behaviour won't damn them (necessarily) to living apart from family in a virtual prison on a 'special school'?

But narcissists, apparently, are everywhere. I actually think it's just a word that's thrown about to indicate that everyone who disagrees with the speaker's view has some pathological difficulty. Especially when it's teenagers diagnosing their parents.
 

Coal

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Call me incurious, but I'm really quite uninterested in whether a person has a special name or label for their poor behaviour. And I certainly don't need to a dose of medicalisation to justify my desire not to interact with anyone who demands hard work for little reward.
There is something in what you state.
But narcissists, apparently, are everywhere. I actually think it's just a word that's thrown about to indicate that everyone who disagrees with the speaker's view has some pathological difficulty. Especially when it's teenagers diagnosing their parents.
This also: 'They won't agree with me, so something must be wrong with them'.
 

catseye

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There is something in what you state.

This also: 'They won't agree with me, so something must be wrong with them'.
And 'They won't let me do what I want to, so something must be wrong with them.' Sometimes the self importance of the youngsters is staggering!
 

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Call me incurious, but I'm really quite uninterested in whether a person has a special name or label for their poor behaviour. And I certainly don't need to a dose of medicalisation to justify my desire not to interact with anyone who demands hard work for little reward.
I think that if someone is being a complete tosser, we shouldn't excuse it by medicalising it and calling it 'complete tosser syndrome'.
Just call it what it is.
Narcissists might not act up so much if the rest of us ignored them... perhaps?
 

Coal

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And 'They won't let me do what I want to, so something must be wrong with them.' Sometimes the self importance of the youngsters is staggering!
Yes this too. I don't see a lot of this first hand - what with my colleagues being electronic and software designers for the most part. I hear some stuff from the children that is quite staggering and new care assistants at Mrs. Coal's place of work often start by stating all the things 'they don't do', so usually last all of a week. We sensibly endowed our offspring with a work ethic; someone once told Mrs. Coal this was one of the best things we could do for them. There is some merit in this.
 

Cloudbusting

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I wonder how many of us actually know people who genuinely seem to be narcissists, to the point where they may be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder?

I've certainly known people who have expressed narcissistic behaviour, but there's probably only one/two that I might actually call narcissistic... and I wouldn't be confident enough to 'diagnose' them, or even call them a 'narc'. People are complex, and regarding those people I've referenced, I know there are mental health issues in play which further clouds the picture.

On the other hand, I find truly narcissistic behaviour really repulsive so perhaps I've subconsciously avoided these people over time!
 
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