Does Empathetic Narcissism Exist?

by Ryan Hart | Updated on May 19, 2024 | Post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.

Empathy and narcissism are two words that are often seen as antonyms. Narcissists are thought to be self-centered and incapable of feeling empathy for others.

However, recent studies have shown that narcissism and empathy can coexist in some individuals, leading to the concept of empathetic narcissism.

It is important to note that empathetic narcissism is not a clinical diagnosis but rather a term used to describe a certain type of personality trait.

Can a Narcissist Have Empathy?

When you hear the word narcissism, you may think of someone who is self-absorbed and lacks empathy for others. However, there is a type of narcissism called empathetic narcissism, which can be confusing for those around them.

Empathetic narcissists have a strong desire for admiration and attention from others but also have a capacity for empathy.

They may appear caring and compassionate, but their empathy is often self-focused. They may use their ability to empathize with others as a way to gain attention and admiration for themselves.

Research suggests that empathetic narcissism may be related to specific traits in the brain. For example, studies have shown that individuals with narcissistic traits may have differences in brain regions responsible for empathy and self-reflection.

It’s important to note that not all individuals with narcissistic traits are empathetic narcissists. Narcissism exists on a spectrum, and individuals with narcissistic traits may vary in their capacity for empathy.

Understanding empathetic narcissism can be challenging, but it’s important to recognize that individuals with this trait may genuinely desire to help others.

However, it’s also important to be aware of their self-focused tendencies and to set boundaries to ensure that their actions are not solely motivated by their desire for attention and admiration.

Traits and Behaviors

Certain traits and behaviors are commonly associated with empathetic narcissism. Here are some of the key characteristics:


As a person with empathetic narcissism, you tend to focus on your needs and desires. You may have a strong sense of entitlement and feel that you deserve special treatment or attention.

Grandiose Thinking

You may also have a tendency to think highly of yourself and your abilities. You may believe that you are superior to others and that you have unique talents or gifts that set you apart.


Despite your self-centeredness and grandiose thinking, you may also be highly attuned to the emotions of others. You may be able to sense when someone is feeling sad or upset, and you may be able to offer comfort or support.

Manipulative Behavior

At the same time, you may also use your empathetic abilities to manipulate others. You may use your understanding of people’s emotions to get what you want or to control situations to your advantage.

Superiority Complex

You may also have a strong sense of superiority over others. You may believe that you are better than others and deserve to be treated as such.


When it comes to making mistakes, you may have a hard time admitting fault. You may try to shift the blame onto others or deny that you did anything wrong.


In conversations, you may steer the discussion towards topics that interest you and may dominate the conversation. You may also interrupt others or talk over them in order to make your point.

What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

If you have Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), you have an inflated sense of self-importance and a lack of empathy for others.

You may feel entitled to special treatment and admiration from others, and you may exploit others to achieve your own goals. People with NPD often have difficulty with relationships and may struggle with anger, shame, and envy.

Symptoms of NPD can include:

  • A inflated sense of self-importance
  • An obsession with success, power, brilliance, beauty, or perfect love
  • Belief that you are special and unique and can only be understood by other special people or institutions
  • Need for excessive admiration
  • Sense of entitlement
  • Interpersonal exploitation
  • Empathy deficit
  • Being envious of others or feeling envious of others
  • Arrogant behaviors or attitudes

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is classified as a personality disorder, which means it is a long-term pattern of behavior that deviates from cultural norms, causing significant anxiety and impairment in social, occupational, and other areas.

There are different subtypes of narcissism, such as grandiose narcissism and vulnerable narcissism.

Grandiose narcissism implies a sense of superiority and a desire for power and admiration, while vulnerable narcissism involves a sense of inadequacy and a desire for validation and sympathy.

Narcissism can also co-occur with other personality disorders, such as Borderline Personality Disorder.

Research suggests that there may be a neurobiological and genetic basis for Narcissistic Personality Disorder, but more research is needed to fully understand the underlying mechanisms.

Treatment for NPD often involves psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, and may also involve medication for co-occurring mental health conditions.

What is Empathy?

A person with empathy is able to understand and share the feelings of others. While narcissists may not always be able to fully put themselves in someone else’s shoes, they may still be able to recognize and acknowledge the emotions of others.

One study found that narcissists were able to identify facial expressions of emotion just as accurately as non-narcissists. However, they were less likely to feel sympathy for the person displaying the emotion.

It’s also worth noting that empathy is not the same as emotional intelligence. Being emotionally intelligent means being able to recognize and regulate your own emotions, as well as the emotions of others.

While some narcissists may possess high emotional intelligence, others may struggle with it.

Relationship Dynamics

When it comes to empathetic narcissism, the relationship dynamics can be complex and require careful examination. Whether you are in a relationship with a narcissist or you are the narcissist in the relationship, it’s important to understand how these dynamics work.

In a healthy relationship, both parties should be able to communicate their needs and feelings openly and honestly. However, in a relationship with a narcissist, the focus is often solely on the needs and desires of the narcissist. This can leave the empath feeling neglected and unimportant.

As a parent or spouse, navigating the dynamics of a relationship with a narcissist can be difficult. It’s important to set boundaries and communicate your needs clearly, but also to understand that the narcissist may not be capable of meeting those needs.

In a work setting, a boss with narcissistic tendencies may prioritize their own success over the success of their employees. The result can be a toxic work environment and a high rate of turnover.

For the victim of empathetic narcissism, it can be hard to identify the signs of abuse. The narcissist may use their empathy for the victim as a means of control, making it difficult for the victim to leave the relationship.

Pro and Cons

Empathetic narcissism can have both benefits and downsides. Here are some of the most common:


  • You can be very charming: Empathetic narcissists are often very charming and charismatic, which can help them in social situations. People are often drawn to them because of their confidence and charisma.
  • You can be very successful: Empathetic narcissists often have a strong drive to succeed and can be very ambitious. This can help them achieve their goals and be successful in their careers.
  • You can be very empathetic: Despite their narcissistic tendencies, empathetic narcissists can also be very empathetic and caring towards others. They may have a strong desire to help others and positively impact the world.


  • You can be manipulative: Empathetic narcissists may use their charm and charisma to manipulate others for their own gain. They may use their empathy to gain the trust of others, only to use it against them later.
  • You can be self-centered: Empathetic narcissists may be so focused on themselves and their own needs that they neglect the needs of others. They may also have a hard time seeing things from other people’s perspectives.
  • You can be emotionally unstable: Empathetic narcissists may have a hard time regulating their emotions and may be prone to mood swings and outbursts. They may also struggle with feelings of emptiness and a lack of purpose.

Overall, empathetic narcissism can be a complex and nuanced personality trait. While it can have its benefits, it can also have its downsides. It’s important to be aware of these tendencies and work to manage them healthily.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a narcissist have empathy for animals?

Narcissists can empathize with animals, but it is often selective and self-serving. They may view animals as extensions of themselves or as objects to be used for their own benefit. However, some narcissists may genuinely care for and empathize with animals.

What types of people are empath narcissists?

Empathic narcissists are individuals who possess both narcissistic and empathic traits. They are often charming, outgoing, and susceptible to the emotions of others. However, they can also be manipulative, self-centered, and lack empathy in certain situations.

How do you deal with a narcissistic empath?

Dealing with a narcissistic empath can be challenging, as they can be both charming and manipulative. It is essential to set clear boundaries and communicate your needs clearly. It may also be helpful to seek support from a therapist or trusted friend.

Can an empath become a narcissist?

While an empath can exhibit narcissistic traits, it is not common. Empaths are typically highly sensitive to the emotions of others and strive to be compassionate and caring. However, they may become jaded or burnt out if they constantly give to others without receiving support.

Can someone with ADHD be a narcissist?

ADHD and narcissism are two separate conditions and do not necessarily correlate. However, individuals with ADHD may exhibit traits of impulsivity, hyperactivity, and distractibility, which can sometimes be mistaken for narcissistic behavior. It is important to seek a professional diagnosis to determine the underlying cause of any concerning behaviors.

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About the Author:
Ryan Hart

Ryan Hart is a certified relationship coach and writer. His mission is to help make connections between people better, stronger, more meaningful, and longer lasting using technology.

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