15 Signs A Narcissist is Playing Mind Games With You

15 Signs A Narcissist is Playing Mind Games With You

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Have you ever felt like you’re walking on eggshells around someone? Does a friend or partner constantly leave you confused and questioning your own reality? You might be dealing with a narcissist’s mind games.

Narcissists are all about themselves. They crave admiration and control, and they’re not above using sneaky tactics to get it. These mind games can leave you feeling emotionally drained, insecure, and unsure of yourself. But don’t worry, you’re not crazy!

Why do people with narcissistic personality disorder play games?

People with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) engage in mind games for a few key reasons, all of which tie back to their inflated sense of self and need for control. Here’s a breakdown of the main motivations:

1. To Boost Their Ego and Feel Superior:

Narcissists crave admiration and validation. Their mind games are a way to manipulate situations and people to constantly reinforce their grandiosity. By leaving you confused, questioning yourself, or jumping through hoops to please them, they feel powerful and in control.

2. To Maintain Control:

Narcissists have a deep-seated fear of vulnerability and losing control. Their mind games are like intricate chess matches, where they strategically maneuver situations and people to get what they want. This constant manipulation gives them a sense of power and keeps others at a distance, preventing true intimacy.

3. To Avoid Shame and Insecurity:

Despite their outward arrogance, narcissists often have a fragile self-esteem. Their mind games act as a defense mechanism, deflecting any potential criticism or challenges to their inflated self-image. By creating confusion and shifting blame, they avoid confronting their own insecurities.

4. To Get What They Want:

Let’s face it, narcissists are pretty good at getting their way. Their mind games are a way to pressure, guilt, or cajole others into doing what they want. Whether it’s extracting favors, getting special treatment, or simply having someone bend to their will, these tactics serve as a tool for personal gain.

What mind games narcissists play?

Imagine a person who constantly needs to feel important and admired. They might act charming and loving at first, but things can shift quickly. These people, often called narcissists, can play mind games to get what they want.

They might twist your words or make you doubt your own memory (gaslighting). They can also be super critical of you, making you feel bad about yourself.

Sometimes they act like the victim, making you feel sorry for them, even when they’re wrong. The key thing to remember is that these mind games are a way for them to control you. They want to feel powerful and in charge.

What mind games narcissists play?
Source: Pexels

Narcissists have a whole arsenal of mind games at their disposal, but some of their favorites include:

  • Gaslighting
  • Love Bombing
  • Silent Treatment
  • Playing the Victim
  • Projection
  • Triangulation
  • The Blame Game
  • Negative Reinforcement

15 signs a Narcissist is playing mind games with you

Narcissists can be charming and captivating at the beginning of a relationship. They shower you with attention and make you feel like the center of their universe. But this blissful phase often fades, replaced by confusing and manipulative behaviors.

While spotting a narcissist early on can be tricky, there are definite warning signs that emerge as the relationship progresses.

Here are 15 signs that can help you identify if a narcissist might be playing mind games with you:

1. They Twist Reality: Gaslighting Explained

Have you ever had an argument with someone, only to be left questioning your own memory or sanity? This is a classic tactic of narcissists known as gaslighting. They might deny saying something they clearly did, twist events to make you seem like the unreasonable one, or even subtly plant seeds of doubt about your own perception.

The goal of gaslighting is to erode your sense of reality and make you dependent on their version of events. You might find yourself constantly apologizing, second-guessing yourself, or feeling confused and disoriented. This can be incredibly damaging to your self-esteem and emotional well-being.

2. They Love Bomb: The Seductive Trap

Narcissists are often masters of charm in the initial stages of a relationship. They might shower you with compliments, affection, and grand gestures, making you feel like you’ve finally found your soulmate. This intense period of love bombing creates a powerful emotional bond, making you more susceptible to their future manipulations.

However, once they feel secure in the relationship, the love bombing can abruptly stop. They might become distant, critical, or even emotionally abusive.

This shift can be incredibly confusing and leave you wondering what you did wrong. Remember, the love bombing was a calculated act to gain control, not a reflection of genuine love or care.

3. They Give the Silent Treatment: A Punishment Tactic

The silent treatment is a common weapon in a narcissist’s arsenal. When they don’t get their way or feel slighted, they might abruptly shut you out with icy silence. This can range from refusing to answer your texts or calls to giving you the cold shoulder at home.

There are two main reasons why narcissists use the silent treatment. First, it’s a way to punish you for not complying with their wishes.

By withholding communication, they hope to make you feel anxious, guilty, and desperate for their approval. Second, the silent treatment allows them to maintain control of the dynamic. They dictate when and if communication resumes, leaving you feeling powerless and off-balance.

4. They Project: Blaming You for Their Faults

Have you ever been accused of being jealous, selfish, or dishonest by someone who frequently exhibits those very behaviors? This is a prime example of projection, a manipulative tactic commonly used by narcissists.

Projection involves deflecting their own flaws and wrongdoings by accusing you of them. This not only avoids accountability but also puts you on the defensive. You might find yourself spending more energy explaining yourself than holding them responsible for their actions.

This tactic serves a dual purpose: it chips away at your self-esteem and deflects attention from their own insecurities. By recognizing projection, you can choose not to engage in a blame game and instead, focus on healthy communication and setting boundaries.

5. They Play the Victim: The Masterful Manipulation

Narcissist play the victim game
Source: Pexels

Narcissists have a remarkable ability to spin situations and portray themselves as the victim. They might exaggerate minor disagreements, twist your words to make you seem like the aggressor, or even fabricate stories to gain sympathy.

Their goal is to deflect blame and responsibility. By playing the victim, they avoid accountability for their actions and manipulate your emotions.

You might find yourself apologizing profusely, trying to appease them, or even feeling responsible for their bad behavior. Let me tell you, this is a classic manipulation tactic. Don’t fall for their act!

6. They Triangulate: Bringing In a Third Person

Does your partner or friend constantly compare you to others, or create situations where you feel insecure or jealous of someone new? This is a tactic known as triangulation.

Narcissists thrive on drama and competition. By introducing a third person into the dynamic, they can create jealousy, insecurity, and a competition for their attention. This not only fuels their need for admiration but also allows them to maintain control.

They might pit you against each other, manipulate both sides, and ultimately avoid genuine intimacy with anyone.

If you find yourself in a situation where someone is triangulating you, it’s important to distance yourself from the drama.

Don’t compete for their attention, and instead, focus on building healthy relationships outside of their manipulative web.

7. They Shift Blame: Masters of Deflection

Narcissists are allergic to taking responsibility for their actions. When faced with criticism or confronted about their mistakes, they’ll employ a masterful tactic known as blame shifting. This involves deflecting blame onto you, anyone else convenient, or even fabricating scenarios entirely to avoid accountability.

Their tactics can be subtle or blatant. They might twist events to make it seem like your fault, play the victim card to gain sympathy, or even gaslight you by denying their involvement altogether.

The goal is to leave you confused, frustrated, and ultimately, taking the blame for their transgressions.

Remember, a healthy relationship involves open communication and owning up to mistakes. If someone consistently deflects blame and refuses to take responsibility for their actions, it’s a major red flag.

Read: 20 Obvious Signs Your Relationship is Beyond Repair

8. They Negatively Reinforce: Chipping Away at Your Self-Esteem

Narcissists often rely on negative reinforcement to control and manipulate those around them. This tactic involves constant criticism, negativity, and belittling remarks designed to erode your self-esteem and confidence.

They might find fault with your appearance, choices, or accomplishments, leaving you feeling insecure and unsure of yourself.

This negativity serves a few purposes for the narcissist. First, it allows them to feel superior by putting you down.

Second, it keeps you dependent on their approval, making you more likely to comply with their wishes. Finally, a person with low self-esteem is less likely to challenge their behavior or leave the relationship.

If you find yourself constantly criticized by someone close to you, it’s crucial to recognize this as a manipulative tactic.

Focus on building your self-esteem through positive affirmations, surrounding yourself with supportive people, and setting boundaries with those who bring negativity into your life.

9. They Break Promises: Unreliable Words and Shifting Commitments

Narcissists often have a casual relationship with the truth and keeping promises. They might readily make grand gestures or commitments, but following through becomes a different story. This leaves you confused, questioning their sincerity, and ultimately, eroding trust.

There are a few reasons why narcissists break promises so frequently. First, their needs and desires are paramount, and they’ll readily abandon commitments if something more exciting or convenient comes along.

Second, they might use broken promises as a form of punishment, withholding what they initially offered to manipulate your behavior. Finally, some narcissists simply lack empathy and struggle to understand the impact their actions have on others.

Being around someone who constantly breaks promises can be incredibly frustrating and emotionally draining. It’s important to recognize this pattern and adjust your expectations accordingly. Don’t base your decisions solely on their promises, and prioritize actions over empty words.

10. They Lie Pathologically: Manipulation Through Deception

Narcissists are often skilled at weaving a web of lies to suit their needs. These lies can range from small embellishments to elaborate fabrications, all designed to manipulate situations and control the narrative. They might lie to gain sympathy, avoid blame, or simply inflate their own importance.

Pathological lying serves several purposes for a narcissist. It allows them to create a reality that aligns with their grandiose self-image. And it gives them a sense of power and control, as they manipulate their environment through deception. Finally, lying can be a way to avoid accountability and deflect blame for their actions.

If you find yourself constantly questioning the truthfulness of someone close to you, it’s a major red flag. Healthy relationships are built on trust and honesty.

Don’t ignore the signs of pathological lying, and prioritize building relationships with those who value truthfulness.

11. They Envy & Compete: Celebrating Your Success Feels Like Their Loss

Narcissists are consumed with self-importance and a constant need to feel superior. This translates into struggles with celebrating the achievements of others, particularly those close to them. When you experience success, big or small, they might downplay it, dismiss it altogether, or even try to diminish your accomplishment.

This envious behavior stems from their fragile self-esteem. Your success can be perceived as a threat to their inflated sense of superiority.

They might subtly criticize your achievement, compare it to something they’ve done (often exaggerating their own success), or even try to sabotage your future efforts.

It’s important to recognize this envious behavior and not let it dim your light. Celebrate your accomplishments with supportive people who genuinely care about your success.

12. They Lack Empathy: Indifference to Your Feelings

Empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person, is a crucial component of healthy relationships.

Narcissists, however, often struggle with empathy. They might seem emotionally distant, indifferent to your joys and sorrows, or even dismissive of your feelings.

This lack of empathy can manifest in several ways. They might minimize your problems, offer insincere words of comfort, or even blame you for your emotions. Ultimately, their focus remains on themselves and their own needs.

13. They Need Admiration: A Constant Craving for Validation

Narcissists have an insatiable need for admiration and validation. They crave constant praise, compliments, and recognition for their perceived superiority. This need for external validation fuels their manipulative behaviors.

They might fish for compliments by subtly bragging about their achievements or subtly putting others down. They might also become withdrawn or sulky if they don’t receive the level of admiration they believe they deserve.

This constant need for validation can be emotionally draining for those around them. It’s important to avoid feeding their ego with excessive praise. Healthy relationships involve mutual respect and appreciation, not a one-sided quest for admiration.

14. They Have Grandiosity: An Inflated Sense of Self-Importance

Narcissists often possess an inflated sense of self-importance, also known as grandiosity. They believe they are superior to others, more talented, more intelligent, and deserving of special treatment. This grandiosity manifests in several ways.

They might exaggerate their achievements, constantly brag about their possessions, or expect preferential treatment in all situations. They might also belittle others’ accomplishments or dismiss the opinions of those they perceive as inferior.

Their inflated sense of self makes it difficult for them to form genuine connections. True intimacy requires vulnerability and a willingness to see others as equals.

If you find yourself constantly surrounded by someone’s self-importance, it can be isolating and emotionally draining.

15. They Disrespect Boundaries: Constantly Pushing Limits

Narcissists have a blatant disregard for personal boundaries. They might constantly test your limits by making intrusive requests, invading your privacy, or disregarding your needs and wants. This creates a dynamic where you feel constantly on guard, unsure of what might come next.

Their disrespect for boundaries serves a few purposes. First, it allows them to maintain control by pushing your comfort zone and seeing how much you’ll tolerate. Second, it feeds their need for attention, as your discomfort becomes a source of entertainment for them. Finally, it prevents genuine intimacy, as healthy relationships require respect for individual boundaries.

Read: What Turns On a Female Narcissist? (20 surprising Turn On’s)

How to Deal With a Narcissist’s Mind Games

How to Deal With a Narcissist's Mind Games
Source: Pexels

Being entangled in a narcissist’s mind games can be emotionally and mentally draining. Here are some strategies to help you navigate this challenging situation:

1. Recognize the Signs: The first step is awareness. Educate yourself about the signs of narcissistic behavior (covered earlier in the article). Once you recognize the mind games they’re playing, you can detach from their emotional manipulation.

2. Don’t Engage: Narcissists thrive on drama and emotional reactions. Don’t get sucked into arguments or try to defend yourself against their accusations. Instead, choose to walk away from the conversation or use a calm and assertive tone to deflect their attempts to bait you.

3. Set Boundaries: Narcissists often disregard boundaries. It’s crucial to establish clear and firm boundaries around your time, energy, and personal space. Communicate your needs clearly and consistently. Be prepared to enforce these boundaries, even if it means limiting contact with the narcissist.

4. Don’t JADE (Justify, Argue, Defend, Explain): Trying to justify your actions, argue your point, defend yourself, or explain your feelings to a narcissist is a recipe for frustration. They will twist your words and use them against you. Focus on clear communication of boundaries and avoid getting pulled into emotional justifications.

5. Focus on Self-Care: Dealing with a narcissist can be emotionally taxing. Prioritize activities that nourish your mental and emotional well-being. Spend time with supportive people, engage in hobbies you enjoy, and practice relaxation techniques.

6. Seek Support: Talking to a therapist or counselor can be incredibly helpful. They can provide guidance on navigating the situation, developing healthy coping mechanisms, and protecting your emotional well-being.

7. Consider Limiting Contact: In some cases, limiting contact with the narcissist might be the healthiest option. This could involve reducing phone calls, setting clear boundaries about communication, or even going no contact entirely.

8. Remember, It’s Not About You: Narcissists’ manipulative behaviors are a result of their own deep-seated insecurities. Don’t personalize their attacks or take responsibility for their actions.

9. Trust Your Instincts: If something feels off, it probably is. Pay attention to your gut feelings and don’t ignore red flags.

10. Prioritize Your Well-being: Ultimately, your mental and emotional health is paramount. Don’t be afraid to walk away from a situation that is causing you significant stress or emotional distress. Remember, you deserve to be in healthy and supportive relationships.

Read: How To Stop Loving Someone Who Doesn’t Love You Back


narcissists can be charming and captivating at first, but their true colors soon emerge. They manipulate with mind games like gaslighting, love bombing, and the silent treatment.

By recognizing the signs, detaching from their drama, and prioritizing self-care, you can shield yourself from their emotional manipulation.

Keep in mind, it’s not about you—their behavior stems from deep-seated insecurities. Trust your gut, prioritize your well-being, and don’t be afraid to walk away from a situation that is draining and unhealthy.

You deserve to be treated with respect, not like a pawn in their game. So, keep your head up, trust your instincts, and find the people who truly appreciate the awesome you!

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