Types of Narcissism


Exploring Types of Narcissism


Ben Bursten has identified four types of narcissistic personality:

  1. The Craving personality is very demanding, clinging, and needy. He saw this as an oral need to be FED.
  2. The Paranoid personality is characterized by hypersensitivity, rigidity, unwarranted suspicion, envy and a tendency to blame others. Anger is a problem.
  3. The Manipulative personality employs deception to gain something at the expense of others. The result is contempt and a satisfying feeling of “putting something over” the victim.
  4. The Phallic personality tends to be exhibitionistic in terms of sexuality. Arrogance, above all, is the feature of this personality. (Bursten, 1986)

    Proposing Nine Types of Narcissism

1. The Craver

A Craver may have a haunting sense of anxiety and a terrible fear of abandonment. There is always an edge of desperation.

The Craver has a bottomless well of need. It is experienced as an aching hunger that is rarely satisfied. He or she finds it hard to hold on to the experience of being loved.

2 Special Lover

The Special Lover is a true believer in the ideology of romantic love. A citizen of a far away land. Naturally a pure romantic is exciting, stimulating, even exhilarating. There may be a rich emotional life, full of feeling and perhaps selective empathy. Intimacy is easy based on unguarded self-disclosure. But there is an underlying theme of grandiosity: Our love is unique. No one can love you like I can. You may be in pain, but my love can heal. Initially there is idealization, then denial but eventually a realization of an unwelcome reality.

3. Power Broker

The Power Broker is in love with power. It may be expressed in bullying ways – humiliating and even terrorizing employees. Or it may be cold and bureaucratic. But power is embraced and used in an instrumental fashion.

Arrogance is the most obvious quality of the Power Broker who has arrived. Ambition is most apparent on the way up. There is a profound lack of empathy for others. Contempt is shown for “inferiors” who are barely recognized as human. Decisions are made without thought of the consequences for those affected. All that is important is the pursuit of career goals.

Although this description of the Power Broker is hardly flattering, such a person can be charming and have qualities widely admired in our society. Status and power attract. There can even be a genuine sense of benevolence towards others – though mostly in somewhat patronizing ways.

The Broker also finds it natural to also use power in relationships. A partner may experience this as being very possessive and highly controlling – or simply abusive.

4. Body Shaper

The Body Shaper looks good! But the assets are all external. The values are familiar: image, fashion, glamour, youth and beauty. This form of narcissism is so much part of our times that it is hardly obvious.

What I am identifying is not just a office worker on the way to the gym for a regular workout but a disturbance in personality. There is an exaggerated need for admiration. Characteristics include self-esteem linked to body image, a nagging perfectionism, and an obsession with the perfect body.

The Body Shaper tends to externalize internal problems, as if adding muscle bulk or looking more beautiful will solve anything. Denial is the most common defense. It is a refusal to see what eventually extends to trying to fight the aging process. This is the ultimate narcissistic injury.

5. Rager

The Rager is a common and somewhat obvious narcissistic type of personality. A barely controlled rage simmers below the surface and often lashes out at anyone nearby.

What is most characteristic is hypersensitivity to any perceived insult – whether intended or not. Everything is taken personally and usually interpreted as an attack. What sparks the rage is narcissistic injury.

A relationship with a Rager is always exciting if only for the variation in emotions and unpredictable behavior. But this is not the whole story. Some Ragers can be very loving and generous in affection. The aftermath of even ugly conflict can be intense sexual encounters which feel all the more erotic because of earlier menace. The Rager can be intensely controlling and it is almost the norm that the relationship will be abusive.

6. Trickster

The Trickster is charming and may have many social graces. Adjectives of first impression are easy to find: engaging, smooth and inviting. Unfortunately this attractiveness is a veneer on a disturbed personality. Behind the “trust me” messages you will find a malicious intent. It is the personality of the “con-artist”. The motives are covert and include exploitation, limitless entitlement and a cruel twist when the victim realizes the script of betrayal.

The Trickster is ruthless in relationships. He or she delights in fooling the trusting lover with betrayals such as sexual infidelity, fraud, or criminal conspiracy. Usually there is intrigue and considerable pleasure in the set-up. The theme of manipulation is always central. Inevitably trust is shattered. In this elaborate way the Trickster is justified in the contempt of victim “who was easily fooled”.

It is a cruel game. The impact on the victim is usually shattering. It can be likened to psychic vandalism. The resulting damage is not easily repaired and may take years of patient re-building of boundaries, finding ways of better self-protection and perhaps eventually the capacity to trust again.

7. Fantasy Maker

Fantasy Maker has an elaborate inner world. All excitement is in the realm of fantasy. The real world intrudes, naturally, but it is exactly that – an intrusion and often resented. He or she may have an external appearance of superficiality, flightiness, and emptiness. There may also be considerable social anxiety and awkwardness. It is inner riches, outer poverty.

Just how is this narcissistic? After all some people are just being helpful. But the Rescuer has an hidden grandiosity: “It is only me that can really change things.” It is the grandiosity that distinguishes the Rescuer from what has been labeled codependency. The common ground includes: always remaining in control, emotional pursuing and unacknowledged needs. Both may be hidden in a helping profession including psychology, social work, medicine, pastoral care or counselling. Blurred boundaries are natural in this form of narcissism.

It is hard for the Rescuer to step out of role. It’s origin may be in childhood with the parentified child in a dysfunctional family. The difficult way forward is to break the stereotyped nature of relationships, allow more vulnerability to show, to both give and receive, and to even encourage the more childlike qualities of spontaneity, joy, emotional expression and playfulness.


There are no absolutely pure types. Narcissism, like coffee, usually comes in blends. For example a Craver who becomes a Rager when needs are blocked. Some types may be close such as the Power Broker and Rager, or Craver and Special Lover. Each of the types is a caricature but even an artificial schema can help to illuminate therapeutic issues.

This understanding of the types of narcissism is offered in the hope that it might be helpful to distinguish cold from warm varieties of narcissism. The more general DSMIV description is of a cold variety characterized by being aloof and arrogant. This comes through in types such as the Power Broker and Trickster. Perhaps also in cold types of the Rager. However it is equally obvious that some varieties of narcissism are warm and relationship centered. This will include the Craver and Special Lover. Some, such as the Body Shaper and Fantasy Maker, can be either.

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9 Responses to “Types of Narcissism”

  1. Types of Narcissism « Flourishing In Crisis | forexrecommendation.com Says:

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  3. Suzanne Says:

    Maybe you guys could diagnose me? I’m reliant on being with others, i don’t like my own company but i particularly like being with my boyfriend and i believe i’m dependent on him the most. I need something which i think is acceptance, appraisal or unconditional love which includes someone understanding me or making me feel appreciated, loved, wanted or special and i need it quite a lot or i get unstable (this happens to trigger my bipolar sometimes too but it isn’t that as when i’m on meds it’s still there but my bipolar isn’t). I tend to form my identity from others so in some ways i mirror them in order to make them more likely to accept me. A lot of people stay clear of me, i feel quite sad that i find it hard to get people to accept me for who i am despite trying so hard but still i constantly try to change myself to suite others. It hardly ever works as i think people can tell i’m different and this sometimes makes me feel extremely burdened. Sometimes i hate myself for not being good enough and sometimes i even want to hurt myself to make myself suffer for the fact. I tend to get the most i need from my boyfriend but rely on friends, work, study etc to keep me going if we’re apart but i can’t do this for long or i get ill. If i have a complete separation from my partner i get extremely depressed and experience symptoms such as somatic symptoms or hallucinations and sometimes even psychosis. Any ideas? I read it could be NPD or and when i read the literature around that it made me feel suicidal as their didn’t seem like their was any hope of getting better. I start to feel ill when i think too much about the way i act, i tend to live a more stable life if i ignore them and get on with my life despite them. It used to make me quite selfish when i was younger but through learning from others i have made myself quite a good person even studying a health related degree and helping others. I just can’t rid these needs and desires and i think they alter my perceptions and actions sometimes. I tried to get a diagnosis from a psychiatrist for a personality disorder but they are reluctant because i resist self harm and haven’t caused enough harm to others apparently. They also tried to make me believe i was just like this because of my “difficult background” – i would love to change but i don’t seem to be able to change this about myself whereas other things i can change quite easily 😦

  4. June Says:

    Suzanne, did you grow up with narcissistic parents or perhaps another close family member? What you describe sounds exactly like how I feel. Only two weeks ago I finally discovered what the heck was wrong with me: narcissistic parents.

    I’m no expert of course, but what you are describing sounds like you have no sense of self. Narcissists view other people as extensions of themselves, therefore any children they have are used as mirrors of themselves, never allowing the child to form their own identity. This is the hardest thing I am struggling with. A normal parent wants to make their child happy, but a narcissistic parent expects the child to make them happy.

    Narcissists also have no ability to show unconditional love, or really any love at all. This is extremely damaging to children since they grow up never understanding the beauty of being loved for who they are. They are only “loved” if they live up to the ideal of the narcissistic parent, which is impossible. This may be why you constantly feel not good enough to yourself.

    From what you are describing, you sound like a co-narcissist, which is what I believe I am as well. Growing up with narcissistic parents or family members has made us completely reliant on the “love” of narcissists, since that is all we have ever known. It has molded us into humans with no sense of identity, and the constant need to please others.

    Check out “Children of the Self-Absorbed” by Nina Brown and “Why is it Always About You?” by James F. Masterson and Sandy Hotchkiss.

    I’m really glad your comment was only yesterday, so I hope you will see my post. I had to respond because I feel just like you do, and luckily I have discovered WHY I am like this. The next step will be a very long process of therapy and healing.

  5. June Says:

    But please don’t fret about being a narcissistic yourself Suzanne. A true narcissist would never be able admit that they have narcissistic traits.

  6. Suzanne Says:

    Yes i think i did and i will look into co-narcissism and the books you have presented. Hopefully theirs a road ahead where their wasn’t before. Do you happen to know if you can ever be not reliant on that source of “love”? I was to be less dependent for sure but it would also be good to figure out who i could be without mirroring everyone i meet in order to fit in as i don’t think it works in all circumstances. Do you happen to know which type of therapy would work best for co-narcissism? I also saw something else called co-dependent, do you know what the different between the two is? I saw a group in england you could go to called CODA and i wondered about giving it a shot but i was worried it would be a money making scheme with little gain. Hopefully i can at least understand myself now and try to better the things i feel are harmful or negative to myself or others. Thank you so much for your comment 🙂

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