An empath and a narcissist can be difficult to tell apart.
They may both seem hypersensitive and charming, but the empath’s motive is to connect while the narcissist’s motive is to control.
So, can an empath be a narcissist?
We asked 7 experts about their thoughts, from doctors to psychologists; here’s what they had to say.
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Can an empath be a narcissist? – Our thoughts
No, an empath cannot be a narcissist.
A narcissist is someone who has an inflated sense of self-worth and is extremely preoccupied with themselves.
They often require excessive admiration and have a sense of entitlement.
On the other hand, an empath is someone who feels the emotions of others deeply and is overly sensitive to their needs.
They are often called “the giver.”
So while empaths and narcissists may share some qualities (such as being sensitive), they are ultimately two very different types of people.
Empaths would never intentionally hurt someone else and would always put others first, whereas narcissists only care about themselves.
What do the experts think?
1. Laurence Lee, CEO of The Great Brain Experiment
Yes, an empath can be a narcissist.
In fact, an empath can be a narcissist in any of the three categories of narcissism: overt, covert, or closet.
An empath has the ability to sense and feel the emotions of others.
They are often able to do this to an extreme degree and can be overwhelmed by the emotions of others.
They may also have a strong need to be needed and to feel like they are helping others.
This can lead them to behave in a narcissistic way.
For example, an empath may become a caretaker to a loved one who is ill or struggling.
They may do this out of a genuine desire to help, but they may also do it in order to get attention and approval from the loved one.
They may also feel entitled to special treatment because of the work they are doing.
An empath can also be a narcissist if they use their ability to sense and feel the emotions of others to manipulate and control them.
An empath can be a narcissist in any of the three categories of narcissism: overt, covert, or closet.
Laurence Lee, CEO of The Great Brain Experiment
2. Amy Saltzman, M.D & CEO of StillQuietPlace
A true empath is unlikely to be a narcissist.
However, narcissists will pose as empaths in order to ensnare their victims.
Unfortunately, the spiritual world is rife with narcissists exploiting those of us on a spiritual path.
They exploit our goodness, compassion, and sincere desire to be of service and make the world a better place.
They twist sacred teaching for their own purposes.
Amy Saltzman, M.D & CEO of StillQuietPlace
3. Dr. Brenda Wade, Author, TV Host/expert, Trainer, & Advisor to Online for Love
When it comes to narcissism, it is important to remember that anyone can be a narcissist.
No one is immune from narcissism.
Being an empath doesn’t’ eliminate the possibility that you could have grown up with the kind of background that produces narcissism.
Oftentimes people with special gifts are narcissists because they feel they are more special.
The root of narcissism is feeling that you are special in a good way or a bad way.
Dr. Brenda Wade, Author, TV Host/expert, Trainer, & Advisor to Online for Love
4. Keresse Thompson, LCSW with 10 Years in the Mental Health Field
Narcissists cannot be empaths, but they are really good at pretending to be.
The difference here is that they are fishing for information to use it against that person later for their benefit.
Narcissistic traits can 100% fall on a spectrum.
But true narcissists always show the same patterns of behaviors.
Narcissists don’t’ have empathy, although the scary thing is that they can come off like they do if it benefits them in some way: narcissists view relationships like a phone; when they need it, they pick it up: when they are done, they put it down when it breaks they get a new one.
Relationships are just a utility to serve their needs.
Keresse Thompson, LCSW with 10 Years in the Mental Health Field
5. Dr. Shazmin Rafaqat, MD & Psychologist
An empath can never become a narcissist.
And the main reason behind it is their awareness of their empathetic approach.
On the other hand, a narcissist is well aware of his traits and his narcissistic projections.
There is only one way an empath can become a narcissist, and that is through gaslighting.
Now, what does that mean?
It occurs as a result of psychologically manipulative behavior that makes an empath feel like they have issues with their traits and behaviors.
This is mostly done by a narcissist to an empath by creating guilt, making them question their sanity, and doubting themselves.
Now, this is seen happening in any relationship.
It must be known that both narcissists and an empath are extremely sensitive personalities.
Dr. Shazmin Rafaqat, MD & Psychologist
6. Sequoia Nacmanie, Spiritual Teacher, Coach, and Intuitive Reader
Everyone alive has some narcissistic traits since we all exist on a spectrum.
However, a true empath cannot be a true narcissist.
It gets tricky because a narcissist, especially a covert narcissist, could definitely be an empath in disguise.
Since narcissists have a deep need for attention and to feel special, they may take on the title (and perhaps even believe themselves to be!) of an empath.
Covert narcissists, in particular, can come off as shy, sensitive, and even humble, but this comes from a place of wanting praise and attention for being so, not from a place of feeling and being in tune with others’ emotions and state of being.
If you’re an empath, questioning if you’re a narcissist, then you’re probably not!
Narcissists tend not to allow that sort of deep self-reflection.
In the end, if you have empathy for others, then you’re not a narcissist.
Sequoia Nacmanie, Spiritual Teacher, Coach, and Intuitive Reader
7. Stacee Magee, TikTok Influencer & CEO of SpiritFluent
The answer is yes!
But the narcissist, in this case, isn’t a true narcissist—it’s just an empath who’s been damaged by trauma and emotional dysregulation.
Narcissists are created, not born.
The environment, emotions, and trauma that an empath experiences in life, in fact, may change them, damaging them on a subconscious and soul level, creating a narcissistic person.
The narcissistic is the dark empath in survival and self-preservation mode, hardened from years of trauma and emotional disruptions.
They have gotten to the point where they have completely shut down their empath to protect themselves.
The narcissistic is the dark empath in survival and self-preservation mode, hardened from years of trauma and abuse.
The abuse they have endured created them.
While I do believe all people can heal, it is extremely difficult for them to become self-aware and heal; restoring empathy to a narcissistic person is difficult but not entirely impossible.
Stacee Magee, TikTok Influencer & CEO of SpiritFluent
There you have it!
The experts have spoken, and an empath can become a narcissist, but it’s important to understand that this isn’t the same as being born a narcissist.
Narcissists are created, not born, and usually as a result of damage done during their lifetime.
If you’re wondering if you might be a narcissist, the best thing to do is seek professional help to get clarity and begin the healing process.