Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


6 Ways to Deal When a Narcissist Calls You a Narcissist

Hint: do nothing.

Key points

  • People with NPD often project their behaviors, and that label, onto others.
  • Keeping boundaries and limiting contact will help you avoid getting involved in the drama a narcissistic partner brings.
  • Focus on moving forward and disengaging from any possible smear campaign.
source-pixabay Engin Akyurt
some things are so ridiculous that you want to scream. But do not react.
Source: source-pixabay Engin Akyurt

Welcome to the narcissist's world. It's a world of lies, delusions, and often: projection.

Due to their tendency to project, it is common for an abuser with strong narcissistic traits to ascribe the label of “narcissist” to their target, even claiming that the target is doing the very things that the person with NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) is doing to them. For example, they may claim that the target cheated on them when, in fact, they are the one who cheated. As a psychotherapist who specializes in working with survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV), I see this a lot, especially in the courtroom. "For a narcissist, it is rarely about the truth and almost always about their audience's perception,"(Cikanavicius, 2017).

This is why, in my work with those trying to escape an abusive relationship, I recommend not using this word to describe the perpetrator. The problem is, when you do, all an observer sees is both parties pointing the diagnostic finger at each other. The world at large, and the courtroom especially, needs more training and understanding about narcissism and personality disorders, but the recent popularity of the word “narcissist” has driven many to get fed up with its accusatory tone.

“I am sick of hearing ex-partners call each other narcissists,” one judge told me during a training session. “I’m at the point where I tell them both I don’t want to hear another word about it.”

Whether in or outside of a courtroom, if you are trying to distance yourself from someone with narcissistic traits of narcissism—or even full NPD—it is important to work on developing good boundaries.

An abusive person will undoubtedly throw all sorts of insults and labels at you to get you to react. They want to use your reaction to their smear campaign as “proof.” As frustrating as it will be, do not try to refute any claims. Instead, follow these tips:

1. Do. Not. Respond. Ignore them. Do nothing. Picture the face of your accuser as the round, chubby face of a toddler yelling their accusations. What would you do if a toddler said these things to you? Probably laugh, right?

2. Do not try to disprove them. Getting upset will not help your case. Remember, you are not on trial for your mental health. Unless a licensed professional has assessed you with a psychiatric or psychological evaluation that you have consented to, any label or diagnosis of your behavior is just name-calling and will make your abuser look petty and vindictive. Any attempt you make to refute their claims will just make you look like the unstable one, as there is no way to disprove someone's opinion of you. You're much better off choosing not to engage. Those who believe the other party will believe them no matter what you do to defend yourself.

3 Take inventory of your personal triggers. An abusive person will try to push your buttons. They know what to say to make you upset, so prepare yourself by identifying what that could possibly be. Are you worried that they will call you a bad parent? Be prepared for this. Concerned they will talk about your history of depression? They most likely will.

4. Go no contact: Immediately. If you must have contact, such as in cases of child custody, legal battles, or other necessary interactions, practice what I call “N.E.B” communication—Necessary, Emotionless, and Brief—in all verbal and written responses. Practice keeping a professional tone and staying calm in response to any potential triggers.

5. Work on being okay with people not knowing "the truth." Work on being okay with not being able to tell your full and complete side of the story. Most victims long for their “day in court” so to speak, where they get to prove their story and show everyone the horrors they suffered due to this individual. This rarely, if ever happens. With the exception of your close friends and those who truly support you, most people don't really care about the truth, or who the "real" narcissist is. The perpetrator's friends and family will support them either way. Focus your attention on your own family and support system, your children, your career, and other aspects of your life that you can control. Become okay with the fact that there will be some people who believe the other person, and that you are powerless to change this. Ignore them, as they did you a favor by showing you who really supports you. Focus on moving forward, and, in time, their true colors will show.

6. Move forward knowing you are better off. If there was any doubt about whom you were dealing with, there shouldn't be anymore. Good thing you got out.

For more information, see my blog titled "Navigating a Narcissist's Smear Campaign"

If you or someone you love is experiencing domestic or intimate partner violence, call 1-800-799-7233.


Cikanavicius, Darius. (2017). 5 Ways Narcissists Project and Attack You.…. Accessed 10/17/2022.

More from Kaytee Gillis, LCSW-BACS
More from Psychology Today
More from Kaytee Gillis, LCSW-BACS
More from Psychology Today