Sexual narcissism is when a person has an unrealistic view of their sexuality. They may experience an inflated sense of sex appeal, an exaggerated idea of their sexual skills, or only care for their own sexual satisfaction.

A sexual narcissist is a person who possesses narcissistic traits, such as entitlement, low empathy, or superiority, within a sexual context. They may coerce and manipulate others to fulfill their own physical and sexual needs and may not care for the wishes or concerns of others. For this reason, some may also refer to sexual narcissism as sexual entitlement.

These traits can make it difficult to maintain healthy relationships.

This article will discuss sexual narcissism, including how it differs from narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), the problematic relationship patterns it can cause, and what treatment options are available.

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Sexual narcissism refers to a pattern of egocentric sexual interaction involving narcissistic traits that only appear in someone’s sexual behavior and attitudes toward sex. It typically involves tendencies toward exploiting others, a lack of empathy for others, feelings of superiority, and an excessive need for admiration.

Much of the initial research investigating sexual narcissism arose from studies that identified clear patterns of self-centered beliefs, dysfunctional behaviors, and sexual aggression.

Researchers developed the sexual narcissism scale to highlight important components of narcissism that are typically active in sexual domains. These patterns of behavior usually include:

  • sexual exploitation
  • sexual entitlement
  • low sexual empathy
  • inflated sense of sexual skills

In addition to the above, sexual narcissists may also display the following characteristics:

  • high level of sexual self-esteem
  • preoccupation with sex and sexual sensation seeking
  • promiscuous nature
  • high levels of infidelity
  • sensitivity to perceived criticism

NPD is a cluster B personality disorder, meaning people with this condition may experience difficulties regulating their emotions and behavior. In particular, a person with NPD may experience intense, fluctuating emotions and an excessive concern with prestige, power, and personal adequacy.

While sexual narcissism and NPD may sound similar, they are different. Namely, sexual narcissism is not a personality disorder nor a mental health condition. Instead, it refers to traits of narcissism that only appear in sexual behaviors. People can display traits of sexual narcissism without meeting the diagnostic criteria for NPD.

Additionally, while a person with traits of NPD may display narcissistic traits in their sexual relationships, these traits will also appear in other areas of their life and not just within their sex life. In fact, people with NPD may show no narcissistic traits within a sexual context, as the diagnostic criteria for NPD do not involve a person’s sexual behavior.

Furthermore, research notes an association between sexual narcissism and sexually aggressive behaviors, such as sexual assault and coercion. However, no evidence currently indicates that narcissism alone may increase the likelihood of these aggressive sexual behaviors.

If a person thinks they may be in a relationship with a sexual narcissist, there are behavior patterns to be aware of, including:

  • Sexual entitlement: A sexual narcissist may feel that others owe them sex and that they have a right to sex on demand.
  • Sexual exploitation: They may be willing to manipulate or coerce others into having sex.
  • Lack of empathy: They may feel that a partner’s feelings or needs do not concern them.
  • Need for admiration: They may have an excessive need for admiration, especially for their sexual abilities.
  • Infidelity: Higher rates of infidelity occur with sexual narcissists.
  • Charming pickup artist: Sexual narcissists will initially be charming and employ manipulative dating techniques designed specifically to get a potential partner into bed.
  • Sexual aggression: High levels of sexual narcissism and entitlement may be a predictor of sexual aggression.

Convincing a potential sexual narcissist to get help may escalate their behavior since they may not perceive they have a problem and may attempt to put the blame on others.

If a partner shows any abusive, angry, or violent behavior, it is advisable to develop a safety plan. Resources are available to help. People can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) or texting 88788. They may also wish to seek the help of a trusted friend or family member for additional support.

Currently, there is no cure, treatment, or medication to treat NPD, narcissistic traits, or sexual narcissism specifically. However, psychotherapy can be beneficial and enable people to understand their behavior, manage emotions, and take responsibility for their actions. It can also help them build self-esteem and healthier relationships.

While there is not much research investigating treatment for sexual narcissism, speaking with a therapist may be a useful approach for people with NPD. Although the conditions are different, this would suggest that psychotherapy may also be effective for people with sexual narcissism.

Research indicates that some narcissistic traits may decline with age, suggesting that it is not a fixed state of being and change is possible. This indicates that with therapeutic intervention, the ways a sexual narcissist relates to and interacts with others can improve.

However, it can be very difficult for a sexual narcissist to initiate therapy, as they may not always see an issue in their behavior. If a person suspects they are in a relationship with someone who has sexual narcissism, they may consider working with a therapist or counselor to learn strategies that may help the relationship, if they want to continue it. Therapy may also provide the necessary support if a person decides to leave the relationship.

Sexual narcissism can make relationships extremely difficult and might take a psychological toll on both those with narcissistic traits and prospective partners. Many people may also view these traits as undesirable, which could make it difficult for the person with narcissistic traits to form meaningful relationships outside of a sexual context.

While a sexual narcissist may appear charming, self-assured, and full of confidence, those outward behaviors typically hide low self-esteem. Low confidence and high sensitivity to what they perceive as criticism can make it very difficult for them to seek help.

Sexual narcissism may also cause long-term health problems. A 2012 study suggests that the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is chronically active in people with narcissistic traits. The HPA axis is a complex neuroendocrine pathway that plays an important role in the body’s response to stress.

In addition to poorer mental health outcomes, chronic HPA activation can increase the level of stress hormones such as cortisol in the body, which may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Sexual narcissism refers to narcissistic traits that are only prevalent in a person’s sex life. It typically involves behaviors of sexual entitlement, sexual exploitation, a lack of sexual empathy, and a grandiose sense of their sexual skill.

This can cause difficulties in relationships, as there are links between sexual narcissism and infidelity, sexual aggression, and sexual abuse. It may be difficult for sexual narcissists to seek help, but evidence suggests that therapy can increase empathic skills and help build meaningful relationships.