The narcissist label is thrown around a lot; generally, people use this term to describe someone who thinks a little too well of themselves while ignoring needs and feelings of others. However, not all narcissists conform to the same pattern — there are many types of narcissists, depending on what they focus or obsess about and how they behave towards others.
Somatic Narcissist vs. Cerebral Narcissist
While discussing all types of narcissism is beyond the scope of today’s post, there are generally two types of narcissists when it comes to the focus of their narcissistic obsession:
- cerebral narcissists and
- somatic narcissists.
Cerebral narcissists are mind-focused while somatic narcissists are body-focused. This means that cerebral narcissists will attempt to generate their narcissistic supply — a fancy word for adoration, praise and other bonuses a narcissist may want — by applying their minds. They will try to impress you with their intelligence, academic degrees and career achievements.
Somatic narcissists get their narcissistic supply by applying their bodies. They flaunt their bodies, flex their muscles, brag about the number of times other people hit on them — you get the idea.
There is no pure cerebral or pure somatic narcissists — both types can be present in one person. However, usually there is one predominant type while the other type is lurking somewhere beneath the surface.
Somatic Personality and SSD vs. Somatic Narcissism
Before we jump into signs and symptoms, it is important to mention that somatic narcissism is different from Somatic Symptom Disorder (SSD), which has nothing to do with narcissism. Sometimes SSD is also referred to as Somatic Personality Disorder and someone who has SSD is also referred to as somatic personality. All these aren’t relevant and shouldn’t be confused with “somatic narcissist”.
Here are five somatic traits to look out for:
1. Excessive Concern About Their Appearance
Somatic narcissists take pride in their appearance, and they typically look great. They are well-polished, attractive and fit. You will often find them in gyms, and in company of other health freaks. This perfect appearance satisfies their need for external validation.
Somatic narcissists — male or female — overspend on high-end clothing and designer products. They drive expensive cars and live in well-to-do neighborhoods. Just like everybody else, they may not be able to afford it, but they will get into debts if that’s what it takes to have the image they desire to project.
Somatic narcissists use their sexuality as a tool to gain control in relationships and as a proof of their desirability and status. They may brag about their contests and show off their body. Some of them may dress in revealing clothing, although this isn’t a rule. Female somatic narcissists particularly enjoy the idea of being “the other woman” even in presence of loving and committed partners.
Somatic narcissists triangulate their victims with their ex-partners or other romantic interests to elicit emotional response from them — jealousy and emotional distress. In this case, their narcissistic supply is not only attention from multiple people but also emotional suffering of their “main” victim.
Somatic narcissists are wired to think in terms of their own needs and wants. They have a high sense of entitlement where they expect things to go their way; they expect to receive love, support and friendship without any effort on their part. In conversation they tend to talk a lot about themselves, and if they listen at all, they listen to pounce on opportunities to turn the spotlight towards themselves.
Somatic Narcissists as Friends
Similarly to romantic relationships, in friendships — if that is even the word — narcissists idealize their victims in the beginning by flattering and complimenting them. Once the victim is hooked, the narcissist will subject them to covert abuse in a form of put-downs and backhanded compliments:
- You look good for your age.
- I love how you don’t care how you come across.
- You look so different without makeup!
- You look so great I didn’t even recognize you!
- You look great on Facebook / Instagram.
Somatic Narcissist and Aging
The game narcissists play can only run for so long, and this is especially true when it comes to the somatic type. Eventually, somatic narcissists age and lose their beauty, strength and sexual appeal. Because they aren’t able to form healthy relationships with other people, they can end up alone — however, this isn’t a rule. Oftentimes they continue living with their old victim, but their hold on the victim weakens considerably and, in terms of narcissistic supply, the relationship is much less satisfying for the narcissist.
As they age, somatic narcissists may begin to look increasingly ridiculous wearing age inappropriate clothing. Their homes may be draped in wall to wall pictures of themselves; their Facebook and Instagram feed overflowing with carefully edited selfies — both old and new; they could develop a taste for plastic surgery and facial fillers. They may bore their conversational partners with stories of their supposedly glorious past; heck, they may even write a memoir about it!
Image source: @freepik.diller via Freepik