Why it’s important to set boundaries with a narcissist

Narcissists are notoriously known for overstepping boundaries. Unfortunately, narcissistic people and their victims often get drawn to each other through the tug of the victim and psychological abuser.

Essentially, for people to survive a relationship with a narcissistic person, they must adopt healthy boundaries.

Boundary setting

Research suggests that narcissistic people and the people they target share a common ground of not setting boundaries.

This toxic relationship likely developed due to both parties experiencing childhood trauma where they did not learn the value of setting boundaries or that boundaries existed!


Broadly, the narcissist’s victims likely got taught in childhood that their own needs don’t matter and were never taught how to set healthy boundaries with others or that they deserved to have their most basic needs met.

Mental health

Caring about mental health

People who did not get their needs met in childhood are the perfect prey for narcissists who can identify a vulnerable person from a mile away!


Victims of narcissism are easy to manipulate, and there’s nothing more a narcissist loves than being able to gain a narcissistic supply from an unsuspecting victim.

People who get preyed on by narcissists suffer low self-esteem or have a narcissist in the family, such as a narcissistic parent or other family members with the disorder.

Feel bad

Many people feel bad for setting clear boundaries as it goes against what they get taught growing up.

However, people involved with narcissists must relinquish a sense of control and respect during an interaction with those with a narcissistic personality disorder. Essentially, the consequences of not doing so are far more significant.

Toxic people

Boundaries protect us against behaviours and attitudes that make us uncomfortable.

It is crucial to your emotional health to cultivate and set healthy boundaries, whether you are dealing with a narcissistic individual or a non-narcissist such as close friends, family members, or even a romantic relationship.

Healthy relationships

Even in a good relationship, boundaries are essential. 

Boundaries give us a sense of control over our lives, allowing us to decide the behaviours and actions we are willing to expose ourselves to from others close to us and the rest of the world.

Healthy boundary-setting gives us the advantage of showing up as our most authentic selves to the people we love without fear or concern about the consequences.

Narcissistic traits

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is one of ten personality disorders identified within the DSM-5.

According to the DSM-5, the classification of NPD is that it follows a pattern of grandiosity, a need for admiration, and a lack of empathy.

Personality traits – signs and symptoms

Not every person who exhibits some of the personality traits associated with narcissism has NPD.

Narcissist’s track record

However, there is a consistent pattern of signs and symptoms associated with a narcissistic personality disorder that people must look out for; they include:

  • An exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • A severe lack of empathy for others
  • Regular fantasies about intelligence, personal power, or attractiveness
  • A strong belief in unique specialness
  • A habit of using manipulation tactics
  • Entitled behavior, for example, a desire for special treatment (or they constantly feel entitled)
  • Low empathy when it comes to other peoples’ needs
  • Exaggerated feelings of superiority
  • Strong demand for admiration, attention, and praise from others
  • Feeling envious of other people or believing that others are envious of them
  • Arrogant or scornful attitudes towards others


When determining whether someone has a narcissistic personality disorder, mental health professionals often lookout for at least five of the above personality characteristics.

Other factors that get determined are:

  • How the characteristics impact the narcissist’s daily life and relationships
  • When the symptoms first got exhibited
  • Whether the personality traits appear in different contexts

Good boundaries

When someone suspects they are dealing with a narcissist, they need to exercise a level of self-control and compassion.

When speaking with a narcissist, the other party must speak in a calm voice or a matter-of-fact tone to avoid inflaming the narcissist’s anger or dramatic tendencies.


Many narcissists react badly to boundaries or violate them entirely.

One of the reasons narcissists overstep boundaries is because it allows them to hold themselves accountable for any wrongdoing they may have caused, something they intensely dislike!


If dealing with a narcissist is more than a one-time event, people must spend time cultivating boundaries to protect themselves.

Once an individual begins using boundaries, the narcissists lose credibility and those things that used to feel validating to them.

Most important boundaries

There are several essential boundaries to set around a narcissist. They include:

#1. Set the agenda

Before starting an interaction with a narcissist, it’s crucial people set the agenda for the conversation.

For example, if a narcissist asks you a question, you must find a way to go around the answer instead of directly answering the question. Often, narcissists are trying to ‘’trip you up’’ or get you to engage in topics that make you uncomfortable.

For example, if they ask you how a relationship is, reply with ”it’s going great” and move the subject on.

A good rule of thumb is to shift their attention by asking them a question in return.

Remember, narcs love talking about themselves, so they shouldn’t be too resistant!

#2. Do not over-explain, justify or overshare

Another essential rule to remember is that you mustn’t justify your actions or behaviours to a narcissist.

Keep the conversation as brief as possible. If a narcissist does criticize you in the process, then tell them that you feel confident in your decisions but that you’ll consider their opinion.

#3. Be aware of when to draw the line

When you respond to a narcissist, they ultimately use your reactions against you while getting the attention they crave.

Decide on the type of behaviours you are willing to accept and that which is unacceptable.

For example, if the narc happens to debase you or call you names, explain in a calm voice that you will not tolerate rudeness or bad behaviour.

Keep your explanation brief, and if the behaviour continues, the next wise move is to remove yourself entirely from the situation.

#4. Have an exit strategy

During an interaction with a narcissist, you have to expect that things may get a little tricky.

If someone around you is prone to manipulate you or say things that make you uncomfortable, then it’s wise to have an exit strategy in mind.

You have the right to get treated with respect from others, and if you feel devalued or degraded, then you don’t need permission to leave.

One way to execute an exit strategy is to look at your watch and say, ”oh, I’m late, I’ve got to be somewhere” or glance at your phone and tell them that you need to ”take this call”.

Whether you are late for something or not doesn’t matter, the point is you have removed yourself from the disrespectful clutches of the narcissist!

Moving forward

Setting boundaries with someone narcissistic can be profoundly challenging, mainly if they are family members or close friends.

However, when we set boundaries with those we love, we always allow ourselves to be at our most authentic; why should anyone have to put up with disrespect and bad behaviour?!

When you set boundaries

Setting boundaries with a narcissist

By setting boundaries, we also cultivate a level of self-respect by identifying the type of behaviours and attitudes we are happy to be around.

Most toxic people react badly to boundaries, and this alone is a red flag.

Healthy relationships include healthy boundaries, and if you find that some of the people in your life react negatively to your limitations, then that in itself is a sign of toxicity.

If you are having trouble setting boundaries with the people in your life, then get in touch with one of our specialists who can help.

Contact us

Contact one of our specialists at Camino Recovery today and find out how we can help guide you on the path of healing and transformation.

Email: enquiries@www.caminorecovery.com or call us in Spain +34 951 107 195 or UK +44 (0)7492 426615

David Scourfield

David Scourfield is a Camino Recovery team member since 2017, focused on facilitating communication with Clinical and other professionals to ensure a comprehensive understanding of Camino's program.

Combining his marketing skills and lived experiences, he joined Camino in 2017, contributing to external publications and the Camino website. With a strong belief in solidarity during the recovery process, David helps clients build support networks by connecting them with others in recovery.

More from David Scourfield

Get in Touch

We treat all of our clients with the utmost care, dignity and respect. Call now for a totally confidential, no obligation conversation with one of our professionals.

Whether you’re calling for yourself or someone you know, you needn’t suffer alone.

If you or someone you know could benefit from our services please do not hesitate to contact us.