Dark Personalities

14 Signs a Narcissist Is Playing Mind Games With You

Published by
Janey Davies, B.A. (Hons)

With hindsight, a narcissist’s mind games are plain to see. However, it’s much harder to spot them at the beginning of a relationship.

Narcissists use a variety of manipulation techniques. For instance, love bombing hooks you in initially. Then they keep you dangling with hot and cold behaviors designed to gaslight you into accepting their version of reality. In this article, I’ll show you 14 signs a narcissist is playing mind games with you.

14 signs a narcissist is playing mind games with you

1. They blame you for everything that’s wrong in their life

The first sign a narcissist is playing mind games with you is blame-shifting. A narcissist is never wrong. They’ll never admit to making a mistake and if someone calls them out on their actions, the other person must be lying. Narcissists are parasites who don’t take the blame for their actions.

For example:

“If you were the sort of boyfriend I wanted, I wouldn’t have cheated. I told you to change, but you didn’t.”

They like to play the victim. This gets them special attention, which is something they crave. Only narcissists feel pain, wrongs, or slights. Blaming you is part of their gaslighting technique. It makes you question your reality. You walk on eggshells, wondering if you really are this awful person wrecking their life.

2. They criticize your friends, then befriend them

Narcissists like to isolate their latest supply from their network of friends and family. Removing this support is crucial, as they don’t want rational people questioning their behavior. They criticize your friends and badmouth them, making it difficult for you to justify seeing them.

But they twist this dynamic even further. Once you’re isolated, they move in on your friends and charm the hell out of them. This is a vicious tactic. They swoop in and gather up the friends they insisted you ditch.

3. They are hot and cold towards you

Playing hot and cold throws you off balance. Narcissists go from ‘You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me’ or ‘I can’t imagine my life without you’ immediately to ‘I want to sleep with other men’ or ‘I never found you attractive.’

Psychologists describe this as love bombing followed by immediate devaluation.

4. They constantly change the frequency and quality of their messages

Another one of the 14 signs a narcissist is playing mind games with you is a change in their messages. At the start of the relationship, they would send long and meaningful texts. They’d engage with you; their answers would be thoughtful and considered.

Nowadays, they are short and lazy. Instead of replying with messages of substance, they fire off quick memes or low-quality texts. They become less personal and more informational. The love and compassion are missing. The messages could be for anyone.

5. They pretend to care about you in private, then belittle you in public

Narcissists make you believe they are the only ones that care about you. Only they understand you and what you’ve been through.

When you’re alone with them, you feel secure and loved. Then there comes a time when they’re sarcastic and cruel to you in public and you don’t understand what’s happening. When you’re alone together, they’re like a different person.

6. They give you just enough love to keep you hooked, then cut you off

Narcissists use a technique called ‘bread crumbing’ to keep you invested in the relationship. They give you a few tidbits here and there to make you think there’s a chance the relationship can still work. Then they go cold turkey and withdraw that love and affection.

Finally, you’re done and at that moment, they hoover you back in with promises to change, declarations of undying love, and you are hooked again. This is about power and control. Narcissists like to think of you dangling and waiting for them to make a move.

7. They criticize you ‘for your own good’

Constructive criticism is a valuable tool for personal growth, but not when the intent behind it is to demean or knock your confidence. A narcissist will subtly point out your failings under the guise of ‘constructive feedback’ or ‘genuine concern’.

8. They get you to open up, then use your weakness against you

Narcissists like to have ammunition to use against you when needed. To this end, they pretend to care about you, so you’ll open up and reveal your deepest, darkest secrets and fears. They get you to trust them enough to become your greatest confidant.

Then, once you’re relaxed and feeling secure, they use your fears to demolish you. It doesn’t matter whether you’re still in the relationship or you’ve broken up. They use your words against you to argue while you’re still together, or to further isolate you from everyone when you’re apart.

9. They sabotage what you are doing

No one can be better than a narcissist. So, if there’s any chance of you stealing their limelight, they spring into action. They don’t want you to succeed because then you’ll outshine them, and you might not need them.

Narcissists will do anything they can to sabotage you; from giving wrong advice, not telling you about important messages, making suggestions or comments that undermine you or fixating on something irrelevant. Narcissists prefer you in a weakened state because it tethers you to them emotionally.

10. They use ‘triangulation’ to turn everyone against you

Narcissists turn people against you using a tactic called ‘triangulation’. This is a psychological threesome described by psychiatrist Dr. Stephen Karpman. He first introduced the term to describe the parts people play in a conflict situation:

  • The Persecutor – Someone who instigates the conflict.
  • The Victim – The person at the receiving end of the persecution.
  • The Rescuer – A mediator trying to resolve the conflict.

The narcissist will draw in a third party to influence the outcome of the conflict in their favor. Typically playing the victim, narcissists filter all information, putting themselves in a favorable light and casting doubt on you.

For example:

At work, management reprimands the narcissist about their lateness. In response, the narcissist says you promised to give them a lift and let them down.

11. There’s one rule for you and one rule for them

Narcissists lay down rules once they establish the relationship. But these rules only apply to you. If you don’t abide by them, it causes problems.

For example, they’ll insist you are an exclusive couple; not only that, but they’ll accuse you of cheating many times. Then you find out they’ve been sleeping with other people. When you confront them, they blame you. You are too suffocating. They felt trapped. You left them alone, and they felt lonely.

Perhaps they expect an instant reply when they text you, but they take hours or even ignore your messages. If you complain, they’ll say they’re busy at work and you shouldn’t be so needy.

12. They don’t want you to go out, but they can’t leave you home alone

As narcissists become more controlling, they’ll insist on even more ridiculous rules for you. One example is they won’t want you to accompany them to parties or get-togethers because you’re too attractive and other people might fancy you. Or they can’t trust you not to go off and have affairs with everyone you meet.

However, they can’t leave you at home because who knows who’ll you’ll be texting while they’re out. They won’t be able to enjoy the party because they’re worrying too much about what you’re getting up to behind their back. How are you supposed to negotiate this dilemma? Either way, it’s your fault.

13. They deliberately provoke you

Drama and conflict are a narcissist’s best friends. They provoke you like a cat playing with a dead mouse. Narcissists feed on negative energy. It recharges their batteries.

The more frustrated and upset you get, the more they love it. You get angry, they smile; you cry, they laugh. Imagine being caught in a spider’s web and the spider is on the edge of the web, watching you struggle while it manipulates the surrounding environment.

14. They’re active on social media but ignoring you

Narcissists love being passive aggressive. It’s another form of gaslighting and makes you question the validity of your feelings. If you’re on social media and you can see the narcissist is online but not replying to your pasts, they’ll just say they’re busy and the world doesn’t revolve around you.

You start to think perhaps you are overreacting? Maybe you shouldn’t be so sensitive?

Final thoughts

If you recognize any of the 14 signs a narcissist is playing mind games with you, my advice is to end the relationship. Use the Gray Rock method and cut off all contact. Seriously, they’re not worth your time or effort.


  1. psychologytoday.com
  2. researchgate.net

View Comments

  • It's crucial to recognize these signs early on to avoid getting entangled in a toxic relationship. The article provides a comprehensive list of 14 signs that a narcissist is playing mind games with you. I particularly found the section on "They give you just enough love to keep you hooked, then cut you off" to be eye-opening. It's astonishing how narcissists use this technique to maintain control and keep their victims hooked.

    As someone who has experienced a toxic relationship in the past, I can attest to the emotional distress and confusion that comes with being in a relationship with a narcissist. It's essential to prioritize self-care and seek support from loved ones or a therapist if you're going through a similar situation.

    Thank you for sharing this informative article. I hope it helps others recognize the signs of narcissistic behavior and take steps to protect themselves from emotional abuse.

  • Good to know Janey. Number 11 is pertinent. Life is very complicated. Thank you for sharing. Helpful.

Published by
Janey Davies, B.A. (Hons)