Ever felt like a target in someone else’s game? Recognizing the tactics can help create boundaries with people with traits of narcissistic personality.

Maybe you’re not sure if someone has played games with you. Maybe you were in a whirlwind romance, only to have the object of your affection—bolt without warning, or found out one of your friends intentionally pitted you against someone else. It’s natural to feel devastated and confused.


Are they the bad guy/girl?

Not really. People with narcissistic personality disorder are living with a mental health condition that’s complex and often stigmatized. Learning to identify the games people with narcissistic personality play — and other frequent behaviors — can help you establish necessary boundaries.


Why use manipulation games?

The whys and hows are complex, and in many cases, not well understood.

Someone may appear to you as a person with strong self-esteem. Behind an attitude of superiority, there’s often someone who’s vulnerable and might even feel powerless. A person with narcissistic personality may develop very elaborate self-defense mechanisms, including manipulation tactics.

They also tend to have low empathy and difficulty getting emotionally invested in others. Low empathy doesn’t mean no empathy, though. A 2018 study suggests people with covert or overt narcissism are prone to making unethical decisions and acting in unethical ways.


The top games

For people with a narcissistic personality disorder, relationships are often about getting ones own needs fulfilled. This may involve a need to constantly feel admired and powerful. If this validation isn’t received, there’s not much to fall back on for them.

A few games someone with narcissistic personality might engage in: from gaslighting, love bombing, ghosting, triangulation, to playing the victim.



You’ve probably heard of gaslighting. It’s a form of severe emotional manipulation where the goal of the gaslighter is to sow seeds of confusion. This makes you doubt your own thoughts, emotions, or reality.

Narcissistic gaslighting is typically a long-term, gradual technique. The ultimate intention is to keep you under tight control and dependent.


Love bombing

If you ever thought it was way too soon for someone to love you so much, it probably was. Love bombing can take many forms, but it’s usually a person pushing too far too soon. It’s someone saying “You’re amazing” or “I’ve never met anyone like you before,” when they actually hardly know you at all. It might include showering you with gifts and together-forever conversations. It can involve more extreme behaviors like stalking and jealousy fits.

Being love bombed can sometimes feel very flattering. Because of this, you might feel inclined to respond to all these romantic gestures. Before you do, consider doing two things:

– Go beyond their words and gestures and focus on how much they really have to base all this love on.

– Ask yourself if you’re increasingly feeling committed to this person or obligated to correspond when you wouldn’t be interested otherwise.

– Love bombing is someone hunting for your attention and dependency. Once this goal has been met and you’re engaged, a love bomber is likely to lose interest and take advantage of what you now feel for them.



Ghosting happens when someone suddenly stops communicating without warning. It can happen in any relationship, but more typically in a dating scenario. You’ve finally accepted to date this person who has inundated you with attention. And then, one day after a date, you try to check their Instagram profile and find out… you’ve been blocked.This has to be a mistake of some kind. So, you text them. Nothing. Hours later, you try calling them. Nothing. You’ve been ghosted.

Ghosting is a power move someone with narcissistic personality disorder may use. There are many reasons why someone might ghost you. It may be because they lost interest and want to avoid the conflict of telling you this personally. It may be they want to see your reaction and how much you care. Often, it’s break-up game — they use to feel they had the last word and all control in the relationship.

Do narcissists come back after ghosting you? Not likely, but they might if they want to gain something from it.


Remember, not everyone who ghosts you has a personality disorder. If you’re engaged in a relationship where you feel others are manipulating you constantly, despite your efforts for them to stop, consider taking a step back, setting boundaries, or even letting go.