What does it mean to be a cerebral vs. a somatic narcissist?


What is a Cerebral vs. Somatic Narcissist?

Psychological research has now classified narcissists into two types, Cerebral and Somatic. As could be inferred by the terms, cerebral narcissists use their brains to impress and manipulate those around them while somatic narcissists use their bodies. It is unclear whether narcissists are specifically one or the other, predominantly one or the other or whether they may switch between the two states.

Cerebral narcissists are either very intelligent or will pretend to be. They can develop a very convincing script that will use what they know while while they skillfully read the speaker and conversation to be able to sound like they are knowledgeable about the area. They want to be thought of and praised for their advanced intellect so their body isn’t a focus of attention.

Cerebral narcissists will often seek and successfully hold positions of power and authority where they are given a great deal of responsibility. They are able to use their extreme self-confidence and sense of superiority to get others to do what they want. They first seek followers who they can easily manipulate then once they have a number of supporters they begin seeking out followers that have more clout and will be more useful to them. They believe they are above the law and that they can do what they want without fear of consequences. Many of these types of narcissists will avoid sexual relationships as they feel physicality detracts from their image as an academic scholar with high IQ.

Somatic narcissists are focused on their body. They are obsessed with how, how attractive they look and how they can use their physical appearance to get what they want. They show off their body every way possible and seek out compliments while appearing not to be aware of their looks. Often somatic narcissists have multiple cosmetic surgery procedures to maintain a young, attractive appearance. They always dress in the most up to date clothing and may replace their wardrobe every season to ensure nothing they wear is out of style. They diet frequently and spend hours a day at the gym to maintain their physique.

Somatic narcissists have numerous sexual relationships and often brag either directly or indirectly about their sexual conquests. Whenever others engage them in conversation they will interpret this to be a sexual invitation. They use sex for personal satisfaction as well as to get what they want by gaining an ally or someone with resources that they need.

A number of researchers believe that narcissists have both cerebral and somatic traits, using these differential based on the situation. In professional situation or formal situations they are more likely to use cerebral strategies. In interpersonal or informal situations they are more likely to use somatic strategies. It appears that narcissists do tend to prefer one type of strategy over the other and in situations that can go either way they will default to their preferred type of strategy, either cerebral or somatic.


Bates, C., & Neff, M. R. (2017). Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Kohut, H. (2013). The analysis of the self: A systematic approach to the psychoanalytic treatment of narcissistic personality disorders. University of Chicago Press.

Lammers, C. H., Vater, A., & Roepke, S. (2013). Narcissistic personality disorder. Der Nervenarzt, 84(7), 879-86.

Updated on August 1, 2018

Original Article:

Can Narcissists Feel Empathy?
By Natalie Frank

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