You will know a narcissist when you see one: he or she loves to hog the spotlight. Those afflicted with this severe personality disorder are usually impressive and charismatic people: they beguile and enchant us with their magic. They never tire of talking about their experiences or projects which are always extraordinary. But they are totally lacking in empathy. Just try to discuss what you are doing or share an idea while they are nervously glancing around the room to see who is looking at them.

Linda Martinez-Lewi, a licensed marriage and family therapist, has put together a helpful and informative book for those who want to know more about high-level narcissists: whether they be colleagues, friends, parents, or lovers. Here are some of their traits and behaviors:

• A grandiose sense of self-importance
• A preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
• A belief that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people
• A high sense of entitlement
• Is interpersonally exploitative
• Lacks empathy
• Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
• Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

The book is divided into four sections: The Great Performer, Behind the Perfect Mask, The Adoring Audience, and Response to the Great Performer. Martinez-Lewi presents illustrative material on toxic narcissists with profiles of artist Pablo Picasso, philosopher-author Ayn Rand, and architect Frank Lloyd Wright, describing them all as colorful characters whose hearts were hard and whose egos were gigantic. As the author puts it: "The narcissist takes up a vast amount of psychological space, leaving only room for himself. In his presence, one is unable to breathe or move, all the available oxygen has been taken up by his self-entrancement."

Because of this pattern, narcissists make no distinction between themselves and others: everyone is at their service and disposal. Since all who come into their orbit are just extras in a private movie, they are expendable. Narcissists rarely seek therapy, and their relationships usually end badly. The show just keeps moving from one place to another. It is a lonely existence.