Red Flags, Narcissism, & Other Terms We Should Stop Throwing Around

I’m a law school student, and I’ve been spending a great deal of time around family law. This is a place where everyone has to give the person they are leaving a mental health diagnosis in order to justify pursuing a divorce. It seems like everyone has a narcissistic ex, even though only about 6% of our country’s population has been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder.

This isn’t just an issue in family law.

People weaponize mental health terms in order to make themselves feel like “the right one,” the “good guy,” etc. Basically, we’ve all become that guy that says “That b**ch is crazy” about all of his exes, we’ve just found fancier words for it.

Which made me realize how smart we all really think we are about mental health.

As a female on social media, I have lists of “ten signs that you’re in a toxic friendship” and “the most important red flags to look for when dating” thrown in my face often.

I’m not sure where the rapid calling out of everyone’s “red flags” and character flaws originated from. It could be from the recognition that most of us need some form of professional mental help, but can’t afford it. Therefore, we gather surface-level information from the internet and throw it into our lives.

We’re very quick to call out “red flags.” It’s easier to dismiss a family member as “toxic,” rather than considering what we’ve contributed to get the relationship to the bad point it is at. It’s easier to say that someone we were once in a relationship with is just “bipolar” or a “narcissist” rather than admitting both of us were at fault for the relationship’s ending.

The thing is, we all have “red flags.” We all have “narcissistic” tendencies. We can all be difficult people at times with bad social habits. There’s a big danger in using terms like this, without an actual diagnosis, especially when weaponized. It’s not fair to ourselves because we’re simply stamping blame on someone else, rather than having to dig down deep in ourselves.

More importantly, it’s not fair to other people that actually deal with these issues.

Not only does it further the stigma most of the mental health field deals with, but it also starts watering down what all of these things mean.

I’ve heard a counselor speak on the quick calling out of “red flags” before, stating that society just jumped from the extreme of having no boundaries to the other extreme of throwing out anyone we please from our lives with the justification of a “red flag.” He said we’re all missing the point because true mental health lies in the middle, where we guard our hearts and minds while caring for and considering others.

We forget that the focus should actually be ourselves. Rather than focusing on everyone else’s flaws, we should be focused on becoming our best selves. Normally, the people that should leave do leave when we start growing and changing the way we act and see things, anyway.

Deon Sumer
Hi, I’m Deon! I grew up in Zachary, Louisiana. I am currently attending Southern University Law Center part-time, where I am also a teaching assistant, with the intention of practicing family law. I work full-time at the East Baton Rouge Law Office of the Public Defender as a secretary. I had my daughter, Evelyn, in the fall of 2018 and am engaged to an amazing, supportive man named Ryan. I love traveling and exploring new places. A plane ticket to anywhere with a rental car waiting for me is a solid vacation. I have a degree in mass communications with a concentration in public relations and a minor in political science from LSU. I have a rescue dog at home and love helping with animal welfare efforts. My daughter’s first word was dog (or ‘gog’). I'm also always looking for ways to join the fight against Louisiana's domestic violence epidemic. I spend the majority of my free time gardening or wandering around our neighborhood with my family.


  1. I think the focus is oneself when setting boundaries and eliminating toxic people from our lives. It’s usually not just because someone has certain flaws or red flags. It’s that those people have issues, refuse to recognize it and do not seek guidance or mental health to treat their issues.


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