Manipulators can have various possible motivations, including but not limited to:
- the need to advance their own purposes and personal gain at virtually any cost to others
- a strong need to attain feelings of power and superiority in relationships with others
- a want and need to feel in control (aka. control freak)
- a desire to gain a feeling of power over others in order to raise their perception of self-esteem
- boredom, or growing tired of his/her surroundings, seeing it as a game more than hurting others
- covert agenda, criminal or otherwise, including financial manipulation (often seen when the elderly or unsuspecting, unprotected wealthy are intentionally targeted for the sole purpose of obtaining a victim’s financial assets)
PsychopathyMain article: Psychopathy
According to Kernberg, antisocial, borderline, and narcissistic personality disorders are all organized at a borderline level of personality organization, and the three share some common characterological deficits and overlapping personality traits, with deceitfulness and exceptional manipulative abilities being the most common traits among the three. Sociopaths, borderlines, and narcissists are often both physically attractive (narcissists and borderlines in particular) and highly intelligent and can be efficient, persuasive, and incredible liars. Other shared traits include pathological narcissism, consistent irresponsibility,machiavellianism, lack of empathy, cruelty, meanness, impulsivity, proneness to self-harm and addictions, interpersonal exploitation, hostility, anger and rage, vanity, emotional instability, rejection sensitivity, perfectionism, and the use of primitive defence mechanisms that are pathological and narcissistic. Common narcissistic defences include splitting, denial, projection, projective identification, primitive idealization and devaluation, distortion (including exaggeration, minimization and lies), and omnipotence.
Psychologist Marsha M. Linehan has stated that people with borderline personality disorder often exhibit behaviors which are not truly manipulative, but are erroneously interpreted as such. According to her, these behaviors often appear as unthinking manifestations of intense pain, and are often not deliberate as to be considered truly manipulative.
Manipulation to obtain nurturance, approval, attention and control over others is considered by the DSM-IV-TR and many mental health professionals to be a defining characteristic of borderline personality disorder. Manipulative behavior is also common to narcissists, who use manipulation to obtain power and narcissistic supply. Those with antisocial personalities will manipulate for material items, power, and a wide variety of other reasons.