What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a mental illness which can be defined as unhealthy thoughts of self-worth.
Those affected are likely to appear arrogant, with little or no regard for others’ feelings. NPD can be toxic to all types of relationships, and the individual can be very socially destructive.
NPD often affects more men than women, yet the exact causes remain unknown. It is believed to be associated with insensitive parenting or other early life experiences, such as abuse. (1)
There are many types of personality disorders. These have been categorized depending on the traits. NPD can be found under cluster B of personality disorders. This group is generally defined by dramatic, unpredictable and emotional behavior. (2)
A personality is what makes each person unique. It creates a distinctive set of features characterizing every individual. These traits decide behavior styles and personal patterns which control how the world is viewed. They may also control attitude and feelings.
Generally, a “healthy” personality can find ways to deal with stressful times without hurting others. They are able to form and keep relationships with people around them, such as family, friends or co-workers.
Unlike a “healthy” personality, people affected by NPD have toxic thoughts of self-worth. In turn they become engrossed with themselves, disregarding the needs and feelings of others.
A person with NPD often exhibits an unrealistic idea of self-image. He/she is likely to exaggerate accomplishments while feeding on the praise of others.
People with NPD have different traits. They may often be perceived as the following:
A person with NPD will likely think very highly of themselves and often believe they are better than other people. This, in turn, can affect how criticism is received. (3)
Depending on the person, the reaction may be perceived as rage, shame or humiliation. The affected may turn and “attack” the one who dared to criticize them.
Those affected will often lack empathy for others and might not even be able to recognize other people’s needs. They usually have their own goals and will do anything to achieve them, even if it means using or taking advantage of people. (4)
NPD will have severe effects on interpersonal perceptions. Some may take advantage on purpose, while others do it unknowingly.
Excessive sense of self-importance is a telltale sign of NPD. (5)
An individual with NPD will often display an unusual expression of self-worth and importance. He/she may believe that they are unique and may be drawn to other people who they consider to be “above average.”
Exaggerations of Achievements
Those with NPD are usually attention-seeking. They have no problem with exaggerating their achievements and talents. The individual might do this to “feed” their low self-esteem and inflate their ego. (6)
Preoccupation with Fantasies
Since the reality of the life of a narcissist rarely meets the needs and targets of their sense of self-worth, fantasies often occupy their minds. (7, 8)
They may be seen fantasizing about excessive success, power or unimaginable intelligence. Others may create a fantasy world where they have “perfect” beauty and ideal love.
These fantasies are often a shield, protecting their ego from the harsh, sometimes lonely, realities. They may suppress their inner feelings of emptiness and remorse to appear repellent to the criticism of others.
Since an individual with NPD often feels a high level of self-importance, they are likely to expect special treatment wherever they go. The affected may feel as though they deserve favorable treatments, even if they are unreasonable. (9)
A narcissist’s ego can be explained as a bottomless pit which requires constant feedings of admiration and attention. (10)
Their ego is “greedy” to a point where an ordinary compliment might not be enough to satisfy their needs. Praise must be constant to suppress inner insecurities.
Often, individuals suffering from NPD will have little ability to acknowledge the needs and feelings of others. (11)
They may have a hard time placing themselves in other people’s shoes to see their point of view. Generally, the people around are seen more as objects or tools to feed the narcissist’s ego as opposed to real people. This is similar to someone with Antisocial personality disorder.
Self-interest can be exaggerated to obsessive self-admiration. This will usually go beyond “normal” levels of confidence. It may reach a point where the affected can feed their ego with unrealistic perceptions of self-image. (12)
Pursuing Own Goals
Due to the narcissist’s excessive sense of self-worth, he/she will likely pursue selfish goals. This may usually be done with little to no regard as to how it will affect a partner’s wishes and dreams. (13)
Narcissistic personality disorder is usually not assessed within a stage system.
When diagnosing the disorder, doctors will evaluate the severity of symptoms. This, in turn, will help them choose the right course and extent of treatment. (14)
In some cases, an underlying condition, such as depression, anxiety or substance abuse, may be present. Doctors must recognize these to successfully treat NPD.
It can be a difficult move for a narcissist to seek treatment. They will rarely realize themselves that there is a problem which needs addressing. It is generally loved ones stressing the first steps towards change.
When a doctor is presented with an individual suffering from NPD, they will often begin with a primary mental health evaluation. This is usually followed up with a physical examination, to ensure no other condition could have caused the symptoms. (15)
A diagnosis of NPD is usually not confirmed before a mental health specialist has carried out a psychological assessment. This is generally acquired using a questionnaire with indicators of NPD traits.
Treatment will often involve psychotherapy. It may depend on the severity of the disorder, but will usually include some of the following:
Psychodynamic therapy works to help the affected person understand their behavior, negative moods and thoughts. This generally functions as a long term therapy but may aid the individual in discovering new, healthy ways of relating to others. (16)
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
This type of treatment involves a therapist who will help identify the harmful and selfish behavior patterns. (17)
The specialist will then help find productive and positive patterns or solutions which may replace the old toxic ways.
Family or Marital Therapy
NPD will often have noticeable effects on family or relationships as the patient is usually unable to identify the needs of others. It can be a crucial step towards recovery to address and deal with these relationship issues. (18)
This will typically involve problem-solving to help find solutions as well as ways to better communicate with family and loved ones.
Medical treatment is generally only used if the affected person has developed another issue, such as depression. In these cases, a doctor might prescribe antidepressants. (19)
What is narcissistic personality disorder? Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental health illness. This condition will interfere with and inflate an individual’s sense of self-image.
What are the signs of narcissistic personality disorder? This disorder can characterized by persistent patterns of abnormally high levels of self-worth. Those affected will likely exhibit a lack of empathy and arrogant behavior. They often need excessive praise and attention to feed their ever-growing ego. Others’ goals and needs will usually take a back seat and any criticism may be met with rage or humiliation. (20)
How do you develop narcissistic personality disorder? The exact cause remains unclear. However, it is believed to occur following insensitive parenting or abuse. On the contrary, it may also arise due to excessive praise and pampering. Some links have shown specific genetic makeup may also impact the behavior connections in the brain. (21)
How are you diagnosed for narcissistic personality disorder? Doctors will generally carry out a psychological evaluation followed by a physical examination.
What is the best treatment for narcissistic personality disorder? Treatment usually involves therapies which help the affected recognize and change their behavioral patterns. These may include: psychodynamic, CBT or family or marital therapy.
What are the long term complications of narcissistic personality disorder? Narcissistic personality disorder can have a severe impact on relationships. It may lead to mental or physical abuse. Some may also acquire problems with substance abuse which may, in turn, lead to severe depression. Heart disease and gastrointestinal issues may also present a possible complication. (22)
Is narcissistic personality disorder considered a disability? No, this disorder is not regarded as a disability.
Is there any cure for narcissistic personality disorder? A cure may depend on the severity of the NPD. The person’s acceptance of the disorder and willingness to change is also required. With the correct treatment and care, it can be cured.
Is narcissistic personality disorder life threatening? It can lead to depression where some sufferers may commit suicide. NPD has also shown to increase the chances of potentially fatal heart diseases. (23)
Narcissistic personality disorder is a variation of mental illness whose cause is unknown. It is believed it may be associated with insensitive parenting or other early life experiences, such as abuse.
A narcissist can often be defined as an individual with excessive self-love. He/she thinks very highly of themselves and has little or no empathy for others.
This disorder can be very toxic to loved ones, damaging relationships due to a constant need of attention and feeding of their ego. Although it can be cured, it requires a willingness from the sufferer and commitment to treatment in order to succeed.