Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental illness where the individual perceives themselves to be superior to others. They feel that they are more important than other people, have trouble empathizing with others, and are extremely judgmental. Their harsh judgments are not only about other people or material objects, but their judgments are also about themselves as well.
Even though the person with this disorder acts as though they are extremely confident, very generous, and impressively smart, they are actually painfully insecure on the inside.
People with this disorder are often arrogant, conceited, manipulative, and condescending. This is often due to them trying to over-compensate for their insecurities. They appear to have their life all together. They will try to convince you that they have a lavish lifestyle, are extremely intelligent, and often brag about how they can manipulate others.
They don’t handle criticism well at all. When someone with narcissistic personality disorder is criticized, they often become extremely defensive and try to quickly remind the other person of their own shortcomings to try to shift the criticism from themselves onto the other person.
Causes of Narcissistic Personality Disorder
There are no clear-cut causes of narcissistic personality disorder. Individual genetics, biological factors, their environment, and early life experiences are all thought to play key roles in the development of this disorder . This mental illness affects men more than women. Some researchers believe that in biologically vulnerable children, specific parenting styles that are neglectful or overprotective may play a significant role in the child developing narcissistic personality disorder .
What it means to be “biologically vulnerable” is simply referring to individuals who have a predisposition to develop mental illness. So, a biologically vulnerable child who lived their life being pampered with deep convictions of entitlement may very well develop narcissistic personality disorder. The opposite affect is also possible to manifest. For example, a biologically vulnerable child who is often neglected by his parents may also develop this disorder.
It is also believed that this personality disorder may develop sociologically. When people reach higher levels of success or fame, some are regarded as suffering from this illness. Though an appropriate and thorough psychological assessment would need to be made before a diagnosis could occur, it is still interesting to see the connection between people who are in positions of power who hold narcissistic traits.
Though, you don’t have to be rich and famous to be a narcissist. In fact, most narcissists live their lives in disarray, suffering from damaged relationships, excessive spending, massive debt, and an overwhelmingly low-self esteem.
Symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Unlike many other personality disorders, like dissociative identity disorder for instance, the symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder are quite distinctive and easy to spot. They typically have very strong personalities and want desperately to make themselves seen and to be admired by others, especially by strangers.
They have little to no empathy for those who get in their way. People with narcissistic personality disorder are master manipulators, are often very well spoken, and are very good at convincing people of things. Here are some typical symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder:
Exaggerates about accomplishments, possessions, earnings, etc.
Condescending to others
Believing they are better than other people
Craves admiration and attention from other people
Are expected to be treated better than others
Are very envious of other people’s possessions, accomplishments, etc.
Believing that people are very envious of them, even if they have not accomplished much
Feel as though they must have the “best” of everything
Very judgmental of others
Very judgmental of themselves
Exaggerates their intelligence and ability
Heavily criticizes others, yet are unwilling to be criticized themselves
Spend money frivolously and are often in debt
Narcissistic Personality Disorder Diagnostic Criteria
There are no clear cut diagnostic criteria for this disorder. There are no physical labs that can be done to uncover whether or not someone has narcissistic personality disorder either. However, some mental health professionals insist that the individual take a narcissistic personality disorder quiz to give a better indication of whether or not they suffer from this mental illness.
Though this quiz may bring light to the truth about their condition or lack thereof, their willingness to take the quiz in the first place is unlikely as they believe that there is nothing wrong with them.
This is one of the biggest problems with narcissistic personality disorder, and that is that the people who suffer from this illness don’t believe that there is anything wrong with them. They think they are great and that other people are just jealous of them. It is very difficult to get someone with narcissistic personality disorder to seek out help because of this.
Often times, if people get diagnosed with this illness, it is the result of their therapist uncovering narcissistic symptoms while assessing them for other disorders such as OCD, depression, anxiety etc. However, most narcissists are “too good” for therapy. So, you probably wouldn’t find one seeking out help to relieve their symptoms.
Treatments for Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Oftentimes, psychotherapy is the main approach that therapists use to treat this disorder. Psychotherapy (talk therapy), is used to help the individual learn how to relate to others better so that they can experience and engage in functional interpersonal relationships and to gain a better understanding of their emotions and why they feel the way that they do . Narcissistic personality disorder cannot be cured. However, psychotherapy can significantly help to reduce the symptoms of this disorder.
The goal is to build up the person’s poor self-esteem and have more realistic expectations of others . Also it is important to try to stress the importance of taking a non-judgmental stance toward other people. This is a very difficult thing for someone suffering from narcissistic personality disorder to follow through with as being heavily judgmental and critical of others is often a very deeply rooted character trait that they withhold for many years. Implementing behavior change is not easy, but it can help to reduce some of the symptoms of this mental disorder nonetheless.
1) “Narcissistic Personality Disorder.” Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/conditions/narcissistic-personality-disorder#causes
2) “Narcissistic Personality Disorder.” Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/narcissistic-personality-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20366662
3) “Narcissistic Personality Disorder.” Psycom. https://www.psycom.net/personality-disorders/narcissistic/
4) “Narcissistic Personality Disorder.” Web MD. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/narcissistic-personality-disorder#2-5
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