Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a psychiatric diagnosis characterized by a chronically inflated sense of self-importance, grandiosity, need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others.
People with NPD often have difficulty forming and sustaining meaningful relationships, experience extreme mood swings, difficulty dealing with criticism or failure, and may turn to substance abuse in order to cope.
It is important to note that although some people may display narcissistic traits from time to time, it does not necessarily mean they are suffering from NPD.
It is only when someone demonstrates severe symptoms that impair their ability to function in day-to-day life that they can be diagnosed as having the disorder.
What is a Personality Disorder?
A personality disorder is a mental illness that manifests as an enduring pattern of thought and behaviour that differs significantly from the expectations and norms of an individual’s culture.
The third cluster contains disorders such as narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), borderline personality disorder (BPD), and antisocial personality disorder (APD).
People who suffer from these disorders usually have difficulty relating to others, managing their emotions, controlling their behaviours, regulating their moods, and can often exhibit dramatic or unpredictable relationships with other people.
Treatment for personality disorders typically involves long-term psychotherapy and medication.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Like all cluster B personality disorders, NPD manifests as a lack of empathy, grandiose sense of self-importance and entitlement, superficial charm and manipulation of others for personal gain.
Symptoms can range from mild to severe and if left untreated can lead to social isolation or even violence.
Treatment typically consists of long-term psychotherapy but can also include medication therapy when necessary
The following are the main characteristics of Narcissistic Personality Disorder –
Grandiosity: An inflated sense of self-importance, often resulting in grandiose ideas or expectations.
Lack of Empathy: Many people with narcissistic personality disorder lack empathy and the ability to understand other people’s feelings and viewpoints.
Obsession With Perfectionism: People with narcissistic personality disorder may feel unsatisfied unless their goals are perfect. This makes them prone to feelings of depression or anxiety when they don’t meet their own standards.
Seeking Attention & Admiration: People with this type of disorder constantly seek attention from others and expect admiration for even small accomplishments.
Feeling Entitled: People with narcissistic personality disorder have a very strong sense of entitlement. They will often expect special treatment without reciprocating in kind.
Exploitative Behavior: These individuals may be exploitative of others, using manipulation or charm to get what they want without considering the consequences on others involved.
Jealousy & Envy: They often experience intense bouts of jealousy and envy towards those who seem more successful than they are.
Arrogance & Hubris: Narcissistic individuals often think themselves superior to others, endowing themselves with an air of superior arrogance that can be off-putting to those around them.
Rejection Sensitivity: NPD sufferers can be extremely sensitive to any sort of rejection, whether it’s real or perceived. This leads them to lash out at others in anger and frustration due to their own inner struggles with insecurity and low self-esteem .
Difficulty With Intimacy: Those who suffer from NPD may have difficulty forming close intimate relationships as their need for admiration makes it hard for them to truly appreciate another person’s needs and emotions outside of their own desires or perspective.
Diagnosing Narcissistic Personality Disorder
To diagnose mental illnesses such as NPD, psychiatrists and mental health experts turn to the new version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which was produced by the American Psychiatric Association. The following characteristics are required for a diagnosis of NPD in the DSM-5:
- an inflated sense of self-importance and entitlement
- craving constant admiration and praise
- expecting special treatment due to perceived superiority
- exaggerating achievements and talents
- reacting aggressively to criticism
- constantly fantasizing about power, success, and beauty
- manipulating and taking advantage of others
- having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of other people
- behaving in an arrogant manner
What causes Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
Genetics: Studies have suggested that narcissistic tendencies may be inherited, or caused by differences in brain structure and function.
Environmental Factors. Experiences during a person’s childhood can shape their personality; a lack of parental attention, criticism, or parenting styles that emphasize the need for perfection may contribute to the development of narcissistic traits.
Social Influences. The influence of peers, media, or other outside sources can play an important role in shaping an individual’s sense of self-worth and identity; if these messages are overly positive or promote grandiosity, this may lead to more narcissistic behavior.
Trauma. Events such as childhood abuse or abandonment can leave emotional scars that may increase one’s susceptibility to developing NPD later on in life.
Cognitive Biases. Cognitive distortions such as overgeneralization, discounting the positives or catastrophizing can lead to increased feelings of insecurity and a need for admiration to compensate for these feelings
Stress/Anxiety. Prolonged periods of stress or anxiety can affect one’s ability to think clearly and rationally; this often leads to people seeking validation from external sources instead of finding it within themselves which could support further narcissistic behavior.
Self-Esteem Issues. Having low self-esteem often results in individuals needing outside approval to feel good about themselves; narcissism acts as a coping mechanism that distracts them from their own insecurities and makes them feel superior to others instead
Lack Of Secure Attachment. People with secure attachments are more likely to develop healthy relationships with themselves and those around them whereas those without secure attachments tend towards narcissism as they lack positive feedback from social interactions .
Inaccurate Self Perception. Those who struggle with accurately perceiving how they are seen by those around them may create an exaggerated view of themselves in order to cover up any perceived inadequacies.
Substance Abuse. Substance abuse has been linked to various mental health disorders including NPD.
What is the long-term outlook for people with NPD?
The long-term outlook for people with NPD can vary, but it is typically not a favourable one.
Unfortunately narcissists often do not see anything wrong with their behaviour, so they do not seek out therapy or treatment.
Even if they do seek out help, the prognosis is not always good, as people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder can be very resistant to change.
However, with treatment, some people with this disorder are able to learn how to cope with their disorder and live relatively normal lives.