Narcissism has become a buzzword in recent years. It seems like almost everyone knows someone who is considered to be a narcissist. Based on the way the word is being thrown around one would think that it is an infectious disease. So, the question is – is narcissism something that can be treated – can narcissists change and become normal empathetic people?
What is narcissism exactly?
Narcissism is often thrown around as an insult. You might hear someone say “She’s such a narcissist!” or “He’s so narcissistic!”. But what does that actually mean?
Personality Disorders are a form of mental illness that can affect how someone thinks, feels, and behaves. People with NPD have an inflated sense of self-importance, need excessive admiration, and lack empathy for others.
That said, this does not mean that anyone who has narcissistic tendencies has the personality disorder. In order to be diagnosed with NPD, a person must meet at least five of the criteria defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which was produced by the American Psychiatric Association.
NPD is a serious condition that can cause problems in many areas of life, such as work, school, and relationships. People with NPD often have difficulty handling criticism or setbacks. They may react angrily or feel hurt and offended when they are not treated the way they believe they deserve.
One of the defining characteristics of this personality disorder is the fact that narcissists lack empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. This means that narcissists are incapable of putting themselves in someone else’s shoes, so they never take the needs or wants of other people in consideration when they make any decisions. The result, of course, is that their relationships are often one-sided and unfulfilling.
Can Narcissists Change?
So, can narcissists change? Can they be healed and become more empathetic people?
The answer to this question is both yes and no. One can certainly change their behaviour, but it is much harder to change emotions and personality traits.
Narcissism, like all personality disorders, falls on a spectrum. As explained above, there are those who have strong narcissistic tendencies (but do not have the full-blown personality disorder) and those who meet the criteria to be diagnosed as having narcissistic personality disorder.
People at one end of the scale, in other words the ones who only have strong narcissistic tendencies, might be able to change their behaviour if they are willing to do the work and put in the effort.
But for those at the other end, who have narcissistic personality disorder, it is much harder. This is because empathy cannot be taught. It is an emotion that comes naturally and cannot be forced.
Unfortunately, personality disorders cannot be cured. However, that doesn’t mean treatment isn’t possible. While you can’t change someone’s personality, you can help them learn to manage their narcissistic behaviour.
Narcissists are perfectly happy the way they are
The problem, of course, is that most people who have NPD do not think that there is anything wrong with them. As far as they are concerned everything is fine and they are perfectly happy the way there are. Their lack of empathy means that they do not care about how their behaviour is impacting the people around them.
This makes it very difficult to get them to seek help or even entertain the idea that they might need to change.
In order to get a narcissist into therapy, there needs to be something in it for them. They need to want to change their behaviour for their own benefit, not for the sake of the people around them. To give an example, a narcissistic husband might agree to go to therapy if his wife threatens to divorce him, because he would not want to end up paying alimony. But if his wife did not threaten to leave, he would see no reason to change his behaviour.
The bottom line is that narcissists can change but only if they want to and only if it is in their own best interest.
The Takeaway – Can Narcissists Change?
There is no easy answer when it comes to the question “Can narcissists change?”.
This is because it IS possible for a narcissist to change their behaviour, but it is a long and difficult process. They need to be willing to do the work and put in the effort. And even then, there are no guarantees that they will be successful.
And ultimately, even if narcissists manage to change their behaviour, they will still be narcissists. The disorder is not curable, so the person will always have those tendencies. They will always need to be aware of their behaviour and work hard to keep it in check, and they will always need some kind of incentive for them to keep up the good behaviour. As soon as the incentive is gone, they will be back to their manipulative and abusive ways.
If you are in a relationship with a narcissist, the best thing you can do is to set boundaries and make sure you take care of yourself. It is not your job to “fix” them or change them. That is something they need to do for themselves, if they ever decide that they want to.
For Further Reading
- Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)
- How to Deal with a Narcissist
- Narcissistic Abuse – How Narcissists Manipulate and Hurt their Victims
- How to Define a Narcissist: The 5 Traits You Need to Look Out For
- How Narcissistic Leaders Create Toxic Workplaces
- The Narcissist and the Enabler – a match made in hell
- The Difference Between Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Narcissistic Personality Traits
- Narcissistic Supply – Feeding the Narcissistic Ego
- Narcissistic Injury – The Agony of the Fragile Narcissistic Ego
- 7 Types of Narcissistic Abuse with Practical Examples
- The 10 Stages of Healing After Narcissistic Abuse
- 8 Ways Narcissists Get Worse with Age
- Can a Narcissist feel Empathy? The Answer May Surprise You
- The Devious Traits of the Female Narcissist – What to Look Out For
- Narcissist Meme Gallery
- How to Tell If You’re a Narcissist
- Does a narcissist ever truly regret hurting people?
- Can Narcissists Change? The Truth About Personality Disorders and How to Treat Them
- Can a Narcissist Ever Be Happy? Appearances May Be Deceptive
- Can a Narcissist Be Nice? The Myth of the Generous Narcissist
- Can the agony of the narcissistic injury ever be healed?
- What is the Root Cause of Narcissism?
- What’s a Narcissist? Characteristics of a Narcissist and How to Spot Them
- NPD – The Warning Signs, Impact and Treatment Options for this Personality Disorder
- Narcissist vs Sociopath – What is the Difference and Which is Worse?
- The Five Types of Narcissist – Which One Are You Dealing With?
- Narcissistic Personality Disorder in Women – The Warning Signs You Need to Know
- What is an Enabler? A Critical Asset for the Narcissist
- Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) – Symptoms, Risk Factors and Treatment
- Is Narcissism a Mental Illness? Getting to Grips with Narcissistic Personality Disorder
- Narcissist – Covert – How to Recognize and Deal with a Covert Narcissist
- The Traits of a Covert Narcissist: What You Need to Know
- The Corrosive Impact of Narcissism in Relationships – Is Your Partner a Narcissist?
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