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What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Medikoe Wellness Expert

Medikoe Wellness Expert

  80 feet road indira nagar, Bengaluru     Feb 9, 2017

   6 min     



Individuals with Narcissistic Personality disorder are the ones that exhibit a lack of ability to empathise with others and have an inflated sense of self-importance. It could be confused with having high self-esteem or confidence. It is more prevalent in men compared to women.

What is a narcissist?

A narcissist is a popular catchphrase for portraying someone who acts vain or self-absorbed. What a lot of people do not realise is that narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), or narcissism, is, in fact, a serious condition.

In case you have a narcissistic personality disorder diagnosis, people may see you as having a never-ending need for compliments or as only concerned about your wants and needs. However, on the inside, you may feel empty, less-than and insecure. Having narcissism makes it difficult to relate to others or have positive self-worth. It can influence relationships with your friends, family and acquaintances.

How common is NPD?

It has been estimated that about 5% of people have NPD(narcissistic personality disorder). Narcissism is one of 10 most common personality disorders. These disorders, when not paid attention to, can cause people to think, feel and behave in ways which can hurt themselves or people around them. Signs or symptoms of personality disorders generally appear in their late teen years or early adulthood.

Causes of Narcissist?

The reason behind narcissistic personality disorder is not clear, and just like all other mental health disorders, it is quite complex to break down the disorder. Narcissistic personality disorder could be a result of one or a combination of the factors mentioned below:

  • Environment (Excessive adoration or criticism in parent-child relationships; role models who exhibit similar behaviour)

  • Childhood trauma (such as verbal, physical and sexual abuse).

  • Genetics (inheritance from parents or family history)

  • Neurobiology: The link between the brain, thinking and behaviour.

  • Hypersensitivity to noise, light or textures in childhood.

  • Temperament and personality.

Identifying narcissistic personality disorder traits

People suffering from NPD are generally described as being the following:

  • demanding

  • self-centred

  • arrogant

They usually have unusually high self-esteem and tend to believe that they are special or superior compared to other people. However, they seem to need extreme admiration and praise, and they may respond poorly to perceived criticism.

Narcissists also tend to exaggerate their own accomplishments and talents, while downplaying those of others. They are usually preoccupied with beauty, power and success. They might even engage in impulsive behaviours, such as gambling and risky sex.

Some features of NPD may seem like confidence. However, healthy confidence and NPD are nowhere near being the same things.

People with healthy self-esteem are normally humble, while people with NPD almost never are. They tend to put themselves on a pedestal and perceive themselves as better than everyone else.

Symptoms of Narcissism

Therapists will lookout for some of the following traits to determine whether a person has Narcissistic personality disorder:

  • An exaggerated sense of self-worth or importance

  • Being preoccupied with fantasies of beauty, power, success, intelligence or ideal romance

  • Requires or craves constant attention and admiration from people around them

  • Takes advantage of others to attain his or her personal goals

  • Neglects or overlooks the feelings of other people and lacks empathy

  • Being arrogant or haughty

  • Sense of entitlement

  • Exaggerates achievements and talents

  • Feel insecure and become easily angry

  • shows great charm, however, quickly becoming angry or irritated

  • shows aggression while faced with a threat to their ego

  • Is often distrustful jealous of others or believes other people are envious of him or her

Other features of a narcissistic person may be less obviously associated with narcissism, such as:

  • a sense of emptiness, shame and humiliation when disappointed

  • difficulty maintaining relationships

  • unwillingness to try something due to the fear of defeat

  • difficulty managing emotions

  • a sense of alienation or emotional disconnect from other people

  • suspiciousness

  • social withdrawal

  • high achievement due to overconfidence but disrupted performance in the face of defeat or criticism

Complication of NPD

Narcissistic personality disorder can cause certain impediments in your life, such as:

  • Relationship issues

  • Problems at work or school

  • Depression and anxiety

  • Physical health problems

  • Drug or alcohol misuse

  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviour

  • Poor interpersonal skills

  • Anger issues or feeling of harming others

Diagnosis of NPD

A psychiatric examination can help, but diagnosing NPD (narcissistic personality disorder) is complicated as it often embodies symptoms of other mental health disorders.

First, there are various kinds of personality disorder, and the characteristics generally tend to overlap. Also, a person may have NPD, along with other medical conditions or disorders.

To add to it, a person suffering from NPD may not recognise that difficulties in their life derive from their own doings, but they may blame others for it instead.

Someone suffering from NPD may be extremely sensitive to slights or perceived criticisms, making it challenging for others to communicate with them about their behaviour and how it can be disrespectful or harmful.

To diagnose NPD, a doctor needs to detect at least five of the criteria from the below mentioned:

  • An egotistic sense of self-importance.

  • A preoccupation with daydreams and fantasies of unlimited brilliance, power, success, beauty and ideal love.

  • A need for excessive admiration.

  • Haughty, arrogant behaviours or attitudes.

  • A belief that they are unparalleled and can only be understood by, or should only compare with, other high-status or special individuals and institutions.

  • A tendency to take advantage of other people to accomplish their own ends.

  • A sense of entitlement and extravagant expectations of receiving automatic compliance or favourable treatment with their expectations.

  • Jealousy of others and the belief that others are jealous of them.

  • A lack of empathy and unwillingness to identify or recognise the feelings and needs of others.

A narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a spectrum disease, and the symptoms can range from moderate to severe. Experts have also suggested two subtypes:

  • The vulnerable subtype: This involves defensiveness and hypersensitivity.

  • The grandiose subtype: This features overt boldness, aggression, and grandiosity.

Treatment of NPD

Treatment could be challenging as the person may not be willing to admit that he or she has a problem. Individual or group psychotherapy may be helpful and effective ways to treat narcissistic personality disorder. There are no medications to treat this disorder. However, people who suffer from this may develop anxiety and depression that could require medications. Therapy is generally short term, so unless the person is willing to positively change his or her personality, the effects of therapy will not go a long way.

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Tags:  Mental Health,Mental Wellness,mental disorder,Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Narcissist, Narcissism, childhood trauma, neurobiology, hypersensitivity, social withdrawal

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