“She’s such a narcissist”, “That was so narcissistic of them!”, “God, he has such a narcissistic personality.” and so on. We all have heard these statements in our day-to-day lives. But not many of us understand what it means to have this personality disorder. And before you all dive in, no, having self-confidence or being self-absorbed does necessarily mean you are a narcissist.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a medical condition in which people have an amplified sense of their importance and have a deep need for excessive attention and admiration. People having this narcissistic personality have troubled relations and possess minimal empathy towards others. Experts at Cleveland Clinic suggest that 5% of the total population have this disorder.
Types of Narcissism
According to the fundamentals of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and research by various experts, Narcissism can be divided into 5 broad types:
- Overt narcissism
- Covert narcissism
- Antagonistic narcissism
- Communal narcissism
- Malignant narcissism
Signs of a Narcissist
NPD, like other personality disorders, affects various areas of a person’s life and manifests in different ways. However, some basic signs and characteristics can help distinguish a person with this disorder:
- Having an inflated sense of self-importance.
- Having a superiority complex and looking down on people they consider inferior.
- Having difficulty accepting criticism and a sense of entitlement.
- Having a tendency to manipulate and belittle people.
- Having the need for constant admiration and special treatment.
- Having to victimize themselves whenever a situation arises and shifting the blame on anyone but themselves.
NPD is a result of various genetic and environmental factors at play. According to Dr. Michael Hallett, “personality disorders are developed over time and through childhood experiences, genetics, and environment.” Personality disorders are typically diagnosed at 18 years or older which may later manifest into a full onset of NPD if their interpersonal development is hindered, such as:
- Growing up in an abusive or neglective family.
- Learning abusive and manipulative behaviour from people around them.
- Inconsistency in their upbringing.
- Sexual, physical or verbal trauma from childhood.
- Being excessively praised and overly criticized.
DSM-5 Criteria – Revised June 2011
The essential features of a personality disorder are impairments in personality (self and interpersonal) functioning and the presence of pathological personality traits. To diagnose narcissistic personality disorder, the following criteria must be met:
A. Significant impairments in personality functioning manifest by:
1. Impairments in self functioning (a or b):
a. Identity: Excessive reference to others for self-definition and self-esteem regulation; exaggerated self-appraisal may be inflated or deflated, or vacillate between extremes; emotional regulation mirrors fluctuations in self-esteem.
b. Self-direction: Goal-setting is based on gaining approval from others; personal standards are unreasonably high in order to see oneself as exceptional, or too low based on a sense of entitlement; often unaware of own motivations.
2. Impairments in interpersonal functioning (a or b):
a. Empathy: Impaired ability to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others; excessively attuned to reactions of others, but only if perceived as relevant to self; over- or underestimate of own effect on others.
b. Intimacy: Relationships largely superficial and exist to serve self-esteem regulation; mutuality constrained by little genuine interest in others‟ experiences and predominance of a need for personal gain
B. Pathological personality traits in the following domain:
1. Antagonism, characterized by:
a. Grandiosity: Feelings of entitlement, either overt or covert; self-centeredness; firmly holding to the belief that one is better than others; condescending toward others.
b. Attention seeking: Excessive attempts to attract and be the focus of the attention of others; admiration seeking.
C. The impairments in personality functioning and the individual‟s personality trait expression are relatively stable across time and consistent across situations.
D. The impairments in personality functioning and the individual‟s personality trait expression are not better understood as normative for the individual‟s developmental stage or socio-cultural environment.
E. The impairments in personality functioning and the individual‟s personality trait expression are not solely due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, medication) or a general medical condition (e.g., severe head
The first step is for the individual to admit that the problem is interfering with their life and express willingness to get treatment. Furthermore, they can consult a psychotherapist and attempt the following tests:
- Personality diagnostic questionnaire-4 (PDQ-4)
- Millon clinical multiaxial inventory III (MCMI-III).
- International personality disorder examination (IPDE).
Prevention and Cure
Recognition of the importance of mental health is the first step for prevention. Understanding your childhood trauma and seeking professional therapy can help drastically in the long run. Pursuing guidance and learning healthy methods of coping with distress help in dealing with conflicting scenarios.
When it comes to treatment, long-term counseling and therapy is the primary solution. It can help a person with a narcissistic personality to develop healthy self-confidence and treat others with regard. Several antidepressants and mood stabilizers are provided to people with NPD.
In the end, we have to understand that since NPD is a disorder that may impact anyone at all, we should not define a person by their condition in order to de-stigmatize mental health. We need to look ahead and comprehend who they are so that we can assist them every step of the way when they seek assistance. Through this, they can rediscover themselves and rewrite their relationships with others.