Narcissistic Personality Disorder

What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is marked by exaggerated feelings of self-importance, the inability to understand the feelings of others, an inordinate need to be admired, spending a lot of time thinking about how to gain success or about how one looks, a lack humility, impulsive behavior, engaging in risky sex or pursuing bold financial endeavors, feeling very insecure, and always seeking to take advantage of those around them.

Those who present traits of narcissistic personality disorder are described as being self-centered, demanding, and manipulative. They often disregard rules and conventions and sometimes end up incidentally hurting people while pursuing their own interests.

What are the Symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

An individual may be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder when he or she takes advantage of others in order to reach personal goals, easily becomes jealous, pursues selfish interests, lacks empathy for others, exhibits power-seeking behaviors, demonstrates feelings of superiority, feels entitled to obedience and special treatment from others, needs constant attention and admiration from others, exaggerates talents and achievements, reacts to criticism with shame, anger, or humiliation, and is obsessed with their own interests. These individuals are constantly dreaming out success, power, attractiveness, intelligence, etc.

Since many signs may also be present in people who suffer from antisocial personality disorder (colloquially defined as “sociopaths” or “psychopaths”), it is sometimes hard to confirm a diagnosis.

However, narcissists tend to generally be more cooperative when it comes to work on their impulses and they seldom use rage to manipulate other people. Additionally, it is easier for them to foster a healthy relationship with other people and do not experience any pleasure in voluntarily or involuntarily cause pain to others.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder Causes

The root cause of the condition known as narcissistic personality disorder continues to elude researchers and psychologists. Scientists believe that there is a multitude of factors which can cause a person to develop the disorder. Like other mental health disorders, the disorder is likely to stem from a complicated web of environmental and genetic factors, as well as experience in childhood and adolescence.

Family dynamics in a child’s early life are thought to play a large and critical role in the development of narcissistic personality disorder. Parenting which relies on an imbalance of heavy criticism and/or excessive pampering and praise can lead a child to develop narcissistic personality disorder. Such parenting may over-indulge a child’s ego and create an unhealthy sense of self. However, the opposite can also lead to narcissistic personality disorder. Neglect may cause a child to feel that they must have an over-inflated sense of self in order to survive and feel cared for.

How is Narcissistic Personality Disorder Treated?

The goal of treatment is to improve the person’s self-esteem and help them develop more realistic expectations of others and includes transference-focused, schema-focused, and metacognitive therapies along with medication.

Therapy is also focused on helping individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder to understand how to use their unique talents and help others without ulterior motives. Many narcissists abuse drugs and alcohol so it’s important to treat these addictions also.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder Prevention

Because there is no easily localized, common underlying cause of the disorder, there is no foolproof method of prevention against it. However, in individuals at greater risk of developing the disorder, there are ways which may help to guard against the development of it. Addressing any mental health problems which begin to surface in childhood can help children to resolve certain issues early on. Additionally, family therapy can greatly help with dysfunctional family dynamics which may increase the chances of a child developing the disorder. Parenting classes and individual therapy can also help to coach new or uncertain parents and guide them along the parenting process.

However, although a child’s relationships with adults and guardians early in their life does contribute to the development of the disorder. Genetics and the temperament are factors which are not within a parent’s control, and may lead a child to develop narcissistic personality disorder.

Last Reviewed:
September 21, 2016
Last Updated:
January 25, 2018