The term “narcissist” is often used interchangeably with words like “self-centered,” “egotistical,” or “vain.” Recent articles in the media have created further confusion surrounding the topic by making unsupported claims that narcissism is on the rise, particularly among young people. But narcissism, or Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) as it is known clinically, is far more complicated than simply being self-centered.
What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
DSM-5 describes NPD as a personality disorder that is characterized by a “pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy.” Individuals with NPD may frequently boast of and exaggerate their abilities while actively disparaging others to further bolster their sense of self-importance.
What Are the Symptoms of NPD?
In the past, criteria for diagnosing NPD focused heavily on the traits of self importance, arrogance, and lack of empathy. The newer DSM-5 criteria paint a more complex picture, acknowledging that these symptoms are not omnipresent. A person with NPD can, contrary to popular belief, experience periods of intense self-criticism.
According to these guidelines, a person must exhibit five or more of the following traits to receive a diagnosis of NPD:
- A grandiose sense of self-importance
- Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
- The belief that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions
- A need for excessive admiration
- A sense of entitlement
- A tendency to exploit or take advantage of others
- A lack of empathy
- Envy of others or a belief that others are envious of him or her
- Arrogant, haughty behaviors and attitudes
What Causes Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
The exact cause of NPD is still being explored. Some studies have suggested a genetic component, with one study finding a heritability rate as high as 64%. Other studies have proposed environmental stressors may have a bearing on the presence of NPD. A 2006 study, for example, found a link between negative childhood experiences and the emergence of NPD in adulthood.
Individuals with traits like aggression, dysfunctional effect, and reduced stress tolerance may also be more likely to be diagnosed with NPD.
How is NPD Treated?
NPD is managed predominantly with psychotherapy, the goal of which is to help the individual understand and recognize undesirable behavior patterns. If left untreated, individuals with NPD may find their quality of life suffers greatly.
A general inability to maintain lasting relationships can result in feelings of isolation. NPD patients have a higher risk for suicide, and comorbid conditions such as anxiety, depression, or substance abuse disorder, are common.
Dealing With Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Unfortunately, it is not common for individuals with NPD to seek treatment. The very nature of the disorder precludes them from being self-aware enough to admit there is something wrong, and the typically poor response to criticism rules out the possibility of you suggesting it.
If it is your goal to preserve a relationship with someone who exhibits traits of NPD, you will need to establish clear boundaries and may wish to undergo counseling services yourself.
A qualified mental health provider can help you recognize and avoid being the victim of manipulative or exploitative behaviors.
Crane Center is Here to Help
If you or someone you care about is exhibiting signs of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, it is important to seek treatment from a qualified mental health care professional. The providers at Crane Center are experienced in all personality disorders, including NPD. Call us today to see how we can help.