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Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

The name "narcissism" derives from a classical Greek tale about Narcissus, a young man who fell in love with the reflection of himself in the river. He was so enamored with himself that he became planted in place and converted into the narcissus flower. In psychology, the word narcissism refers to both a natural stage of a child's development and a personality characteristic that distinguishes people. Individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or NPD, have a high narcissism score.


A skewed self-image, unstable and powerful emotions, excessive obsession with vanity, prestige, power, and personal adequacy, lack of empathy, and an inflated feeling of superiority are all symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. A common misconception, both in psychology and popular culture, is that narcissism is a form of excessive self-esteem. However, evidence in developmental psychology has challenged this belief by demonstrating that narcissism differs markedly from self-esteem in many ways, particularly in the divergent socialization experiences that give rise to them.

From the standpoint of development Narcissism and self-esteem appear in late childhood, at the age of seven, when children have completely developed the cognitive skills to make global self-evaluations, which underpin both narcissism and self-esteem. At this age, children easily utilize social comparisons to assess and compare themselves to others, allowing narcissistic perceptions of themselves to range from "I'm exceptional" to "I'm more special than everyone else!" These opposing perspectives are mostly determined by vastly different socialization experiences. Parental overvaluation, or how much they perceive their child as a special individual entitled to special treatment, fosters narcissism. Self-esteem, on the other hand, is fostered by an atmosphere in which parents demonstrate affection for their kid, share good affect, and instill in their children the sense that they matter. This allows youngsters to absorb the notion of themselves as deserving rather than superior persons, which is at the heart of self-esteem.

As a result, while both narcissism and self-esteem imply favorable views of oneself, these views are fundamentally distinct and exhibit only a slight association. Indeed, many narcissists do not have great self-esteem; they may regard themselves as superior to others, but they are not always satisfied with themselves. Many people with strong self-esteem, on the other hand, will not acquire NPD because they respect themselves but do not perceive themselves as better than others. Those with NPD do not have a burning need to build deep, emotional relationships with others; rather, they attempt to exceed and control others or to exploit them to obtain social prestige, highlighting the discrepancies between narcissism and self-esteem. Individuals with NPD prefer to get ahead rather than get along with others, and they want respect and adoration in order to feel good about themselves and avoid sadness. As a result, they are readily aroused and prone to violent outbursts; they are also more likely to perform illegal activities.

Individuals with NPD are unable to connect on a deep level and struggle with closeness and intimacy, while being highly excellent at beginning social interactions and gaining outward validation and praise owing to their charm and charisma. When a result, as their relationships deepen, their aggressive, arrogant, manipulative, and frequently condescending attitude toward others becomes clear.Inevitably, the validation they seek becomes increasingly threatened, potentially escalating a self-perpetuating spiral of validation seeking, often dramatic behaviors aimed at reaffirming control, proving that they are correct, that they know better, and that their partner is incorrect or incompetent. Those involved in narcissistic relationships may feel lonely, unimportant, and frequently objectified, which may lead to them becoming angry, constantly defending themselves, or severely depressed and anxious due to identification with a negative self-image, with severe consequences for their physical and mental health.


Individuals with severe narcissism are extremely unlikely to actively seek counseling owing to a lack of understanding of their troubles. In my professional experience, patients frequently do this for linked illnesses such as depression, alcohol and substance misuse, eating disorders, and risk-taking behavior such as suicide attempts or other self-harming behaviors.

Working with NPD presents significant obstacles because, even when distressed, narcissistic individuals are highly ambivalent about therapy and typically unwilling to participate in self–evaluation since it risks activating negative fundamental beliefs.

Furthermore, working on self-awareness contradicts their acquired strategy of externalizing the source of distress, which may result in getting "stuck" in therapy due to the client's impossible dilemma of wanting things to change but being unwilling to accept responsibility or engage in meaningful actions to make this happen.

Unfortunately, any attempt to discuss this with the client runs the danger of inciting an unproductive power struggle and increasing defensive resistance, both of which generally result in high rates of early drop out. Once the therapeutic alliance is established, key target areas for less severe forms of NPD may include: improving goal attainment and the meaning of success; increasing awareness of boundaries and others' perspectives; exploring beliefs about self-worth and emotions; experiential exercise can be used to explore self-aggrandizing beliefs and assumptions and to develop a more compassionate, valued-based alternative.


Lastly, it is generally known that Narcissism becomes increasingly difficult to resolve as children go into adolescence and adults, due to personality characteristics becoming firmly entrenched and a lack of understanding. Early treatments at both the individual and community levels appear to be a more successful approach of tackling the rise of narcissism and self-absorption among our society's youth. Therapy may play an important role in giving parents with direction and training on how to enhance their children's self-esteem while restricting their narcissism, for example, by teaching them how to show affection and admiration to their children without instilling a sense of superiority and addressing children's early socialization practices, helping them to discriminate between different forms of regard and their possible influence on child self-development.


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