We live in a world that values self-promotion and self-esteem, but what happens when the pursuit of self-admiration becomes a pathological obsession? This is where narcissism – Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) – comes into play, a mental health condition that affects millions of people worldwide.
Narcissism is a personality disorder characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance, a lack of empathy for others, and a constant need for attention and admiration. Individuals with NPD often have grandiose fantasies, exaggerate their achievements and talents, and believe they are entitled to special treatment. They may also display a sense of entitlement, exploit others for personal gain, and struggle with emotional regulation.
Despite the negative consequences of narcissism, individuals with the disorder often do not seek treatment because they do not believe anything is wrong with them. In fact, they may feel that they are superior to others and that seeking help would be a sign of weakness.
Recent research has shed new light on the causes and treatment of NPD. Studies suggest that genetics, early childhood experiences, and social and cultural factors may all play a role in the development of the disorder. In terms of treatment, there is no one-size-fits-all approach, but therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and psychodynamic therapy have been shown to be effective in reducing NPD symptoms.
What do we know about narcissism?
In Greek mythology, Narcissus was a young hunter of extraordinary beauty – the son of the nymph Liriope and the river god Cephis – but of unparalleled pride, which pushed him to humiliate any mortal who fell in love with him.
Although he was surrounded by the love and admiration of those who met him, Narcissus remained indifferent to the attentions and amorous proposals. The nymph Echo fell madly in love with the handsome young man, but she too was rejected and died of grief, seeing that her love was not reciprocated.
Nemesis decides to punish Narcissus by making him see his face in the water of a spring. The young man fell in love with that image, dying of pain because it could not reach the young man in the water.
But who is Narcissus nowadays?
It’s a nice feeling to be admired. It naturally makes you feel good when you receive attention and importance. And, yes, there are times when we stand out and brag about ourselves.
But when your self-confidence crosses a line, after which you become manipulative and demanding, you may need to revise your attitude.
Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder that affects about 1% of the population, with a higher prevalence in men than women.
It is characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance, a lack of empathy for others, and a strong need for admiration. The hallmark definition of narcissism is grandiosity – an exaggerated sense of self-importance. If you live with this disorder, you may be preoccupied with power, prestige, vanity, and believe that you deserve special treatment from those around you.
Narcissistic personality disorder should not be confused with high self-confidence and high self-esteem. Those with high self-esteem can still be humble. If you live with a narcissistic personality disorder, you are likely to be selfish, boastful, and ignorant of the feelings and needs of others.
It has long been believed that individuals suffering from narcissism display high self-esteem on the surface, but deep down are very insecure. This theory holds that the attitude of superiority and exaggerated self-confidence is used to protect a very sensitive interior. Recent studies are chipping away at the previous theory and now indicate that if you suffer from narcissistic personality disorder, you may actually have high self-esteem – both on the surface and on the inside.
Narcissistic disorder is one of the 10 personality disorders identified by the American Psychiatric Association. People with these disorders have patterns of thinking, feelings, behaviors, attitudes, and interactions that cause them ongoing distress or problems in their lives. Patterns of personality disorder usually begin in the teenage years or adulthood, but may not be recognized or identified until many years later.
Signs and symptoms of narcissism
Included below is a list of well-known symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder
- He occupies his mind with fantasies of unlimited success, ideal love stories, power, beauty, intelligence
- The belief that he is an important person who should only associate with high-status people
- Very high expectations that all his wishes and demands will be fulfilled
- Need for constant admiration
- Exaggeration of achievements, skills, talents
- He is sure that he is always right
- He is envious and has an exaggerated belief that others envy him
- He sets unrealistic goals
- He has high expectations for him
- The belief that no one should question his judgment
- Takes advantage of others to get ahead in life and/or get what they want without any remorse for those they used to get there
- Arrogant, fierce
- Easily hurt when knocked back
- Insensitive to the feelings of others
- Always looking for power
- Respond to criticism with shame, anger, and humiliation
- Easily jealous
Often people are initially attracted to those with narcissistic personality disorder. These people can be magnetic at first, and you may find yourself drawn to the confidence, assertiveness, and enthusiasm with which a person with narcissistic personality disorder seems to surround you. However, when you get to know the person in depth, you may begin to despise the very traits that initially attracted you to the person.
There is no single determining cause of narcissism. But researchers agree that both genetic and environmental causes are at play. People with narcissistic personality disorder were found to have less gray matter volume in the left anterior insula, the part of the brain linked to empathy, emotional regulation, compassion and cognitive functioning.
Many of the traits of narcissism appear during normal developmental stages. Scientists believe that the full onset of narcissistic personality disorder can occur when interpersonal development during these phases is counterproductive.
Examples of types of negative or destructive interpersonal environments that interact with developmental stages include:
- He was born with a super sensitive personality
- Learn manipulative behavior from parents or peers
- When the child is excessively praised for good behaviors and excessively criticized for negative attitudes
- Because of severe childhood abuse
- Inconsistent education – inadequate or unpredictable care
- Is overwhelmed by parents, peers or family members
- It is excessively admired without realistic feedback to balance the situation with reality
People with narcissistic personality disorder have trouble dealing with anything they perceive as critical and may:
- They may become impatient or angry when they don’t get special treatment
- They have significant interpersonal problems and quickly feel weakened when they are in trouble
- They react with anger or contempt and try to diminish the other person’s importance in order to appear superior
- They have difficulty regulating emotions and behavior
- They have major problems with stress and adapting to change
- They feel depressed when something doesn’t turn out perfectly
- They have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation
- Narcissistic personality disorder affects more men than women, and often begins in adolescence or early adulthood. Keep in mind that while some children may exhibit narcissistic traits, this may simply be typical of their age and does not mean they will go on to develop narcissistic personality disorder.
Narcissistic disorder is much more common than it is believed, and this is because most of those who suffer from narcissism hide in public and only show themselves at home, with their partner and family.
Narcissism unveiled: exploring the two saces of the personality disorder
One study focused on examining two types of previously identified narcissism: grandiose and vulnerable. Grandiose narcissists are characterized as arrogant, dominant, and extroverted, with high self-esteem and a bold, assertive approach to life. They exhibit confidence and happiness, but also have a selfish entitlement and relate to others in antagonistic ways.
On the other hand, vulnerable narcissists are withdrawn, neurotic, and insecure, with low self-esteem and a hypersensitive, anxious, and depressed disposition. Despite their differences, both types of narcissists have one thing in common: a sense of entitlement to special treatment and privileges.
Social situations provide clues to identifying the two types of narcissists. Grandiose narcissists are socially competent, dominating and charming, while vulnerable narcissists are less socially skilled and tend to be shy and anxious. Additionally, grandiose narcissists are forthright and assertive in pursuing their goals and maximizing success, while vulnerable narcissists are timid and defensive, seeking to minimize failure.
Social status involves being respected and admired by others, standing out and being perceived as an important person in the social hierarchy. Social inclusion, on the other hand, involves being liked and accepted by others, fitting in well with the social community. Some individuals may desire both status and inclusion, while others may seek only one or neither. The TV show The Simpsons offers a clear example of this: Mr. Burns has high status but is not well-liked, while Homer Simpson is well-liked but lacks high status.