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What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Mary-Lauren O’Crowley, NCC, LPC

It is highly likely that you have heard of or referred to someone as a narcissist. This label is often synonymous with selfishness and a lack of compassion for others. In fact, there is even a popular Greek myth about a man named Narcissus who fell in love with his own reflection, which ultimately led to his demise. But how common is narcissism really and what are its roots? 

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a type of mental health disorder in which the person has an inflated sense of self and often desires excessive attention and admiration. Individuals with NPD often have troubled relationships because they lack empathy for others. While the individual may appear extremely confident, however, they often lack true confidence and are highly susceptible to criticism. An individual with NPD also desires constant praise and will even seek out a more empathic or co-dependent individual in order to feed their own sense of self-worth and importance. Narcissistic personality disorder can affect all areas of life including school, workplace, and interpersonal relationships. Someone with NPD will often exaggerate their own accomplishments and skills while simultaneously looking down upon those around them. They are often so self-absorbed that they are unable to show compassion to others. 

Signs and symptoms:

Like any other mental health disorder, signs and symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder vary in severity and may look different from person to person. Some of the hallmark symptoms include: 

  • Excessive sense of self-importance
  • Extreme need for admiration and praise
  • Preoccupation with fantasies involving success, beauty, or power
  • Tendency to belittle others in order to make them feel inferior 
  • Tendency to take advantage of others
  • Lacking empathy or compassion 
  • Excessive irritability, anger, or hostility 
  • Difficulty regulating emotions
  • Excessive feelings of insecurity, shame, and even disgust

When to seek help: 

Individuals with NPD often refuse treatment because they believe that nothing is wrong with them. They only seek treatment when they suffer from other disorders like alcohol abuse, depression etc. Long-term and consistent patient care is usually the treatment of choice for NPD. This includes a combination of psychotherapy and medication. The main treatment for narcissistic people is individual psychoanalytic psychotherapy. Other treatment options are family, couples, and group therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is also utilized dependent upon the individual case and presenting symptoms. Medications used for treating NDP include anti-depressants, mood stabilizers and antipsychotic drugs. The main purpose of these medicines is to treat depression, reduce mood swings thus allowing some control over bad emotions and help anxiety (6).

Bottom line: 

NPD is not a character flaw, it simply means that you have a mental health condition that can be treated. You sometimes do things that people do not like and it results in damaged relationships. Perhaps you did not do that on purpose. It is only due to your feelings of insecurity that makes you feel like other people should admire you constantly. Treatment can provide you a way to navigate through emotions in a healthy way and develop actual self-esteem that do not require conformation from other people.

If you or someone you know is struggling with symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, please reach out to the intake specialists at Symmetry Counseling today!

For more information, please see the references below: 

  1. Narcissistic personality disorder. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5. 5th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association; 2013. http://dsm.psychiatryonline.org. Accessed Sept. 25, 2017
  2. nyu.edu/gsas/dept/philo/courses/materials/Narc.Pers.DSM.pdf
  3. Palmer BA (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Oct. 13, 2017.
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