The term “narcissist” tends to get thrown into the everyday conversation. You might even recall a discussion you had with a friend or relative over how self-absorbed and narcissistic someone else seemed. But did you know that this can be a personality disorder? Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a diagnosable form of mental illness that is becoming more widely researched. However, most people who have Narcissistic Personality Disorder are not fully aware that they have it, making diagnosis somewhat rare. Although it is difficult to diagnose, effective treatment is available.
What Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is one of the four Cluster B personality disorders. Those with NPD tend to exhibit an exaggerated sense of self-worth because they believe that they are entitled to have whatever (or whomever) they desire. Those with NPD tend to believe that they possess the utmost in talent, intelligence, and/or physical beauty.
These beliefs can lead to a person with NPD mistreating those around them. If you have a loved one with NPD, you might notice that they have lofty expectations for how they want you to treat them. They might also look down on you and behave in a condescending manner. You will probably notice that this person struggles with forming and maintaining positive, healthy relationships. They might not do well at work or school, especially when it comes to socially integrating with peers.
While an individual with NPD might seem to think very highly of themselves, they actually struggle with their own self-judgments. They tend to bounce back and forth between feeling like they are “the king of the world” and feeling utterly worthless, especially when they realize that they can only function within their own human limitations.
Symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder
How are you supposed to tell a person with narcissistic personality from someone who has a few narcissistic tendencies? This can be a bit of a challenge, so it is helpful to know the diagnostic criteria for NPD. The most telling symptoms of NPD include:
- An exaggerated sense of self-importance
- Acting in a conceited or condescending manner
- Being fixated on status and success
- Resenting others who have what they want or believing that others are resentful of them
- Believing that their excellence can only be understood by someone of equal excellence
- Lacking any sense of empathy for others
- Craving undue attention
- Actively oppressing others
- Feeling entitled
A person with NPD only needs to meet five of the nine diagnostic criteria. Other disorders and substance abuse issues can be comorbid, but, on the physical surface, the individual will not display any telling signs of a mental disorder. In fact, if you try to point out that they might have NPD, chances are that this person will deny having any issues and find a way to use this as ammunition against you.
Causes of Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Researchers haven’t had enough opportunities to thoroughly study NPD since many who have it will not get diagnosed. Therefore, we can only surmise as to what causes NPD. So far, it seems that NPD is environmentally-, genetically-, and/or neurobiologically-based. As far as the environmental aspect goes, parent-child relationships seem to play a key role in the development of narcissistic tendencies. A parent who highly praises or criticizes their child could trigger NPD in that child. Of course, there is the possibility that NPD is inherited or is the result of a neurobiological, as abnormalities have been found in the brains of those with NPD.
Other Issues Related to Narcissistic Personality Disorder
So, how do you deal with someone who has NPD? If you have a loved one with NPD, you’ve probably found yourself caught in a catch-22 situation. When you find yourself thinking, “How am I supposed to deal with this person?”, the short answer you should give yourself is “Don’t.” This isn’t exactly an ideal answer, but there isn’t much you can do aside from giving in to their demands for admiration.
If disengaging from that person is not an option, trying asking them what other people will think of their behaviors or attitudes. Since status and acceptance are so crucial to this person, this might get them to re-think their behavior. Remind them that they don’t want to be seen as a disappointment within their social setting. You can even encourage them to do something good within the community. After all, the people who end up looking the best are the ones who help – not hurt – others.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder Treatment Options
If you or your loved one might be diagnosable with NPD, you need to know that there are effective forms of treatment available. Forms of psychotherapy, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), seem to be the most effective way to begin treating symptoms of NPD. This allows you or your loved one to learn how to form healthier relationships and hold more realistic self-views.
While there are no medications for treating NPD, there are some at-home tactics for overcoming narcissistic tendencies. Having a proper support system is key, as they can assist with keeping the person on track with their goals. Seeking treatment for comorbidities, such as depression or substance abuse, can also help with working through symptoms of NPD.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder in Pop Culture
Fans of the 1962 film Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? will recognize “Baby Jane” Hudson as an individual with a narcissistic personality. Jane was thrown into the spotlight at an early age and received copious amounts of admiration. However, Jane outgrows her stardom and becomes an alcoholic. She becomes increasingly obsessed with becoming a star once again. Her interpersonal relationships completely dissolve, especially with her wheelchair-bound sister Blanche. In the end, Baby Jane is never quite able to escape her narcissistic mentality.
Baby Jane Hudson is an extreme example of what it is like to live with someone with NPD. However, those who live with someone who has NPD can attest to its numerous difficulties. Treatment options are available and can be successful, but many individuals with NPD will not choose to seek treatment. The best thing that you can do for a loved one with NPD is to remain supportive without giving in to their lofty demands and expectations.