Unlike what common people believe, posting too many selfies is not enough reason to call someone “a narcissist.” A narcissistic personality disorder is a real psychological condition, with specific diagnostic criteria and serious impacts. People with this personality disorder not only bring harms to themselves but also others.
Definition of Narcissistic Personality Disorder
People with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) are those you will describe as “thinking that the world revolves around them.” DSM-5 provides an official definition of narcissistic personality disorder as a long-term abnormal behavior that roots from extreme needs for admiration and excessive self-importance. DSM-5 also emphasizes a lack of empathy as a common trait.
Well-adjusted individuals usually have a sense of empathy and considerations when interacting with others. However, people with NDP frequently think about themselves and choose their actions based on how they can benefit from the situations. They may be manipulative, deceptive, arrogant, and unable to receive criticism or competition.
Types of Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Experts like Theodore Millon and Will Titshaw have concluded variations of NPD, which are not available in DSM-5 or other formal definitions. Some of the types include:
These people are overly proud of themselves, unable to acknowledge others’ achievements. They may exaggerate their achievements, avoid responsibilities, shift blames to others, and lie to boost self-esteem.
They show excessive attention-seeking behaviors and believe that sexual seduction and manipulation are vital parts of relationships. They may have multiple partners and cannot stay in loyal, meaningful relationships.
These people lean on privilege and high status to seek a good life. They don’t hesitate to boast fake achievements to lift their statuses.
They show contempt toward social rules and moral codes, behaving like they are above “the rules.” They pride themselves as being con artists and don’t hesitate to exploit people for their own benefits.
People with malignant NPD show mixtures of sadistic, paranoid, and antisocial features. They always seek reasons to take revenge, blame and attack others, and to be cruel. They may think that other people always plan something bad toward them, which causes suspicion and aggressive behaviors.
People with compensatory NPD love creating illusions of self-worth, grandeur, and noteworthy. This act is to cover very low self-esteem and self-worth. They may also show extreme avoidance and negativity.
Fanatic narcissists love showing illusions of self-worth by belittling other people. They may act contemptuous, arrogant, and belittling toward others. They often show signs of paranoid personality disorder, such as mistrusting and suspecting others.
These narcissistic personality disorder types are not formal descriptions. However, psychiatrists may specify the reports for each client using specific characteristics they show.
Causes of Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Determining the exact causes of narcissistic personality disorder is hard. Each person develops this disorder in different ways. Psychiatrists, psychologists, and researchers usually rely on “biopsychosocial causes,” which root from genetic, psychological, and social factors.
A 2000 study in Comprehensive Psychiatry journal (volume 41) explained that a person might develop NPD if he or she has this personality disorder in family history. However, researchers have not found the exact genes responsible for this tendency.
NPD can also develop from the lack of positive role models, abusive family life or relationships, overprotective or neglectful parenting style, and negative environments that crush self-worth and self-confidence. Adolescent males have higher risks of developing NPD than females.
Effects of Narcissistic Personality Disorder
The effects of narcissistic personality disorder are widespread, not only for the affected person but also his or her surroundings. Hidden lack of self-worth, deception, aggressive and manipulative behaviors, and grandeur illusion can lead to things such as:
- Difficulties in forming meaningful relationships (romantic, platonic, or familial)
- Inability to act professionals at the workplace
- Difficulties at school
- Depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts
- Problems with the law (such as from threatening or destructive behaviors toward people)
NPD can also lead to substance abuse risks, such as nicotine, alcohol, and drugs.
Interventions for Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Intervention is a difficult step for people with NPD because they don’t see themselves as “wrong.” It is also difficult for them to admit that their behaviors and views bring negative impacts. However, some people may recognize that they have a problem, especially if it affects work, school, relationship, and daily life.
Since signs of NPD can appear during adolescent years, parents or guardians have important roles in guiding children to adopt positive behaviors. They must also recognize behavioral signs and consider going to therapists. Local social workers and therapists can also recommend classes or training sessions to reduce negative traits and behaviors in children.
For adults, it is best to visit a therapist or psychiatrist. They can provide psychotherapy and guide to reduce aspects of NPD in daily life. Having good social supports, such as friends and families, can help people with NPD to slowly change their behaviors, without fear of judgment.
A narcissistic personality disorder is a serious condition that roots from psychological, social, and genetic factors. Negative behaviors, such as lying, being manipulative or aggressive and belittling others often root from low self-worth. Therapy, social supports, and positive parenting are key factors in reducing NPD prevalence.