What Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is nothing to take lightly. Nor is it a label to lightly put on someone you think is arrogant. Though people who pass for normal have Narcissistic Personality Disorder, it’s a very serious mental illness.

The warped thinking is so ingrained and stubborn that the mental health profession has had little success in dealing with it. It’s called “malignant” narcissism because it is just that, malignant. So, it’s far worse than just being arrogant. A malignant narcissist is a predator

In other words, Narcissistic Personality Disorder is as serious as sociopathy. In fact, it is increasingly thought to be a form of sociopathy/psychopathy.

NPD isn’t occasional behavior. It is a pervasive pattern of thinking and behaving that corrupts virtually every human interaction.

A narcissist’s inability or unwillingness to regard ANY other person as but an object is as serious and amoral as a psychopath’s. However, it usually acts out in less physical, more subtle ways. Not necessarily less harmful ways.

Indeed, one can make a whale of a case for saying that what a malignant narcissist does with his or her mouth is worse than murdering people. And it isn’t just what they say to the victim, it’s what they go around saying about the victim in order to come out smelling like a rose.

They will say anything — ANYTHING — to utterly destroy that person. And they do it as lightly as you’d brush a crumb off your sleeve.

They take lives, stealing pasts and futures. But usually in a way that dooms rather than kills.

Narcissists don’t make people wish they were dead: they make people wish they’d never been born.

Like all predators, they hunt easy prey, not people they have any reason for antipathy toward. Hence their behavior is counterintuitive and contrary to human nature. They just attack any vulnerable target of opportunity. Opportunity is largely a chance to attack without any witnesses and get away with it.

As you can imagine, a narcissist would rather die than have people know what he is inside.

That’s his big secret. So long as only the victim knows what he is, and the victim won’t be believed, the coast is clear.

The most vulnerable are those the narcissist can hurt the most deeply. This includes not only those the narcissist has power over, but also benefactors and those who love him or her. The most vulnerable and frequently available targets are the a narcissist’s children, spouse, students, and employees.

Beyond their usefulness in this regard, they mean absolutely nothing to him. Yet, unless the narcissist is a powerful person who can be held accountable by no one (viz., Saddam Hussein), he mocks the world with an angel-face and halo, putting on an ironic show of being the exact opposite of what he is. Then his (or her) mask comes off only behind closed doors.

Keep in mind that a specific behavior, such as ignoring somebody, can occur in widely varying contexts. So, it can be done for many reasons, not just narcissistic reasons.

Therefore, a handful of behaviors common to narcissists does not a narcissist make. There are few behaviors so unique to persons suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder that they should serve as red flags.

Read more about these red flags.

What is a personality disorder?

Personality disorders are the extreme and rigid extensions of personality traits. For example, NPD is an extreme and rigid extension of normally exhibited narcissism.

An enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates markedly from the expectation of the individual’s culture, is pervasive and inflexible, has an onset in adolescence or early adulthood, is stable over time, and leads to distress or impairment.

A personality disorder is a pattern of deviant or abnormal behavior that the person doesn’t change even though it causes emotional upsets and trouble with other people at work and in personal relationships.

It is not limited to episodes of mental illness, and it is not caused by drug or alcohol use, head injury, or illness. There are about a dozen different behavior patterns classified as personality disorders by the DSM-V.

Due to a consistently distorted way of thinking, a personality disorder not only affects the patient’s behavior, it also affects his experiences. For example, a narcissist experiences pleading for his affection or compassion as an attack.

If you drill deeper into the psyche, you can see that a personality disorder affects:

  1. Cognition — ways of perceiving and interpreting oneself, other people, and events (fidelity to the truth and reality).
  2. Affectivity — the range, intensity, lability, and appropriateness of emotional response to things
  3. Interpersonal functions – personal relationships
  4. Impulsivity. – self control

[from Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition, 1994, commonly referred to as DSM-IV, of the American Psychiatric Association. European countries use the diagnostic criteria of the World Health Organization.]

The experiences and behaviors of a personality disorder also form a pattern. An extremely inflexible pattern that originates in adolescence or childhood.

So, unlike the symptoms of mental disorders, which may come and go and vary in intensity over time, the symptoms of a personality disorder form an long standing pattern. A pervasive one too, one that impacts a broad range of personal and social situations through a consistently distorted way of thinking, expressing emotions, controlling behavior, and interacting with others.

This is not to say that all people with a personality disorder are severely affected by it. A narcissist, for example, may be as mildly affected as the parents in the children’s movie Matilda or as severely affected as Ted Bundy.

Theories of Narcissistic Personality Disorder

While grandiosity is the diagnostic hallmark of pathological narcissism, there is research evidence that pathological narcissism occurs in two forms:

(a) a grandiose state of mind in young adults that can be corrected by life experiences,

and

(b) the stable disorder described in DSM-IV, which is defined less by grandiosity than by severely disturbed interpersonal relations.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

What Causes Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

The preferred theory seems to be that narcissism is caused by very early affection deprivation, yet the clinical material tends to describe narcissists as an unwillingness rather than actually inability, thus treating narcissistic behaviors as a character flaw.

So even thought narcissism is termed a personality disorder it tends to be discussed as a character disorder. This distinction is important to prognosis and treatment possibilities. If NPD is caused by infantile damage and consequent developmental short-circuits, it probably represents an incurable condition.

On the other hand, if narcissism is a behavior pattern that’s learned, then there is some hope, however tenuous, that it’s a behavior pattern that can be changed.

The scientific and clinical literature on NPD is highly theoretical, abstract, and general, with little case material, suggesting that clinical writers have little experience with narcissism in the flesh.

There are several reasons for this limited data including:

— The rate of NPD is estimated at 1% in the general population, though I haven’t been able to discover the basis of this estimate.

— Narcissists rarely enter treatment and, once in treatment, progress very slowly. We’re talking about two or more years of frequent sessions before the narcissist can acknowledge even that the therapist is sometimes helpful. It’s difficult to keep narcissists in treatment long enough for improvement to be made — and few people, narcissists or not, have the motivation or the money to pursue treatment that produces so little so late.

— Because of the influence of third-party payers (insurance companies), there has been a strong trend towards short-term therapy that concentrates on ameliorating acute troubles, such as depression, rather than delving into underlying chronic problems. Narcissists are very reluctant to open up and trust, so it’s possible that their NPD is not even recognized by therapists in short-term treatment. Purely anecdotal evidence from correspondents and from observations of people I know indicates that selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors, such as Prozac, aggravate narcissists’ grandiosity and lack of social inhibition. It has also been suggested that self-help literature about bolstering self-esteem and getting what you want out of life or that encourages the feeling of victimization has aggravating effects on NPD thinking and behavior.

— Most clinical writers seem unaware that narcissists’ self-reports are unreliable. This is troubling, considering that lying is the most common complaint about narcissists and that, in many instances, defects of empathy lead narcissists to wildly inaccurate misinterpretations of other people’s speech and actions, so that they may believe that they are liked and respected despite a history of callous and exploitative personal interactions.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

So What Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a pattern of self-centered or egotistical behavior that shows up in thinking and behavior in a lot of different situations and activities.

People with NPD won’t (or can’t) change their behavior even when it causes problems at work or when other people complain about the way they act, or when their behavior causes a lot of emotional distress to others.

This pattern of self-centered or egotistical behavior is not caused by current drug or alcohol use, head injury, acute psychotic episodes, or any other illness, but has been going on steadily at least since adolescence or early adulthood.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Some common traits of Narcissistic Personality Disorder include:

1. An exaggerated sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)

Translation: Grandiosity is the hallmark of narcissism. So what is grandiose?

The simplest everyday way that narcissists show their exaggerated sense of self-importance is by talking about family, work, life in general as if there is nobody else in the picture.

Whatever they may be doing, in their own view, they are the star, and they give the impression that they are bearing heroic responsibility for their family or department or company, that they have to take care of everything because their spouses or co-workers are undependable, uncooperative, or otherwise unfit.

They ignore or denigrate the abilities and contributions of others and complain that they receive no help at all; they may inspire your sympathy or admiration for their stoicism in the face of hardship or unstinting self-sacrifice for the good of (undeserving) others.

But this everyday grandiosity is an aspect of narcissism that you may never catch on to unless you visit the narcissist’s home or workplace and see for yourself that others are involved and are pulling their share of the load and, more often than not, are also pulling the narcissist’s share as well.

When the narcissistic defense is operating in an interpersonal or group setting, the grandiose part does not show its face in public. In public it presents a front of patience, congeniality, and confident reasonableness.

Bruce Gregory, Ph.D.

2. Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love

Narcissists cultivate solipsistic or “autistic” fantasies, which is to say that they live in their own little worlds (and react with affront when reality dares to intrude).

3. Believes he is “special” and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)

Narcissists think that everyone who is not special and superior is worthless. By definition, normal, ordinary, and average aren’t special and superior, and so, to narcissists, they are worthless.

4. Requires excessive admiration

Excessive in two ways: they want praise, compliments, deference, and expressions of envy all the time, and they want to be told that everything they do is better than what others can do. Sincerity is not an issue here; all that matter are frequency and volume.

5. Has a sense of entitlement

They expect automatic compliance with their wishes or especially favorable treatment, such as thinking that they should always be able to go first and that other people should stop whatever they’re doing to do what the narcissists want, and may react with hurt or rage when these expectations are frustrated.

6. Selfishly takes advantage of others to achieve his own ends

Narcissists use other people to get what they want without caring about the cost to the other people.

7. Lacks empathy

They are unwilling to recognize or sympathize with other people’s feelings and needs. They “tune out” when other people want to talk about their own problems.

8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him

No matter their personal situation, narcissists believe that everyone around them are green with envy. They believe that everyone want to be them and to have what they have.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

9. Shows arrogant, haughty, patronizing, or contemptuous behaviors or attitudes

They treat other people like dirt.

The root of this disease isn’t grandiosity, the desire to hurt people, or disdain of empathy. All these things proceed from a need much simpler and more basic. In fact, it’s something everybody needs. Unfortunately, a narcissist never grew up and learned to share. So he or she MUST HAVE IT ALL and therefore cannot let you have any.

Once you understand this avaricious need, all the pieces of the perplexing puzzle that is a malignant narcissist fit together. And once you know what makes a narcissist tick, you will know what you need to know to make wise decisions.

-Be A Warrior

1 thought on “What Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?”

  1. I am so happy to have come across this website. I am a victim of abuse by a narc. I have been for 22 years … we have 3 teenagers , who think I am a crazy person… you describe everything I am experiencing.. I feel so excited to have an answer
    My experience is still in full force right now. I am going to make an escape plan . I have to get out and for once I feel like someone get it now. Everything in your description is to a tee….

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