“Narcissism” is a word that has been used heavily in literature, pop culture, and social media to mean everything from vain to selfish to obsessed with oneself. How is Narcissistic Personality Disorder truly defined and diagnosed? It’s estimated that six percent of the population has this condition, and many more may minimally fall short of the diagnosis. It can wreak havoc on relationships, careers, and entire lives without individuals even being aware of what the problem is.
The NIH defines narcissistic personality disorder as “characterized by a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, interpersonal exploitiveness, and lack of empathy, beginning in early adulthood and manifest in a variety of contexts.” What does this mean in simple terms? The individual with NPD may view themselves as “larger than life,” having greater qualities or skills than they actually do, may consider themselves more attractive or successful than everyone they know, may use others in order to promote themselves, and generally have a lack of empathy, or difficulty understanding that others may feel pain or sadness, particularly as a result of their actions.
Individuals with NPD are somewhat more likely to commit certain crimes and more likely to have relationship problems. It is a disorder that is treatable with psychotherapy, but with varying degrees of success, dependent upon the severity of the disorder and the individual’s motivation to overcome it. First, however, it must be recognized and diagnosed, and that can sometimes prove difficult as it is similar to other personality disorders and may overlap other personality disorders.
Some psychiatrists feel that the root cause of narcissistic personality disorder is a very deep, sometimes subconscious shame that develops in childhood for various reasons, and narcissism is a form of defense, according to MSN.
So what are the signs?
- You like to be the center of attention and may dominate conversations. You’ve been accused of not being a good listener. Narcissists also tend to embellish stories to make them more fantastical than they are in order to have an inflated sense of self and portray an overly-confident, accomplished individual to the world, even if some of the “facts” they tell others and themselves are not truthful.
- You give unsolicited advice and become frustrated when others don’t seem to agree with it or follow it. You also want to be the expert on everything, the first one to find things out, and to be “always in the know.” You enjoy others having to come to you for information.
- You are impatient. You despise waiting in line or waiting for someone to return your call. This is because you believe that your needs and wants may trump other individuals.
- You believe you are destined for greatness, to be the top in your field, or the most attractive, without necessarily having the ambition to work for these things.
- You have a tendency to use other people — as long as they are inflating your ego, you treat them special. The moment they disagree with you or even criticize you, they are moved from special status to no status — they are out of your life.
- You are very competitive and view the world in two categories: the winners and the losers. There’s no gray area. It’s typically not good enough to be good or even great at something, you instead must be the best. Other people’s successes annoy you because you feel they are taking away from your own.
- You hold major grudges and never forgive what you view as an injustice against you. This could be a real injustice or perceived one, but there’s little chance of you wanting to reconcile with your offender.
- You never apologize to anyone. You tend to rationalize your behavior and blame everyone from your parents to your coworkers for any problems in your life. It’s impossible for you to have satisfying relationships because you are incapable of saying “I’m sorry” or “I was wrong to do that.” On the flip side, you rarely accept apologies either, preferring to simply cast the offender aside.
- You manipulate people and may even be a bully, looking for weak areas in a person to prey upon for your own benefit. You don’t consider the feelings of others, feeling your desires trump everyone’s feelings. You may surround yourself with people who enable your line of thinking.
- You may have an addiction. Many with NPD are addicted to gambling or shopping, although any addiction is possible.
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