Narcissistic Personality Disorder Guide
It always feels nice when someone admires you. A little bit of attention will always make you feel important and happy.
Sometimes, you also brag on yourself and there is nothing wrong about it. However, things might not be what they seem to be. In fact, you might be suffering from a very severe type of personality disorder if people start calling you as a demanding, manipulative and arrogant person.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder affects more than one percent of world’s population.
As a matter of fact, almost 6% of Americans have narcissistic personality disorder. Unlike borderline personality disorder, narcissistic disorder is more common in men. People having narcissistic disorder are in constant need of appreciation. Similarly, they are unsympathetic towards others and have exaggerated sense of self-respect.
You might also think that you are superior to others and deserve special treatment. Things like vanity, pride, prestige, power and grandiosity may constantly occupy your thoughts and feelings as well.
WHAT IS NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY DISORDER?
In layman terms, we use the term narcissism to describe someone who is full of himself as well as excessively pride and vanity. Such people are pretty common in modern world, typical examples being celebrities and sports stars. However in psychology, narcissism means something else.
It doesn’t stand for genuine love or respect.
On the other hand, people suffering from this particular disorder live in a delusional state and fall in love with an image of them which is magnificent and ideal but unrealistic and implausible to say the least.
They develop an inflated sense of self-importance because it allows them to escape the reality. They also try to build relationship with only those people they think are gifted or unique in some way. By having a stately image of themselves, they do not feel insecure any longer. However, they struggle to maintain and support that very image and as a result, personality problems and dysfunctional behaviors start to creep in their lives.
People with narcissistic personality disorder lack empathy for others. They think and behave arrogantly and most importantly, they need excessive praise and admiration. They are manipulative, demanding, selfish and patronizing. Furthermore, they display these types of behaviors all the time, with everyone and everywhere whether it is their home, family, work, friends or love relationships.
People with narcissistic disorder find it very difficult to bring necessary changes to their lifestyle. In fact, they are extremely resistant to change. Instead of transforming their own lives, they tend to put blame on others for their problems. This also makes narcissists very unpredictable. Similarly, they keep fluctuating between the feelings of being devalued and omnipresence, making it impossible to anticipate their actions.
Extreme sensitivity also cloud thinking abilities of narcissists. They take even the minor criticism as an attack on their personality. Similarly, you can make them really upset with apparent insults, disagreements and difference of opinions. They also get gloomy and frustrated when they don’t get special favors or attention. That is why you may not enjoy their company. However, it is better to accept all their demands, if possible, in order to avoid resentments and aloofness in relationships.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SELF-ESTEEM AND NARCISSISM
Narcissistic personality disorder and high self-esteem are two totally different phenomena. You might still be humble and respectful to the others if you have high self-esteem and self-respect. On the other hands, you might be arrogant, ignorant of others’ needs and extremely selfish if you are struggling with the narcissistic disorder. A person with high self-esteem is considerate of others feelings and emotions whereas a patient of narcissistic disorder has no concern for them whatsoever.
A person struggling with the disorder feels pretty insecure deep inside but exhibits high self-esteem on the surface. People diagnosed with the disorder believe they deserve more attention because they are superior to others. However, they have chronically low self-esteem and deep feelings of insecurity which is the real cause of their delusional state of mind.
They develop a self-centered approach towards relationship and a highly inflatedself-image instead of surrendering to their lack of confidence, low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness. They react to others with overly competitive attitude and cynicism. People with narcissistic disorder pretend to be extremely trustworthy and self-confident. However, they only manage to fool themselves more than anyone else.
Narcissists actually believe in their lies and deceptions and this strategy apparently works for them. However, the delusion of grandeur grows stronger with every passing day, creating more and more problems for them. In fact, the lack of self-confidence and self-esteem are the two main reasons narcissists have distorted personalities.
CAUSES OF NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY DISORDER
Just like most mental disorders, there is no defined reason of narcissistic personality disorder. Mental experts believe both genetic and environmental factors contribute to the development of the disorder over the years. For instance, people who experience disordered living and had disturbed relationships during childhood are very likely to suffer from narcissistic personality disorder in the adulthood.
Poor childhood experiences play a pivotal role in the development of narcissistic personality disorder. Many genetic factors also put younger people at a greater risk of suffering from the disorder in the long run just in the case of many other types of mental illnesses.
However, these genetic factors cannot cause the disease at their own. They work in combination with remarkably powerful environmental factors to cause the disorder in the adulthood.
Experts have been striving to find any connection between the genetics and the narcissistic disorder for decades now. According to recent findings, there is a consistent connection between genetics and narcissistic behaviors. However, these genetic factors are not strong enough to cause the disease. They only play a part in the development of the disorder but they do need support of environmental factors for the patient to display actual symptoms.
As a matter of fact, genetic predispositions are least responsible for causing narcissistic disorder as compared to other personality disorders such as borderline, histrionic and antisocial disorders. There ought to be a combination of certain environmental factors and genetic predispositions for the disorder to develop.
Childhood experiences is indeed the most important aspect when it comes to assessing environmental factors responsible for causing narcissistic personality disorder. These factors also serve as a standard for determining future personality and health development.
Child’s emotional and psychological well-being or its absence largely depends upon parenting styles and family dynamics. In this regard, parenting styles in particular play a decisive role in the development of the illness during adolescence and the adulthood.
Narcissistic personality disorder can occur due to three distinct types of parenting.
Authoritarian parenting contributes heavily to development of narcissistic traits. Authoritarian parents are highly demanding and overly controlling. They seldom approve their children’s actions and requests. They never allow their children to make mistakes at their own or grow in a healthy environment. Similarly, they don’t usually trust their children and never show affection and warmth as well.
Authoritarian parents do little to nothing to promote self-esteem and self-confidence in their children. They don’t allow them to develop the ability to feel empathy for others. The children become progressively insecure due to increasing and extreme demands of their parents. As a result, they develop narcissistic personality disorder while they grow in an attempt to cope with the ever increasing pressure exerted by their parents.
Permissive or indulgent parenting is totally opposite to the authoritarian parenting. Indulgent parents incessantly try to praise or pamper their children. They genuinely believe their children are superiors to other children and very special. They adopt this particular parenting style to pacify their children and keep them under control. They also keep on complimenting their kids regardless of their actions and behaviors, creating a lot of confusion in their minds. Furthermore, the kids don’t have any clear standard to live up to because their parents never bother to set any.
Children develop inflated ego as they grow as a result of lenient attitudes and constant praise. Such children believe they are always right and cannot do any wrong. The perception strengthens when they enter adolescence and later adulthood. They may also have low self-esteem if they believe their parents don’t care enough about them. This usually happens when parents don’t set any boundaries for their children or never try to discipline them. Such children also adopt unsympathetic and cynical attitude towards other people.
As they fail to develop empathy and respect for other people, exaggerated sense of self-importance and magnificence naturally become part of their personality.
Sexual, emotional or physical abuse is one of the biggest reasons of the different mental disorders including the narcissistic personality disorder. In fact, people who are victims of sexual or physical abuse in the childhood are almost 3 times more likely to develop narcissistic disorder as compared to the people who enjoyed a normal childhood.
EARLY WARNING SIGNS
Before we discuss the actual symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder, it is appropriate to talk about some of the early warning signs of the disorder. You need to keep in mind that narcissistic traits are very difficult to be detected during childhood. However, narcissistic personality disorder gets stronger and more apparent in adolescents right before they start their transition to adulthood.
Typical early warning signs of narcissism in teens include:
- Habitual lying
- Bullying other teenagers and children
- Insulting others due to their ethnicity, cultural background, social status and appearance etc.
- Supreme self-confidence and self-centeredness
- Being less cooperative and more competitive
- A strong urge to win
- Handing failure with disgrace
- No actual achievements but strong sense of entitlement
- Lack of empathy and interest for other members of family
Parents should immediately contact a trained professional if their children exhibit any or all of these symptoms. These professionals may be able to nip the evil in the bud and halt the progress of the disease before it is too late.
SYMPTOMS OF NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY DISORDER
Most of the symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder have already been mentioned in the above lines. However, following lines explain them in detail.
Inflated Sense of Self-Importance
One of the defining characteristics of narcissistic disorder is grandiosity. Narcissists do not exhibit simple vanity or arrogance but consider themselves far superior to others. They strongly believe they are special and unique and try to associate only with similar-minded people. They are not content with ordinary or average things or people. That is why they try to befriend only people of high status or class and same is the case with things and places they choose.
People with narcissistic personality disorder also look down upon poor and needy. They also consider themselves better than everybody else. They also expect others to surrender to their will and command even if they have achieved nothing in their lives.
They also don’t hesitate to tell white lies about their talents and achievements. They will only talk about their own greatness and what they have done. Similarly, they will make you believe you are extremely lucky to be in their company.
Their World is Full of Fantasies
Narcissists normally live in an imaginary world because reality never approves their elated version of themselves. They further support their world by magical thinking, self-deception and distorted image of the world and people around them. They fabricate fantasies of brilliance, power, unlimited success and attractiveness. They also spin stories about ideal love which they never get but make them feel special and appreciated.
They spin such stories in order to escape from feelings of deep insecurity, inner shame and emptiness. Similarly, they rationalize away or totally ignore all the opinions and facts which contradict these glorifying fantasies. They take everything which seems to burst their bubble with extreme rage and defensiveness. Their denial of reality forces people around them to treat them carefully and with utmost caution.
They Need Constant Admiration and Praise
If narcissists don’t get constant admiration and praise, they start feeling ignored and frustrated. Their life is like a balloon which needs regular supply of air to remain inflated. The lack of steady stream of applause severely dents their sense of superiority and bursts the balloon. As a result, they often develop relationships with people who have mastered the art of flattery and can easily cater to the needs of narcissists.
You also need to remember that narcissists only look for their own benefits while developing relationships. They demand continuous applause from others but never return anything in response. Furthermore, the patient will consider it a betrayal if an admirer stops admiring him permanently or even temporarily.
Sense of Entitlement
Narcissists expect special treatment from their relatives, friends, colleagues and everyone else they meet. They truly believe they should get everything they wish for. They also expect other people to fulfill their every whim and wish. This is the only value they truly have. They will render you useless if you fail to meet their needs or don’t anticipate what they are going to demand. Similarly, you will have to face cold shoulder, outrage or aggression if you have the audacity to demand anything in return or defy them altogether.
They Shamelessly Exploit Others
Lack of empathy is one of the major characteristics of narcissistic disorder patients. They never learn how to treat other people with respect or how to value their feelings and emotions. In most cases, other people are only objects who are in the world only to serve them forever. As a result, they fully take advantage of others without giving it a second though. All they want is to grind their own axe even if it has to happen at the expense of others.
Most often, they are oblivious of the fact that they are exploiting others. However, exploitation does become malicious on some occasions. The problem is that narcissists never really care about other people. They simply don’t care how their actions affect others.
Similarly, they won’t really realize even if you point it out to them. They only care about their own needs and will meet them at any cost.
They Belittle and Intimidate others
If you have something which a narcissist does not, prepare for an all-out assault on your personality from him. You will actually start to threaten him especially if you are confident, popular and successful in life. Similarly, narcissists also dislike people who challenge their authoritarian lifestyle or refuse to be their subservient.
As a result, they resort to contempt and start intimidating, bullying and belittling people they consider a threat for themselves.
They try to put such people down in order to satisfy their own exaggerated ego and further support their fantasy world. They try to show they don’t really care about them by becoming more dismissive and patronizing.
If nothing seems to work, they finally resort to name calling, bullying, insults and empty threats in an attempt to teach their “competitors” a lesson.
TREATMENTS OF NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY DISORDER
People with narcissistic personality disorder do not normally seek medical help at their own because they truly believe nothing is wrong with them. Even if they do seek help, it would be for associated maladies such as depression, stress and drug and alcohol abuse. However, they are most likely to discontinue treatment due to perceived damage to self-esteem.
It is imperative to mention that narcissistic personality disorder is fully curable. An expert may recommend different types of treatments depending upon how severe your condition is. Following are some of the treatment options available to a patient of narcissistic personality disorder.
People having narcissistic disorder perceive themselves to be invincible and perfect. Their sense of superiority is shattered to the ground and they lose the inherent feeling of security even in the case of a physical injury.
Therefore, they frequently disregard physicians and therapists and behave contemptuously with them. They try to maintain mastery and seniority not over their illness but on their physicians as well. Therefore, only the most senior and experienced physicians working in a prestigious organization can manage to escape such a behavior.
Therapists normally start the treatment by acknowledging a patient’s sense of self-importance and treating him with respect. They enable the patient to develop a coherent sense of self. They also try their level best not to enforce his weaknesses such as the sense of pathological grandiosity. If they do, the patient may deny the illness altogether at some stage of treatment.
The patient develops strong subjective strength through step by step guidance provided by the therapist after initial support. The therapist may also highlight both his and the patient’s realistic limitations and capacities to help the later establish stronger self-esteem. He also provides the patient with empathic environment to integrate with the new surroundings and accept the changes in his life.
In fact, psychotherapy involves a lot of techniques to treat a patient. It is up to the therapist to do some research to describe the actual severity of the disorder and employ techniques accordingly in order to induce better response to treatment.
Most therapists don’t treat their patients for actual disorder but for the symptoms related to the external diagnosis and crisis. The therapist encourages the patient to redevelop an enact self-image and high self-esteem using his own narcissistic traits. In order to do so, he does not confront the patient’s need to self-grandiose. If the patient sees his therapists either as a devalued being or a superhuman, he may not be able to recognize him or he simply refuses to accept him as a common human being. Therefore, the therapist tries not to rely on therapeutic alliance and positive transferences.
Patients might also need help for the associated disorders such as depression after displaying symptoms of actual disorder. The therapist will only be able to fight counter-transference and provide practical help to the patient if he understands the principles of narcissistic lifestyle. Narcissistic personality disorder usually stems from a patient’s pathological development. Therefore, therapists also try to find solutions to pathological problems in order to treat the patient.
Group therapy aims at helping a patient develop a strong individual personality. It enables a narcissist to decrease the need of excessive admiration, inflated self-respect and recognize others as separate persons. It also enables the patient to control destructive behaviors and develop empathy and compassion for others.
In group therapy, the therapist is less authoritative and therefore, less frightening to the patient and his grandiosity. Therapists’ duties include controlling regression and lessening the intensity of emotional experience. They are also responsible for creating better environment for confrontation of disease and clarification of ideas. They also make sure the patient does not feel insulted by anything which is one of the biggest reasons why patients leave group therapy.
People with extreme cases of narcissistic personality disorder can be hospitalized if required. Patients with increased tendency to self-destruct or decreasing ability to recognize reality are often briefly sent to hospital. You need to keep in mind that hospitals only treat patients for certain symptoms instead of providing complete treatment.
Apart from symptoms mentioned above, other reasons for which a patient can be hospitalized include fragile social relationships, chronic destructive behaviors, chaotic lifestyles and no motivation for outpatient treatment. Inpatient treatment sometimes offers better healing opportunities to patient as it involves specialized residential environment, family support and individual as well as group psychotherapies.
Similarly, the treatment plan does not confront patient’s severe ego throughout the course of intense psychotherapy.
Narcissistic personality disorder can significantly impair your personality. It makes your life increasingly difficult and dysfunctional. Similarly, it can lead to the development of many other unwanted personality traits as well. Therefore, it is important for both the patient and the family to recognize that everything is not right and they need to seek immediate professional help.
They also need to do it sooner rather than later otherwise the patient will set on a journey of self-destruction with no chance to return to normal life.