What is a Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Posted August 12, 2021

While reading the following blog, you will learn the following:

  • People with a narcissistic personality disorder may display many symptoms, and many of these symptoms can negatively affect the life of the patient, and the lives of those around them.
  • They may appear to need excessive attention and admiration from others and a lack of empathy.
  • People with this type of personality disorder may struggle to maintain healthy relationships.

What Is a Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

A narcissistic personality disorder is, first and foremost, a mental health condition. People with this diagnosis may appear arrogant. Others may see them as attention-seeking and having an unrealistic view of their own importance. Patients with narcissistic personality disorders may have a deep desire for admiration from others and lack empathy for anyone else. This all-consuming need for attention can make it challenging to maintain stability in relationships.

While a person with a narcissistic personality disorder may appear outwardly over-confident, they are internally plagued with fragile self-esteem. They cannot bear even minor criticism. These individuals may struggle in multiple areas of life, including work, finances, school, and personal relationships. Relationships that don’t feed the need for admiration are unsatisfactory. Others may avoid the person because the constant need for attention may be exhausting and challenging to be around.

Symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder

The symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder vary from mild to severe, and not every patient will display the same symptoms. Here are a few of the signs to watch for if you believe that you or someone you love may have a narcissistic personality disorder. The patient may:

  • Expect recognition for achievements that don’t rise to that level
  • Believe that they are “better” than others and express a desire to associate only with other “superior” people
  • Take advantage of others to advance an agenda
  • Appear arrogant and conceited
  • Inflate their talents and achievements
  • Expect to be granted special treatment and become angry when others don’t give it.
  • Have unrealistic beliefs about their successes, appearance, or importance
  • Envy the accomplishments of others while simultaneously believing that others are jealous of them
  • Feel entitled to constant attention and admiration and feel slighted easily
  • Demand the best of everything, such as the preferred office at work, the closest parking space, the nicest car, etc.
  • Control conversations and treat others as inferior
  • Seem to have no concept of the feelings of other people
  • Use outrage in an attempt to make others feel inferior
  • Have a lack of emotional and behavioral self-control
  • Have difficulty accepting change and an inability to manage stress
  • Fall into a depression when they realize that perfection is impossible

Underlying the outward appearance of anger, arrogance, and superiority is a deep, secret feeling of inferiority and shame. Patients with a narcissistic personality disorder may experience crippling humiliation at minor embarrassments.

Risk Factors and Complications to Consider

While there is no clear-cut profile of a person who will develop a narcissistic personality disorder, researchers do know a few things:

  • Males are more likely than females to display these psychological disorders.
  • The disorder often appears during adolescence or young adulthood. However, keep in mind that those phases of life are characterized by some elements of narcissism that are developmentally typical.
  • Children raised with overprotective or neglectful parents may be more likely to develop a narcissistic personality disorder.
  • A genetic predisposition toward the disorder may exist. Researchers believe that neurobiology, the way the brain influences behavior, may also be involved.

Complications of narcissistic personality disorder often involve co-occurring disorders such as depression, substance abuse, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts or behaviors. The patient may also have difficulty maintaining healthy relationships and performing successfully at work or school. Many patients experience physical health problems related to narcissistic personality disorder.

When to See a Doctor

People with narcissistic personality disorder can be tough to get into treatment because they don’t believe they need therapy or have mental health disorders. Some eventually seek help for depression, addiction, or another mental health diagnosis without ever realizing their narcissistic tendencies. When the person does enter treatment, the resistance to change and criticism may present a barrier to meaningful improvement.

Treatment Options

Psychotherapy is the basis for the most successful treatments of narcissistic personality disorder. The goals of this form of “talk therapy” include learning to interact with other people in new ways and a level of self-understanding to help the patient comprehend what drives the narcissistic behavior. The therapist seeks to help the patient:

  • Develop a realistic view of relationships with others
  • Understand that humans are fallible and perfection is impossible
  • Accept and process criticism
  • Learn to regulate emotions and behavior

Medications are not typically part of a treatment for narcissistic personality disorder, but they may be used to treat some of the related conditions. For example, depression and anxiety often respond well to pharmaceutical interventions.

The most important thing to remember when seeking treatment for narcissistic personality disorder is to stay consistent. Patients should find a therapist they are comfortable working with and stick with the agreed-upon treatment plan.

Where Can I Get Help?

Unfortunately, we don’t yet understand how to prevent the development of a narcissistic personality disorder. If you or someone you love is experiencing these difficulties, reach out for help as soon as possible, even in young children. Family therapy is often necessary to help those around the patient understand how to interact more effectively and reduce conflict in the home. For children displaying narcissistic personality disorder, parenting classes can help create healthier family structures.

At MHS DBT & Mental Health Services, we offer various therapies for people displaying signs of narcissistic personality disorder. Our team of compassionate and highly trained professionals works with clients from early adolescence through senior adults. We provide individual and group therapy for various mental health concerns, including narcissistic personality disorders. Contact us online or by calling (651) 358-2163 today to schedule an assessment.

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