Popular culture has a way of quickly adopting certain terminology around mental health conditions without knowing much about them. For those with narcissistic personality disorder, the “narcissist” label is often tossed out with negative connotations, and little understanding of this complex condition and the potential for treatment.
“Why is everything always about THEM? They’re such a narcissist!”
If you are living with someone who is showing symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder, comments like these can be both hurtful and frustrating. When people casually attribute certain traits to narcissism, it complicates real understanding of this disorder and builds stigma around it, which can dissuade people from seeking help.
Accepting narcissistic personality disorder for what it is, a mental health disorder that requires professional care and management, can help ensure that people living with it get the treatment they need.
What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
Narcissistic personality disorder is a recognised mental health condition – not a personal choice about how to behave or interact with others. It generally becomes evident in a person’s teens or early adulthood, and can cause significant stress in personal relationships and a fragile sense of self-esteem.
While many adults display one or two narcissistic tendencies in certain circumstances, like expecting displays of affection and praise from a partner or considering themselves the best at their work, for a medical professional to make a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder, at least five of nine recognised symptoms must be present. Psychologists will also look for a consistent display of symptoms throughout different parts of life, such as at work, at home, and in a variety of relationships.
Symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Common symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder include:
- A need for constant praise and admiration from others
- An inflated sense of self-importance; grandiosity
- Regularly exploiting others for personal benefit
- Ongoing feelings of jealousy and distrust
- Fantasies about power, adulation, and success
- Low level of empathy
- Behaving in an arrogant, haughty, or scornful manner
- Unwavering belief in one’s own status as special, unique, and superior
Causes of Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Like any personality disorder, the exact causes of narcissistic personality disorder are typically unknown. However, environmental, neurobiological and genetic factors are generally thought to play a role in the development of narcissistic personality disorder. It is possible that for people with a tendency towards the disorder, parenting styles which were overly protective or neglectful in their childhood may have an impact.
Some research has shown that in people with narcissistic personality disorder the part of the brain that is connected to compassion, empathy, emotional regulation and cognitive functions has less gray matter, which could explain more about the neurobiological components involved in the disorder.
Loving Someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder
People with narcissistic personality disorder are often confident, assertive, and exciting to be with. They feel like the world is theirs and can have a commanding, even magnetic presence. The flip side of this is the unwavering belief in their own importance, an inability to empathise with others, and the tendency to manipulate others towards their own gains.
The nature of narcissistic personality disorder often makes it difficult for a person to identify their own symptoms, even when these symptoms are causing significant problems in their daily lives. For many people with this disorder, symptoms are first noted by a loved one who sees the negative impacts of narcissistic behaviour and wants to encourage a change.
How Narcissistic Personality Disorder Symptoms Manifest in Daily Life
- They get angry when people don’t praise them or recognise their accomplishments. Most people appreciate some recognition when they have done good work or achieved something special. For a person with narcissistic personality disorder however, this attention is critically important, and they can become enraged if a reaction to what they perceive as a success isn’t what they expect.
- They insist on what they consider to be the best, and expect others to take notice. This can manifest in a steady pursuit and display of material items like fine wines, brand names, and expensive cars or other markers of success like a high-paying job or attending a prestigious school. It can also be evident in relationship preferences, such as only dating those others consider to be attractive, wealthy, or influential. The underlying motivator is status, and the admiration and even envy of others.
- They are very focused on their own feelings and needs, but show little interest in understanding the feelings or needs of others. People with narcissistic personality disorder have a difficult time being empathetic, which can be partly due to differences in neurobiology. Therefore, they may regularly use manipulative or dishonest behaviour to get what they want without considering the impact of this on others. They also may be unkind or dismissive towards those who they feel do not offer any clear benefits to them, or to those they perceive as in competition with their own interests.
- They often fall into “all or nothing” thinking. Instead of viewing people as a complex mix of flaws and attributes, people with narcissistic personality disorder often think that a single flaw signals total unworthiness, and thus may end relationships or treat people with scorn based on very minor issues. This type of thinking also fuels the need for attention, adulation and praise of a person with this disorder, as not receiving these affirmations can lead them to question their own importance and worth.
These symptoms can put serious strain on relationships and factor into ongoing tension and conflict with loved ones. Working towards healthier relationships often involves professional treatment in which symptoms are identified and the individual learns strategies for emotional management and building understanding of others’ feelings and reactions.
Treatment for Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Any mental health diagnosis requires professional support and an informed treatment plan in order to help alleviate symptoms and improve one’s overall quality of life. People living with narcissistic personality disorder can benefit from treatment such as cognitive behavioural therapy. Specialised therapeutic interventions can help people better understand their own actions and emotions and create new healthier patterns of behaviour, as well as develop empathy and understanding for others. This helps people with narcissistic personality disorder experience less disruption in their relationships with others, allowing for lasting, loving connections.
Understanding and Managing Narcissistic Personality Disorder at The Dawn
The Dawn Wellness Centre and Rehab is a uniquely designed rehabilitation and wellness facility created to foster an environment of personal growth and healing for people who want to change their lives and overcome addiction or mental health issues or co-occurring disorders, including narcissistic personality disorder.
Licenced by the Thai Ministry of Health and internationally accredited by the American Accreditation Commission International (AACI) ,The Dawn offers tailor made programmes that cater to each individual’s needs by using a comprehensive, holistic treatment method and modern techniques with proven results.
There are many ways to support a loved one living with narcissistic personality disorder; call us today to learn more how we can help.