Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Expert outlines condition
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You may have heard the term ‘narcissistic’ as an adjective to describe someone who is selfish, self-centred or vain, but narcissism is a little more complex than that. About five percent of the general population are narcissists, and their disorder causes problems in many areas of life from their relationships to their jobs. Narcissists tend to disguise their problematic traits to begin with, suck people into their lives, and leave them feeling drained. It’s important to be able to spot a narcissist in order to protect yourself and establish boundaries.
According to the Mayo Clinic, narcissistic personality disorder can be defined as: “A mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, 31 renovation ideas troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.
“But behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”
The conflict between insecurity and self-obsession causes people with narcissistic personality disorder to be generally unhappy or disappointed when the world doesn’t offer them special favours or admiration.
The Clinic’s site adds: “They may find their relationships unfulfilling, and others may not enjoy being around them.”
The cause of narcissistic personality disorder isn’t completely understood but it is thought to be partly down to environment, genetics and neurobiology.
Someone who has experienced either excessive adoration or excessive criticism as a child from their parents may grow up to be a narcissist.
Alternatively, the condition could just be inherited or to do with the connection between the brain, behaviour and thinking.
Narcissistic personality disorder is more common in males than females, and it often begins in teens or early adulthood.
The Mayo Clinic warns: “Keep in mind that, although some children may show traits of narcissism, this may simply be typical of their age and doesn’t mean they’ll go on to develop a narcissistic personality disorder.”
The disorder was named narcissism after the character Narcissus in Ancient Greek mythology.
Narcissus was an attractive hunter who rejected all romantic advances and fell in love with himself instead.
He ends up staring at his own reflection in a pool of water, staring at it for the remainder of his life.
You may have heard of the beautiful flower of the same name. The Narcissus flower is said to have sprouted in his place by the pool after he died.
Just like the mythological hunter, people with narcissistic personality disorder are characterised by grandiosity, an excessive need for admiration, and an inability to empathise.
Narcissists can’t help but follow different rules to the rest of the population, and it’s important to recognise narcissistic traits in order to learn how to handle these people.
For example, if you know someone is a narcissist you will remember not to expect loyalty from them and so will not trust them to be there when you really need them.
It is easy to be manipulated by a narcissist, but learning about their traits will enable you to cope with narcissistic people more successfully.
How to spot a narcissist
Narcissism isn’t just vanity or excessive self-love, it’s a personality disorder with real symptoms that vary in severity.
The Mayo Clinic lists the following as symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder:
- Have an exaggerated sense of self-importance
- Have a sense of entitlement and require constant, excessive admiration
- Expect to be recognised as superior even without achievements that warrant it
- Exaggerate achievements and talents
- Be preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
- Believe they are superior and can only associate with equally special people
- Monopolise conversations and belittle or look down on people they perceive as inferior
- Expect special favours and unquestioning compliance with their expectations
- Take advantage of others to get what they want
- Have an inability or unwillingness to recognise the needs and feelings of others
- Be envious of others and believe others envy them
- Behave in an arrogant or haughty manner, coming across as conceited, boastful and pretentious
- Insist on having the best of everything — for instance, the best car or office
While narcissists might come across as self-assured and confident, you must remember what is going on beneath the surface.
The Mayo Clinic site explains that people with narcissistic personality disorder have trouble handling anything they perceive as criticism, and they can:
- Become impatient or angry when they don’t receive special treatment
- Have significant interpersonal problems and easily feel slighted
- React with rage or contempt and try to belittle the other person to make themselves appear superior
- Have difficulty regulating emotions and behaviour
- Experience major problems dealing with stress and adapting to change
- Feel depressed and moody because they fall short of perfection
- Have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation
For confidential support call the Samaritans in the UK on 116 123 or email [email protected]
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