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Narcissistic Personality Disorder

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People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder typically have a highly inflated sense of self-importance. They may need excessive amounts of admiration, and they usually lack empathy toward others. They often display a condescending or snobbish attitude toward others. Because of how they treat those around them, people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder often have difficulty maintaining their relationships.

A personality is disordered when one’s behaviors, thoughts, and feeling patterns toward the world, toward oneself, and toward others are maladaptive, incongruent, or inflexible. A personality disorder impairs one’s ability to function in the world. To be diagnosed with a personality disorder, the pattern of deviant behaviors and distress needs to be long-standing and manifest across different situations.

3 Important Facts

  • Roughly 6.2 percent of the general U.S. population has Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Although more males are diagnosed than females, both genders can have it.
  • Like other personality disorders, NPD symptoms decrease in severity over time, particularly in a person’s 40s and 50s.
  • Traits of personality disorders usually begin appearing during preteen and teen years, when personality is more established. But traits can begin in childhood.

Signs to look for

  • Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (believes they are inherently superior; may exaggerate achievements)
  • Needs excessive amounts of admiration
  • Lacks empathy
  • Fantasizes about success, power, beauty or wealth
  • Regularly comes across as arrogant or haughty
  • Takes advantage of others to achieve their own end
  • Believes they are special
  • Often envies others or believes others envy them
  • Displays strong sense of entitlement (expects others to cater to their demands or requires special treatment)

Although it would seem otherwise, people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder are often highly insecure. Their narcissistic behaviors are used to mask these insecurities.

Next steps

Like other personality disorders, Narcissistic Personality Disorder requires treatment, usually in the form of psychotherapy. A therapist who has worked with personality disorders can help someone with NPD become aware of the thoughts and behaviors that are wreaking havoc on their life. Sometimes residential treatment or hospitalization may be necessary to help those with severe symptoms. This is especially true when people with the disorder are impulsive and self-destructive. Group therapy may also be beneficial. It can help the person see others as individuals and see themselves in a more positive light.

If you suspect you or your loved one is suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, talk with a mental health professional who can make a proper diagnosis and create a treatment plan.

Common Q and A

How do I know it's Narcissistic Personality Disorder rather than self-absorption?

Someone who is self-absorbed may display a couple of the symptoms listed above. But, in general, they will be able to function normally in most situations. A person with NPD, however, will display most of the symptoms listed above. They will also experience distress or chaos in most situations due to the disorder.

What are the causes of Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

We don’t know what causes Narcissistic Personality Disorder. However, most professionals believe it is a result of biological and genetic factors, social factors and psychological factors.

How is Narcissistic Personality Disorder diagnosed?

There is no standard test to diagnose NPD. A mental health professional will evaluate the symptoms, life history and patterns of interaction and then make the diagnosis.

Can Narcissistic Personality Disorder be cured?

Personality disorders are often hard to be completely reversed, but with the right treatment, symptoms can be reduced and people with NPD can learn healthier ways of interacting with others and have their needs met. It is very possible to live a full, happy life with a personality disorder.