What is narcissism?

Narcissism is a mental condition characterized by an exaggerated and excessive sense of self-importance and a constant preoccupation with one’s needs alone with little to no regard for others. People with this disorder are known as narcissists and they feel superior and more important than others because of the façade of self-worth they have attached to themselves. This disorder can cause problems in many areas of a narcissist’s life, in their relationships, at work, school, or even financially. Narcissists are usually unhappy and unsatisfied when they are not given the level of admiration or aggravation they think they deserve. They may get into relationships just because it matches their aesthetic or it soothes their ego.

Symptoms of Narcissistic personality disorder

The level or severity of the signs of a narcissist and symptoms of the disorder vary. However, these are a few narcissistic traits common in people with the disorder:

  • Inability to handle criticism. Narcissists can be easily offended when they are not given the special treatment they believe they deserve. They can react with so much anger that outweighs the problem itself.
  • They are unable to regulate their emotions and can easily get depressed or stressed from rejection.
  • They subtly struggle with insecurities and vulnerabilities that they tend to try to rub off on others.
  • They want to be recognized and treated as superiors without any achievements that require that.
  • They are preoccupied with unrealistic fantasies about power, brilliance, or the idea of a perfect mate.
  • They exhibit arrogance and haughty behaviors. They are conceited, boastful, and pretentious about everything.
  • They have no empathy and take advantage of other people to get special treatment or favors. They talk down on others just to feel a sense of superiority.

Subtypes of Narcissistic personality disorder

Overt Narcissism

This type of narcissistic behavior is constituted by an extreme sense of self-worth and inflated self-esteem. People with this overt narcissism are exploitative in interpersonal relationships. They want to exert social dominance and assertiveness that they are not worthy of. They are shameless with a sense of entitlement due to their feelings of superiority.

Covert Narcissism

This is similar to overt narcissism but is characterized by less obvious personality traits like defensiveness. Covert narcissists exhibit antisocial personalities. They are fragile, socially withdrawn, and very sensitive to criticism.

Causes of Narcissistic personality disorder

  1. Childhood Trauma, Child Abuse or Neglection

Trauma from psychological, physical, or sexual abuse; unreliable parental care, or constant manipulative behavior during childhood.

2. Excessive childhood pampering

People who grew up with excessive adoration, valuation, or admiration from their parents or peers, as well as, being overpraised and overindulged, can end up feeling overly important and craving such attention for the rest of their lives

3. Unrealistic parental expectations

Excessive criticism of a child below the child’s experience can affect them mentally and result in this disorder.

3. Genetics

Children could inherit some of these behavioral patterns from their parents.

4. Personality and temperament

5. Borderline personality disorder

Effects of Narcissistic personality disorder

Personality disorders like narcissistic personality disorder are generally long-standing and ingrained. They are characterized by dysfunctional thought patterns and behaviors that can be harmful to other people. People with this disorder are usually not aware or unable to perceive that they may have a mental health problem, therefore, they are less likely to seek treatment.

  1. Depression

The constant need to meet up with unrealistic expectations or fantasies or their desires for the given special treatment and excessive valuation can lead to depression when they do not get these. Also, people with this disorder struggle with low self-esteem and insecurity which could eventually lead to depression.

2. Suicidal tendencies

3. Anxiety

4. Physical health problems

5. Relationship difficulties

Narcissists are naturally exploitative and manipulative. They get into relationships that are only beneficial to them and their ego. This is why it is unusual for a narcissist to have relationship issues. They can also be very detrimental to the mental health of their partners.

How Narcissistic Personality disorder is diagnosed?

Doctors and mental health professionals use the criteria from a text published by the American Psychiatric Association to diagnose mental health conditions such as this one. The title of this text is “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, text revision (DSM-5-TR)”. The diagnostic criteria for diagnosing Narcissistic personality disorder is by looking out for certain traits which are:

  • the person has an exaggerated sense of self-importance and an inflated level of entitlement
  • they constantly need admiration and praise
  • they are always expecting special treatment due to their self-perception of superiority
  • they are always exaggerating their achievements
  • they have explosive or negative reactions to criticism
  • they are mostly preoccupied with fantasies of power and success
  • they take advantage of other people and are unwilling or unable to recognize the needs and emotions of others around them
  • they behave arrogantly without regard for others

A mental health professional checks for all these traits by asking for a questionnaire to be filled for them to determine whether you meet these criteria. They may also carry out tests for other health conditions or mental disorders that could be responsible for your symptoms.

Treatment of Narcissistic Personality disorder

  1. Psychotherapy or Talk Therapy

This can help to learn how to maintain an enjoyable and rewarding relationship with others. This therapy can also show the patient how to recognize their strengths and weaknesses so they can handle criticism better; how to improve their collaboration skill with people around them; how to understand and manage their thoughts and emotions; how to handle their self-esteem issues; understand their thought process and emotions better to understand what drives them to compete unhealthily and talk down and others. It also helps to get clarity on why they despise themselves and those around them. It also helps with setting realistic goals and also realizing their desire for unrealistic goals with insight into more ideal and attainable ones.

2. Lifestyle Changes

Since treating this disorder can take time, some lifestyle changes are important to help make therapy easier and more effective. Some of these lifestyle changes include avoiding substances that can trigger these problematic behaviors or narcissistic symptoms like drug abuse and excessive alcohol; pursuing healthy habits and engaging in various relaxation activities like yoga and meditation to help with the stress and anxiety.

3. Medication

There is no medication for this disorder. However, some medications like antidepressants can help with the symptoms of the disorder.

Conclusion: Getting treatment for narcissistic disorder is important and it starts with acknowledging it is a problem that needs treatment. This is why it is important to communicate to anyone around you exhibiting narcissistic symptoms to help them start with treatments. Antisocial personality traits are difficult to change, therefore, it is important to support them through the treatment process as it may take a lot of time.