You’ve probably called someone a narcissist before when they were acting selfish, but what you may not know is that narcissistic personality disorder is a serious mental health condition. Fortunately, there are treatment options available for those who have this disorder.
The name “narcissistic personality disorder” comes from the Greek myth of Narcissus, who was so handsome that he fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. He couldn’t tear himself away from the image, and he eventually died of starvation and thirst. His body was turned into flowers, which went on to bear his name.
Like Narcissus, people with narcissistic personality disorder have a high sense of self-importance and seek too much attention and admiration. They may have a hard time understanding the feelings of others and are easily upset by criticism.
People with the disorder are often preoccupied with fantasies of power, wealth, beauty, fame, or the perfect romance. Because they believe they are superior to others, they look down on those they see as inferior and may take advantage of others to get what they want. They may feel unfulfilled in their relationships, and others may not enjoy spending time with them.
This disorder causes problems in the workplace, school, and interpersonal relationships. People with narcissism may feel as if they deserve exceptional treatment and recognition, even without achievements, and become unhappy or disappointed when they’re not given special favors and privileges.
Despite their mask of self-confidence, people with narcissistic personality disorder are insecure in their own self-worth. They may secretly harbor feelings of shame or guilt, and fear having their failures exposed.
Those with narcissism may experience other complications along with the disorder, including depression, anxiety, anorexia, suicidality, physical health issues, or drug and alcohol abuse.
Narcissistic personality disorder is more common in males than females. Some children show narcissistic traits, but this is often typical for their age and doesn’t necessarily mean they will develop the disorder later on. Narcissism usually surfaces in the teen years or early adulthood.
Because some symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder are similar to those of other disorders, it can be hard to diagnose. The diagnosis process usually includes a discussion with a mental health professional about your symptoms and their impact on your life and a thorough psychological evaluation based on these traits listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM):
- Grandiose sense of self-superiority
- Craving admiration
- Exploitative or manipulative relationships
- Little to no empathy
- Identity is easily threatened
- Lack of attachment and intimacy
- Feelings of depression when not validated
- Sense of entitlement
- Feelings of envy toward others
Causes and Prevention
We don’t know for sure what causes narcissistic personality disorder, but it may be linked to the environment in which the person grew up. If they experienced relationships with their parents that were characterized by either too much criticism or admiration, their mental health could be affected later on. Additionally, certain behaviors, such as manipulation or lack of envy, can be learned from others later on in life.
Other factors could include inherited personality traits or the person’s neurobiology, which is the connection between the brain and behavior.
Because its origins aren’t clear, it’s hard to prevent narcissistic personality disorder. However, it may be helpful to receive treatment as soon as possible for mental health issues in childhood or learn healthy communication and coping methods in family therapy or parenting classes.
Because people with narcissistic personality disorder don’t see an issue with their attitude or behavior, they are not likely to reach out for help. However, psychotherapy treatment has proven to be effective in helping those with narcissism have more happy and fulfilling lives.
Talking with a therapist can help you understand the causes and effects of your actions, behaviors, and emotions. You can also learn how to better relate to others and improve your interpersonal relationships.
There is currently no medication known to treat narcissistic personality disorder, but if a patient also experiences symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other conditions along with narcissism, medication may be helpful.
Psychotherapy at Ogden Psychological Services
Ogden Psychological Services offers people with a variety of different mental health conditions, including personality disorders, a safe space to talk about their thoughts, feelings, and issues without fear of judgment. Our board-certified counselors are here to help you learn healthy coping mechanisms and improve your overall well-being. Call us to schedule a consultation or schedule an appointment today!