The Truth of Narcissism


Client’s often say they know someone who is a Narcissist. Specifically, to explain someone else’s unwanted actions or behaviour, they claim their partner, brother, sister, friend, or even their parent may be a Narcissist. It is a term that is loosely used in the media and Hollywood to portray the womaniser or the emotionally controlling matriarch. To separate some of the myths form facts, the following information provides information on Narcissistic Personality Disorder, to help you determine whether you do indeed know a Narcissist.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is estimated to affect less than 1% of the population. People sometimes confuse confidence with NPD, however NPD is valuing yourself beyond all others, placing yourself on a pedestal, seeing others as inferior, and seeing yourself in a light which is far beyond a healthy level of confidence. People with NPD may be intentionally arrogant, superior or vain. They will often act in a pretentious way in group settings, belittle others, and look to control conversations.

While their self-concept is often an overinflated one, people with NPD typically have a fragile ego. Perceived criticism, threats or attack can be met with revenge, anger or isolation. Often, their underlying insecurities may be managed through humiliation of others as a protection mechanism.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), individuals with NPD have most or all of the following traits:

• Grandiosity, expectations of self-importance, and expectations of superior treatment from others (with or without achievements).
• Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited power, success, intelligence, or beauty.
• Self-perception of being unique, superior and can only be understood by other “special” or high-status people (or institutions).
• Requiring constant admiration from others.
• Sense of entitlement.
• Selfishly exploitative and takes advantage of others to achieve personal gain.
• Unwilling to empathise with others’ feelings, wishes, or needs.
• Envious of others and believes that others are equally envious of them.
• Patronising, contemptuous, pompous and arrogant demeanour.

For someone to be diagnosed with NPD, traits need to inflexible, maladaptive, persisting, and cause significant functional impairment. Symptoms have a major impact on romantic, family and social relationships, and on one’s ability to operate in other important aspects of life, including work and study.

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Personality disorders. In Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth Edition ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing Inc.

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