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Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Narcissism is a term used to describe a focus on the self and self-admiration that is taken to an extreme. The word "narcissism" comes from a Greek myth in which a handsome young man named Narcissus sees his reflection in a pool of water and falls in love with it.

Narcissistic personality disorder is one of a group of conditions called "Cluster B" or "dramatic" personality disorders. People with these disorders have intense, unstable emotions and a distorted self-image. Narcissistic personality disorder is further characterized by an abnormal love of self, an exaggerated sense of superiority and self-importance, and a preoccupation with success and power. However, these attitudes and behaviors do not reflect true self-confidence. Instead, the attitudes conceal a deep sense of insecurity and a fragile self-esteem. People with narcissistic personality disorders also often have a complete lack of empathy for others.

What Are the Symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

In many cases, people with narcissistic personality disorder:

  • Are self-centered and boastful
  • Seek constant attention and admiration
  • Consider themselves better than others
  • Exaggerate their talents and achievements
  • Believe that they are entitled to special treatment
  • Are easily hurt but may not show it
  • Set unrealistic goals
  • May take advantage of others to achieve their goals

Other common traits of narcissistic personality disorder include the following:

  • Preoccupation with fantasies that focus on unlimited success, power, intelligence, beauty, or love
  • Belief that he or she is "special" and unique, and can only be understood by other special people
  • Expectation that others will automatically go along with what he or she wants
  • Inability to recognize or identify with the feelings, needs, and viewpoints of others
  • Envy of others or a belief that others are envious of him or her
  • Hypersensitivity to insults (real or imagined), criticism, or defeat, possibly reacting with rage, shame, and humiliation
  • Arrogant behavior and/or attitude

 

What Causes Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

The exact cause of narcissistic personality disorder is not known. However, many mental health professionals believe it results from a combination of factors that may include biological vulnerabilities, social interactions with early caregivers, and psychological factors that involve temperament and the ability to manage stresses. Some researchers believe that narcissistic personality disorder may be more likely to develop when children experience parenting styles that are excessively pampering, or when parents have a need for their children to be talented or special in order to maintain their own self-esteem. On the other end of the spectrum, narcissistic personality disorder might develop as the result of neglect or abuse and trauma inflicted by parents or other authority figures during childhood. The disorder usually is evident by adolescence or early adulthood when personality traits have become consolidated.

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