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Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Diagnosis

There are no lab tests to confirm a mental disorder. If there’s a noticeable change in someone’s personality, a doctor might do a physical exam, blood tests, or brain scans to rule out a physical illness. If there’s no clear cause, a psychiatrist or psychologist will ask a set of targeted questions to gauge personality.

Many professionals use the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, a list of 40 questions that measures things such as how much attention and power someone craves.

Traits usually start popping up during pre-teen or teenage years, when personality is better formed. But it can come to light as early as age 8, when children start to become more aware of how people react to them.

A recent study at Ohio State University says many people readily admit to being a narcissist. Researchers say they’re probably proud of it and don’t see looking out for No. 1 as a flaw.

Causes

The exact cause is not known, but there are several theories. Many think it’s a mix of things, from how the person handles stress to how he was raised. Parents who put their children on a pedestal and shower them with endless praise can plant a seed of narcissism, a recent study found. There’s a line between being nurturing and supportive and inflating an ego.

Then again, the opposite is true, too. Children who are ignored or abused tend to be self-centered almost as a survival instinct. They feel they need to look out for themselves because no one else will.

Treatments

There is no cure, but therapy can help. The goal is to build up the person’s poor self-esteem and have more realistic expectations of others.

There aren’t drugs to treat this mental disorder, but depression and anxiety sometimes go hand in hand with narcissism, and there are helpful drugs for those conditions.

If the narcissist abuses alcohol or drugs, which is common, it’s important to get treatment for the addictions, too.

With children, experts suggest that parents who give too much praise cut back, while those who don’t pay enough attention step up.

Narcissists can learn how to relate to others in more positive ways, but it depends on how open they are to critical feedback and how willing they are to change.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on March 28, 2015
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