Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have a lack of empathy of others, a deep need for admiration, and an inflated sense of self importance. On the other hand, people suffering narcissism usually have a low self-esteem and are very vulnerable to criticism. People suffering narcissism experience problems in many areas of life, such as work and relationships. At work or at school, people with narcissism can be unhappy or disappointed when they don’t get what they want (special favors and desire to be admired). In relationships, narcissism tends to push people away, and that may give the narcissist a fulfilling feeling.
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People with narcissism may come across pretentious, conceited, or boastful. They like to brag about all sorts of things, exaggerate their own talents and achievements, and think they are the center of attention. At the same time they belittle and take advantage of others around them, crave for constant admiration, and are unwilling to recognize the feelings and needs of other people. Usually, people with narcissism have feelings of insecurity, shame, humiliation, and vulnerability. To get rid of these feelings, they may react outrageous, try to make people look bad or silly. By belittling other people, people with narcissism only feel better for a short period of time. Narcissistic people may feel depressed or moody because they are not perfect. Depression could even develop when they experience a lot of rejection and criticism.
According to the DSM-IV 5 of the following symptoms should be present to fit the criteria of narcissistic personality disorder:
Please note that these criteria should only be used as a guideline, and not as a diagnostic tool. If you want a proper diagnosis, please contact me for further details.
Parenting styles as well as biological predisposition may contribute to the development of narcissism. Certain parenting styles seem to help develop unhealthy narcissism or exacerbate a biological predisposition already present. Especially the permissive/indulgent and authoritarian parenting styles can cause a lot of interpersonal difficulties, which may lead to unhealthy narcissism.
Child worship and excessive praise by parents or caregivers can lead to the development of narcissistic personality disorder. When children hear that they possess talents other children don’t have, or hardly ever receive criticism, then they start to believe that they are gifted, special, and so on. Some parents praise their children in a way that doesn’t suit the occasion (rewarding a child with a huge gift when he cleans up his room, for example). This can help develop narcissism, because a child can develop a sense of entitlement or grandiosity.
A lack of empathy or the absence of love can make a child constantly frustrated. Especially if it is unclear for the child when his parents show empathy, or when his parents don’t show their empathy. It can even become traumatic and lead to an unhealthy development: poor self-esteem, depression, the need to exploit others, and eventually narcissism.
This parenting style is considered to be a good one. Both parents have important roles regarding nurturing the child: one parent can make up for the inadequacies of the other. Showing love and being emphatic and responsive will help a child to internalize these factors into a healthy self-object.
Narcissism can be treated! But, and there is a big but, it’s difficult to treat someone who believes he is perfect, special, unique, and so on. On top of that, most people with narcissistic personality disorder simply won’t seek professional help, unless they are forced to by their partner. For partners (parents, children, and friend) it can be really difficult to live with a narcissistic person. It can be so difficult that the partner threatens the narcissist to leave him if he won’t seek help.
Schema therapy for personality disorders is significantly more effective than Clarification-Oriented Psychotherapy and ¨treatment as usual˝ (which means treatment consisted primarily of insight-oriented psychotherapy by highly experienced psychotherapists). Schema therapy resulted in a higher recovery rate, greater declines in depression, lower drop-out rates, and greater increases in social and general functioning.**
**International Society of Schema Therapy. “Schema Therapy for personality disorders proven more effective than other major treatments.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 February 2014.