Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental condition that has very specific signs and can cause a wide array of issues in many areas of your life but can be managed with the proper treatment. If you or someone you know may have narcissistic personality disorder, it is essential to gather the proper information. Below you will find everything you need to know about this disorder, including the signs, how to receive a diagnosis, and treatment options.
What Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
Narcissistic personality disorder is one of many types of personality disorders. The mental condition is characterized by the patient having an extremely “inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.” People who have this disorder are usually suffering from a fragile self-esteem underneath this outward appearance.
Those who are diagnosed with this disorder have generally had issues in their social, personal, and work lives that can be traced back to their own personal behaviors. During the beginning of the onset of narcissistic personality disorder, it may be hard to diagnose because signs must be chronically present in order to receive that diagnosis.
Causes and Risk Factors
The root cause of this disorder is unknown, but the associated behaviors typically begin by early adulthood and can happen to individuals from every kind of lifestyle. Factors like environment, genetics, and neurobiology may play important parts. The disorder is more common in men than women, and effects an estimated 6% of the population. Much like other personality disorders, symptoms usually decrease with age.
A wide variety of factors could be associated with the cause of narcissistic personality disorder. Children who have been neglected or abused, for example, are more prone to develop personality disorders. Children who are raised with parents who have unrealistically-high expectations or the tendency to over-pamper are also at a higher risk.
Signs and Symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder
It is essential to understand that the signs of this disorder must be persistent and chronic for at least 1 year. Those with narcissistic personality disorder should exhibit most, if not all of the following signs or symptoms:
- An exaggerated sense of self-importance.
- The belief that they are more unique that most others and can only be understood by other high-ranking people.
- The need for constant admiration from others.
- A general lack of empathy or understanding of other people’s feelings.
- Expectations of favorable treatment or entitlements.
- A common preoccupation with wild fantasies of wealth, beauty, power, etc.
- The use of manipulation or exploitation to achieve a selfish purpose.
- The frequent use of very arrogant behaviors and actions.
- A frequent envy of others or the belief that other should envy them.
People with narcissistic personality disorder can become angry or frustrated quickly, engage in behaviors that make them appear superior, have difficulty dealing with change or stress, and become depressed easily with feelings of shame, insecurity, and humiliation.
The disorder makes sufferers lack the capacity to see anyone in a stable, “normal” way and the ability to maintain positive emotional connections. They usually only see people 1 of 2 ways: as special, unique, and high-ranking, or as worthless, defective, and low-ranking. This forces them to have very blunt, realistic opinions of themselves and others.
How Is It Diagnosed?
Narcissistic personality disorder is not typically diagnosed until a person has reached maturity, because children and teens are constantly developing. In fact, many adolescents exhibit some of the common symptoms, but will not develop the disorder during later development. If signs have been present for at least a year, a diagnosis may be made. The signs should be persistent and not come-and-go.
A diagnosis is most-often made by a mental health professional, like a psychiatrist or psychologist. Family doctors or other physicians are typically not suited to diagnose or treat this disorder but are usually consulted first. A physician can refer possible patients to better-trained professionals.
There are no blood/lab tests used to diagnose narcissistic personality disorder. Mental health professionals generally use information like symptoms and life history to determine a diagnosis. The severity of these symptoms will also be determined to help decide the best route for treatment. Patients can expect a physical exam, a thorough psychological evaluation, and a comparison for criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Treatment for Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Many people with this personality disorder do not seek out help. Their general sense of arrogance and low self-esteem may deter them from seeking help. Fairly often, those with this order are forced into treatment because of the complications associated with the disorder, like relationship difficulties, drug/alcohol abuse, depression/anxiety, and problems at work/school.
But for those who seek out the help, narcissistic personality disorder can be managed. Some patients can come to understand what the problem is and learn how to change their behaviors to relate more to the world around them. This can be done by boosting their self-esteem, trying to be more empathetic, and engaging in more self-less behavior.
Medical professionals generally recommend a type of psychotherapy, like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), group therapy, or family therapy. These therapy treatments are designed to identify the person’s negative behaviors and ideas; to help them replace them with healthier ones. Psychotherapy can be both short-term (to help during times of extreme stress) and long-term (to help achieve and maintain goals). It can be done alone, in groups, or with family/friends.
Doctors may also prescribe medication, but there is no medication specifically made to treat narcissistic personality disorder. The medication however, can treat some associated symptoms like anxiety or depression. In addition to therapy, people with narcissistic personality disorder must be disciplined in their personal lives.
Suffering from narcissistic personality disorder can be difficult and trying, but with the right help, it can be managed with treatment. Today’s world is continuously shining more light on the realities of mental health, working hard to diagnose and treat those who need it. If you or someone you know may have narcissistic personality disorder, consult your physician right away.