Reviewed by Laura Angers, LPC
Being diagnosed with a mental health challenge can be complicated enough on its own, but it can add a new layer of difficulty when one diagnosis is connected with another. However, it's not uncommon for people that struggle with one mental health challenge to also struggle with another as a result, such as narcissism and depression.
Learning to understand each diagnosis and how they relate to one another can be crucial to moving forward healthily.
What Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is just one of several different types of personality disorders that exist. While "narcissism" is a word that is often used as an adjective or way of describing a person, that's not the proper use of it.
It's a mental health disorder that can be diagnosed by doctors and mental health professionals. It's not just someone that behaves arrogantly. Many different symptoms come along with NPD. And if someone is unaware that they struggle with it, it can impact every area of their life negatively.
Some of the common symptoms that people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder experience include:
- Being overly focused on things like gaining power, wealth, and beauty
- Exaggerated sense of importance and achievements
- Lack of empathy
- Extreme jealousy
- Believe they deserve the best of everything
- Anger and irritability
- Difficult time handling and understanding their own emotions
- High expectations of themselves and others
- Interrupt others frequently and make conversations about themselves
While many of these symptoms may not surprise you, there are a few that may. This includes things like having low self-esteem and struggling with depression.
Narcissists have a way of coming across overly confident to the point of being arrogant. However, underneath it all, many struggle with feeling like they aren't good enough. It can be this struggle with their self-esteem that causes them to act in the way they do. They don't want others to see their weaknesses and imperfections, and they don't want to see it themselves, so they knock others down to build themselves up.
This is also what can lead to depression in people that struggle with NPD.
What Is Depression?
Depression is a mental health disorder that impacts the way a person feels and thinks. While many people think of depression as being "sad," it's more than that. While depression can make you feel sad, that's just one symptom of many. Some depression symptoms that a person may experience include:
- Feeling lazy and unmotivated
- Not being able to eat or eating more than normal
- Chronic pain such as back pain or headaches
- Digestive trouble
- Feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness
- Anger or irritability
- Feeling numb or not like yourself
Depression does not feel the same to everyone. You may have some or all of the symptoms listed above. Depression at its extreme can also lead to having suicidal thoughts. This is why it's important to understand risk factors, signs and symptoms, and treatment options for depression of any type, including narcissistic depression.
What's The Connection Between Narcissism And Depression?
There are a few ways that narcissistic personality disorder can relate to depression. The first is when narcissism causes depression within the individual. The second is when the behavior of the narcissist can lead to someone else experiencing depression.
Can Being A Narcissist Lead To Depression?
Understanding the role that depression can have on a narcissist helps to understand that there are two different ways that narcissism can show. The first is the typical arrogant behavior that most people think of as narcissism. This is referred to as grandiosity in the field of mental health.
When someone truly believes that they are special and above others, they tend to lack the ability to empathize with others. These types of narcissists also struggle with identifying and connecting with their own emotions, which can cause difficult emotions to grow under the surface over time.
The second type of narcissistic person is one who struggles with vulnerability. This usually stems from childhood situations connected with trauma, abuse, or neglect. They understand empathy in the sense that they want it from others, but they still don't show it to others. In some cases, they learn to play the role of the victim because of their past lived experience.
Does This Lead To Depression?
While mental health professionals are still trying to understand the connection between narcissism and depression, it does appear that they can relate.
Some believe that it's due to the lack of understanding of properly acknowledging and handling their emotions. These suppressed emotions end up growing and causing the person to struggle with depression. Others believe that the quest for perfection is what drives some narcissists to struggle with depression.
While there is no clear-cut answer at this time, there does appear to be a connection. One of the complicated things about this is that people who have Narcissistic Personality Disorder struggle to acknowledge where they are struggling. Since they're unlikely to admit they have a problem, they're not as likely to seek out help for any mental health challenges that they're facing.
Depression In The Victims Of Narcissistic Abuse
It's not only the narcissistic person that can be struggling with depression. If you're in a relationship with a narcissist, it can have a negative impact on your mental health as well.
It's not uncommon for people in close relationships, especially romantic relationships, with a narcissist to be the victim of abuse. Narcissistic behavior tends to be verbally and emotionally abusive. You may experience things like:
- Isolation from friends and family
- Name-calling and belittling
- Constant criticism
- Being convinced that you're a liar or that you don't know what you're talking about
- Having to take the blame for anything that goes wrong
- Not feeling like yourself anymore or feeling that you lost a part of who you were
Constantly living with these situations can have a large negative impact on your mental health. You may start to lose self-confidence, feel worthless, and doubt yourself and your abilities. You may experience an increase in the amount of anxiety and worry that you have.
And this can eventually lead to a struggle with depression. If you have no one left in your life that you feel you can confide in, this can be a lonely and confusing place to be because of the isolation caused by the narcissists.
What To Do If You're Depressed?
If you read through the list of Narcissistic Personality Disorder symptoms and see some of the symptoms in your own life, you can take this short online Narcissism quiz. The results can help you determine if you might be at risk of the diagnosis. It can also help you determine what the next best steps are to take.
If you have been diagnosed with NPD in the past, you may see some of the signs of depression in your life. It's important to understand that both NPD and Depression are treatable mental health challenges. If you're willing and ready to address them, there are many different things that you can do to overcome your symptoms and improve your mental and emotional wellness.
If you are concerned or have questions about your best treatment options, talk to your doctor, or a mental health professional like a therapist or psychiatrist.
If you believe that you're the victim of narcissistic abuse and struggling with depression, it's important to seek help. It's easy for victims to deny that the abuse is happening because narcissists are good at covering their behavior and creating confusion. If you think that your partner might be a narcissist, you can take the quiz above and try answering based on their behavior to see the results.
However, regardless of what the results say, if you're struggling, there is help available. A therapist can help you learn important coping strategies for depression and strategies you can use to improve your relationship. They can also help you decide if staying in the relationship is the right thing to do or if it would be best for you to end it and move on.
Find The Right Treatment Option
There are plenty of treatments available based on your specific situation. Some people benefit from prescription medication, while others benefit from simple lifestyle changes. Others see the best results when combining several different treatments, such as therapy, lifestyle changes, and medication.
The most important thing to know is that if you're struggling, regardless of your symptoms, you're not alone. There's no reason to be ashamed of struggling or seeking help when you need it. If you have symptoms of depression, it can help address those before trying to tackle other areas of your life. Talking to a therapist can help you determine exactly what your best course of action is.