Reviewed by Aaron Horn, LMFT
Facing the prospect of having a personality disorder can be frightening. After all, any type of mental illness brings with it the need for treatment. That treatment might entail a weekly appointment with a therapist or an ongoing regimen of pharmaceutical medication. Narcissistic Personality Disorder is often regarded with fear or mistrust, and people with the condition may be falsely characterized as selfish, ruthless, or unfeeling. As a result of preconceived notions, misunderstanding about personality disorders, and fear of failure, it may be difficult to acknowledge that something is amiss with your mental health. However, if mental illness symptoms are present, reaching out for help is an important part of healing. To begin that process, it can be helpful to take a narcissism test and determine whether or not your symptoms could indicate the presence of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Standard NPD Symptoms
Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a personality disorder that has received plenty of “air time” in the news, on television, and in other forms of media. Still, many of these depictions do not accurately discuss or identify the many different NPD symptoms and the havoc they can cause in the lives of the person with the disorder and their loved ones. To understand Narcissistic Personality Disorder and answer the question, “Do I have NPD?” a thorough understanding of symptoms and risk factors is in order. To that end, the symptoms for Narcissistic Personality Disorder include:
- Feelings of grandiosity. NPD can prompt feelings of grandiosity, or feelings that you are destined for greatness or uniquely equipped to rise to a place of power, wealth, and prestige.
- Feeling entitled to praise or gifts. Although virtually everyone likes to receive praise and gifts, people with NPD feel entitled to praise and gifts. They may grow angry, upset, or even volatile in the absence of the respect or admiration they believe they deserve.
- Fantasizing about power, wealth, or success. People with NPD may lose themselves in fantasies about achieving great power, wealth, or success. Fantasies can fuel goal setting and behavior and can even be the source of dissatisfaction with relationships, work, and day-to-day experiences.
- Difficulty in relationships. Because NPD is characterized by a sense of self-importance and a focus on your own needs and wants, difficulty in relationships is the disorder's hallmark symptom.
- A marked lack of empathy. People with NPD typically lack empathy and struggle to put themselves in others’ shoes. Although empathy can be learned, it is often not intrinsic for people with NPD.
- A tendency to exaggerate accomplishments. People with NPD may communicate to others that they are wildly successful when only a grain of truth can be found in their claims. They might claim they have been asked to display their art in a gallery, for instance, when they are paying for the privilege, instead. They may claim they have a robust romantic life but have only a handful of dates to their name.
- A need for constant praise. People with NPD need external validation to feel valuable, powerful and adequately acknowledged. They may grow irritable, rude, or uncomfortable when they are not given a constant stream of praise and attention.
- Feelings of superiority. People with NPD may refuse to associate with people they do not deem worthy, leading them to only seek out relationships with people who are in some way wealthy, powerful, or influential.
- Intense feelings of anger and envy.
Risk Factors For Narcissistic Personality Disorders
Knowing whether or not you have risk factors for NPD can help identify your symptoms' likelihood of pointing to narcissism. Although risk factors may not always be present in someone diagnosed with NPD, risk factors are often present in an NPD diagnosis. They can provide a great deal of insight into NPD root causes and potential avenues of healing. The risk factors for NPD include:
- Trauma or abuse in childhood. Trauma and abuse in childhood create a break in a child that can eventually lead to any number of personality and mood disorders, including Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
- Excessive praise in childhood. In childhood, a child’s ideas about him or herself and the world are established. If a parent or caregiver constantly heaps praise on a child and never offers any sort of grounding speech or energy, the child may feel as though he or she is special—so much, so that standard rules do not apply, and only other “elites” are worthy of time and attention.
- Lack of childhood stability. A lack of stability in childhood can lead to children developing a personality disorder such as Narcissistic Personality Disorder because children may feel the need to create their own stability in the form of a persona or shell.
- Excessive or constant criticism. While it may seem strange that two opposing parental behaviors can lead to the same result, NPD is a disorder borne of fragile self-esteem and delicate identity. Excessive praise and criticism can both lead to fragility.
- Unhealthy or unrealistic expectations from parents or authority figures. Unrealistic and unhealthy expectations can lead to NPD because a child may feel as though they have to display an impressive or imposing personality.
Although risk factors might not exist in every NPD instance, they can be a useful NPD test—a litmus test, if you will.
Personal Evaluation: Noticing Symptoms
Although it can be useful to take an “Am I narcissistic?” quiz, before a narcissist test can be answered honestly and thoroughly, you need to take stock of the symptoms you are concerned about. Take some time to sit down and identify the exact areas of your life that you are noticing difficulty with. Self-esteem, interpersonal relationships, and work issues are great areas to start evaluating before taking an NPD test. From there, you can evaluate yourself for additional symptoms, such as how you typically respond to criticism, how you view yourself, and how you structure your goals.
After identifying any symptoms that might align with NPD, take a few moments to evaluate symptoms for other disorders, such as depression and anxiety. Because many mental disorders and illnesses have numerous co-morbidities, symptoms can intersect with one another and obscure an accurate diagnosis. Identifying all symptoms, writing them down, and keeping a record of what you’ve felt can be helpful tools when seeking a professional diagnosis. A professional diagnosis relies heavily on self-reported signs and symptoms.
Other Ways To Test For NPD
Testing for NPD in a clinical setting is the best way to determine whether or not you have Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Still, there are other ways to test yourself for NPD to determine if you should seek help. The most common way is to find an online narcissistic test and evaluate yourself using a quick question-and-answer quiz. Although these tests are not designed to deliver you an absolute answer and are not a diagnostic tool, they can help clarify your symptoms and give you the courage to seek out help form a mental health professional.
Another way to “test” for NPD is to secure the DSM’s criteria for NPD diagnosis and examine your own thought patterns and behaviors against the criteria. This will give you a window into the diagnostic process and help you view your symptoms from the perspective of mental health professionals. This route can also help familiarize you with the terminology most commonly used in NPD, which can ease some of the communication barriers between a therapist and a patient.
Do I Have Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
This question can only be given a definitive and clinically supported answer by a licensed mental health professional. Still, there are certainly ways to self-evaluate before seeking out a professional diagnosis and subsequent treatment. Are you a narcissist? The answer cannot lie at the end of a questionnaire, an online personality disorder test, or a careful evaluation of your own signs and symptoms. The beginning of the diagnostic process can start there and contribute to a quick and accurate diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Although the prospect of having a personality disorder can be frightening, having a personality disorder is not the end—in fact, learning you have such a disorder is the beginning of a journey toward healing. Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a disruptive and difficult illness to have and negatively impacts everyone it touches. Learning that you have the disorder and subsequently seeking treatment can provide a massive amount of relief and can positively impact interpersonal relationships, home lives, and work lives, all of which can be improved by the managing of symptoms.