What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental condition in which the person has an insatiable need for admiration and an increased sense of self-importance.
Narcissists consider themselves superior and entitled to preferential treatment. They have little regard for other people’s feelings and often use others to achieve their goals.
Individuals with this condition are constantly overestimating their abilities and exaggerating their achievements. They are often perceived as demanding and boastful. Furthermore, they are convinced that others appreciate them and are often surprised when people don’t acknowledge their efforts and achievements.
But behind this mask of great confidence lies a fragile self-image, vulnerable to the slightest form of criticism.
Narcissistic personality disorder occurs more often in men and affects nearly 1% of the population. Just like in the case of any other personality disorder, the symptoms of narcissism tend to diminish over time.
Since narcissism is characterized by dramatic, emotional behavior, most experts include it in the same category with antisocial, histrionic, and borderline personality disorder.
To manage this condition, mental health professionals recommend individual and group therapy.
Signs of Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Narcissistic personality disorder is characterized by a series of emotional and behavioral symptoms such as:
- Increased sense of self-importance and self-esteem
- Tendency to exaggerate talents and achievements
- Constant need for attention and admiration
- Selfish goals and ideals
- Inability to tolerate criticism and constructive feedback
- Constant preoccupation for beauty, power, success, and fame
- Envy towards other people’s achievements
- Failure to forgive and forget other people’s wrongdoings
- Feelings of inner emptiness and emotional numbness
- Tendency to forge superficial friendships
- Preoccupation for sexual performance
Since people with narcissistic personality disorder display a pervasive pattern of arrogance, entitlement, and grandiosity, there’s a chance that some of them might develop manic episodes.
Furthermore, their fragile self-image and inability to tolerate criticism makes them vulnerable to problems like depression, social anxiety, and addiction.
How is Narcissistic Personality Disorder treated?
As with any other pathological personality, narcissistic personality disorder requires long-term therapeutic intervention.
Although experts recommend psychotherapy for people with narcissistic personality disorder, there are situations when medication might also be needed.
There is no specific drug treatment for this condition, but if the person exhibits symptoms of anxiety, depression, or other conditions, medication may be helpful.
Because personality traits are relatively difficult to change, therapy can take several years. It might sound like a long time, but getting rid of dysfunctional thinking patterns and problematic behaviors doesn’t happen overnight.
The short-term goals of psychotherapy - often centered around Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) - for narcissistic personality disorder usually focus on co-occurring conditions such as alcohol/drug addiction, low self-confidence, depression, and shame.
The long-term goals gravitate around reshaping the client’s personality so that their inflated self-image will turn into something more reasonable.
Psychotherapy can help narcissists interact better with others and cultivate meaningful relationships. It can also be a source of valuable insights as clients learn to identify painful emotions, avoid unhealthy coping strategies, and confront their vulnerabilities.
WHEN TO SEE A MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL
Mental health issues are real, common, and treatable. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 20% of those are considered serious. 17% of 6-17 year olds experience a mental health disorder. So the first thing to remember is this: You are not alone.
If you feel that you are suffering from a mental illness, and particularly if those issues are preventing you from living life to the full or feeling yourself, you may want to consider professional help which can make an enormous difference.
And to be clear, you don't need to be going through a crisis in order to justify getting help. In fact, it can be advantageous from a treatment perspective to identify and deal with issues early and before they have a major impact on your life. Either way you should feel encouraged and able to seek help however you are feeling.
Mental health professionals such as licensed therapist can help in a range of ways including:
- Help you identify where, when, and how issues arise
- Develop coping strategies for specific symptoms and issues
- Encourage resilience and self-management
- Identify and change negative behaviors
- Identify and encourage positive behaviors
- Heal pain from past trauma
- Figure out goals and waypoints
- Build self-confidence
Treatment for mental health issues, and psychotherapy (sometimes known as 'talk therapy') in particular, frequently helps people to feel better, manage, and even get rid of their symptoms. For example, did you know that over 80% of people treated for depression materially improve? Or that treatment for panic disorder has a 90% success rate?
Other treatment options include medication which, in some cases, can be highly effective when administered in combination with psychotherapy.
So what is psychotherapy? It involves talking about your problems and concerns with a mental health professional. It can take lots of forms, including individual, group, couples and family sessions. Often, people see their therapists once a week for 50 minutes to start with and then reducing frequency as time goes on and issues subside. Treatment can be as short as a few weeks or as long as a few years depending on your particular situation and response.
Never think that getting help is a sign of weakness. It isn't. In fact, it can be a sign of strength and maturity to take the steps necessary to becoming you again and getting your life back on track.
WHEN TO GET EMERGENCY HELP
Are you in distress? If so, or if you think that you may hurt yourself or attempt suicide, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
Also consider these options if you're having suicidal thoughts:
- Call your mental health specialist.
- Call a suicide hotline number — in the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
- Seek help from your primary doctor or other health care provider.
- Reach out to a close friend or loved one.
- Contact a minister, spiritual leader or someone else in your faith community.
If a loved one or friend is in danger of attempting suicide or has made an attempt:
- Make sure someone stays with that person.
- Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
- Or, if you can do so safely, take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room.