Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a serious condition which affects an estimated 1% of the population. Narcissism is characterized by an extreme self-interest and promotion with an accompanying lack of concern for the needs of others.
Narcissism is named after the mythological Greek character Narcissus, an extremely handsome young man who rejected the love of Echo and, as punishment, was condemned to fall in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. Unable to obtain he object of his desire, he died there in sorrow.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) – The DSM Criteria
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic & Statistical Manual (DSM) as an Axis II, Cluster B (dramatic, emotional, or erratic) Disorder:
A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
- has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
- is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
- believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
- requires excessive admiration
- has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
- is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
- lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
- is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
- shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
NPD Characteristics & Traits
The following list is a collection of some of the more commonly observed behaviors and traits of those who suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Note that these are not intended to be used for diagnosis. People who suffer from NPD are all unique and so each person will display a different subset of traits. Also, note that everyone displays “narcissistic” behaviors from time to time. Therefore, if a person exhibits one or some of these traits, that does not necessarily qualify them for a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. See the DSM Criteria on this page for diagnostic criteria.
Click on the links on each trait for much more information about a particular trait or behavior and some ideas for coping with each.
Abusive Cycle – This is the name for the ongoing rotation between destructive and constructive behavior which is typical of many dysfunctional relationships and families.
Alienation – The act of cutting off or interfering with an individual’s relationships with others.
“Always” and “Never” Statements – “Always” and “Never” Statements are declarations containing the words “always” or “never”. They are commonly used but rarely true.
Anger – People who suffer from personality disorders often feel a sense of unresolved anger and a heightened or exaggerated perception that they have been wronged, invalidated, neglected or abused.
Baiting – A provocative act used to solicit an angry, aggressive or emotional response from another individual.
Belittling, Condescending and Patronizing – This kind of speech is a passive-aggressive approach to giving someone a verbal put-down while maintaining a facade of reasonableness or friendliness.
Blaming – The practice of identifying a person or people responsible for creating a problem, rather than identifying ways of dealing with the problem.
Bullying – Any systematic action of hurting a person from a position of relative physical, social, economic or emotional strength.
Cheating – Sharing a romantic or intimate relationship with somebody when you are already committed to a monogamous relationship with someone else.
Chronic Broken Promises – Repeatedly making and then breaking commitments and promises is a common trait among people who suffer from personality disorders.
Denial – Believing or imagining that some painful or traumatic circumstance, event or memory does not exist or did not happen.
Dissociation– A psychological term used to describe a mental departure from reality.
Domestic Theft – Consuming or taking control of a resource or asset belonging to (or shared with) a family member, partner or spouse without first obtaining their approval.
Emotional Abuse – Any pattern of behavior directed at one individual by another which promotes in them a destructive sense of Fear, Obligation or Guilt (FOG).
Emotional Blackmail – A system of threats and punishments used in an attempt to control someone’s behaviors.
False Accusations – Patterns of unwarranted or exaggerated criticism directed towards someone else.
Favoritism and Scapegoating – Systematically giving a dysfunctional amount of preferential positive or negative treatment to one individual among a family group of peers.
Frivolous Litigation – The use of unmerited legal proceedings to hurt, harass or gain an economic advantage over an individual or organization.
Gaslighting – The practice of brainwashing or convincing a mentally healthy individual that they are going insane or that their understanding of reality is mistaken or false. The term “Gaslighting” is based on the 1944 MGM movie “Gaslight”.
Grooming – Grooming is the predatory act of maneuvering another individual into a position that makes them more isolated, dependent, likely to trust, and more vulnerable to abusive behavior.
Harassment – Any sustained or chronic pattern of unwelcome behavior by one individual towards another.
Hoovers & Hoovering – A Hoover is a metaphor taken from the popular brand of vacuum cleaners, to describe how an abuse victim trying to assert their own rights by leaving or limiting contact in a dysfunctional relationship, gets “sucked back in” when the perpetrator temporarily exhibits improved or desirable behavior.
Imposed Isolation – When abuse results in a person becoming isolated from their support network, including friends and family.
Impulsiveness – The tendency to act or speak based on current feelings rather than logical reasoning.
Intimidation – Any form of veiled, hidden, indirect or non-verbal threat.
Invalidation – The creation or promotion of an environment which encourages an individual to believe that their thoughts, beliefs, values or physical presence are inferior, flawed, problematic or worthless.
Lack of Conscience – Individuals who suffer from Personality Disorders are often preoccupied with their own agendas, sometimes to the exclusion of the needs and concerns of others. This is sometimes interpreted by others as a lack of moral conscience.
Low Self-Esteem – A common name for a negatively-distorted self-view which is inconsistent with
Manipulation – The practice of steering an individual into a desired behavior for the purpose of achieving a hidden personal goal.
Masking – Covering up one’s own natural outward appearance, mannerisms and speech in dramatic and inconsistent ways depending on the situation.
Narcissism – A set of behaviors characterized by a pattern of grandiosity, self-centered focus, need for admiration, self-serving attitude and a lack of empathy or consideration for others.
Neglect – A passive form of abuse in which the physical or emotional needs of a dependent are disregarded or ignored by the person responsible for them.
Normalizing – Normalizing is a tactic used to desensitize an individual to abusive, coercive or inappropriate behaviors. In essence, normalizing is the manipulation of another human being to get them to agree to, or accept something that is in conflict with the law, social norms or their own basic code of behavior.
“Not My Fault” Syndrome – The practice of avoiding personal responsibility for one’s own words and actions.
No-Win Scenarios – When you are manipulated into choosing between two bad options
Objectification – The practice of treating a person or a group of people like an object.
Parental Alienation Syndrome – When a separated parent convinces their child that the other parent is bad, evil or worthless.
strong>Pathological Lying – Persistent deception by an individual to serve their own interests and needs with little or no regard to the needs and concerns of others. A pathological liar is a person who habitually lies to serve their own needs.
Proxy Recruitment – A way of controlling or abusing another person by manipulating other people into unwittingly backing “doing the dirty work”
Ranking and Comparing – Drawing unnecessary and inappropriate comparisons between individuals or groups.
Raging, Violence and Impulsive Aggression – Explosive verbal, physical or emotional elevations of a dispute. Rages threaten the security or safety of another individual and violate their personal boundaries.
Relationship Hyper Vigilance – Maintaining an unhealthy level of interest in the behaviors, comments, thoughts and interests of others.
Sabotage – The spontaneous disruption of calm or status quo in order to serve a personal interest, provoke a conflict or draw attention.
Scapegoating – Singling out one child, employee or member of a group of peers for unmerited negative treatment or blame.
Selective Memory and Selective Amnesia – The use of memory, or a lack of memory, which is selective to the point of reinforcing a bias, belief or desired outcome.
Self-Aggrandizement – A pattern of pompous behavior, boasting, narcissism or competitiveness designed to create an appearance of superiority.
Sense of Entitlement – An unrealistic, unmerited or inappropriate expectation of favorable living conditions and favorable treatment at the hands of others.
Sexual Objectification – Viewing another individual in terms of their sexual usefulness or attractiveness rather than pursuing or engaging in a quality interpersonal relationship with them.
Shaming – The difference between blaming and shaming is that in blaming someone tells you that you did something bad, in shaming someone tells you that you are something bad.
Stalking – Any pervasive and unwelcome pattern of pursuing contact with another individual.
Targeted Humor, Mocking and Sarcasm – Any sustained pattern of joking, sarcasm or mockery which is designed to reduce another individual’s reputation in their own eyes or in the eyes of others.
Testing – Repeatedly forcing another individual to demonstrate or prove their love or commitment to a relationship.
Thought Policing – Any process of trying to question, control, or unduly influence another person’s thoughts or feelings.
Threats – Inappropriate, intentional warnings of destructive actions or consequences.
Triangulation– Gaining an advantage over perceived rivals by manipulating them into conflicts with each other.
What it feels like to live with someone with NPD
Contributed by Member Aames
Living with or being involved with a narcissist can be mentally and emotionally exhausting.
It can feel like you have to perform “mental gymnastics” from dealing with the lying (even when confronted with undeniable proof ), the gaslighting, the triangulation, the projection, the constant contradictions, the manipulation, blame-shifting, the charm they lay on, the inflated sense of self – even subtle forms of torture, such as sleep deprivation, these people inflict on their victims – appears to be conscious and calculated to push the target of their “affections” past their limits, into surrender – and ultimately into total compliance – as a source of Narcissistic Supply.
Children, spouses, friends, lovers – those closest to the Narcissist – are not considered individuals in their own right by the Narcissist – but rather extensions or, in the worst cases, the property of the Narcissist.
Even after finding out that you are dealing with a mental disorder, if you don’t protect or remove yourself from the situation, you may find yourself entering into a state of mind where you instinctively try to fix or fight the narcissist’s illogical attitudes and behaviors.
You may find yourself becoming hyper-vigilant, trying to second guess them, trip them up, lay down ultimatums, call them on their lies, or constantly trying to stay one-step ahead of their ever-changing rule-book. You may even find yourself trying to mirror their behaviors to some extent in order to manipulate them, as they have manipulated you. This can be both futile and attractive to the narcissist, as they often relish the challenge.
If you ever do manage to get “one-up” on a narcissist, it is likely to be a hollow “victory” at best. They may rage, play the victim, or disappear. None of these outcomes gives the victim any true satisfaction.
More than any other disorder on the PD spectrum, narcissists are like psychological vampires, attaching themselves to you in a way that drains you of your resources (emotional, mental and financial) and leaves you questioning your own worth and sanity.
Often, narcissists are able to imitate or approximate caring about others when it is convenient for them to do so. However, they typically do not perceive that anything outside of their own sphere of wants and needs matters. It simply doesn’t occur to them to consider the needs of anyone else, or the long-term consequences of their own behaviors.
Narcissists can be highly intelligent, witty, talented, likable, and fun to be around. They can also elicit sympathy like nobody’s business.
Narcissists are opportunistic. They can make a show of being “generous” but their generosity usually has strings attached.
They tend to isolate their victims, sucking up their time and energy, many times robbing their own families, spouses and partners of an external support system.
Narcissists are excellent liars and many prefer to lie even when telling the truth would be more beneficial to them; which suggests that lying is a hallmark of this pathology.
They are often highly competitive and argumentative. They lash out when presented with opinions that contradict their own or when confronted with their own lies or bad behaviors.
They can be calculating and extremely persuasive and susceptible to erratic thinking and impulsive decision making .
Narcissists can be self-destructive as often as they are destructive to others. They have a great deal of trouble accepting responsibility for their own actions, under any circumstance.
Narcissists are addictive personalities and narcissism is commonly co-morbid with addictions to drugs, alcohol, sex, food, spending and gambling. It has been suggested that Narcissists have a higher rate of ADHD than the general population.
Narcissists are rarely alone. They like to feed on the energy of others, and to have an audience to reflect back to them the person they want to see themselves as.
Narcissists are good at pretending, but typically do not feel compassion or empathy or consider the feelings or well-being of others. They tend to be singularly focused on getting their own needs met, at the expense of the needs of others.
While narcissists generally portray a lack of conscience, they typically have an intellectual awareness of what they are doing and how they hurt others. They simply do not care.
Being kind to a Narcissist in the face of their maltreatment is a common approach of family members and partners. However, this can result in further frustration as it is rarely reciprocated and tends to feed their sense of entitlement, opening the door for more abuse.
Here are some other feelings that you may experience when dealing with a narcissist in the home or at work:
- You may feel like this person readily puts you down just to elevate themselves.
- You may find yourself avoiding them because trying to communicate with them leaves you feeling confused, put-down, reduced to a lesser status and emptied of all that you know you really are.
- You may feel overwhelmed, “out-gunned”, tongue-tied or overpowered in the presence of this person.
- You may feel blown away by their powerful personality, self-assuredness, self-belief and self-confidence.
- Your own legitimate needs may be taking a back seat to their own frivolous, self-serving ambitions.
- When receiving a compliment or apology, you may be left feeling patronized, demeaned, brought down to size and even humiliated.
- You may attempt to compromise with them only to realize later that you are the only one who gave any substantial ground.
- You may feel like your hard work and contributions are only being used, abused and and distorted to meet the selfish ambitions of another.
Living with a person who has NPD can have a devastating effect on the self-esteem, confidence and quality of life for family members, friends and partners.
People who live with an individual with NPD sometimes feel as though the Narcissist is refusing to “grow up” or will revert back to childish ways whenever it suits them to do so. The Non-Narcissist often feels used, cheated and taken advantage of by the NPD in their life.
There is no known cure for NPD.
People who suffer from NPD rarely seek out treatment or therapy, since they tend to project negative thoughts and blame onto others. Those who do enter into treatment are often resistant to personal change.
As a result, families of people who suffer from NPD are often left to fend for themselves and rely on their own resources.
NPD Possible Causes
The causes for NPD are not precisely known. Some functional MRI studies have shown neurological differences characterizing people who suffer form NPD.
Movies Portraying Narcissistic Personality Disorder Traits
A Streetcar Named Desire – A Streetcar Named Desire is a is a 1947 play written by Tennessee Williams, later adapted for film, which tells the story of a woman who displays histrionic and borderline traits, who goes to live with her codependent sister and her narcissistic husband.
Black Swan – Black Swan is a 2010 psychological thriller about a ballet dancer, played by Natalie Portman, who discovers a dark side to herself as she struggles to please her overbearing narcissitic mother, played by Barbara Hershey.
Charlie Brown – Charlie Brown is the lead character in Charles M. Schulz’s classic “Peanuts” cartoons who is generally portrayed as feeling insecure and seeking acceptance. Charlie Brown’s character contrasts with the somewhat narcissistic character of Lucy and their relationship is sometimes used to illustrate the relationship between personality-disordered and non-personality-disordered people.
Gaslight – Gaslight is a 1944 MGM suspense thriller set in 19th Century London in which the villain, Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer), in an attempt to cover up his crimes, actively tries to convince his new wife, Paula (Ingrid Bergman) that she is losing her mind. Gaslight gave it’s name to the practice known as Gaslighting.
Mommie Dearest – Mommie Dearest is a 1981 biography of Hollywood Actress Joan Crawford, played by Faye Dunaway, who, according to the account in the movie, exhibited Obsessive Compulsive, Borderline and Narcissistic Traits.
Schindler’s List – Schindler’s List is a 1993 drama which chronicles the suffering of Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II and Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who rescued over a thousand of them by employing them in his factories. The movie includes a striking portrayal of Amon Göth, a narcissistic SS officer and camp director, played by Ralph Fiennes.
NPD Support Groups & Links:
Out of the FOG Support Forum – Support for family members and loved-ones here at Out of the FOG.
http://www.psychforums.com/narcissistic-personality/ – Psychforums NPD Board
http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/Adult…enOFNarcissits– Yahoo group for adult children of Narcissistic parents.
http://p208.ezboard.com/bnarcissisticperso…oderfamilyforum– Narcissistic Personality Disorder Family Forum
Light’s Blog – Info Sharing Blog for Survivors of Narcissism.
It’s All About Him – support site and discussion forum for women with NPD partners.
http://bnarcissisticabuserecovery.runboard.com/ – Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Forum