Narcissism is a spectrum disorder. We all have a degree of narcissism and that’s healthy, but the fur- ther up the spectrum we go the more problems are encountered. And at the top end is full-blown Narcissistic Personality Disorder or NPD which includes:
a significant degree of empathy impairment
a grandiosity – hidden or otherwise, being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power and beauty
having a sense of entitlement and behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner
being envious of others and believing they envy you
NPD is part of the Cluster B group of personality disorders that are characterised by the person tend- ing to be manipulative and self-focused
The disorder is a clinical diagnosis and reckoned to be present in one per cent of the UK population. But narcissism is thought by many leading authorities to be on the increase, and people with strongly narcissistic traits are not a rarity.
How are narcissists formed?
There’s no general agreement on how narcissism originates – it’s believed to be a mix of biological, genetic, social and psychological factors.
One theory is that, subjected to a parent’s anger or shaming behaviour, a young child goes into a form of trauma-like shock. They rationalise this by deciding they’re a bad person who deserved it and in the process ‘split’ themselves into two parts – a ‘good child’ and ‘bad child’. They ‘disown’ the feelings of the ‘bad child’ by repressing them in the subconscious and present only the ‘good child’ to survive their environment.
The ‘good child’ is the mask the narcissist presents to the world and that false self has an excessive need to for attention, thought to be due to a lack of ‘mirroring’ by the parent or caregiver.
Attention or ‘supply’ as it’s known is something the narcissist needs like oxygen to bolster their self- identity and self-esteem, and you might find in talking to a narcissist that they’re not really listening to what you’re saying because all they’re soaking up is the fact that you are looking at them and in- teracting with them, thus giving them fuel.