Narcissism: Understanding the Personality Disorder


Narcissism is a psychological trait defined by an exaggerated sense of self-importance, a lack of empathy for others, and a need for adulation. People with narcissistic tendencies believe that they are superior to others and want special attention. This personality trait may exist in both men and women and may have a significant impact on their personal and professional interactions.

Understanding Narcissism
Understanding Narcissism

Since narcissism is a frequent trait influencing many individuals, one must understand it. Experts estimate that up to 6.2% of the population suffers from narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), a more severe form of narcissism. Among the many negative effects of narcissism are marital problems, concerns about linked employment, and mental health problems. If necessary, one should identify the symptoms of narcissism and seek treatment. 

Key Takeaways

  • Narcissism is a psychological trait characterized by an inflated perception of self-importance, arrogance, and self-admiration, a lack of empathy for others, and a thirst for admiration.
  • Narcissism may weaken personal and professional relationships with others and lead to a group of unwanted and unpleasant repercussions with others.
  • Understanding the signs of narcissism and seeking treatment if necessary is critical for maintaining good relationships and avoiding harmful outcomes.

Understanding Narcissism

Narcissism is a personality disorder marked by a grandiose sense of self-importance, a lack of empathy for others, and a desire for adulation. People with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) generally have a feeling of entitlement and a perception that they are superior to others. They may also have an obsession with dreams of power, success, and beauty.

Definition of Narcissism

The name "narcissism" is derived from the Greek legend of Narcissus, who fell in love with his lovely reflection in a pool of water. In psychology, the term narcissism refers to a specific pattern of behavior and attitudes that incorporates a strong love of oneself and a stress on one's own power. 

Narcissism is considered a personality disorder when it is widespread, inflexible, and produces severe impairment in social, vocational, or other areas of functioning. It is believed that up to 6.2% of the general population has NPD. 

Characteristics of Narcissism

There are numerous fundamental symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder. These include: 

  • Grandiosity: a feeling of exaggerated self-importance and superiority.
  • Lack of empathy: difficulty understanding or caring about the sentiments of others.
  • Need for admiration: a great yearning for attention and acceptance from others. 
  • Sense of entitlement: belief that they are entitled to special treatment or advantages. 
  • Arrogance: a haughty attitude and the belief that they are superior to others.. 
  • Envy: a propensity to envy others and assume that others envy them. 
  • Exploitation: a tendency to use people for personal gain.

Types of Narcissism

There are two basic forms of narcissism: exaggeration and vulnerability. Grandiose narcissism manifests itself in an exaggerated sense of self-importance and power, a lack of empathy and indifference toward others, and a view of oneself as superior to others and deserving of everything. On the other side, weak self-esteem, a constant fear of rejection, and a tendency toward self-harm define fragile narcissism.

It is also worth noting that narcissistic personality disorder does not affect all narcissists. Some people may exhibit narcissistic traits even if they do not meet all of the diagnostic criteria for narcissistic personality disorder. Narcissistic traits can also be seen in other personality disorders, such as borderline and dramatic.

Overall, understanding narcissism is crucial to identifying and changing unwanted behavioral patterns in oneself and in others.

Prevalence of Narcissism

One wonders and worries about the frequency of narcissism in society. Various researchers have attempted to estimate its frequency and have produced different answers. Younger generations of college students in the United States were more likely to exhibit narcissistic qualities, according to a study. Moreover, linked to a growth in narcissistic tendencies is the emergence of social media, where image building and self-promotion are very common. 

The following table summarizes data from different studies on the prevalence of narcissism:


Prevalence of Narcissistic Traits (%)

National Institute on Aging


American College Students


European Adults

2.2% to 6.2%

Social Media Users

Higher levels reported

Narcissism's roots

The root causes of the personality disorder known as narcissism are both environmental and genetic. Scientists have long argued over how much environmental elements and genes influence the development of narcissism.

Genetic Factors

Research on narcissism has shown a hereditary component. A research published in the Journal of Personality claims that over 64% of the diversity in narcissistic personality characteristics may be attributed to genes. People with a familial history of narcissism are more prone to acquire the condition themselves.

Environmental Factors

Moreover, those involved in the development of narcissism are environmental elements. Childhood events include overindulgence or maltreatment might help to develop narcissistic personality features. Children who get too much compliments from their parents, for instance, may become too self-important and exhibit narcissistic behaviors.

Furthermore, cultural factors may influence the growth of selfishness. People may be more likely to acquire selfish personality traits in societies that respect uniqueness and self-promotion. On the other hand, societies that respect humility and modesty might be less likely to create people with selfish tendencies.

Although external factors and genes may help to shape narcissism, not all people with a genetic inclination or negative childhood events will always acquire the condition. More study is needed to fully understand the difficult relationship between genes and surroundings in the development of narcissism.

Impact of Narcissism

A person's mental health as well as their personal and professional relationships may be much influenced by narcissism. Some of the ways narcissism could affect individuals are listed below.

On Personal Relationships

Narcissism can have a significant impact on personal relationships. Narcissists tend to have an exaggerated sense of self-importance and often lack empathy for others. They may struggle to maintain healthy relationships due to their need for constant admiration and attention. Narcissists may also struggle with emotional regulation, leading to outbursts of anger or irritability.

In romantic relationships, narcissists may have difficulty with intimacy and may struggle to form deep connections with their partners. They may also have a tendency to manipulate or exploit their partners for their own gain.

On Professional Life

Narcissism can also impact a person's professional life. While some level of confidence can be beneficial in the workplace, excessive narcissism can lead to problems. Narcissists may struggle to work well with others, preferring to work alone or take all the credit for a project's success. They may also struggle to take constructive criticism or feedback, viewing it as a personal attack on their abilities.

In some cases, narcissists may prioritize their own interests over those of the company, leading to unethical behavior or conflicts with coworkers.

On Mental Health

Narcissism can also take a toll on a person's mental health. Narcissists may struggle with feelings of insecurity and inadequacy, despite their outward confidence. They may also experience depression or anxiety if their need for attention and admiration is not met.

In some cases, narcissism can lead to other mental health issues, such as substance abuse or eating disorders. Narcissists may also struggle with maintaining healthy boundaries, leading to codependent relationships or feelings of isolation.

Overall, the impact of narcissism can be significant, affecting a person's personal relationships, professional life, and mental health. It is important for individuals with narcissistic tendencies to seek support and treatment to address these issues.

The Reality of Narcissism
The Reality of Narcissism

Diagnosing Narcissism

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a mental health condition that affects a person's ability to have healthy relationships with others. It is characterized by a lack of empathy, a sense of entitlement, and a need for admiration. Diagnosing narcissism can be challenging, as many people with NPD may not see anything wrong with their behavior. However, there are specific diagnostic criteria and assessment methods that mental health professionals use to diagnose NPD.

Diagnostic Criteria

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) is the standard reference used by mental health professionals to diagnose mental health conditions, including NPD. According to the DSM-5, the diagnostic criteria for NPD include:

  • A grandiose sense of self-importance
  • Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  • Belief that they are special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions
  • Need for excessive admiration
  • Sense of entitlement
  • Interpersonally exploitative behavior
  • Lack of empathy
  • Envy of others or a belief that others are envious of them
  • Arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

To be diagnosed with NPD, a person must exhibit at least five of these symptoms.

Assessment Methods

To diagnose NPD, mental health professionals use various assessment methods, including:

  • Clinical interviews: Mental health professionals conduct interviews with the patient to assess their symptoms, behavior, and history.
  • Psychological tests: Mental health professionals use various psychological tests to assess a person's personality and behavior. The most commonly used tests for NPD include the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) and the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory (MCMI).
  • Observation: Mental health professionals may observe the patient's behavior in various settings to assess their symptoms and behavior.

It is essential to note that diagnosing NPD requires a thorough evaluation of the patient's behavior and history. A single symptom or behavior does not necessarily mean a person has NPD. Mental health professionals use a combination of assessment methods to diagnose NPD accurately.

In conclusion, diagnosing narcissism requires a thorough evaluation of the patient's behavior and history. Mental health professionals use specific diagnostic criteria and assessment methods to diagnose NPD accurately. It is essential to seek professional help if you or someone you know exhibits symptoms of NPD.

The Difficulty of Treatment and the Requirement of Assessment

Treating narcissism is “not easy at all,” says Dr. Tennyson Lee, a British psychotherapist specialized in narcissistic personality disorder, underlining that narcissists do not understand that they are wrong. They continuously think of themselves as the greatest, and so “convincing someone that they have a problem is very difficult.” He thinks that others are liable for his actions.” This makes escaping the clutches of a narcissist vital.

Although most narcissists inflict damage, some may not be worried about damaging themselves since they are more focused on themselves. But it remains that “a toxic narcissist is someone you should avoid, because his presence in your life is dangerous, and the same applies to a psychopathic narcissist,” according to psychologist Alyssa Ruby Bash.

To help evaluate the narcissists around you, determine which ones you can live with, and whether any of them you need to remove from your life. Here are the eight most common types of narcissism.

The closed type

The closed type is often difficult to distinguish from other types of narcissists because his illness is "often not obvious." He does not impose his personality, but in reality he practices narcissism "through his feeling that he is always the best, his desire for admiration, his intense obsession with success, his pathological jealousy, and his complete lack of sympathy for others."

"They try to pretend to be selfless, but in reality, they are more dependent on others, seeking to attach themselves to someone they trust in order to take advantage of them," Ruby Bash adds.

Toxic Narcissist 

If you have a friend who constantly takes up all your time and attention and shows distress or anger if you don't meet his demands, you are dealing with a toxic narcissist." Furthermore, "if someone gets you fired from your job, physically hurts you, or ends your relationship with someone, he or she may also be a toxic narcissist," according to clinical psychologist Dr. John Mayer, who warns that "nothing about toxic narcissism is good." He goes on to warn that a poisonous narcissist "can make the lives of others a constant drama and thus cause pain and destruction all the time." In real life, the closed individual does not impose his personality but rather engages in narcissistic behavior.

The bossy

It is a type that "combines two terrible traits: bullying and self-defense," says Dr. Mayer, adding that bullies "build themselves by directing their harm to others, and they feel joy when they see people in pain." They are only concerned with winning, but they are not shy to make promises to reach their goals. So, Dr. Borgo warns, a controlling narcissist “at his most toxic state can make you doubt yourself and your value as a human being.”


Revenge while you can live with a bully as long as you do not pose a clear threat to his ambitions, it is completely different when you become the target of an angry narcissist. He will not stop trying to destroy you because you may have attacked his higher position without realizing it. He will talk badly about you with friends and family, try to fire you from your job, ruin your marriage relationship, and turn your children against you. According to Dr. Borgo, he may spend years in this war until he is sure of your death.


Psychopaths are one of the most dangerous types, “and they are found in abundance among serial killers,” according to Dr. Mayer. Psychologists call him “psychopath” or “sociopath,” as he mixes “narcissistic personality disorder” (NPD) and “antisocial personality disorder” (ASPD), making those affected with it violent, insecure, cruel, and inhuman toward others. As described by family therapist Dr. Jane Mann, she recommends staying away from this malicious type of narcissist “before he harms you physically, emotionally, and financially, without any feeling of remorse.”


Secret according to Dr. Mann, he tends to be aggressive, but in a bad way. He shows apathy and helplessness, likes to present himself as a victim, shines at crying to attract attention, and acts as if he is suffering from anxiety or depression.


Dr. Mayer describes him as “an arrogant, arrogant narcissist who is clearly and blatantly self-centered in all his behavior, who exploits others, and is keen to let everyone around him know that he is a narcissist.” This was proven by Ruby Bash when she talked about the exhibitionist narcissist’s feeling of “uncomfortability when he is not in the spotlight.”


He's a difficult type of narcissist. Dr. Mayer tells him that he enjoys making emotional conquests “in which he admires someone or shows his love for someone, so that he feels good about himself,” and then withdraws interest from them simply by winning.

Treatment for Narcissism

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a challenging condition to treat. However, with the right approach, it is possible to manage the symptoms and improve the quality of life for those affected. Treatment for NPD is typically centered around psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy. In some cases, medication may be included in the treatment plan if the patient has other mental health conditions, such as depression.


Psychotherapy is the primary treatment for NPD. It involves working with a mental health professional to explore the underlying causes of the disorder and develop coping mechanisms to manage symptoms. The therapy sessions may be individual or group-based, and the duration of treatment can vary depending on the severity of the disorder.

There are several types of psychotherapy that may be used to treat NPD, including:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): This type of therapy focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to NPD.
  • Psychodynamic therapy: This type of therapy aims to explore the unconscious mind to identify and address the root causes of NPD.
  • Group therapy: This type of therapy involves working with a group of people with NPD to develop social skills and improve interpersonal relationships.


There is no medication specifically designed to treat NPD. However, medication may be included in the treatment plan if the patient has other mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety. Antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and mood stabilizers may be prescribed to manage these conditions.

It is essential to note that medication alone is not an effective treatment for NPD. It should be used in conjunction with psychotherapy to manage symptoms effectively.

In conclusion, while there is no cure for NPD, it is possible to manage the symptoms and improve the quality of life for those affected. Psychotherapy is the primary treatment for NPD, and medication may be included in the treatment plan if the patient has other mental health conditions. It is essential to work with a mental health professional to develop a personalized treatment plan that addresses the specific needs of the patient.

Prevention Strategies

Prevention strategies for narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) focus on identifying and addressing the underlying causes of the disorder. While there is no guaranteed way to prevent NPD, certain strategies may help reduce the risk of developing the disorder.

Building Self-Esteem

One of the most important prevention strategies for NPD is building healthy self-esteem. Individuals who have healthy self-esteem are less likely to develop narcissistic tendencies. Encouraging children and adolescents to develop a healthy sense of self-worth can help prevent the development of NPD later in life.

Developing Empathy

Another important prevention strategy for NPD is developing empathy. Narcissists often lack empathy and struggle to understand the feelings and perspectives of others. Encouraging children and adolescents to develop empathy and consider the feelings of others can help prevent the development of NPD later in life.

Encouraging Healthy Relationships

Encouraging healthy relationships is another important prevention strategy for NPD. Individuals who have healthy relationships with others are less likely to develop narcissistic tendencies. Encouraging children and adolescents to build healthy relationships with friends and family members can help prevent the development of NPD later in life.

Seeking Help

If an individual is struggling with low self-esteem, lack of empathy, or other symptoms of NPD, seeking help from a mental health professional can be an effective prevention strategy. A mental health professional can help the individual identify and address the underlying causes of their symptoms, and develop healthy coping strategies to prevent the development of NPD.


In conclusion, the study of narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a complex and evolving field. Researchers have made significant strides in understanding the nature of narcissism, including the distinction between grandiose and vulnerable narcissism. It is important to recognize that NPD is a serious mental health condition that can have a significant impact on an individual's life and relationships.

One common misconception about narcissism is that it is simply a personality trait or quirk. However, individuals with NPD may exhibit a range of behaviors that can be harmful to themselves and others. These behaviors may include a sense of entitlement, a lack of empathy, and a tendency to manipulate others.

Treatment for NPD can be challenging, but there are options available. Therapy, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, can help individuals with NPD develop healthier coping mechanisms and improve their relationships with others. It is important to note that treatment for NPD is most effective when individuals are willing to acknowledge their symptoms and work towards change.

While there is still much to learn about narcissism and NPD, the field has made significant progress in recent years. Continued research and education can help individuals better understand these conditions and improve outcomes for those affected by them.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the traits of a narcissist?

Narcissists have a grandiose sense of self-importance, a preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love, a belief that they are special and can only be understood by other exceptional people, a need for excessive admiration, a sense of entitlement to special treatment, exploitation of others, and a lack of empathy.

How to deal with a narcissist?

Dealing with a narcissist can be challenging, but setting boundaries, not engaging in their drama, and seeking support from a therapist or support group can be helpful. It is also important to remember that the behavior of a narcissist is not your fault.

What are the 9 traits of a narcissist?

The nine traits of a narcissist are grandiosity, a need for admiration, a sense of entitlement, exploiting others, lack of empathy, arrogance, envy, a belief in their uniqueness, and a preoccupation with fantasies of success, power, beauty, or ideal love.

What does a narcissistic person do?

A narcissistic person may engage in manipulative behavior, exploit others, lack empathy, and have a need for admiration and attention. They may also have an inflated sense of self-importance and a preoccupation with fantasies of success, power, beauty, or ideal love.

How can you tell if someone is narcissistic?

You can tell if someone is narcissistic by observing their behavior. Narcissists may exhibit grandiosity, a need for admiration, a sense of entitlement, a lack of empathy, and manipulative behavior. They may also have an inflated sense of self-importance and a preoccupation with fantasies of success, power, beauty, or ideal love.

What makes a person a narcissist?

There is no one specific cause of narcissism, but it can be linked to childhood experiences, such as neglect or overindulgence, and genetic factors. Narcissism can also be a learned behavior or a coping mechanism for underlying insecurities.



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