Do you know a person who almost always thinks only of themselves, can twist any situation into one where they are the victim, dominates most, if not all, conversations, and generally blames their problems on others?
If the answer is yes, chances are that you have a narcissistic in your life.
Let’s examine the causes, characteristics, symptoms, and treatment options for a person diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).
NPD is one of several psychiatric disorders that are referred to as “Cluster B” personality traits. There is no definitive answer as to what causes NPD, but there are many theories. Most psychologists agree that that the patient must be predisposed biologically in order to develop the disorder.
Secondly, the interactions they have with others as a child, their temperament, and their ability to handle stress will factor into the development of this personality disorder. However, there is disagreement over what type of childhood relationships are more likely to be seen in these patients.
While most believe that NPD patients are the result of being overly praised, babied, and pampered as a child, there are some professionals that believe it is a product of abuse and neglect in the younger years. The only way that it can be diagnosed is through an evaluation of symptoms performed by a psychiatric professional. Many clinicians will not diagnosis someone as having NPD until they are through their teenage years.
Narcissists often have an interesting group of believes that revolve around how much better the world is with them in it. They are often preoccupied with their perceived beauty, intelligence, and success and give off a vibe of extreme arrogance. They tend to think that anyone who is critical of them is simply jealous. They expect others to go along with their ideas and will almost certainly become irritated when they do not. They are inclined to think that they are extremely special and only other special people are worthy of their company.
They are rarely, if ever, pleased with others and most often see others as inferior to them. Overall, they are very dramatic and demanding of attention. They display symptoms that can be quite overwhelming to those around them.
Two primary symptoms include an overpowering need for others to admire them and a complete inability to empathize with others. They almost always dominate conversations and are adept at integrating themselves into other’s problems and tragedies.
The following is a good example of this. Jan just lost her four year old son in an accident. At the funeral she is comforted by many friends and family who are offering their condolences. Her sister, Jill, makes her way into the middle of the group and starts sobbing hysterically about how she “cannot go on without her nephew.” She refers to him as “the love of my life” and wonders aloud “Why did God have to take him from me, his favorite aunt?” Before long the group, including her sister, is trying to console Jill and the grief the mother is feeling is pushed aside. (Little does the group know that Jill saw her nephew just a few times a year and really just ignored him then.)
People diagnosed with NPD often tend to exploit others as well if this works to their advantage. To their defense, they usually do not even realize what they are doing. They truly have a problem with looking outside of themselves.
Treatment for NPD can be difficult and time consuming. While there are medications that can treat distressing symptoms such as behavioral issues, there are no medications that will magically make these traits disappear. Instead psychotherapy with a trained clinician is a must. This can be very draining on everyone involved as the narcissist is pushed towards recognizing and understanding their condition and developing insight into their behaviors.
The overall goal is for the patient to develop a sense of empathy and more realistic expectations of others. Whether their condition improves or not is almost solely up to the patient. They must be able to realize that they do have a problem and they must be an active participant in therapy sessions.
It takes a very strong person to be involved in a relationship or friendship with a NPD patient. You must have an understanding of their condition, be willing to listen more frequently than you talk, and understand that you may not make them happy.
Overall compassion is key to surviving this relationship, but never let them know this.