What Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

What Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a mental health issue seen as a person being deliberately self-obsessed to the point of hurting others. For some, this may be true, but with some help from mental health professionals, those with NPD can achieve healthy self-esteem and make stronger social connections.

What Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Narcissistic personality disorder’s name derives from the mythological character Narcissus. Narcissus was in love with himself, so much so that he spent his whole life looking at his reflection in a pool of water. Since this myth, those who put their needs first or seem in love with themselves  are deemed “narcissistic” or “narcissists.”

Narcissistic personality disorder goes far beyond general narcissism. The difference is that NPD results from true brain abnormalities, and the person suffers involuntary narcissistic compulsions, while general narcissism is often deliberate. StatPearls describes NPD as “a pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy.” NPD is also a “cluster B” disorder. Cluster B disorders include:

  • NPD
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Histrionic personality disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder

These disorders are known for their emotional and unpredictable behaviors.

Signs and Symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Most people are not diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder until 18 years or older. NPD diagnosis requires a significant amount of patience in observation and a clear understanding of the person’s childhood and usual tendencies. It is noted that many people who grow into NPD were told as children they were elite, special, and therefore taught narcissistic behaviors that shaped their reality.

It does not mean that every child who is told they are special will develop NPD. It is only in extreme cases of parental-induced entitlement that NPD could develop. For a person to be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, at least five of the following characteristics must be present:

  • A grandiose sense of importance. This means exaggerating achievements or expecting to be treated with superiority, even if it’s undeserved.
  • Constant preoccupation with fantasies of success, power, brilliance, perfection, or perfect love.
  • The firm belief they are “special” and can only converse with other special people or institutions.
  • Requirement of excessive admiration with the belief they are entitled to it.
  • Setting unreasonable or unattainable expectations.
  • Being exploitative and feeling no remorse while taking advantage of others to get what they want.
  • Lack of empathy and unwillingness to identify the needs of others.
  • Envy of others and the belief that others are envious of them.
  • Arrogant and haughty behaviors and attitudes.

These above symptoms make it difficult for those with a narcissistic personality disorder to make and maintain relationships characterized by mutual love or respect rather than power. Many people with NPD exude their power over others, leaving their social and emotional affairs in constant turmoil and creating high turnover in relationships.

Signs of Narcissism in Children

NPD is generally not diagnosed in children under 18, though some children can display narcissistic tendencies. As children grow and develop, they only see their worldview, meaning their view is the most important. However, this cannot be held against them because they are still learning. As children grow, they learn empathy, cooperation, and other social skills.

When parents worry their child may have NPD, they may need to look at how and what they are teaching their child, mainly how they help develop their self-esteem and what key skills they emphasize when interacting with their child. Parents may enable narcissism in their children by holding them far above others or teaching them they are better than everyone.

Internalized Entitlement

Children may also internalize the belief that they are entitled to status, goods, and talents. Such thoughts can lead them to struggle later in life when they realize they are not entitled to whatever they want or that those around them will not enable their entitlement. Often, these children end up learning “hard lessons” where they experience a major setback because they believe they are above consequences or boundary-crossing.

Finding Help

There is a balance between helping a child have healthy self-esteem and inciting or enabling narcissistic behavior. A parent’s job is not to criticize a child displaying narcissistic tendencies but to talk it through and show them the flaws in their thinking. Family therapy is beneficial as a therapist helps the family set goals to help the child succeed in social settings while maintaining healthy self-esteem. A therapist can also differentiate between a child who has learned narcissism but does not have NPD and a child who may have NPD. The therapist can then take the appropriate steps to ensure success for the child.

Narcissistic personality disorder can be frustrating and detrimental to a person’s life, livelihood, and those close to them. People suffering from NPD cannot always see when they have crossed a boundary. Therefore, they do not feel empathy for those they have hurt because they only focus on themselves. If you are a parent of a child who displays narcissistic tendencies and does not have empathy or an understanding of consequences, it may be time to ask for help. At Havenwood Academy, we can help you understand NPD and walk you through the steps toward getting appropriate care. Our professional and experienced staff can help your child through therapy and relearning social etiquette while maintaining healthy self-esteem. Our long-term residential treatment center uses evidence-based theories to help your daughter work through her mental health concerns and any underlying trauma or attachment issues that come to the surface during treatment. For more information, call us today at (435) 586-2500


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