(Image: photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
(Image: photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

As medical science continues to advance, so does our understanding of psychological disorders. From attention deficit disorder to bipolar disorder and depression, diseases of the mind are important to understand when they affect our friends and loved ones. Some of these conditions can be treated with medicine, but something like narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) can be difficult to diagnose and cannot be beaten with any pill.

Being involved with somebody who has a NPD can be a challenge, especially if you’re unaware of it. Knowledge is essential but not necessarily enough.

By definition, NPD is a condition in which people have an inflated sense of self-importance and an extreme preoccupation with themselves, according to research information provided by the A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia in the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

While the causes of the disorder are unknown, it’s been determined that an overly sensitive personality and parenting problems may affect the development of this disorder. Men represent a majority of the narcissistic population.

Determining The Diagnoses

Here are the symptoms a narcissist may present:

  • Reaction to criticism with rage, shame or humiliation
  • Take advantage of other people to achieve his or her own goals
  • Have excessive feelings of self-importance
  • Exaggerate achievements and talents
  • Be preoccupied with fantasies of success, power, beauty, intelligence or ideal love
  • Have unreasonable expectations of favorable treatment
  • Need constant attention and admiration
  • Disregard the feelings of others, and have little ability to feel empathy
  • Have obsessive self-interest
  • Pursue mainly selfish goals

More Signs (Encyclopedia Of Mental Disorders)

  • a history of intense but short-term relationships with others; inability to make or sustain genuinely intimate relationships
  • a tendency to be attracted to leadership or high-profile positions or occupations
  • a pattern of alternating between unrealistic idealization of others and equally unrealistic devaluation of them
  • assessment of others in terms of usefulness
  • a need to be the center of attention or admiration in a working group or social situation
  • hypersensitivity to criticism, however mild, or rejection from others
  • an unstable view of the self that fluctuates between extremes of self-praise and self-contempt
  • preoccupation with outward appearance, “image,” or public opinion rather than inner reality
  • painful emotions based on shame (dislike of who one is) rather than guilt (regret for what one has done)

(credit: Image: Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

More Signs (Narcissism 101)

  • Jealousy and possessiveness
  • Excessive need to feel special, adored, loved, appreciated, or admired
  • Rage attacks when you do not sufficiently meet his/her needs
  • Controlling behaviors (trying to control how you spend your time, who you talk to, how you dress, etc.)
  • Inflated self-esteem, or grandiosity (bragging, “fishing” for compliments)
  • Dramatic, insecure behaviors
  • Expecting you to take responsibility for making him/her feel better about him/herself
  • Blaming you for behaviors or feelings (i.e., “YOU made me do this,” or “YOU made me feel this way.”)
  • Not taking responsibility for angry behavior and justifying angry outbursts
  • An attitude that demonstrates “the world revolves around me” and “you need to cater to my ideas, opinions, thoughts, and feelings.”
  • An unwillingness to reflect on his/her own behaviors

NPD can also be associated with a depressed mood and a dramatic or erratic or antisocial personality, according to Tom Long, the author of Narcissism 101 online.

Long writes his take on dealing with a narcissist:

You have to be an adult when they are running around acting like kids – it demands wisdom and strength. Narcissists exploit weakness, or they create it in people. They are charming. They make you feel you are the greatest, they make you dependent on their approval. I have known good narcissist and toxic narcissists. Understanding them and yourself is the only way to survive.

They are simply the most immature people on earth. They are pancake people, superficial, running around trying to puff themselves up, always looking for people to exploit and for people to admire them.

How To Deal

Based on the above description, narcissists can be incredibly loving and lovable one moment and absolutely crushing and emotionally destructive the next. Understanding narcissism is essential to cope.

Narcissists will encourage you not to do any research about psychological disorders and mental diseases because they are afraid of what you will find out about them.

Published research by the Association of Psychology’s (APA) Journal of Personality and Social Psychology indicates that any form of criticism can be the trigger for elevated levels of aggression for those who struggle with NPD. Whether it’s barrading or degrading, giving of instruction or harmlessly pointing out a simple mistake, the less-than-perfect feeling can send a narcissist into attack mode.

Narcissists focus on punishing or defeating someone who has threatened their highly favorable views of themselves and lash out against the source, according to an APA article by psychologists Brad J. Bushman, Ph.D., of Iowa State University and Roy F. Baumeister Ph.D., of Case Western Reserve University.

Conclusion: Narcissists truly want to be good, admirable people, but you should never criticize a narcissist. Expect severe, unwarranted retaliation and manipulation, if you do. Wear thick-soled shoes since you’ll be walking on pins and needles regularly.

NPD can cause unbelievable amounts of pain and heartache, but the person struggling with NPD won’t be able to empathize. Narcissists just don’t know how.

The more you focus on trying to cure the narcissist, the more trouble you will find yourself in. It’s a heartbreaking truth to face for those who are victimized by narcissists.

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A Narcissist’s Options

While those, who do not struggle with NPD, may understand and cope with a loved one suffering from the disorder, the responsibility of seeking help, learning and improving falls on the victims struggling with NPD. Improving from the symptoms is essential to maintain any healthy relationships.

Pharmaceutical options only treat some symptoms assocatied with NPD like depression and anxiety, but no known medications are used to treat the disorder. 

Some reports indicate psychotherapy may benefit those suffering from NPD, but the improvement may be slight and difficult to reach.

The consensus that has emerged is that therapists should set modest goals for treatment with NPD patients. Most of them cannot form a sufficiently deep bond with a therapist to allow healing of early-childhood injuries. In addition, the tendency of these patients to criticize and devalue their therapists (as well as other authority figures) makes it difficult for therapists to work with them.
Some narcissists are able, particularly as they approach their midlife years, to accept their own limitations and those of others, to resolve their problems with envy, and to accept their own mortality. 

First and foremost, the individual with NPD has to want to change. And when he or she does begin that painful process of facing demons and making changes, healthy relationships may begin to form.

This was written for somebody I adore.

– SLR w/ AMR

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In its entirety, this post is supported by data and reports provided by respected psychologists and researchers.