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What is Narcissism?

The word Narcissism comes from a Greek myth, where an attractive man named Narcissus looked at his reflection in a pool of water—and fell in love with it.

You may know somebody like Narcissus. He thinks the world of himself and all of the great things he accomplishes in life. How can you miss hearing about it, because this person will let you know how wonderful he is in nearly every conversation you have with him. You may have a coworker who does just about everything better than the rest of the staff. Maybe your relative knows more than anybody, and she has to put her two cents in every conversation. Maybe you have a friend who makes all conversations—no matter what the topic is–about herself. It may be that you have encountered a narcissist.

While it’s normal to brag or be selfish every now and then, people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) have an inflated sense of their importance, an extreme need for admiration and a lack of compassion for others. In addition, individuals with NPD don’t value other people’s feelings and ignore their needs.

What lies beneath this ultra-confidence is a person who has a fragile self-esteem and is sensitive to even the smallest criticism. People with the disorder may have problems at work, school and in relationships. They are disappointed when they don’t get special favors or the admiration they think they should get. Other people really don’t like being around them, and their relationships are unfulfilling.

Signs of Narcissistic Personality Disorder – DSM-5 301.81 (F60.81)

When a person has NPD, he may find that people are often upset with him, it is difficult for him to keep relationships and he often puts himself first. These are only a few of the traits of the narcissist. The following are more signs of a person with the disorder.

  • Narcissists are likable and make wonderful first impressions. They’re personable and are usually fabulous in job interviews. However, that’s at first glance, and over a period of time people find that the positive person they thought they knew is actually very negative.
  • Some narcissists are quiet, which may seem like a surprise when you have a picture of the narcissist as being loud and more spirited in their conversations. According to Zlatan Krizan, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at Iowa State University, there are two types of narcissist. There is the bragging, show-off and the shy person who is not as forthright and is just waiting for his moment to shine. (As he waits until his moment of glory, he quietly resents others.) However, narcissists are not always either one or the other–grandiose or shy—these are the extreme levels.
  • Many times, narcissists are in leadership roles. It isn’t because they are good leaders, but because they want to be in the position.
  • A conversation can be about your plans for a luxurious vacation or a piece of jewelry you just received, but somehow the conversation becomes all about the narcissist.
  • Narcissists like to name-drop in order to make themselves seem more important.
  • Narcissists like to tell stories about themselves, and it’s not uncommon to hear the same one again and again. The story is usually about something wonderful he did. However, if the story is about something negative, it is never caused by the narcissist.
  • The narcissist likes to buy nice things—clothes, jewelry and fancy cars—because it is his way to show how important he is or the position of prestige he is in.
  • Narcissists take great care in how they present themselves and set a high value on looking physically attractive, such as making sure their hair is always neatly styled and nails are perfectly polished.
  • They love to have lots of friends on Facebook, and narcissists make sure to have only their most attractive pictures on their posts. In addition, they also want to make sure they have the most friends, because it signifies status to them.
  • People who are narcissistic are very sensitive to criticism.
  • They blame everyone else for their mistakes and have dozens of excuses. They don’t take any credit for their mistakes.
  • Many narcissists destroy working relationships and go from one job to another. They also often commit infidelity in their relationships and move on to new ones.
  • When things don’t go their way or they don’t get the recognition they think they deserve, the narcissist may get angry. He believes people are against him and misunderstand him.
  • The narcissist exaggerates his talents and achievements.
  • He has fast mood swings.
  • When it comes to taking other people’s feelings seriously, the narcissist has a hard time.

Causes/Risk Factors for Narcissistic Personality Disorder

A rare disorder found in only one percent of the population, NPD affects more males than females. It often begins in early adulthood. The cause of NPD isn’t know, but researchers think that extreme parenting behaviors—neglect or excessively indulging the child—may be at least partly the cause. The following are some of the causes of NPD:

  • Little affection or praise toward the child from his parents.
  • Emotional abuse or extreme neglect as a child. (Abuse or extreme neglect in childhood can lead to NPD and other disorders. Individuals who were abused as children are four times as likely to be diagnosed with a personality disorder, such as NPD.)
  • Parents ridiculing or scorning the fears the child expressed.
  • Parents were unreliable in their care of the child.
  • A hypersensitive temperament at birth.
  • Parents, family and friends overly praised the child.
  • Learned manipulative behavior from his parents.
  • Constant praise for exceptional looks or talents.
  • Extreme approval for good behavior, and extreme criticism for bad behavior in childhood.
  • Genetics may have something to do with NPD. According to a study in a 2007 issue of the “International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology”, a specific gene called tryptophan hydroxylase-2 is believed to be responsible for implicating the development of certain personality disorders, including NPD.

Treatment of Narcisstic Personality Disorder

Talk therapy—psychotherapy—is a treatment for NPD. With the help of a therapist, the individual with NPD can learn to relate better with other people in order to enjoy closer and more meaningful relationships. The therapist will work with the individual to identify the causes for his emotions and why he feels the necessity to compete, distrust others and, in some cases, despise himself and other people. In addition, a therapist will work with the person to be able to find out his true competencies and talents in order to better receive criticism or deal with failure. He will learn to understand the issues that cause distress to his self-esteem and strategize ways to deal with them.

If you are dealing with issues as the result of having Narcissistic Personality Disorder and seek help, schedule a session or to find out more about how the disorder is interrupting you from enjoying healthy work and personal relationships. The professionally licensed and credentialed therapists and counselors at Thriveworks have worked with thousands of people for more than a decade to help them take the steps to a happier and healthier life.

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