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Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a mental disorder that is categorized by an extremely exaggerated sense of self-worth and a dismissal of the value of others. People suffering from narcissistic personality disorder exhibit an overwhelming need for admiration from others in their life and will go to extreme measures to receive that aggrandization.
Most people display some of these traits occasionally or many of these traits to a lesser degree. However, a person with narcissistic personality disorder is likely to display nearly all of these traits constantly and strongly. According to the DSM-5 definition, recognizing a majority of the following traits and symptoms in a person can identify narcissistic personality disorder;
- An exaggerated sense of self importance that represents itself as extreme ego
- Seeking recognition of greatness, despite a lack of accomplishments
- Making false claims about abilities and past successes
- Regularly dreaming or fantasizing about gaining power, intelligence, good looks, or an ideal lover
- Spurning others who are not perceived as roughly equally impressive
- Insisting on constant praise or admiration from others
- A strong sense of entitlement
- Expectation others will comply with requests or instructions
- A tendency to take advantage of the generosity of others
- A distinct lack of empathy
- Extreme jealousy of others, especially if they are highly accomplished
This emotional disorder tends to interfere significantly with social relationships of all types. Because individuals with narcissistic personality disorder have almost no empathy, it is very common for them to be emotionally and mentally abusive in relationships. Nearly every person with this disorder engages in various forms of manipulation to get others to do what they want or to show them obvious admiration.
While most people suffering from this disorder only engage in mental and emotional abuse, a small but notable portion also engage in physical abuse, again because they simply don’t recognize the value of others. Causing harm to another person simply isn’t a problem in their world view.
In addition to abusive relationships, people with this disorder generally form rather tenuous relationships. Since a relationship is only valuable to them if it grants them some form of praise, power, money, or other similar advantage, they rarely form lasting relationships. These tenuous, one-sided relationships can be ended in a moment and tend to be particularly difficult for family members or potential romantic partners.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Like all personality disorders, diagnosis starts with a mental health professional in a controlled setting. The professional will ask specific questions and make careful observations to determine whether a patient exhibits a majority of the criteria listed in the DSM-5 definition. Furthermore, the mental health professional needs to ascertain that these symptoms have been present for an extended length of time (usually at least a year) and are not the result of any form of pharmaceutical.
Once narcissistic personality disorder has been diagnosed, treatment usually involves some form of psychotherapy. The therapist needs to carefully break down the unhealthy, self-aggrandizing view the patient has of himself or herself and replace it with a healthier, more realistic self-view. At the same time, the therapist needs to get the patient to acknowledge the value of others. This can be a tricky process because the patient can suffer a breakdown if their self-image is shattered quickly. As a result, treatment is usually a long process that involves both individual and group sessions, staggered carefully for maximum benefit and minimal danger.