Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or NPD, is most often recognized as a condition that contains patterns of behaviors and thoughts that can cause difficulties in multiple aspects of life. NPD is classified under the Dramatic/Erratic Cluster personality disorders that are “characterized by symptoms that range from highly inconsistent behaviors to inflated self-esteem, rule-breaking behavior, and exaggerated emotional displays,”(Abnormal Psychology, Kring). Individuals with NPD can be described to think very highly of oneself’s importance as well as requiring a need for admiration and exhibit lack of empathy.
The name of the disorder itself origins from the Greek mythological figure Narcissus who fell in love with his own reflection and was unable to resist himself and “pined away in despair until he finally died of thirst and starvation,” (Narcissus, Cartwright). The idea behind extreme self-admiration has been reviewed and expressed through philosophers and other thinkers throughout history. In the early 1900s, narcissism “started to attract interest in the growing school of thought known as psychoanalysis,” (History NPD, Cherry).
The well-known, Sigmund Freud published a piece named On Narcissism: An Introduction, he believed that narcissism “was a normal maturation phase of healthy development in all children” (Konrath). It wasn’t until the 1950s and 1960s that more interest was drawn specifically to narcissism, psychoanalysts Otto Kernberg, Anne Reich, Heinz Kohut, along with others helped spark that interest. Kernberg developed a ‘narcissistic personality structure” that was a theory that had three major categories: normal adult narcissism, normal infantile narcissism, and pathological narcissism.
Reich viewed narcissists as “people whose libido is mainly concentrated on themselves at the expense of object love” and that narcissists “suffer from an inability to regulate their self-esteem” (Konrath).
Kohut approached Narcissistic Personality Disorder in a different manner that aligned much closer with Freud. Kohut believed that “narcissism was a normal and essential aspect of development and that difficulties with early ‘self-object’ relationships could lead to challenges in maintaining an adequate sense of self-esteem later in life,” (History NPD, Cherry). Narcissistic Personality Disorder was not recognized as an official disorder until the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder where a criteria were also created for its diagnosis.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder is believed to emerge from the influence of both genetic and environmental factors. There are multiple theories as to whether NPD is explained through genetic or environmental factors. However, it is believed that both factors can play a role in the development of NPD. “Findings show a consistent connection between narcissistic traits and inheritable factors,” although the connection isn’t overwhelming large, it is still strong enough to have a role in it’s development; a study that focused on two characteristics, grandiose view and sense of entitlement, “revealed an inheritance factor of 23 percent for the former and 35 percent for the latter,” (Causes NPD, Bridges). Within the environmental factors, parenting styles can be examined as a link to the development of NPD. Experts identified three types of “dysfunctional and ineffective parenting” that can play a major role in the development of NPD: “authoritarian parenting, permissive/indulgent parenting, and pathological or abusive parenting,” (Causes NPD, Bridges). Authoritarian can be described as parents who are excessively controlling, high demanding, and slow to give any approval.
Permissive/Indulgent can be described as parents who praise or pamper their kids constantly. Pathological Exposure is exposed to any physical, emotional, or sexual abuse in childhood. Other factors can consist of parents containing “extremely high expectations, excessive criticism, over-praising, excessive pampering, insensitivity, and abuse,” (Causes NPD, Health). Although the cause for development of NPD cannot be directly traced to one specific factor, NPD can most commonly be recognized based off the signs of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy. Narcissistic Personality Disorder is characterized by containing a “grandiose view of one’s importance, preoccupation with one’s success, brilliance, and beauty, extreme need for admiration, strong sense of entitlement, the tendency to exploit others, lack of empathy, envious of others, arrogant behavior or attitudes,” (Abnormal Psychology, Kring).
An individual that has a presence of five or more of those symptoms can be diagnosed for the possibility of having NPD. Within the symptoms, a grandiose view of one’s importance can be described as being preoccupied with fantasies of success. Other symptoms can include feelings of arrogance, envy, and entitlement as well as being sensitive to criticism. NPD currently has no known medications and the only treatment, thus far is psychotherapy.
Psychotherapy is also known as talk therapy and is used to help individuals to “learn how to relate to others better, to encourage more functional interpersonal relationships, to gain a better understanding of emotions,” and to help an individual understand why they feel the way they do (NPD, Gregory). The treatment itself focuses on the personality traits, which become consistent with time, meaning it can take multiple years of psychotherapy before any true progress is made. Treatment works on “accepting and maintaining relationships with co-workers and family, tolerating criticism and failure, understanding and regulating feelings, and minimizing the desire to attain unrealistic goals and ideal conditions,” (NPD, Gregory). Despite the small amount of treatment being available, NPD can decrease with age.