May 3, 2023

Exploring Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Myths and Facts

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It’s easy to think someone who is selfish or has an over-inflated sense of self-importance is just a “narcissist.” Someone can possess narcissistic personality traits, but narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a mental health condition. There’s a lot of information out there, so let’s explore narcissistic personality disorder myths and facts and how it can affect your relationship. 

What Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)?  

Narcissistic personality disorder is defined by an enduring pattern of behavior. It’s not a one-off reaction in the moment; it’s life-long and involves behaviors such as: 

  • An inflated feeling of self-importance
  • Entitlement
  • Selfish 
  • Feeling of superiority 
  • Lack of empathy 
  • Arrogance 

People with NPD seek a lot of attention and want admiration. It’s important to stress that NPD is a mental health condition emphasizing an unreasonably high sense of self-importance. Typically behind the facade of extreme confidence and self-esteem is someone uncertain about their self-worth and upset by any criticism, no matter how small. 

Symptoms of NPD can vary, but an individual can: 

  • Be manipulative 
  • Be overly critical or look down on other people 
  • Have the inability to recognize the needs of others
  • Brag a lot 
  • Make their achievements seem bigger than they are 
  • Feel that they are entitled to or deserve special treatment 
  • Have difficulty managing their emotions 
  • Feel sad or depressed if they’re not perfect 
  • Get angry or impatient when they don’t get the recognition they feel they deserve

Experts believe that up to 5% of people have narcissistic personality disorder. NPD is one of 10 personality disorders. It’s not uncommon for someone with NPD to find relationships difficult. 

The cause of NPD is thought to be very complex and could be influenced by genes, psychological factors, and early childhood relationships and experiences. Ultimately, the exact cause of narcotic personality disorder is unknown. 

Narcissistic Personality Disorder Myths Vs Facts 

Myths About Narcissistic Personality Disorder 

  1. Narcissism And NPD Are Exactly The Same 

You probably know someone who is a little selfish, arrogant, and maybe manipulative at times. Narcissism is a spectrum, and on one end, you have a personality trait that may arise occasionally. On the other end, you have a clinical diagnosis where narcissistic behaviors are life-long and cut into multiple areas of your life. People who have NPD are often defiant to change and react very badly to criticism. Not everyone who has narcissistic qualities has NPD. 

  1. People with NPD can’t form relationships at all or are incapable of love 

Another common misconception about narcissism is that they are incapable of love. Those with extreme NPD may find it harder to connect and fall in love, but it’s not impossible. It’s possible for someone with NPD to form relationships. Those relationships tend to take more work and a deep understanding of the challenges and how the condition can influence the relationship. 

  1. All people with NPD have high self-esteem 

While some people with NPD may think they are better than others, some people mask low self-esteem by trying to seem superior as a defense strategy. It’s not always black and white, and those with narcissistic personality disorder can be very different from one another. 

  1. People with NPD are always controlling 

Some narcissists can be controlling, while others are not. Like any people, it’s difficult to give blanket statements that cover every person with NPD. While controlling and manipulative behavior can be a sign of NPD, some individuals may have a greater capacity for empathy than others. 

  1. Social media causes NPD 

There is some evidence that social media use may increase narcissistic tendencies in people. But, as the cause of NPD is so complex, it’s unfair to pinpoint one cause, such as social media. While social media increases exposure to narcissistic qualities, the reality is that personality, and NPD is much more complicated. 

Narcissistic Personality Disorder Facts 

  1. NPD can be difficult to diagnose 

It’s rare for someone with NPD to openly seek help and the drive to change by achieving a diagnosis. In some instances, even a trained mental health professional might find it difficult to diagnose NPD as it requires an open and honest conversation from the individual. 

  1. NPD is widely misunderstood 

Despite many people throwing the word “narcissist” around, narcissistic personality disorder is a mental health condition that is misunderstood. People with NPD often face challenges within relationships. Many of us will display a narcissistic trait at some point in our life because narcissism is a spectrum.  

  1. Key NPD Symptoms: Self-Importance, Lack of empathy And Need For Admiration 

While people with NPD act differently, common signs of the condition are self-importance, a lack of empathy for others, and a need for admiration. It’s important to point out that these symptoms are often over-inflated, persistent, and life-long. 

  1. Not All People With NPD Have Outgoing Personalities 

It’s easy to think that all narcissists are charming and outgoing, and while this is true for some, it’s not the same for everyone. Even those who appear outgoing may struggle with relationships and maintaining meaningful connections.

  1. People with NPD can and have formed loving relationships 

Typically, with NPD, there’s a demand for admiration and external recognition from others. Often, that admiration is a one-way street with no reciprocation. That can make it tricky to maintain meaningful relationships, but not impossible. Individuals with NPD can and have formed loving relationships, but they usually require an awareness of triggers and healthy communication strategies. 

The Impact Of NPD On Relationships

When you have a partner who puts themselves first and struggles to understand how others feel, naturally, that will stress a relationship. The NPD partner is more likely to be manipulative in the relationship, and it’s normal to feel torn between love and pain. Should you stay or leave when in a relationship with a narcissist?

While we can’t answer that question for you, there are a few things that you can do in the relationship to help: 

  • Educate yourself on NPD 
  • Set clear boundaries with your partner 
  • Develop communication strategies 
  • Seek support from friends, family, or groups 
  • Speak to your own therapist to talk through your challenges. 
  • Accept when it is time to leave the relationship 

Diagnosing And Treating People With Narcissistic Personality Disorder 

If you’re in a relationship with someone with NPD, try to stay calm, develop your understanding, and put a plan in place for communication and boundary setting. 

The diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder is usually based on: 

  • Symptoms 
  • Psychological evaluation and questionnaires 
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) guidelines 

People with NPD often have little awareness, insight, or drive to change. The push typically comes from a partner or loved one who insists on therapy or treatment. Essentially, a person with NPD needs the motivation to change; they wouldn’t typically take it upon themselves to improve.

Treatment: Can NPD Be Treated Naturally?

Treatment for NPD usually consists of talk therapy. You may be recommended medications and therapy if you have another mental health condition that could require medication, such as depression. Ultimately, treatment for NPD centers around psychotherapy to help with the following:

  • Learn how to relate better and understand how others feel 
  • Improve understanding of why you act the way you do in certain situations 
  • Learn to have better, more meaningful relationships 
  • Learn how to manage stress 

Therapy for NPD is tough, and progress can be slow. But even the slightest changes can make a significant difference. 

Therapy For Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Those with NPD don’t usually take criticism well, so moving forward in the relationship can be difficult. Remember to stay calm and try to keep any comments about treatment or therapy in a positive light. 

While you may want your partner to seek treatment, don’t forget about yourself. Speaking to a therapist about your situation and feelings can help to offer a new perspective. Don’t keep your emotions bottled up. If you’re having a hard time, seeking support can open up some mental capacity to make good decisions and set clear boundaries. 

If you or a loved one could benefit from speaking to a mental health professional, book an appointment online to talk to one of the compassionate team members at Thriving Center of Psychology. 

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