The word narcissism gets tossed around a lot, often to describe someone who seems excessively vain or full of themselves. But in psychological terms, narcissism doesn’t mean self-love—at least not of a genuine sort. It’s more accurate to say that people with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) are in love with an idealized, grandiose image of themselves.
Narcissistic personality disorder involves a pattern of self-centred, arrogant thinking and behaviour, a lack of empathy and consideration for other people, and an excessive need for admiration. But propping up their delusions of grandeur takes a lot of work—and that’s where the dysfunctional attitudes and behaviours come in.
Signs and symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder:
1. Grandiosity is the defining characteristic of narcissism. More than just arrogance or vanity, grandiosity is an unrealistic sense of superiority.
2. Since reality doesn’t support their grandiose view of themselves, narcissists live in a fantasy world propped up by distortion, self-deception, and magical thinking.
3. Narcissists need constant food for their ego, so they surround themselves with people who are willing to cater to their obsessive craving for affirmation. These relationships are very one-sided.
4. A sense of entitlement with the expectation of the people around them to automatically comply with their every wish and whim.
5. Narcissists never develop the ability to identify with the feelings of others—to put themselves in other people’s shoes. In other words, they lack empathy. In many ways, they view the people in their lives as objects—there to serve their needs.
6. Narcissists feel threatened whenever they encounter someone who appears to have something they lack. They’re also threatened by people who don’t kowtow to them or who challenge them in any way. Their defence mechanism is contempt. The only way to neutralize the threat and prop up their own sagging ego is to put those people down.
People with narcissistic personality disorder are extremely resistant to changing their behaviour, even when it’s causing them problems. Their tendency is to turn the blame on to others.
For the people in the narcissist’s life, it’s often easier just to go along with their demands to avoid the coldness and rages. However, by understanding more about narcissistic personality disorder, you can spot the narcissists in your life, protect yourself from their power plays, and establish healthier boundaries.
Navigating a relationship with a narcissist can be deeply frustrating and distressing. In their quest for control and admiration, narcissistic people may manipulate and exploit others, damaging their self-esteem and even aiming to alter their sense of reality.
Arguing with a narcissist about their action often proves fruitless. A more successful solution is to establish boundaries and emotionally distance yourself. Recognize that you may not be able to control your feelings about a person, but you can control how you respond to them.
Cutting ties with a narcissistic partner, family member, or boss may eventually be the best if not the only solution. In that process, it’s helpful to reflect on the characteristics of the individual to avoid finding oneself in similar scenarios in the future.
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Author – Jessica Gooding