What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

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The word “narcissism” derives from the Greek myth of Narcissus, a man so beautiful that everyone was drawn to him. But deeming them unworthy, Narcissus instead fell in love with his own reflection, wasting away as he pined for the unattainable.

Words like “narcissistic” are often used colloquially, or in a derogative way, but Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a real condition that can cause many problems for those who suffer from it, as well as those around them. And although many people could be described as a bit vain or big-headed, there are a number of criteria that must be met before someone can be diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder:

  • Critical Sensitivity: Easily upset or angered by criticism.
  • Entitlement: An expectation of special treatment.
  • Envy: Envies others, and wants to make others envious.
  • Exploitation: Willing to use others for their own gain.
  • Fantasy: Frequent thoughts of achieving untold success, wealth, or power.
  • Grandiosity: An exaggerated sense of their abilities and accomplishments.
  • Lack of Empathy: Concerned only about their wants and needs, not those of others.
  • Superiority: Believes themselves to be better than others, a member of the elite.
  • Validation: A need to know that others believe they are as great as they think.

If a person presents most or all of these traits, it is possible they could suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder. One of the biggest issues in treating Narcissistic Personality Disorder is that, almost by definition, those who have it will feel they are perfect just as they are, that they do not need help, and that those suggesting they seek help are simply jealous.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder can cause great pain to the friends and family members who are left to pick up the pieces after a bad relationship, failed business venture, or a lifestyle lived beyond its means. In the Greek tale, Echo lost many years pining for Narcissus, a man who would never love her. But it was ultimately Narcissus who died, wasting away without food or sleep, accomplishing nothing, all in pursuit of something he could never have.

Psychotherapy is the most common treatment for Narcissistic Personality Disorder. With proper counselling, a psychotherapist can help someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder set realistic, achievable goals, accurately measure one’s abilities, achievements, and shortcomings, and avoid further self-destructive behaviour.

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