What Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

What Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

We’ve all heard the term narcissist and tend to throw it around loosely. Someone behaves selfishly once and we may quickly label them a narcissist. But a collapsed narcissist is a lot more complicated than many people realize. Let’s take a look at what narcissistic personality disorder is, how it presents itself, its prevalence and the treatment options.

What Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Narcissistic personality disorder falls into the personality disorder subcategory of mental health conditions. Personality disorders are conditions that cause a person to be different from the average person in terms of how they act, feel or think. Individuals with personality disorders often have difficulty adapting to societal norms and have thoughts and behaviors that are unhealthy.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) classifies narcissistic personality disorder as a cluster B personality disorder. Other cluster B personality disorders include antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder and histrionic personality disorder.

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a mental health condition in which the individual has an overly inflated perception of their importance. Narcissists seek attention, seek validation from others and often have trouble caring about other people’s feelings. Unfortunately, narcissists can often display vindictive personality traits, so having a healthy relationship with them can be challenging.

What Is a Collapsed Narcissist?

You may have heard the term “collapsed narcissist” before. A narcissist experiences a “collapse” when they face a situation where they’ve been humiliated, failed or had a setback. Typically, the narcissist finds this blow to their self-esteem hard to take and responds with an extreme emotional reaction (rage, self-harm, depression, mental break, blame, etc.). A narcissist can have a very fragile ego; whenever it’s compromised, they have an over-the-top reaction.

How Common Are Narcissists?

It’s challenging to know exactly how prevalent narcissistic personality disorder is, as it’s often misdiagnosed or missed entirely. Official prevalence rates indicate the rate may be between 0.5% and 5% in the United States. However, smaller clinical samples have shown much higher rates, ranging between 1% and 15% in the United States.

One challenge that prevents us from knowing how extensive NPD is that the condition often occurs with other mental health disorders. Some of the common conditions that may occur alongside narcissistic personality disorder are:

  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Histrionic personality disorder
  • Schizotypal personality disorder
  • Substance use disorder

Symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Often, narcissistic people aren’t self-reflective enough to realize they have this mental health condition. Instead, those around them are the first to spot the warning signs. If you suspect someone you know might have NPD, here are the most common symptoms to watch out for:

  • Having an extremely high feeling of self-importance
  • Always looking for praise
  • Consider themselves special, exceptional and recognized even when they haven’t done anything extraordinary (at work, at school, in a relationship)
  • Exaggerating achievements to seem more significant
  • Expecting special favors or circumstances
  • Taking advantage of others for self-gain
  • Being unable to care about the needs of others
  • Being perceived by others as arrogant or conceited
  • Reacting poorly to criticism
  • Difficulties regulating emotions
  • Quick to overreact to situations

Causes and Risk Factors of NPD

Environmental factors, genetic factors or a combination of the two can cause narcissistic personality disorder.

Research shows that individuals who grow up in more individualistic cultures, which focus more on the person’s rights and beliefs rather than the collective community, have a higher percentage of people with NPD.

Other environmental factors are parenting style and childhood experiences. A 2020 study found that overbearing and overly attentive parents can lead to narcissistic behavior in children.

Lastly, some research indicates that heredity factors can also play a role in NPD. For example, narcissistic moms and daughters might run in the same family.

Overall, NPD isn’t something we can predict, but if a person has a particular set of factors, they may be at a higher risk of developing the condition.

Diagnosis and Treatment Options for NPD

Narcissistic personality disorder is often misdiagnosed or missed entirely. When it is diagnosed, it’s typically because the person came in for treatment for another condition and wasn’t aware of or looking for an NPD diagnosis. Instead, they may have come in seeking help for depression or because a loved one encouraged them to get help.

There are no medications currently approved for the treatment of narcissistic personality disorder. But if individuals with NPD are also combating anxiety or depression, they may be prescribed medication to treat those symptoms.

The best treatment approach for NPD is therapy. A counselor or psychologist can help individuals recognize manipulative or harmful thoughts and behaviors and learn to be more self-aware and mindful of others. A therapist might also help the individual work on their narcissistic victim mentality to have a clearer perspective on life.

Impact of NPD on Relationships, Work and Society

Individuals with narcissistic personality disorder can harm those around them — at work and in personal settings. Narcissists can manipulate, put themselves first and be unable to love others selflessly.

If you have someone in your life with NPD, know that healing from covert narcissistic abuse can take time. Seeking professional help to deal with the trauma and undo the damage is crucial.

Doing More for Those With NPD

People who have NPD aren’t lost causes. These are individuals who, with the right treatment and medication, can change their ways and be helpful members of their communities. We still don’t know a lot about narcissistic personality disorder, so there’s a significant need to raise awareness. As we learn more about NPD, we can improve diagnosis and treatment outcomes.

Mental Health Treatment at Restore

If you or someone you love struggles with NPD, consider professional help. At Restore, we know that treatment can help you get to a happier, healthier life. We treat all kinds of mental health conditions and offer a variety of programs to fit your lifestyle. Contact us today to find out how we can help you.