Narcissistic Personality Disorder
and how to deal with family, friends
and co-workers showing symptoms
"Some level of narcissism is the natural condition for most of us.
It becomes a personality disorder in the absence of compassion.
Love for others is not possible without compassion."
Hari Singh Bird
The terms narcissist and narcissistic personality disorder are thrown around rather loosely today. While a touch of self-centeredness, need for admiration or difficulty being criticized may seem narcissistic, it doesn’t necessarily warrant a diagnosis of true narcissistic personality disorder. (And here’s an important point to remember: Narcissism is not the same as confidence.)
But when traits of being self-centered, egotistical and manipulative are exhibited to the extreme, it can become the basis for the psychological disorder. Like all similar conditions, being diagnosed with narcissist personality disorder means a person must meet a certain diagnostic criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-Fifth Edition (DSM-5).
You can find true narcissists at every level of society. In its more extreme form and used for nefarious reasons, the results of narcissistic personality disorder can be devastating. The combination of an inability to empathize, coupled with high-level grandiosity, can lead to harming others without remorse. Many psychology experts believe Hitler suffered from narcissistic personality disorder, along with many dangerous cult leaders like Jim Jones David Koresh.
Polygamist leader Warren Jeffs is believed to be a true narcissist, too. Aside from initially possessing charming traits that draw followers in, these people demanded perfect loyalty from followers, overvalued themselves and devalued those around them.
Those examples of famous narcissists are extreme cases. Chances are, though, you’re dealing with a much less sinister form of narcissism every day. Maybe you encounter this at your own dinner table, where a charming but emotionally unavailable parent or spouse puts you down in order to elevate himself or herself. Perhaps it’s someone in the office or cubicle next to you who makes a habit and big production out of storming into meetings late. Or your best friend who constantly interrupts you while you’re talking, always turning the conversation back to him- or herself and rarely listening to what you have to say.
Narcissists are known for putting perfectionist-like expectations on others and then berating others when those expectations aren’t met. Maybe you even see some of these traits in yourself. What we have to realize is that many of us are dealing with narcissistic personalities every day.
Narcissistic personality disorder isn’t just a challenge for the person living with it condition. This disease casts a wide net, negatively impacting people in the narcissist’s life. (See Siege Mentality.) The words and actions of a true narcissist can cause high stress and leave lasting damage on parents, siblings, children, other family members, friends and co-workers. That’s why it’s so important to learn how to ID and properly deal with a narcissist. And if you show signs and symptoms of narcissism, there are ways you can seek help, too.
Here, former FBI profiler Joe Navarro, author of “Dangerous Personalities: An FBI Profiler Shows How to Identify and Protect Yourself from Harmful People,” breaks down a narcissist:
“Narcissistic personalities care only for themselves, their needs and their priorities. While you and I appreciate attention, the narcissist craves it and manipulates people and situations to get it. While you and I work hard to be successful, the narcissistic personality connives to succeed and may cheat, lie, embellish the truth or scheme to get ahead, uncaring of how others are affected.”
What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
So what is a narcissist? First, let’s be clear. It goes way beyond someone who loves looking in the mirror. A true narcissist acts in ways that are toxic and dangerous. And this can greatly impact relationships, putting strain on family members, friends and co-workers of a narcissist.
This narcissist definition helps break it down: Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism, according to the Mayo Clinic. It may be hard for a true narcissist to seek medical help for this condition, though, because mental illness may not fit with the individual’s image of power, image and perfection.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder
And The Diagnosing of The Condition
"Narcissists are all about attention, not about execution."
President Donald J. Trump's inaugural theme song selection.
And now, the end is near
And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I’ll say it clear
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain
I’ve lived a life that’s full
I traveled each and every highway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way...
According to the DSM-5, narcissistic personality disorder is characterized as a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, indicated by five or more of the following:
. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (for example, exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love
. Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
. Requires excessive admiration
. Has a sense of entitlement, for example, unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
. Is interpersonally exploitative, for example, takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
. Lacks empathy and is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
But to diagnose narcissistic personality disorder, a psychologist must make sure other criteria involving personality disorders must be met. Some of these involve an excessive need for admiration or setting personal standards unreasonably high to see oneself as exceptional (or too low based on a sense of entitlement).
To be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, a person also needs to show problems with relationships. This can translate as a lack of empathy or having mostly superficial relationships dominated by a need for personal gain.
Other things mental health professionals look for are antagonisms, grandiosity (feelings of entitlement) and attention-seeking behavior. For someone with true narcissistic personality disorder, these personality impairments can be seen consistently over time and throughout different situations. Mental health professionals are also instructed to make sure the personality traits aren’t normal based on the person’s developmental stage, social-cultural environment, drug use, medication or medical conditions (such as severe head trauma).
Critics of the DSM-5 methods for diagnosing narcissistic personality disorder say it fails to cover some core psychological features of the disorder, including:
feelings of inferiority
emptiness and boredom
affective reactivity and distress
Depression, anxiety, pain, fear and perfectionism often plague people living with narcissistic personality disorder, too.
And while much as been written about the extrovert-like qualities of a narcissist, scientists now know that subtypes of more introverted narcissists also exist. While they possess many of the qualities of a classical narcissist, they may operate in more subtle ways. For example, some introverted narcissists deal with disagreeable people or situations using passive-aggressive methods.
A One-Question Test for Narcissism?
Testing for narcissism usually involves, among other things, asking a series of 40 questions known as the Narcissistic Personality Inventory. But in a study looking at 2,200 of all ages, scientists recently found they could reliably ID narcissistic people by asking them this exact question:
To what extent do you agree with this statement: “I am a narcissist.” (Note: The word “narcissist” means egotistical, self-focused and vain.)
Participants rated themselves on a scale of 1 (not very true of me) to 7 (very true of me).
“People who are willing to admit they are more narcissistic than others probably actually are more narcissistic. People who are narcissists are almost proud of the fact. You can ask them directly because they don’t see narcissism as a negative quality -- they believe they are superior to other people and are fine with saying that publicly." -- Brad Bushman, PhD, study co-author and professor of psychology at The Ohio State University.
Narcissist Definition: Defining Two Different Types
While all narcissists are self-absorbed, lack empathy and are self-entitled, thinking they are more important than others, the condition can be further broken down into two categories:
. The Grandiose/Overt Narcissist
Grandiose narcissism includes a desire to maintain a pretentious self-image, an exhibitionistic tendency and a strong need for the admiration of others. These narcissists tend to be truly confident and are known to be dominant. Self-esteem isn’t an issue with this type.
The grandiose type is more likely to be part of what psychologist call “The Dark Trio.” This trio includes narcissism, Machiavellianism (the manipulation and exploitation of others for personal interest, with no remorse) and psychopathy, a condition characterized by impulsiveness, antisocial behavior, selfishness, callousness and lack of remorse.
. The Vulnerable/Covert Narcissist
Vulnerable narcissists tend to be more emotional, sensitive, and “feel helpless, anxious and victimized when people don’t treat them like royalty,” according to a description by Randi Kreger and Bill Eddy of the High Conflict Institute.
“Vulnerable narcissists appear to be over-compensating for low self-esteem and a deep-seated sense of shame that may date back to early childhood. They developed the behaviors as a coping mechanism to deal with neglect, abuse or a dismissive style of parent-child attachment (meaning the parents never developed a close bond with their child, so he never felt safe and secure in his parents’ love).” -- Randi Kreger and Bill Eddy, High Conflict Institute
Characterized by preoccupation with grandiose fantasies, this type of narcissist fluctuates between feelings of superiority and inferiority and fragile self-confidence. This type of narcissist is plagued by self-esteem issues, no matter how perfect his or her life may seem.
A 2016 study found that vulnerable narcissists are more vulnerable to social media addiction compared to grandiose narcissists and non-narcissists. The study, published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, found that social media sites like Facebook and Instagram (Twitter) tend to be “safe” ways for vulnerable narcissists to gain attention by controlling their images and sharing them with a wider audience.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder Causes and Risk Factors
Genetic or Learned? Maybe Both
The exact cause of narcissistic personal disorder is not known. According to Cleveland Clinic, many professionals believe that a combination of biological and genetic factors, along with individual temperamental patterns, play a part. Another possible cause of narcissism involves early life experiences, such as excessive pampering or, on the flip side, harsh or negative parenting.
It’s very common for children and teenagers to display signs of narcissism, but most grow out of this over time and don’t progress into narcissistic personality disorder. The condition does affect males more than females and tends to start emerging during the teenage or early adult years.
The Narcissist’s Brain Interestingly, in 2013, scientists used MRI brain imaging to show actual brain variations in people who lack empathy, a key feature of narcissistic personality disorder. In the study, researchers studied 34 people, 17 of whom were diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder. Although people living with this disorder are well able to recognize what other persons feel, think and intend, they display little compassion.
Scientists found that people diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder exhibited structural abnormalities in the cerebral cortex part of the brain responsible for processing and generating compassion. For people with the disorder, the brain’s external nerve cell layer of the cerebral cortex region was significantly thinner compared to the control group.
“Our data shows that the amount of empathy is directly correlated to the volume of gray brain matter of the corresponding cortical representation in the insular region, and that the patients with narcissism exhibit a structural deficit in exactly this area. Building on this initial structural data, we are currently attempting to use functional imaging to understand better how the brains of patients with narcissistic personality disorder work.” -- Dr. Stefan Röpke, lead study author.
Your Parents’ Paychecks
Growing up wealthy seems to make people more narcissistic when they take on leadership roles later in life. A study published in 2016 looking at military leaders found that those displaying narcissistic traits were more likely to have grown up in families with higher income levels.
The researchers say growing up among wealth may lead to the false belief that higher-income people are more talented or special than other people. This also may lead to the feeling that the narcissistic leader doesn’t require help, input or ideas from other people. Growing up among higher parental income indirectly impaired leadership performance by fostering narcissism, which in turn reduced engagement in important leadership behaviors, the researchers found.
In “Dangerous Personalities,” author and FBI profiler Joe Navarro lists five common narcissism traits. They include:
Looking good in every sense is vital to someone with narcissistic personality disorder. Other egocentric signs of narcissism include:
A childlike need to be the center of attention
Arriving late to meetings and parties
Presenting themselves as highly accomplished, even if they haven’t accomplished much, sustaining an image of perfection
Placing blame on others, when there’s a setback
. Overvalues Self, Devalues Others
Because narcissists view themselves as special and unique, narcissistic personalities tend to see everyone else as either marginal or inferior. Narcissists are classical bullies. And get this, as the number of narcissists is on the rise in the general population, bullying is on the rise, too.
Sometimes the digs are subtle. Navarro points out an example: At a cookout, a narcissist might say things like, “No steaks; only hamburgers?” loudly enough for all your guests to hear. That person doesn’t care how you feel; narcissists thrive by belittling others. Other signs include:
Putting other people down to elevate themselves (aka, bullying)
Belittling spouses or children, in front of people
Frequently berating waiters, waitresses, serving staff, publicly
. Instead of Empathy, You’ll Find Arrogance and Entitlement
Navarro explains that while most of us learn as children how to understand others’ feelings and how our actions impact people, narcissists tend to have little ability to sympathize or understand the feelings of others. The more you talk to someone with narcissistic personality disorder, the more you get the impression that person doesn’t care much about you. Other signs of narcissism include:
Lacking of empathy
Viewing needs, sickness or mistakes in others as weakness
. Takes Shortcuts, Bends the Rules and Violates Boundaries
People with narcissistic personality disorder often feel they don’t have to work as hard as others or that they don’t have to play by the rules. Other signs of a narcissist include:
Lying about past accomplishments or credentials (or embellishing them)
Having affairs without remorse
Pushing the envelope with people, laws, rules and social norms
Often don’t apologize (or have trouble apologizing sincerely) when they’re caught breaking the rules or hurting others
. Needs Control
A narcissist often lands in a profession like law, medicine, politics or a high-level executive position, Navarro points out. Other narcissistic signs include:
Often seeking jobs that bring power and authority
Seeking positions where they can control others
Controlling a spouse by managing all finances
Narcissism expert Preston Ni, notes:
“Narcissism is often interpreted in popular culture as a person who’s in love with him or herself. It is more accurate to characterize the pathological narcissist as someone who’s in love with an idealized self-image, which they project in order to avoid feeling (and being seen as) the real, disenfranchised, wounded self.” -- Preston Ni
THE BEST WAY TO DEAL WITH NARCISSISTS
LOVE THEM FROM AFAR
Often, the people close to us like friends, bosses, work clients or even family members can be narcissists, and it can be challenging to coexist in this space with them. If you do identify someone (see classic signs) in your life as a narcissist,the single best thing you can do is to love them from afar. Loving them from afar does not mean that you completely shut them out of your life (although this is an effective strategy for some, especially those in extreme situations), but rather, that you withdraw some of your energy and instead of actively engaging, you hold space for them in hopes that someday, they will change.
To me, loving them from afar means that you recognize you are powerless to change this person (this is where prayer is perhaps the only option), and that spending time with them can be toxic to your well-being. Limiting your interactions and time spent, not playing into their grandiose schemes and not allowing yourself to be manipulated are all perfectly acceptable strategies. In the case of people you see regularly, like work colleagues, bosses, clients and close family, sometimes loving them from afar is a less viable option because you find yourself in constant contact with them. In this case, I recommend the following steps for co-existing:
Practice Forgiveness and Compassion
It can be incredibly difficult to find compassion for someone who has no respect for other people and believes themselves to be superior to others. Even if they lack it, you can always find compassion because this person is clearly suffering terribly, whether he or she is consciously connected to the pain. Forgiving someone’s narcissism does not mean your are accepting or justifying their behavior, it just means that you no longer want to hold onto it or allow it to affect you. Remember, the way they act says nothing about you and everything about who they are. Do your best to forgive and not take their narcissism personally! (See What Is Shaktipad?)
Being a compassionate, nurturing person, I often see people suffering and I want to help them heal. I know I am not alone here. Unfortunately, when it comes to narcissists, we must learn to let go of the outcome. Narcissists usually do not think that they are in need of any help, believing instead in their own inflated perfection and superiority. Their behaviors, actions, words, and thoughts have nothing to do with you and therefore, being attached to the outcome or trying to change them in any way does not serve you and will only lead to more pain for you.
Accept that You Gave this Energy Permissionto Enter Your Space, and Learn from it
This is a difficult one, but it is true that our outside reality is a reflection of our inner space. So if you find yourself surrounded by narcissists, it is important to explore why you are in this situation and learn how to grow from it. Maybe you have underlying narcissistic traits that you are not aware of? Maybe you lack self-esteem and believe you are only worthy of narcissists in your life? Maybe you have been unwise in your decisions and the people you chose to make energetic agreements with? Maybe you didn’t realize how narcissistic these people were until it was too late? While their narcissism is definitely not your fault, allowing their energy into your space is your responsibility. By learning what brought you here and making changes, you can break out of this cycle.
You Deserve Better
Remember, if you are not a narcissist, then you deserve better than to be surrounded by narcissists! It is okay to assert this feeling and cut energetic ties to people who do not match your frequency. In many cases, this is a necessary form of survival. Many of us have been in positions of low self-esteem or believed that we did not deserve truly loving, caring people in our lives. If you have done this, give yourself permission to remove this agreement on the grounds that you DO deserve to be around compassionate, connected, loving, good people. Trust that you will meet them when you clear the space for them to move into your life. -- Source.
If there is one family in America that is qualified to speak on the issue of hatred and violence, it is the Kennedys. John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in 1963 followed by Robert F. Kennedy in 1968.
The remaining Kennedy members were so disturbed by Donald Trump that they wrote the following op-ed for The Washington Post. --
On April 4, 1968, the day the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed, Robert Kennedy was campaigning for the presidency in Indianapolis. Bobby conveyed the news of King’s death to a shattered, mostly black audience. He took pains to remind those whose first instinct may have been toward violence that President John F. Kennedy had also been shot and killed.
Bobby went on, “What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.”
That speech has crystallized into the single most enduring portrait of Bobby’s candidacy. Because it was extemporaneous, it conveyed directly, and with raw emotion, his own vulnerability, his aspirations for his country, and a deep compassion for the suffering of others. Bobby concluded his remarks that night by urging those listening to return home and say a prayer for our country and for our people. Those words mattered. While there were riots in cities across the nation that night, Indianapolis did not burn.
Today, almost 50 years later, words still matter. They shape who we are as a people and who we wish to be as a nation. In the white-hot cauldron of a presidential campaign, it is still the words delivered extemporaneously, off the cuff, in the raw pressure of the moment that matter most. They say most directly what is in a candidate’s heart. So it was with a real sense of sadness and revulsion that we listened to Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, as he referred to the options available to “Second Amendment people,” a remark widely, and we believe correctly, interpreted as a thinly veiled reference or “joke” about the possibility of political assassination.
Political violence is a terrible inherent risk to any free society. Dictators and strongmen like Vladimir Putin have an answer. They are surrounded and shielded by force at all times. They do not brook dissent. In democracies, we expect our leaders to be accessible and, by and large, they want to be. Inevitably, that makes them vulnerable and the loss of a leader at a crucial time impacts family, country, and even the world, for generations. Anyone who loves politics, the open competition of ideas and public participation in a free society, knows that political violence is the greatest of all civic sins. It is not to be encouraged. It is not funny. It is not a joke.
By now, we have heard enough dark and offensive rhetoric from Trump to know that it reflects something fundamentally troubled, and troubling, about his candidacy. Trump’s remarks frequently, if not inevitably, spark outrage, which is followed by a clarification that, in lieu of an apology, seeks to attribute the dark undertones of his words to the listener’s twisted psyche.
This fools no one. Whether you like what he is saying or, like a growing segment of the electorate, you reject it, it is easy to grasp Trump’s meaning from his words. But what to make of a candidate who directly appeals to violence, smears his opponents and publicly bullies a Gold Star family, a decorated prisoner of war, and a reporter with a disability, among others? To borrow the words of Army Counsel Joseph Welch, directed at another dangerous demagogue: “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”
The truth remains that words do matter, especially when it comes to presidential candidates. On that basis alone, Donald Trump is not qualified to be president of the United States. -- William Kennedy Smith and Jean Kennedy Smith
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None of these activities are herein presented as substitutes
for competent medical treatment. See