Narcissism is a disorder in which a person has an inflated sense of self-importance, and is most often associated with arrogant, conceited, and domineering attitudes and behaviours. Narcissism is the human experience of feeling important, needing admiration and attention, and wanting success and love. It’s normal and can even be a healthy personality trait, if it’s mild and occasional. It’s perfectly possible to feel or act a little narcissistic without having what would be classed as a disorder.

“It’s not easy being superior to everyone I know” – Anonymous 

Narcissism vs Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is narcissistic personality traits taken to extremes, and is a mental condition in which people have a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.

Despite the recent popularity of the term “narcissist”, there are some distinct differences between someone who has narcissistic traits and someone who may actually have NPD. Even though only a psychotherapist working directly with a person can officially diagnose an individual as having a personality disorder, it can still be useful to learn more about the differences between narcissistic behaviour, and the actual disorder. 

Many people are called “narcissists” who may not actually meet the criteria for the disorder, or have the underlying emotional motivations of the disorder. While most of us are guilty of some narcissistic behaviours from time to time, in clinical terms, a pathological narcissist tends to have grandiose thoughts about their social value, particularly in relation to other people. Since no one is perfect and the world is constantly providing obstacles and challenges to desired outcomes, pathological narcissism involves significant regulatory deficits and maladaptive strategies to cope with disappointments and threats to a positive self-image.

NPD is an enduring, consistent pattern of self-aggrandizing attitudes and behaviours. People with NPD may act superior and confident, but are often fragile and lack self-esteem. They crave attention and praise yet are unable to form close relationships. 

In the current digital age of Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram, narcissism may seem more evident than ever. Hard statistics and science are pointing in this direction. The “look at me” mentality that is often promoted by social networks has people positively captivated with the image they present to the world.

NPD is found more commonly in men (roughly 75% of people diagnosed with NPD are men). As with many personality disorders, the exact cause of NPD is unknown. It is probably a mixture of genes, early childhood experiences and psychological factors.

How can I tell if I am in a narcissistic relationship?

A narcissistic relationship can lead to a lot of emotional distress. If your partner is all about themselves, always needing attention and affirmation, he or she may be a narcissist. If they are easily slighted or over-reactive to criticism, they may also be a narcissist. If they feel they are always right, that they know more, or that they have to be the “best”, these are also signs of narcissism.  Narcissistic individuals may only appear to care about you when you are fulfilling their needs or serving a purpose for them. 

Below are some common traits that a narcissistic relationship partner is likely to have: 

  • Lack of empathy
  • Controlling or manipulative behaviour
  • False image projection
  • Sense of entitlement or superiority
  • Strong need for admiration
  • Conversation hoarder/interrupter
  • Focus on getting their own needs met, often ignoring the needs of others
  • Difficulty accepting feedback about their behaviour
  • Higher levels of aggression

Although there is treatment, those with NPD truly believe relationship issues are the other person’s fault, and usually don’t agree that they have a problem. It can be difficult for someone with NPD to seek treatment since they generally don’t recognise they have a problem in the first place. The narcissist must overcome their self-centered and negative traits for there to be any hope of recovering a good relationship from a narcissistic relationship. 


Narcissistic Personality Disorder

“Borderline Conditions and Pathological Narcissism”

Otto Kernberg (1985)

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

In a Relationship with a Narcissist? What You Need to Know About Narcissistic Relationships

Pathological Narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Causes of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD)

Where Is The Line Between ‘Regular’ Narcissism And Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Narcissistic Personality Disorder vs. Normal Narcissism

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD)

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