Narcissistic Personality Disorder


Narcissistic Personality Disorder is the name of a Personality Disorder that is characterised by an exaggerated feeling of self-importance, obsession with power, a pervasive need for admiration and complements, alongside exhibiting a lack of empathy. People with the disorder often focus extensively on their appearance and take advantage of others. The disorder is part of the ‘Dramatic, Emotional and Erratic’ cluster of personality disorders. This article provides a general look at this disorder.


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A person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder will typically:

  • Have persistent grandiosity.
  • Attempt to secure power over an individual.
  • Believe there are special reasons that make them more special or better than others.
  • Take advantage of other people.
  • Be selfish.
  • Feel they are ‘above’ other people.
  • Put their own needs ahead of others.
  • Show no empathy.
  • Resent other people’s success.
  • Need to receive compliments and general plaudits.
  • Spend excessive time in perfecting their appearance.
  • Have a low self-esteem, despite not displaying this on the outside.
  • Be sensitive to criticism.



It is believed that Narcissistic Personality Disorder is caused by a combination of environmental, genetic, social and neurobiological factors. A family history of the disorder makes it more likely for an individual to develop the disorder. The specific genes involved haven’t yet been determined. It is also believed that some people who are neglected as a child are at an increased risk of developing the disorder – due to a feeling of being undervalued. However, permissive parenting too can lead to the disorder developing. Any emotional abuse or trauma can cause the disorder too. Copying or being exposed to manipulative behaviours is another common trigger.



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If you suspect you have a personality disorder, it is generally advisable to see your GP. It is likely that they will refer you to a specialist. This specialist will perform a diagnosis – which will involve asking you several questions about your condition and the impact it has had on your life. Generally, the clinician will use guidelines from the American Psychiatric Association to confirm a diagnosis. There has been some controversy over its suitability for making a diagnosis. The guidelines state a diagnosis can be made if the majority of the traits below have been exhibited on a long-term basis.


  1. Grandiosity with expectations of superior treatment from other people.
  2. Fixated on fantasies of power, success, intelligence, attractiveness etc.
  3. Self-perception of being unique, superior and associated with high-status people and institutions
  4. Needing continual admiration from others
  5. Sense of entitlement to special treatment and to obedience from others
  6. Exploitative of others to achieve personal gain.
  7. Unwilling to empathise with the feelings, wishes and needs of other people.
  8. Intensely envious of others, and the belief that others are equally envious of them.
  9. Pompous and arrogant demeanour.


Source: American Psychiatric Association (2013), Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.), Arlington: American Psychiatric Publishing, pp. 669–72, ISBN 0890425558



Individuals diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder are notoriously difficult to treat. This is in part due to a patient’s feeling that there is nothing wrong with them. Usually, an individual with the disorder will seek treatment for a different issue – such as Bipolar disorder or Depression. It will only be afterwards that the personality disorder is realised. In any case, treatment for Narcissistic personality disorder is normally carried out by Psychotherapy. Psychoanalytical Psychotherapy has been shown to be particularly useful. The therapy will be used to identify the causes of the disorder, and then work out ways to eradicate the unhelpful behaviour. Changing the behaviour of a narcissistic individual can take considerable time – but can be achieved with commitment from both clinician and patient. In some cases, group therapy can be helpful – with others able to provide feedback on unwanted traits. While no medication is licensed to treat Narcissistic personality disorder, a patient can be prescribed a medicine for a condition caused by the disorder – such as Anxiety or Depression. An antidepressant will usually be prescribed.



Other Personality Disorders: