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Personality Disorders - Narcissistic Personality Disorder
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Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), commonly referred to as megalomania, is a personality disorder that is characterized by extreme feelings of self-importance, a high need for admiration, and a lack of empathy. Narcissistic personality disorder can be considered to be a pathological form of narcissism. It is estimated that 0.7-1% of the general population is afflicted with narcissistic personality disorder. Most people with narcissistic personality disorder (50-75%, according to the DSM) are men.

Clinical experience

Narcissistic personality disorder is often diagnosed (comorbid) with other mental health disorders, especially substance abuse and impulsive and reckless behaviors.

There is only scant research regarding pathological narcissism; but what research there is has not demonstrated any ethnic, social, cultural, economic, genetic, or professional predilection to narcissistic personality disorder.

The onset of pathological narcissism is in infancy, childhood, and early adolescence. It is commonly attributed to childhood abuse and trauma inflicted by parents, authority figures, or even peers.

There is a whole range of narcissistic reactions, from the mild, reactive and transient to the permanent personality disorder.

People with narcissistic defenses are either cerebral (derive their narcissistic supply from their intelligence or academic achievements)— or somatic (derive their narcissistic supply from their physique, exercise, physical or sexual prowess and "conquests").

People with narcissistic defenses are either "classic" (meet five of the nine diagnostic criteria included in the DSM), or they are "compensatory" (their narcissism compensates for deepset feelings of inferiority and lack of self-worth).

Some speculate that there are people with narcissistic defenses who are covert, or inverted, narcissists. As codependents, they derive their narcissistic supply from their relationships with classic narcissists.

The prognosis for an adult suffering from the pathological form of narcissism is poor, though his adaptation to life and to others can improve with treatment. Medication may be a treatment for comorbid mental health disorders, such as mood disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder, usually with some success. Narcissistic personality disorder itself may be treated in psychotherapy.

Diagnostic Criteria (DSM-IV-TR)

A narcissistic personality disorder as defined by the DSM (see DSM cautionary statement) is characterized by an all-pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration or adulation and lack of empathy, usually beginning by early adulthood and present in various contexts. According to the DSM, five (or more) of the following criteria are considered necessary for the clinical diagnosis to be met:

  • Feels grandiose and self-important (e.g., exaggerates accomplishments, talents, skills, contacts, and personality traits to the point of lying, demands to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements);
  • Is obsessed with fantasies of unlimited success, fame, fearsome power or omnipotence, unequaled brilliance (the cerebral narcissist), bodily beauty or sexual performance (the somatic narcissist), or ideal, everlasting, all-conquering love or passion;
  • Firmly convinced that they are unique and, being special, can only be understood by, should only be treated by, or associate with, other special or unique, or high-status people (or institutions);
  • Requires excessive admiration, adulation, attention and affirmation — or, failing that, wishes to be feared and to be notorious (narcissistic supply);
  • Feels entitled. Demands automatic and full compliance with their unreasonable expectations for special and favorable priority treatment.
  • Is "interpersonally exploitative", i.e., uses others to achieve their own ends;
  • Devoid of empathy. Is unable or unwilling to identify with, acknowledge, or accept the feelings, needs, preferences, priorities, and choices of others;
  • Constantly envious of others and seeks to hurt or destroy the objects of their frustration. Suffers from persecutory (paranoid) delusions stemming from a belief that others are envious of them and are likely to act similarly;
  • Behaves arrogantly and haughtily. Feels superior, omnipotent, omniscient, invincible, immune, "above the law", and omnipresent (magical thinking). Rages when frustrated, contradicted, or confronted by people they consider inferior to themselves and unworthy.

Relation to Psychopathy

Psychopathy, as it is traditionally defined, is a three-faceted personality disorder affecting interpersonal, emotional, and behavioral areas of functioning. Psychopaths exhibit an arrogant and deceitful interpersonal style and a deficient affective experience, whose clinical signs closely resemble those of narcissistic personality disorder. The impulsive and irresponsible behavioral style is not diagnostic of narcissistic personality disorder, however.

The DSM-IV-TR's antisocial personality disorder emphasizes reckless and exploitive criminal conduct whereas narcissistic personality disorder emphasizes emotional indifference and self-centeredness (egoism). Psychopathy is essentially a combination of the two.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Narcissistic Personality Disorder".