November 8th, 2023
What is Narcissism?
Narcissism is a personality disorder, often characterized by a sense of self-importance. It can often involve self-centeredness and blaming others for one's actions. Narcissistic personality disorder can negatively impact relationships and interactions with others.
Types of Narcissism-
There are five main types of narcissism: communal, covert, malignant, overt, and antagonistic. In communal narcissism, one does something with the anticipation that they will be praised. Communal narcissists may view themselves as being better than others because of their kindness and the way they think that they treat others. Covert narcissists differ from communal narcissists in the way they view their self-importance. One with covert narcissism may experience low self-esteem and compare themselves to others. They may be overly sensitive to feedback or perceived criticism, even when corrected for being in the wrong. In overt narcissism, one tends to lack empathy due to self-centeredness. They may appear to be very confident in themselves and take advantage of those who are vulnerable for their own gain. Malignant narcissists may enjoy seeing others suffer and often look for how they can get back at others. They may also do whatever it takes to get what they want, at the cost of others' expenses. Finally, antagonistic narcissism focuses on competition and wanting to be better than others. An antagonistic narcissist may constantly be belittling others or making others feel small. They may also be very hostile and always want to find something to argue about.
Traits of narcissistic personality disorder
Above, you read about the distinctions of the different types of narcissists. Many of the traits above can be seen as more general traits of narcissism, meaning that they may be displayed regardless of the specific type of narcissism. There are a range of traits that categorize narcissistic personality disorder. The following are common narcissistic traits:
1.) A sense of grandiosity- This can occur when one believes that they are better than others and that they are entitled to things that they haven’t earned.
2.) Lack of empathy for others- Narcissists often disregard the feelings of others and minimize their experiences and feelings.
3.) Need for constant admiration- Those with narcissistic traits, need to constantly be in the spotlight. They want recognition for the things that they are doing as well as seeking to be admired or thought highly of by others.
4.) Lack of respect for others' boundaries- They may invalidate boundaries that others in their lives set with them as they may not see them as necessary. Narcissists often believe that rules do not apply to them because they feel they are superior to others.
5.) Gaslighting and manipulating others- This commonly occurs when one makes someone else believe that their reality is not accurate. Narcissists try to convince others that they are the ones in the wrong. Oftentimes, narcissists do this to protect their egos.
6.) Lack of accountability- Those with narcissistic personality disorder do not like to admit that they are wrong. They may try to push the blame onto someone else or deny that they did something wrong.
7.) Excessive need for control- Narcissists often need to have control over situations and others. When they are not able to have control over a situation or person, they often become very angry.
It is important to remember that these are just some traits. This is not an exhaustive list and not all these traits are displayed in every person with narcissistic personality disorder.
Tips for best navigating a relationship with a narcissist-
Whether it is a romantic relationship, a parent, sibling, friend, or anyone else that you interact with regularly, it is important to know how to best protect oneself from narcissistic behavior. The following are a few tips to help in navigating these relationships:
1.) Set boundaries- Boundaries can be hard in any relationship, but especially with narcissistic personality disorder. One may be gaslit into thinking that they didn’t remember something correctly or may be told that they are overreacting to a situation. It is important to know what boundaries you may need in a relationship with someone narcissistic. This can include not letting them treat you with disrespect, letting them devalue your personal opinions or thoughts, and learning to say no to their requests.
2.) Know the signs- It is important to be able to recognize the signs of narcissism as listed above. Knowing these signs can help one to better keep their guard up when others around them are displaying narcissism.
3.) Don’t take blame for narcissistic behaviors- It can be easy to feel like it’s your fault that one is exhibiting narcissistic behaviors. You might think that if there was something different about you, it would change them, and they wouldn’t act the way that they do. It’s important to remember that this is a personality disorder and regardless of how you behave and the person that you are, does not change them and the way that they behave.
4.) Focus on improving your self-esteem- Narcissists often take advantage of those with low self-esteem. To improve self-esteem, one needs to be able to gain the confidence necessary to establish and uphold boundaries. They also need to be able to not let the degrading comments made by narcissists feel smaller, recognizing that this is often a narcissist's intent. Through improving self-esteem, one will have less tolerance for these degrading comments and be able to recognize that these comments are not accurate.
5.) Seek therapy- Narcissistic abuse can lead to mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and even trauma. It is important to have a space to process narcissistic abuse and to learn coping strategies such as boundary setting to deal with others' narcissistic behaviors.
Treatment for Narcissistic personality disorder
First off, it is important to recognize that there is no medication designed to treat narcissism. Those with narcissism may display behaviors consistent with other mental health disorders including bipolar disorder. They may also be likely to suffer from anxiety and depression. Given that there is no specific medication designated for narcissistic personality disorder, individuals are most prescribed mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, and SSRIs.
Psychotherapy can be an effective way of better managing narcissistic personality traits. For many, consistent and long-term engagement in therapy can be not only beneficial but also necessary. It can help one to better identify underlying triggers that they may have. It may also help one become more self-aware of their tendencies and how these tendencies and traits may impact their relationships with others. Psychotherapy can also help with distress tolerance and building tools for emotion regulation. It is important to remember that psychotherapy does not cure narcissistic personality disorder but can help with better managing it.
At Clarity Clinic, we have clinicians who specialize in working with personality disorders, including narcissism. Those with narcissism as well as their loved ones struggling with the emotional effects of narcissistic treatment can benefit from therapy. You don’t have to endure this alone. Please view our booking page to find a provider that best fits your needs.
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