What is Narcissism?
Diagnosable Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) affects approximately 1%-6% of the population and is mostly found in males, though it is not limited to males. However, many people go undiagnosed or display traits of narcissism and can fall anywhere on the spectrum of narcissistic behavior. In general, people with NPD display disregard for others’ feelings, lack of empathy, grandiosity, and manipulation. These traits often become apparent in early adulthood. Research shows that the cause of Narcissistic Personality Disorder tends to be environmental and genetics. Children who grow up in abusive environments or who are either neglected or over indulged and praised can be susceptible to Narcissism. A person’s behavior is also tied to the structure and function of the brain. According to one study published in the Psychiatric Journal, the gray matter in the cerebral cortex in a chronic narcissist’s brain is less than found in the average mentally healthy individual.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual V, Narcissism includes symptoms such as
Have an exaggerated sense of self-importance
Have a sense of entitlement and require constant, excessive admiration
Expect to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
Exaggerate achievements and talents
Be preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
Believe they are superior and can only associate with equally special people
Monopolize conversations and belittle or look down on people they perceive as inferior
Expect special favors and unquestioning compliance with their expectations
Take advantage of others to get what they want
Have an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
Be envious of others and believe others envy them
Behave in an arrogant or haughty manner, coming across as conceited, boastful and pretentious
Insist on having the best of everything — for instance, the best car or office
A Narcissist does not have to have all of these symptoms but these are very common. Also remember, that it is a spectrum and people can have these qualities or traits and still do great harm even if they do not qualify for an official diagnosis.
What is Narcissistic Abuse?
In a relationship, the Narcissistic cycle of abuse often looks like passive aggressive “jokes”at your expense, victimizing themselves after hurting you, gaslighting and getting back at you. There are three key components of Narcissistic Abuse. They include idealization, devaluation, and rejection. The idealization stage is sometimes referred to as the honeymoon stage. This often includes love bombing, romantic gestures, putting you on a pedestal and so forth. Then comes the devaluation. The narcissist may withhold affection, give subtle digs, put you down, and cut away at your self-confidence. Finally, in the rejection stage, where the narcissist acts is if they no longer want you. This cycle often repeats itself.
Types of Narcissism
Cerebral Narcissist: Believe they have a superior intellect
Somatic Narcissist: Focuses on outer appearance and draws from praise for their appearance and potentially sexual endeavors.
Overt Narcissist: Always has to be in control and is always right. High expectations and lare egos, while rarely feeling guilt.
Covert Narcissist: May appear kind and quiet or even altruistic. Often found in religious leaders or even a parent. Their abuse is unleashed on those closest to them.
Parasitic Narcissist: Exhibits the most common traits of narcissism and don’t take responsibility and usually leach off of their partners.
Boomerang Narcissist: They come in and out of your life as they please and are drawn to those who are codependent and who will accept inconsistency. They may have more than one person they bounce back and forth from.
Remember, that a person can have qualities from more than one type of Narcissism and a person can demonstrate any of these traits without being officially diagnosed.
The REAL DEAL
Dealing with a narcissist whether it be at work, in your family, or even your spouse, can have a heavy negative impact in your life. You may be wondering, how did my world get so small? Or how did I become so small? No matter how confident you are, being in close relationship with a Narcissist eventually wears on you and you can end up doubting yourself, feeling like you do nothing right, questioning whether or not you are blowing things out of proportion or even feeling such empathy and sympathy for the self victimized narcissist that you make more sacrifices to build them up. The Narcissist believes that they are the sun and you live just by being in their warmth and you can end up believing that too and clamoring for their affection. They are very talented at dangling that carrot that makes you think that things could be “good again.” They know when to love bomb and give you portions of what you need to keep you holding at hope that it can always be good. At the root of Narcissism is deep insecurity, but it is not the kind that is lifted with kind and encouraging words. This insecurity is like a parasite and will feed off of anything or anyone at all costs. Once it sees that its supply is out, it will move on to the next host.
Unfortunately, there is no specific medication or treatment for NPD. A physician or practitioner can treat anxiety or depression in someone with NPD and this may help some. Talk therapy may also help the patient learn how to adjust their overinflated expectations of others and build their own self-esteem. Other forms of therapy may also incorporate therapeutic techniques to help the person identify their own insecurities and negative thoughts and change them with positive thoughts and behaviors. However, there is no official cure for NPD.
So What do you do?
We cannot “love” a person out of Narcissism. If you are in an abusive cycle then there is nothing wrong with doing what you need to do to protect yourself, especially if you recognize that you are a shell of your former self. It is always okay to take a step back, ask for help, and make choices that add value to your life. One thing that keeps people from breaking ties with someone with NPD or setting boundaries is that the Narcissist will often try to ruin the reputation of the victim, and sadly, many people will believe them. People often hesitate to “choose sides” and without concrete evidence of abuse, can be skeptical. The key is to trust yourself. Stay grounded, and remember that the only one who has to believe you is you. Seek professional counseling and support groups and get back the parts of you that the Narcissist took. It may be hard, but it will definitely be worth it and you can feel whole again!
Disclaimer: This information is not a substitute for therapy. It is not medical or behavior advice. The writer is not liable for any decisions you come to after reading the article. Please seek professional help if you feel you need more support. All opinions and thoughts expressed are my own. This is a blog post and should not be considered official research.