Sydney Hills Counselling Blog

Is There A Narcissist In Your Life?

‘They’re a narcissist!’ is an all-too-often used catchphrase I hear bandied about these days, and it’s often used randomly (and many times incorrectly!) in numerous contexts to describe individuals who display selfish traits. However, being selfish doesn’t always indicate that an individual has a Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

The term narcissist originated from the Greek myth of a beautiful, young Greek man named Narcissus who rejected love in favour of spending hours gazing at his own reflection in a spring and who then became obsessed with it. This myth of Narcissus was used to teach the moral message that the consequence of excessive self-love can be harmful. Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis first made the term narcissism popular. The word narcissism led to the condition of Narcissistic Personality Disorder being adopted by mental health professionals.

So, what’s the difference between having narcissistic traits and having Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Narcissistic personality traits don’t always indicate that a person has Narcissistic Personality Disorder. In fact, narcissism is ubiquitous; we all have a degree of it. Narcissistic traits tend to be reasonably common, especially since social media platforms have exploded in popularity over the last decade or so. Social media has become an easy way for people to lean towards narcissism. The tools available on social media sites offer fulfil the narcissist’s need for validation and approval.

The most common narcissistic personality traits are:

  • The desire for attention, recognition, and admiration
  • The viewing of the self through ‘rose-tinted’ glasses
  • A sense of self-importance.
  • Being preoccupied with one’s appearance, success, or status
  • A tendency to brag about one’s accomplishments or importance
  • Exaggeration of one’s own abilities and talents
  • Talking about oneself constantly

Dr Craig Malkin, an award-winning Cambridge Psychologist, suggests that research suggests that when people were asked how they compare to others they tended to think that they were more intelligent, attractive, and more compassionate. They also thought that they were more human than the average person. When people feel that way, they feel more resilient, and therefore, they tend to feel more optimistic. They also tended to feel more able to give and receive in relationships than people who don’t have those rose­-tinted glasses. According to Dr Malkin, that’s healthy narcissism.

So, what is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is one that is diagnosed on specific criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). The criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder include:

  • A grandiose sense of self-importance
  • Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love
  • Belief in one’s specialness and uniqueness
  • Need for excessive admiration
  • Sense of Entitlement
  • Lack of empathy
  • Envious of others or believes that others are envious of them
  • Arrogant and haughty behaviours or attitudes

Individuals who are diagnosed with NPD may experience difficulty with interpersonal relationships, work, and other aspects of life due to their intense need for admiration, their lack of empathy, and their belief in their own superiority. They may also have a difficult time accepting criticism or seeing other people’s perspectives, leading to regular and heated conflicts with others.

You can watch Dr. Craig Malkin’s YouTube video on ‘The Simplest Way to Spot Narcissistic Personality Disorder’ here. It helps to clear the confusion about what exactly defines Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

One of the toughest experiences a person can go through is being in a relationship with a narcissist and experiencing narcissistic abuse. If you suspect you have a narcissist in your life, whether they be a spouse, parent, boss, manager, or child, please contact Sydney Hills Counselling to learn how to move forward with your life in a healthier way and reclaim your self-worth. Call us today on (02)9159-6277 or email us at [email protected] for further information on how we can help you.

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