Is It Me? Understanding Narcissistic Personality Disorder in Yourself and Others

Narcissistic characters have long been highlighted in literature spanning such greats as King Lear by William Shakespeare, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum. These characters commonly have inflated egos, lack empathy, have repressed insecurities, and few boundaries. In real life however, according to the Mayo Clinic, Narcissist Personality Disorder (NPD) is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.

NPD is not simply a big ego; it is a condition that devastates relationships and makes work environments difficult to navigate. Those in relationships with people with NPD –  whether familial, romantic, professional or a friendship – struggle themselves, as they are often taken advantage of, manipulated or threatened. Those with NPD struggle to handle anything they perceive as criticism and can become impatient or angry when they do not receive special treatment. They can react with rage and can be verbally abusive in belittling the other person to boost their own feelings about themselves. 

Experts estimate roughly 5% of people have NPD. According to the Cleveland Clinic, Narcissism is one of 10 personality disorders and stems from childhood traumas, genetics, or hypersensitivity to stimuli.  Diagnosis is made by a mental health professional or physician using a battery of personality tests. NPD is treatable with therapy focused on improving one’s ability to relate to others, development of healthy self-esteem and cultivating realistic expectations of others. Medications may also be used in concert with therapy.

Dealing with someone with NPD can be emotionally draining and frustrating. It can also cause fear of an outburst or assault that is unexpected, or of being “gaslighted.”  It is advised to avoid direct confrontation during an angry flare-up of NPD, to establish boundaries without accepting harmful behaviors, to speak up for oneself without emotion and if needed, distancing oneself from the narcissist.  Surrounding oneself with a supportive group of loved ones can help build one’s own confidence in facing the situation. Those that deal with people who have NPD can experience self-doubt as a result of undermining and destructive behaviors. If you believe you may have NPD or know someone that does, talk to your RMG healthcare provider.

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