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Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)

What Does Narcissism actually mean

Narcissism. It’s a word that gets thrown around. “I have an ex that is a narcissist.” You hear it all the time. To the point, that most people won’t take anyone who uses that term seriously. Many of us actually do have experiences with someone who falls on the narcissistic spectrum. That’s the thing, all people have some narcissistic traits to some degree. Many of the traits of narcissism are shared with other disorders, so it is quite difficult to accurately identify and diagnose this particular disorder, especially if you don’t have the qualifications to do so.

Regardless of opinion, or qualifications to diagnose, the numbers don’t lie. .5% of the population has Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). That’s 1 in 200 people. The average person knows 600 people. So, if you’re only average, you will come into contact with roughly 3 narcissistic people within your lifetime. Of course, it could always be more, because if you’re a “target” they may even seek you out. More on that later.

75% of Narcissists are men. So, don’t discount that in those 3 that you have/will run into, at least one of them could be a woman. While it is a disorder that is more common in wealthy cis-gendered men, it is a disorder that doesn’t discriminate and can be present anywhere. Usually, narcissistic personality disorder first appears in early adulthood. It is not more common in any ethnicities than others.

The prevalence of narcissistic personality disorder is higher in certain demographics, including:

  • 2–6% of those seeking help from mental health clinics

  • 6% of forensic analysts

  • 17% of first-year medical students

  • 20% of people in the military

Nobody should have to endure an emotionally abusive relationship. Not only is it difficult to identify people with narcissistic tendencies, but it’s also difficult to identify when someone is falling prey to such behavior. Living with a narcissistic partner can lead to a condition known as narcissistic abuse syndrome, in which a person’s self-confidence and mental health are adversely affected.

Narcissistic abuse is a form of emotional abuse perpetrated by someone who suffers from narcissism or sociopathy. These individuals have a tendency – whether conscious or subconscious – to use words and language in manipulative ways to damage, alter, or otherwise control their partner’s behavior to their advantage.

While all narcissistic abuse generally falls under the description of ‘thought control’ or ‘emotional manipulation,’ there are several ways that narcissists tend to go about this. Some narcissists use manipulative techniques like gaslighting to confuse and disorient their partners so they become more susceptible to their demands and their abuse.

Gaslighting is as difficult as narcissism is to spot. It deserves it’s own blog post to describe the affects and warning signs. Gaslighting can be done by accident but is more commonly purposeful manipulation to make you feel “crazy”. Watch for comments like:

  • “I was just joking, calm down.”

  • “You’re wrong.” (with no regard to listening to what you’re saying)

  • “It’s not your fault you don’t understand.”

  • “I never did/said that.”

  • “I’m the only one who could handle you.”

  • “Why are you so sensitive?”

  • “What I did wasn’t illegal, if it was there would be a law against it.”

  • “Just don’t worry about it.”

  • “Why don’t you trust me?!”

  • “Stop taking everything so personally.”

  • “I don’t know where you got that idea.”

  • “I’ve waited my whole life for you, I don’t know how I got so lucky.”

  • “You can’t be serious.”


One group of people that is particularly prone to narcissistic tendencies is wealthy people and those in the public spotlight, even if that spotlight is as small as a livingroom full of people while they talk about their business plans. These are people who live in more privileged environments. They often have well-paid staff waiting on them around-the-clock. They view themselves above certain tasks such as cleaning bathrooms or doing the laundry. They immediately draw everyone’s attention when they walk into a room. People are always trying to impress them.

It is, therefore, not unusual for wealthy or famous people to become self-centered, entitled, and narcissistic. The truth is that wealthy people can control their environment, and this ability to control often spills into personal relationships. The environment they live in brings out whatever narcissistic tendencies they may have. Less often, narcissists can create their own spotlight and “appear” to be wealthy, to gain the attention they feed off.

It is easy to become swept up in the charms of a narcissist. At the beginning of a relationship, they will often shower a partner with attention and gifts or taking them on holidays, making them feel like they’re the most important person in the world, and showering them with affection.

Unfortunately, when the person is a narcissist, this love doesn’t come from a good place. In fact, a narcissist will often target a type of person when searching for partners. They want to find someone they can easily take advantage of. People lacking confidence and those who people please are prime targets for narcissists. It’s not above a narcissist to play the victim to gain your sympathy, talking about how tough life has been for them or how badly they were treated in the past. Gradually, however, the affection is replaced with behaviors like gaslighting. It can start with an occasional snide comment or outright lie, and ramp up from there.

Narcissistic Traits to watch out for

The characteristics of people with narcissistic personality disorder are fairly diverse. However, there are a set of features common to most people with this condition. The American Psychological Association has a set of guidelines on how to diagnose narcissistic personality disorder that professionals refer to when they diagnose a patient.

Symptoms outlined by the official book Diagnosis and Statistics of Mental Disorders (DSM-5):

  • Arrogant behavior

  • A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (making themselves appear impressive)

  • Belief of being special, unique or high-status

  • Fantasies about power, success, beauty or an idealized vision of love

  • Lack of empathy for others

  • Need for admiration

  • Sense of entitlement

  • Tendency to exploit others

People with NPD often have fantasies about being exceptionally successful in their careers. They spend a significant amount of time comparing themselves to others. Some individuals with this condition consider themselves to be better than others, while others are overly critical of their own flaws. People with NPD may be highly resistant to criticism or highly sensitive to perceived negative opinions about them.

Co-occurring disorders

  • Depression and Anxiety. Subtypes of patients who are vulnerable to criticism from themselves or others have a higher risk of having symptoms of depression or anxiety. About 15% of people with narcissistic personality disorder also have depression, 13.5% have anxiety and around 17% have another mood disorder.

  • Bipolar Disorder. Bipolar disorder is also fairly common among people with narcissistic personality disorder. About 17% of people with pathological narcissism also have either bipolar I or bipolar II.

  • Eating Disorders. In some cases, people with narcissistic personality disorder obsess over their appearance. These individuals have a higher risk of developing an eating disorder because of their obsession with staying thin and meeting idealized beauty standards.

  • Other Personality Disorders. Different personality disorders commonly co-occur with narcissistic personality disorder. People with the condition, especially those who have a grandiose persona, may also have paranoid personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder. Histrionic, borderline and schizotypal personality disorders also sometimes co-occur with NPD.

  • Substance Use Disorders. People with narcissistic personality disorder frequently have a substance use disorder as well. They may use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate and cope with the frustration and anxiety that comes with the condition. About 14% of people with narcissistic personality disorder also have an alcohol use disorder, while 24% misuse other types of drugs.

Partners of narcissists

Partners of narcissists can start to feel like they’re losing their minds. One minute their partner is telling them how perfect they are, empowering them and saying positive things, encouraging positive change, and the next they’re accusatory. Narcissists are very good at being charming when they have an outside audience, showing their true colors only in the privacy of the home, and very skillfully shifting the blame on you in a way you believe it. So much to the core that you help the people around you believe it too.

If you are the partner of a narcissist, you can feel quite alone without understanding why. Though surrounded by people frequently, you may feel like you can’t be an honest version of yourself around anyone. Your partner may be popular and loved in society, but in your private relationship they may flip the switch. What’s more, like many victims of narcissistic abuse, you may not realize that the way you’re being treated is not okay. It can be hard to recognize the abuse and even harder to open up about it. Victims who experience this suffer from what’s called narcissistic abuse syndrome.

Those struggling with narcissistic abuse syndrome often have a hard time identifying with reality. Since their minds will be so distorted and confused from the constant abuse and emotional manipulation, they may begin to question what they know to be real. There are a number of symptoms that can affect someone who is struggling with narcissistic abuse syndrome. Many of these symptoms mimic those that are seen in people struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, a condition that affects people who have lived through serious traumas.

Symptoms outlined by the DSM-5:

  • Avoiding people, places or situations associated with the narcissistic individual

  • Intrusive, invasive, or otherwise unwanted thoughts

  • Flashbacks – recurring instances in which the individual feels like they’re reliving a traumatic experience

  • Feeling extremely alert or vigilant all the time

  • Feeling isolated, alone, or detached from others

  • Triggers, which are physical or emotional responses to situations that are similar or reminiscent to traumatic situations

All of these symptoms can manifest as a result of the narcissist’s tendency to take some sense of satisfaction in invalidating, damaging, or hurting the other individual. While the above symptoms may be easy for an outside party to observe, not everyone who is being affected by a narcissist may be willing or able to see them. In fact, many of the people who seek help after being hurt by a narcissist tend to approach a counselor or life coach hoping to improve themselves. They are often made to feel so ashamed, insecure, or delusional that they seek help for themselves instead of pointing out the problems of their partner as they’ve been “trained” to do.

Narcissistic abuse can also sometimes be observed in codependent relationships. Narcissists are able to create a relationship with others in which they are dependent upon the narcissist. Strangely, the narcissist tends to be equally as dependent on the other individual – they require them as an outlet for their emotional abuse. Putting themselves above another person makes the narcissist feel good. Not to mention, they have someone to do all the things they’re above doing.

If you think that someone might be struggling with narcissistic abuse syndrome, take this quiz:

If you think that you or someone that you love is struggling with narcissistic abuse syndrome, it’s important that you seek help. Not only should you make a conscious effort to put the narcissist out of the picture, but you should seek some treatment with a Licensed Professional.

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