Narcissism: The spelling is the easy part. (Part 2)

We opened our series yesterday, sharing the story of Narcissus. So let’s move forward and come to understand just what narcissism looks like.

Interestingly enough, it was Sigmund Freud – Uncle Siggy himself – who coined the term narcissism. And, yes, he based it upon the tale of Narcissus, derived from Greek mythology. You really do need to read yesterday’s piece. It’s a great story.

Narcissism is typically viewed upon negatively; however, it’s an essential – healthy – part of all of us. Balancing our needs with those of others is necessary, and at times the scale needs to tip toward us. I mean, to have it any other way would equate to a total lack of self-regard and living life as a doormat.

But, of course, when the scale tips our way time after time, problems may begin to occur.

Narcissistic Traits

Without suggesting anything pathological, let’s take a look at some narcissistic traits

Arrogance, conceit, being argumentative, vanity, frustration, obsession with appearance, being fretful, cycling between superiority and inferiority, selection of a partner with similar background and characteristics, striving to be better than one’s friends.

Again, these are traits – not diagnostic criteria. As much as any of the above may make someone unpleasant to be around – well – there are tons of folks like that on this planet earth.

Pathological Narcissism

The keystone of pathological narcissism is grandiosity. And it can present in two forms – a grandiose state of mind, especially in young adults, that can be willfully corrected; and a more pervasive presentation less about grandiosity than disturbed and disturbing interpersonal relationships.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

And that takes us to the front door of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). By the way, here’s a link to a chipur piece on the personality disorders. I believe you’ll find it informative and helpful.

It’s thought that 1% of the general population is pathologically narcissistic, and 75% are narcissistic men.

Here’s the diagnostic criteria for narcissistic personality disorder from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR). I suppose we could say they’re a list of narcissistic personality disorder symptoms…

A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

  1. has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
  2. is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  3. believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
  4. requires excessive admiration
  5. has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
  6. is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
  7. lacks empathy:  is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
  8. is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
  9. shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

So that gives us a glimpse of what narcissism looks like. Come back tomorrow, as we wrap the series by discussing the causes and treatment of pathological narcissism.

In the meantime, any descriptive input or personal experiences will help us all better understand narcissism. It would be great if you’d comment!