What is narcissistic personality disorder?

Narcissism facts -infographic. dealing with a narcissist.

Narcissism facts -infographic

Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have a lack of empathy of others, a deep need for admiration, and an inflated sense of self importance. On the other hand, people suffering narcissism usually have a low self-esteem and are very vulnerable to criticism. People suffering narcissism experience problems in many areas of life, such as work and relationships. At work or at school, people with narcissism can be unhappy or disappointed when they don’t get what they want (special favors and desire to be admired). In relationships, narcissism tends to push people away, and that may give the narcissist the feeling of fulfillment as they are executing control.

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At Barends Psychology Practice narcissistic personality disorder treatment is offered. Contact us to schedule a first, free of charge, appointment. (Depending on your health insurance, sometimes treatment can be reimbursed)


What are the signs of narcissism?

People with narcissism may come across pretentious, conceited, or boastful. They like to brag about all sorts of things, exaggerate their own talents and achievements, and think they are the center of attention. At the same time they belittle and take advantage of others around them, crave for constant admiration, and are unwilling to recognize the feelings and needs of other people. Usually, people with narcissism have feelings of  insecurity, shame, humiliation, and vulnerability. To get rid of these feelings, they may react outrageous, try to make people look bad or silly. By belittling other people, people with narcissism only feel better for a short period of time. Narcissistic people may feel depressed or moody because they are not perfect. Depression could even develop when they experience a lot of rejection and criticism.
According to the DSM-IV 5 of the following symptoms should be present to fit the criteria of narcissistic personality disorder:

  1. The person has a grandiose sense of self-importance. He exaggerates his own talents and achievements; he expects to be seen as superior without necessarily achieving anything).
  2. The person is preoccupied with fantasies of infinite success, power, beauty, brilliance, or ideal love.
  3. The person thinks he is unique and special and thinks he can only be understood by high-status people.
  4. The person needs constant admiration.
  5. The person has a sense of entitlement. He has unreasonable expectations of the way he should be treated or automatic compliance with his expectations.
  6. The person takes advantage of others to achieve his own goals.
  7. The person lacks empathy. Unwillingness to recognize with the feelings and needs of others.
  8. The person is jealous of others or believes that others are jealous of him.
  9. The person shows arrogant, haughty behaviours or attitudes.


Please note that the criteria should only be used as a guideline, and not as a diagnostic tool. If you want a proper diagnosis, please contact me for further details.
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How does someone become narcissistic?

Parenting styles, as well as biological predisposition, may contribute to the development of narcissism. Certain parenting styles seem to help develop unhealthy narcissism or exacerbate a biological predisposition already present. Especially the permissive/indulgent and authoritarian parenting styles can cause a lot of interpersonal difficulties, which may lead to unhealthy narcissism.

Permissive and overindulgent parenting style:

Child worship and excessive praise by parents or caregivers can lead to the development of narcissistic personality disorder. When children hear that they possess talents other children don’t have, or hardly ever receive criticism, then they start to believe that they are gifted, special, and so on. Some parents praise their children in a way that doesn’t suit the occasion (rewarding a child with a huge gift when he cleans up his room, for example). This can help develop narcissism, because a child can develop a sense of entitlement or grandiosity.

Authoritarian parenting:

A lack of empathy or the absence of love can make a child constantly frustrated. Especially if it is unclear to the child when their parent(s) will show empathy and when they won’t. It can even become traumatic and lead to an unhealthy development: poor self-esteem, depression, the need to exploit others, and eventually narcissism.

Authoritative parenting:

This parenting style is considered to be a good one. Both parents have important roles regarding nurturing the child: one parent can make up for the inadequacies of the other. Showing love and being emphatic and responsive will help a child to internalize these factors into a healthy self-object.
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Can narcissism be treated?

Narcissism can be treated! But, and there is a big but, it’s difficult to treat someone who believes they are perfect, special, unique, etc. On top of that, most people with narcissistic personality disorder simply won’t seek professional help, unless they are forced to by their partner. For partners (parents, children, and friend) it can be really difficult to live with a narcissistic person. It can be so difficult that the partner threatens the narcissist to leave him if he won’t seek help.
Schema therapy for personality disorders is significantly more effective than Clarification-Oriented Psychotherapy and ¨treatment as usual˝ (which means treatment consisted primarily of insight-oriented psychotherapy by highly experienced psychotherapists). Schema therapy results in a higher recovery rate, greater declines in depression, lower drop-out rates, and greater increases in social and general functioning [2].

[2] International Society of Schema Therapy. “Schema Therapy for personality disorders proven more effective than other major treatments.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 February 2014.