Ask an Empath: What Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Narcissists sometimes appear perfect from a distance

I finally got close enough to the beautiful ducks to see that they weren’t what they appeared to be.

What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Narcissistic personality disorder or NPD is a psychiatric condition in which people are exceedingly preoccupied with themselves and have an extremely inflated sense of self-worth. Narcissists are difficult for most people to understand, and even more so for empaths. In the past narcissistic personality disorder was referred to as megalomania.

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Characteristics of a Narcissist

The DSM-IV describes a narcissist as a person who fulfills at least five of the nine possible characteristics of NPD, as well as the general characteristics of a personality disorder. The nine characteristics of NPD are:

  • An extremely inflated sense of self-importance
  • Repeated fantasies of extreme wealth, perfect love, or other ideals
  • A belief that he or she is unique and should only associate with other ‘special’ people
  • A need for constant admiration
  • An unreasonable sense of entitlement
  • A tendency to take advantage of others
  • Lacking in empathy
  • A belief that others are envious of him or her and/or is commonly envious of others
  • A tendency to behave in an arrogant or haughty manner

Differentiating Narcissism from High Self-Esteem

People who are narcissistic also share many traits in common with people who have high self-esteem and a lot of confidence. The differentiation between them is that narcissists actually have low self-esteem and cannot handle criticism. Much of their behavior is a defensive attempt to prop up their own sense of self-worth.

Certain narcissistic tendencies are perfectly normal in children. However, the western world is turning out more and more narcissistic children and science is not sure why. Some factors that are believed to contribute are many activities in life that praise individual achievements and a constant, over-effusive stream of praise that is not tempered by criticism.

Empath pageBehind the Scenes of NPD

Psychologists believe that NPD is the manifestation of an individual who believes that they are too deeply flawed to be liked or valued. Instead of expressing this, individuals with NPD attempt to prove to themselves and everyone else that they are a valuable individual. Their attempts to make everyone see them as they wish to be seen are more important than anything else, including other people’s feelings.

People with NPD almost never voluntarily seek therapy. Many narcissists express disdain at the idea of therapy, consciously or unconsciously fearing that it would expose something that did not fit with their self-image. The incidence of NPD among the general U.S. population is believed to be around 1 percent.