Friday, November 7, 2014

Demystifying Narcissistic Personality Disorder


     Most are familiar with the story of narcissus, the Greek myth about a man who falls hopelessly in love with his own reflection seen in a pond where he stops to get a drink of water after a day spent walking through the woods. The myth has a variety of endings. One popular ending describes narcissus dying from starvation and thirst because he can not tear himself away from his own reflection. I find this particular ending to be most helpful for describing narcissistic personality disorder ( NPD) since at the core this disorder is an inability for one to receive or give love; in essence individuals with NPD are starving themselves of affection.

  The term narcissist or referring to one as having NPD is commonly said today. And narcissism may truly be on the rise as a result of our culture's obsession with social media, youth and physical appearance.

To be diagnosed with NPD a person must meet five or move of the following symptoms:

-has a grandiose sense of self importance. Exaggerates achievements and talents and expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements.

- is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited omnipotence, success, intelligence, beauty and ideal love.

- believes that he or she is special or unique and can only be understood by or should only associate with other special or high status people or institutions.

-requires excessive admiration

- has a strong sense of entitlement. Have unreasonable expectations of receiving favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her own expectations.

- is exploitative of others by taking advantage of others to achieve his or her own goals.

- lack empathy. Is unable and unwilling to recognize or identify the emotional needs and feelings if others.

- is often envious of others and or believes that others are envious of him or her.

- regularly behaves in arrogant and hairy ways.

NPD affects more men than women, is seen in approximately 7% of the general population and can range from mild to severe. It is thought that both biological and psychological factors contribute to the disorder. In regards to biological factors, studies suggest that individuals with NPD are more emotionally sensitive in temperament. Studies investigating psychological factors contributing to NPD indicate several psychosocial factors. The main ones being abuse or neglect in childhood, excessive praise for good behaviors and excessive criticism for bad behaviors in childhood, overindulgence and over evaluation by parents and or peers, unpredictable and unreliable caregiving and learning manipulative behaviors from parents and caregivers.

It is important to recognize that individuals with NPD struggle with profound feelings of shame, fear of rejection and feel emotionally threatened when criticized. Individuals with NPD often react with intense rage, hostility and aggression to any criticism, real or imagined. This type of reaction causes others to retreat or distance themselves from them, all of which inhibits people with NPD from having genuine and meaningful relationships.

Although NPD is a treatable disorder, most people with NPD do not voluntarily seek treatment because they are unable to acknowledge their self-destructive behaviors and thoughts. Psychoanalytic-Psychodynamic therapy, cognitive and behavioral therapy and group therapy have all been shown to be effective treatment approaches for treating NPD. As with all therapy, building a strong and positive therapeutic relationship is key for successful treatment. When an individual with NPD develops a therapeutic relationship that is secure and safe he or she can work through his or her profound feelings of shame and rejection without feeling emotionally threatened. One important therapeutic goal is to help the person with NPD develop the ability for self-compassion, compassion for others, and empathy; all necessary skills for developing meaningful relationships and for having the ability to give and receive love.

If you or a loved is struggling with NPD consider an evaluation with a mental professional. There is hope and help out there for you.

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