What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)?
Someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder has a grandiose (unrealistic belief of superiority and entitlement) sense of self, a need to be admired and a lack of empathy toward others. They are typically described as self-centered, manipulative and arrogant. People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder feel that they are special and strive to be associated with people they believe are of high status. They are in constant search for attention and do not receive criticism well, as it leaves them feeling hurt and personally attacked. A Narcissist’s often intense and disproportional reaction to being criticized is often termed as Narcissistic Rage. If you have been the recipient of it, then this makes sense to you.
Traits of Someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder
People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder usually mentally retreat from reality because it does not support their grandiose ideology or way of perceiving the world. Instead, they create a world based on self-deception, fanciful thinking and distortion. Creating these alternate realities increases their feeling of being in control and sense of importance. People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder will also exploit those around them with no remorse. Because they are unable to identify with the emotions of others, they tend to see people as objects and treat them as such. They may due so by belittling, bullying, and demeaning those they do not view as special or useful to them, but use others who are useful to them.
Coping with Someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Dealing with a person that has Narcissistic Personality Disorder can be difficult, tedious and emotionally draining. Here are some tips that will help ease this process:
- Set healthy boundaries– Be sure to stand firm. Once the boundary is set a narcissist will try to test the limits of how far they can go. If this happens, the agreed upon consequences must be set in motion. Otherwise, the narcissist will not be take the boundaries seriously and continue to violate you.
- Be gentle– Focus on explaining how their actions make you feel, rather than pointing out their faults and intentions. Stay as calm as possible and revisit the conversation another time if necessary.
- Do not feed into their fantasies-Do not make excuses for their behavior, as it only makes the disorder more difficult to manage. Instead, focus on your life goals and the steps you need to take to get there.
- Stay aware-Narcissists are very charming and alluring. They are good at convincing others to believe what they believe, so tread lightly.
Treatment Options for Narcissistic Personality Disorder
The severity of personality disorders fall on a spectrum, meaning some individuals function better and maintain relationships and jobs better than others who have these types of disorders. With other mental health diagnoses, it is the individual that experiences distress, but with personality disorders, especially with NPD, it is their loved ones, co-workers, and innocent bystanders that experience distress because of the Narcissist. Some Narcissists too may be proud of their narcissism and openly admit how they are narcissistic and believe they are special and have no desire to change. Most that do seek treatment, but those that do, do so as a result of a lost relationship, job, or a legal problem. Helping someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder can be tricky due to their defensiveness and view of themselves and the world. However, long-term psychotherapy with a psychologist or other highly trained mental health specialist is typically necessary. Long term psychotherapy or intense psychological counseling helps those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder learn to relate to others and become aware of the causes behind their emotions, reasons for their deep distrust of those around them, and often destructive behaviors.
That being said, goals of psychotherapy for people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder include aiding them in learning how to understand and control their emotions, learning to let go of unobtainable desires, maintain true relationships with friends, family and co-workers and better deal with things that affect their self-esteem. Further the challenge is to teach them to better understand how the world truly sees them. This latter challenge can be quite difficult, as these individuals, because of their sense of self and desire for the limelight, are often in important positions that affect others. Challenging their importance may become less of a goal in these cases, and the focus instead is about establishing empathy and understanding how their sense of self impacts those around them.
At D’Arienzo Psychological Group, we do treat those with personality disorders such as NPD. We also help family members and friends that are impacted by Narcissists, and we can assist in developing a plan for intervention if that is warranted.
This article’s content was provided to D’Arienzo Psychological Group by our psychology intern and University of North Florida graduate, Kaela Robertson, BA in collaboration with Dr. D’Arienzo.