It is common for people to call each other narcissists but are they really? Or are they just being a little self-centered (which we all are from time to time)? Other words people use for this are selfishness, ego-mania, arrogance, controlling and so on.
Experts estimate that only up to 5% of people have Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). So it isn’t that common. And it is classified as a personality disorder.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) which psychiatrists and counselors use in diagnosing mental health conditions, Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is defined as “comprising a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), a constant need for admiration, and a lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by the presence of at least 5 of the following 9 criteria”:
- A grandiose logic of self-importance (e.g. they think and act as if they are superior to others)
- A fixation with fantasies of infinite success, control, brilliance, beauty, or idyllic love
- A credence that he or she is extraordinary and exceptional and can only be understood by, or should connect with, other extraordinary or important people or institutions
- A desire for unwarranted admiration
- A sense of entitlement
- Interpersonally oppressive behavior
- No form of empathy
- Resentment of others or a conviction that others are resentful of him or her
- A display of egotistical and conceited behaviors or attitudes
Another model, characterizes this disorder as having fair or superior impairment in personality functioning, apparent by characteristic troubles in at least two of the following four areas (American Psychiatric Association, 2013):
Sometimes, but not always, a person suffering from NPD may also have a substance abuse problem as well.
If they really are a narcissist, can they change?
According to WebMD, there is no cure for NPD but therapy can help.
Psychotherapy (i.e. talk therapy) can help them to recognize their own strengths and weaknesses. It can help them to develop more realistic expectations for themselves and others. Ironically people with NPD often deep down have low self-esteem and therapy can help them overcome this.
Deciding if someone really is a narcissist involves a complex assessment. There are many factors to consider. Discuss it with your therapist to see if someone really is a narcissist or if they are just gaslighting you – misleading you and making you question your own judgments and reality. And your counselor can also help you to decide if you really want to be around this person and regardless of them – how you can make your life better going forward whether you stay with them or not.