Pathological narcissism: what it is and how it manifests itself

Pathological narcissism: what it is and how it manifests itself

The word  narcissism  refers to an excess of vanity and self-love, but it is a very common feature. However, there is also  pathological narcissism , which therapists describe as  narcissistic personality disorder . Compared to the common  narcissism, there  are considerable differences, and sometimes those who suffer from it turn to a specialist to be treated: more information in the next paragraphs.

Narcissism as a pathology

The  pathological narcissism  has several traits judged as negative: total absence or most of empathy toward others, contempt or envy of others, and a tendency to exploit other people for selfish ends.

Furthermore, a  pathological narcissist   manifests a serious lack of interest in the needs of others and in the world in general, an inability to build interpersonal relationships, a huge self-centeredness, a constant need for recognition.

The  narcissistic personality disorder  can be divided into two subtypes:

  • Fragile subtype: when the  narcissist  is conditioned by numerous feelings of shame and a sense of humiliation. He is very afraid of the judgment of others, and avoids any situation in which he perceives that he may receive a negative judgment.
  • Great subtype: when the  narcissist  tends to feel superior, and tends to despise other people. Demonstrate an arrogant and careless attitude towards others.

The symptoms of pathological narcissism

The  pathological narcissism can manifest starting from adolescence. It can be diagnosed in a person if at least 5 of the following behaviors occur:

  • The person attaches great importance to himself.
  • He often tends to make fantasies of unlimited success, power, charm, beauty or ideal love.
  • He believes he is unique, exceptional, and that he should only relate to people with a high social class.
  • He always wants people to admire him.
  • He has the feeling that he is entitled to every good, and that all his desires must always be fulfilled.
  • He lacks empathy for other people.
  • He has an oppressive behavior towards others, that is, he behaves badly with most other people. And in some cases it tends to exploit them to achieve certain personal ends.
  • Feel a sense of apathy or emptiness despite achieving important successes.
  • He thinks he is not sufficiently recognized in his value.

The causes of narcissistic personality disorder

Experts have different opinions on the causes that lead to the development of  pathological narcissism . Summarizing them, we can say that the reasons that lead to the development of  narcissistic personality disorder could be the following:

  • The fact that some parents believe in the superiority of the narcissist, and therefore praise only the particularities of the child that can ensure its success.
  • The presence of a family environment that is unable to teach the child to modulate his emotions, his desires, and his self-esteem. According to some experts, in this context the child would grow up with the belief that he could always do without the others, and that he could only count on himself.
  • The fact that an overprotective family environment would prevent the child from developing self-confidence.
  • The fact that a too indulgent family environment (that is the opposite of overprotective) would make the child believe that he is one step above all the others.
  • The fact that if a child often receives humiliations and offenses (especially from other children), he could react to this by developing a very high sense of self. This would allow him to safeguard his self-esteem.

Therefore, considering what has just been said, a  pathological narcissist  would not be a “bad” person in the strict sense of the term, but an individual who in childhood has grown poorly, or has lived humiliating experiences. And because of what he experienced when he was very young, once he grew up he would develop the symptoms of  pathological narcissism , with all the consequences that derive from it.

The consequences of pathological narcissism

Individuals suffering from  pathological narcissism are usually judged happier than others in society. They are self-enhancing people, very rational and impulsive, who almost never learn from mistakes made in the past, and often enter into disciplinary and legal discussions.

However, it often happens that pathological narcissists may have problems in the workplace, in the family context or at school.

Some of them tend to bind to famous and successful people, thanks to which they can enjoy the success of others in order to feel important, that is how they think they should feel. For this reason, they develop superficial relationships, mostly opportunistic. In many cases, if they perceive that the relationship no longer guarantees them the desired benefits, they tend to abandon the other person.

Furthermore, when their continuous requests for admiration, for favorable treatments, and for satisfying their needs to the detriment of others are no longer granted, they can become furious, or show a sense of contempt and detachment. And therefore, not being empathetic, that is, not being able to reflect in the feelings of others, they try to do everything possible to obtain the benefits that they believe they have unjustly lost. Therefore they could exploit others to satisfy their whims, and in turn others could turn these people away precisely because they feel exploited.

When they realize they are left alone and abandoned, pathological narcissists experience a strong sense of anxiety and depression, and it is often only this type of condition that can push them to seek help from a specialist, together with the fact that in certain cases, in attempt to find the lost “greatness”, also manifest problems of alcoholism or drug addiction.

The condition of severe anxiety and depression, which sometimes also leads them to take substances that are not good for health, can develop it even in the event of a particular defeat, a job or school failure, a lack of recognition at school or at work, and in all the cases in which their self-efficacy and their feeling of greatness are compromised.

How to cure pathological narcissism

If we talk about  pathological narcissism cure , it must be said that to solve the problem of  narcissistic personality disorder,  there are several possible ways, including:

  • Individual psychotherapy, in particular cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy and psychoanalytic therapy.
  • Group therapies.
  • Couple therapies.
  • Family therapies.
  • Pharmacological treatments: the scientific evidence has so far proved to be scarce as regards the possibility of treating the disease itself related to  pathological narcissism . However in some cases the drugs are recommended, for example, to combat any ailments related to this pathology, such as: hypochondria, social anxiety and / or depression.