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What Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

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Many people exhibit traits of narcissism, whether it be displaying a sense of entitlement or failing to take the feelings of other people into consideration. At some point, however, one’s narcissism can become so disruptive that it rises to the level of a diagnosable personality disorder.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is defined as a psychiatric disorder that results in people having an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration. While NPD is controversial in its diagnosis, treatment, and whether it should be recognized as a disorder, it is currently a recognized personality disorder that can be diagnosed and treated.

While there is no laboratory test to check for Narcissistic Personality Disorder, clinicians recommend a patient undergo a physical exam to make sure no physical issues are causing the symptoms. Keep in mind that some of these symptoms of NPD can resemble those of other personality disorders, and it’s not uncommon for personality disorders, such as Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) to co-occur. 

Narcissistic Personality Disorder Symptoms

In the current version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, five or more of the following symptoms must be present for a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder:An arrogant, haughty persona

  • A need for constant admiration
  • A sense of entitlement
  • An exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • A preoccupation with grandiose ideas about success, power, or beauty
  • A belief that the person is “special” and can only associate with similarly “special” people
  • A tendency to take advantage of or exploit other people
  • An inability to recognize other people’s needs and feelings
  • A feeling of envy toward others

Symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder can be effectively addressed and treated at a residential or outpatient treatment center for personality disorders. These treatment centers will address both NPD and any co-occurring disorders, such as Borderline Personality Disorder or substance abuse, for a more complete recovery.

NPD: A Controversial Disorder

Narcissistic Personality Disorder first appeared in the DSM-III, in large part by recommendations of psychoanalysts Otto Kernberg and Heinz Kohut. Their work on the unique challenges of treating NPD drew a lot of attention, and some concluded that expressive or insight-oriented treatment could help manage this disorder, which was once thought to be impossible to treat.

Members of a workgroup for the upcoming DSM-V, slated for publication in May 2013, recommend removing Narcissistic Personality Disorder and four other personality disorders. This idea is still up for debate within the psychiatric community.