Depressive Narcissist

Uploaded 8/17/2010, approx. 5 minute read

My name is Sam Vaknin. I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.

Many scholars consider pathological narcissism to be a form of depressive illness. This is the position of the authoritative magazine Psychology Today, for instance.

The life of the typical narcissist is indeed punctuated with recurrent bouts of dysphoria, ubiquitous sadness and hopelessness, anhedonia, loss of the ability to feel pleasure, and clinical forms of depression, cyclophagic, dycemic, or some other episode.

This picture is further obfuscated by the frequent presence of mood disorders, such as the bipolar I disorder.

While the distinction between reactive exogenous and endogenous depression is now obsolete, it is still useful in the context of narcissism.

Narcissists react with depression not only to life crisis, but to fluctuations in narcissistic supply and to the internal dynamics that these fluctuations generate.

The narcissist's personality is disorganized. It is precariously balanced. The narcissist regulates his sense of self-worth by consuming narcissistic supply from others, from his human environment.

Narcissistic supply is attention, adulation, admiration. The narcissist uses this feedback, uses these human inputs to regulate his self-confidence, self-esteem, and his sense of self-worth.

Any threat to the uninterrupted flow of narcissistic supply compromises the psychological integrity and the ability to function of the narcissist. It is perceived by the narcissist consequently as life-threatening.

So we have several types of dysphoria and depression in pathological narcissism.

First, there is the loss-induced dysphoria. This is a narcissist's depressive reaction to the loss of one or more sources of narcissistic supply or to the disintegration of a pathological narcissistic space, the geographical area within which the narcissist hunts for sources of supply.

The pathological narcissistic space is the stocking or hunting grounds of the narcissist. It is the geographical social unit whose members leverage the narcissist with attention, admiration, adulation. When these people disperse or refuse to continue to provide the narcissist with his supply, the narcissist goes into deep funk, deep depression.

Then we have the deficiency-induced dysphoria. This is a deep and acute depression which follows the aforementioned losses of supply sources and space.

Having warned these losses, the narcissist now grieves their inevitable outcome in absence or deficiency of narcissistic supply.

So when the narcissist loses a source of supply, there is one type of depression when he digests the meaning of the loss, outcomes, the inevitable outcomes of the loss, when he realizes that he no longer is going to have narcissistic supply, he has deficiency-induced dysphoria which is much more acute and much deeper.

Paradoxically, this second type of dysphoria energizes the narcissist and moves him to find new sources of narcissistic supply and to replenish his dilapidated stock.

Then we have the self-worth dysregulation dysphoria.

The narcissist reacts with depression to any criticism or disagreement, especially when they come from a trusted and long-term source of narcissistic supply.

He fears the imminent loss of the source and the damage to his own fragile mental balance.

The narcissist also resents his vulnerability and his extreme dependence on feedback from others.

This type of depressive reaction is therefore a kind of mutation of self-directed aggression.

The narcissist hates his dependence, resents himself and directs aggression at himself in the form of depression.

Then we have the grandiosity gap dysphoria.

The narcissist firmly, though counterfactually, perceives himself as omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, brilliant, accomplished, irresistible, perfect, immune, invincible, etc.

In other words, the narcissist entertains grandiose fantasies and an inflated self-image. Any data to the contrary is usually filtered, altered or discarded altogether.

Still, sometimes reality is so strong, so overwhelming and so pervasive that it intrudes and this creates a grandiosity gap.

The abyss between the narcissist's self-perception, his inflated self-image, his false self and the drab, dreary and shabby reality in which he finds himself.

The narcissist is then forced to face his mortality, his limitations, his ignorance and his relative inferiority. He sucks, he sinks into an incapacitating, albeit short-lived dysphoria.

Finally, we have the self-punishing dysphoria.

Deep inside, the narcissist, as we said, hates himself and doubts his own worth. He deplores his desperate addiction to narcissistic supply. He judges his actions and intentions harshly and sadistically. He may be unaware of these dynamics, but they are at the heart of the narcissistic disorder.

And the reason the narcissist has to resort to narcissism as a defense mechanism in the first place is this self-hatred.

Narcissism as a defense mechanism is compensatory. It compensates for deep-seated self-hatred, self-defeat and self-destruction.

This inexhaustible well of ill-will, self-chastisement, self-doubt and self-directed aggression yields numerous self-defeating and self-destructive behaviors from reckless driving and substance abuse to suicidal ideation and constant depression.

It is the narcissist's ability to confabulate that saves him from himself.

His grandiose fantasies remove him from reality and prevent recurrent narcissistic injuries.

Many narcissists end up delusional, schizoid or paranoid.

To avoid agonizing and knowing depression, they give up on reality itself. It's the only way to survive.

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Narcissist: Is He or Isn't He?

Narcissism is a spectrum of behaviors, from healthy to pathological, and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual specifies nine diagnostic criteria for narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). A malignant narcissist is someone who has NPD and wreaks havoc on themselves and their surroundings. They feel grandiose and self-important, exaggerate accomplishments, and demand recognition as superior without commensurate achievements. They require excessive admiration, adulation, attention, and affirmation, and are interpersonally exploitative, devoid of empathy, and constantly envious of others.

How Narcissist Is Mortified

Narcissistic behavior can be modified through treatment, but pathological narcissism is unchangeable. Narcissists have empathic aphantasia, meaning they cannot visualize other people in an empathic way. The misinformation effect is a bigger problem for narcissists than for normal people because they have severe problems with their memory and are dissociative. The longer the delay between the presentation of the original event and the post-event information, the more likely it is that individuals will incorporate the misinformation into the new memory.

Narcissist’s 3 Depressions

Narcissists experience three types of depression: loss-induced dysphoria, deficiency-induced dysphoria, and self-worth dysregulation dysphoria. Loss-induced dysphoria occurs when sources of narcissistic supply gradually fade away, while deficiency-induced dysphoria is an acute response to abrupt loss of supply. Self-worth dysregulation dysphoria is a reaction to a sudden drop in self-esteem and self-worth due to criticism or humiliation. Narcissists are not happy-go-lucky individuals; they are heavily wounded, traumatized, and grieving people who try to compensate for their sadness with a facade of happiness and grandiosity.

Narcissist's Cycles of Ups and Downs

Narcissists go through cycles of mania and depression, which are caused by external events or circumstances known as triggers. The cycles are different from manic depressive cycles in bipolar disorder, which are endogenous. The narcissist is addicted to narcissistic supply and seeks admiration, adoration, approval, attention, and so on. The narcissist goes through ups and downs, including a depressive phase, a hibernation phase, and a manic phase, which are all part of the process of obtaining and securing narcissistic supply.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder Prevalence and Comorbidity

Pathological narcissism is a lifelong pattern of traits and behaviors that signify infatuation and obsession with oneself to the exclusion of all others. Healthy narcissism is adaptive, flexible, empathic, and causes elation and joy. Narcissistic Personality Disorder is diagnosed in between 2 and 16% of a population in clinical settings or between 0.5% and 1% of the general population. Narcissistic Personality Disorder is often diagnosed with other mental health disorders, and this is known as comorbidity.

Why Narcissists Commit Suicide? To Be Great Again!

Narcissistic personality disorder is associated with a high risk of suicide, especially during narcissistic mortification. Suicide in narcissists is not driven by depression, but rather by a desire to restore a sense of grandiosity and control. Suicidal ideation in narcissism is suffused with grandiosity and reflects an underlying cognitive distortion. The characteristics of suicidal behaviors in narcissistic personality disorder include perfectionism, lack of self-disclosure, dissociation, body hatred, and inconsistent self-representation. Suicidal ideation in narcissists is a form of acting out and a way to assert control over themselves and others.

Narcissist's Addiction Atypical

There is little empirical research on the correlation between personality traits and addictive behaviors. Narcissism is an addiction to narcissistic supply, which is the narcissist's drug of choice. Narcissists derive pleasure from addictive and reckless behaviors, which sustain and enhance their grandiose fantasies. Narcissism is an adaptive behavior, while addiction is self-destructive and has no adaptive value.

Can You Diagnose Your Narcissist?

Narcissistic personality disorder is a disease that can only be diagnosed by a qualified mental health diagnostician. People often compile lists of traits and behaviors that they believe constitute the essence of narcissism, but these are often misleading. Only five of the exhaustive list of criteria need to coexist in a patient for them to be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder. It is not proper for laymen to diagnose people, even if narcissists rarely attend therapy or subject themselves to diagnostic tests.

Narcissism? Not What You Think! (An El-Nadi-Vaknin Convo)

Narcissism is not a mental illness but a personality style, and narcissists can be self-aware and proud of their disorder. They can be manipulated if they are convinced that certain behaviors are counterproductive and harmful to themselves. Women who fall for narcissists often do so because of their own psychological reasons, and unless they address these issues, they are likely to fall into the same trap repeatedly.

Your Narcissist: Madman or Genius? (Based on News Intervention Interview)

Narcissists often claim to be geniuses, but Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a serious mental health problem. It is difficult to tell the difference between a genius and a madman, but the scientific method can help by applying a test of falsifiability. Narcissists often make predictions that fail time and again, while geniuses' predictions hold water for long stretches of time. Narcissism is a problem of nurture, a problem of the environment, and abuse and trauma suffered in early childhood.

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