Meet the Narcissist: Issues in Narcissism

Uploaded 9/6/2012, approx. 4 minute read

My name is Sam Vaknin, and I am the author of Mental Illness that is very difficult to encapsulate and to capture in a few words.

I have been studying it for 16 years now. Still, I decided to give it a go, to try.

Autological narcissism pervades every facet of the personality, every behavior, every cognition, and every emotion, and this makes narcissistic personality disorder very difficult to treat.

At today's, the narcissist's unthinking and deeply ingrained resistance to authority figures such as therapists and healing or even mere behavior modification are rendered almost unattainable.

Autological narcissism is often comorbid with mood disorders such as depression or bipolar, compulsive rituals, substance abuse, paraphelia, sexual paraphelia, sexual deviance, and reckless behavior patterns. Many narcissists are also anti-social. They lack empathy, and they are convinced of their own magnificence and grandiosity. They feel that they are above social conventions and the law. Some of these concomitant problems are amenable to a combination of medication and talk therapy, but not so the core defense mechanisms of the narcissist.

These are untouchable. They are hard. They are rigid. The narcissist is both victimizing, but he is also a victim.

The essence of the narcissistic disorder is a breakdown of internal communication. The narcissist invents and nurtures a false self. This false self is intended to elicit attention, positive or negative, from other people. And this attention is needed to fulfill the innermost void that is at the crux of the narcissist, that is the core of the narcissist.

The narcissist inside is empty. The narcissist is a shell. The narcissist is so engrossed in securing narcissistic supply from these sources by putting on an energy-sapping show that he fails to materialize and realize his own potential. He fails to have mature, adult relationships, a feel, and in general to enjoy life.

To the narcissist, other people are never more than potential sources of narcissistic supply with a useful shelf life. The narcissist invariably ends up cruelly devaluing and discarding these people, like dysfunctional objects or broken toys.

Little wonder that the narcissist, hoarding, abrasive, exploitative, manipulative, untruthful, is universally held in contempt, derided, hated, persecuted, and cast out.

But we should never forget that the narcissist pays a dear price for something which essentially is beyond his full control. In other words, for his mental illness.

There are no authoritative studies to back a genetic predisposition to pathological narcissism.

The often heard claim that it is the outcome of abuse is also not fully substantial.

But anecdotal evidence, case studies, the investigation of populations in patient out-clinics and so on, all these reveal a correlation between abuse in early childhood and infancy and the emergence of claustrophobic hypnosticism with a defense mechanism in the adult.

Abuse, there are many forms of abuse. The most well-known and frequently discussed forms of abuse are incest. Molestation, beatings, constant berating, terrorizing, abandonment, arbitrary punishment, capricious and unstable parental behavior in environment, authoritarian, emotionless, rigid and hierarchical home regimes and so on and so forth.

But these are only the classical forms of abuse. More pernicious are the subtle and socially acceptable forms of abuse, such as doting, smothering, treating the child as an extension of a parent, forcing the child to realize the parent's unfulfilled dreams and unrealized wishes, putting the child on a constant pedestal on display, maintaining unrealistic expectations of the child and so on and so forth.

These are all forms of abuse because they treat the child not as an individual with boundaries, but as some sort of instrument, some sort of tool.

These modes of abuse permeate the tenuous self-boundaries formed by the child and teach the child that he is loved because of what he accomplishes, not because of who he is.

So back to treating narcissism.

Every aspect of the personality is pervaded by pathological narcissism.

As I said, it covers the narcissist's behavior, his cognition, his thoughts, his emotional landscape.

And this ubiquity renders pathological narcissism virtually untreatable.

Additionally, as I mentioned, the narcissist develops deep self-resistance to authority figures such as therapists.

His attitude to treatment is conflictual, competitive and hostile.

When the narcissist fails to co-opt the therapist into upholding his grandiose self-image, he then devalues and discards both the treatment and the mental health practitioner administering it.

More disorders, compulsive rituals, substance abuse, sexual paraphelias, reckless or antisocial behavior patterns often accompany pathological narcissism. They are comorbid, as I mentioned before.

While some of these coexistence problems can be ameliorated through a combination of medication and top therapy, not so the core defense mechanisms of the narcissist.

We are back where we started.

Narcissism is a vicious circle in the full sense of the word.

If you enjoyed this article, you might like the following:

Can Narcissism be Cured?

Pathological narcissism is difficult to cure, and most narcissists resist psychotherapy. However, some progress has been made in effecting small changes in personality disorders through talk therapy and medication. The earlier the therapeutic intervention, the better the prognosis, and aging tends to moderate or even vanquish some antisocial behaviors associated with pathological narcissism. The existence of empathy is a serious predictor of future psychodynamics, and the prognosis for a classical narcissist with grandiosity, lack of empathy, and all is not good as far as long-term, lasting, and complete healing.

Doormat Covert Narcissist Turns Primary Psychopath

In this video, Professor Sam Vaknin discusses the covert narcissist and their potential for change. He explains that the covert narcissist can transform into a primary psychopath under stress, and that they experience identity disturbance and difficulty in maintaining relationships. He also touches on the concepts of switching and modification in the context of covert narcissism.

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.

Signs You are Victim of Narcissistic Abuse, Not Common Abuse (Stress, Depression Management Webinar)

Narcissistic abuse is a subtype of abusive behavior that is pervasive, sophisticated, and can be practiced either covertly or overtly. Victims of narcissistic abuse often experience depression, anxiety, disorientation, and dissociative symptoms. This type of abuse can lead to complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) and even elements of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The way individuals process and react to trauma can lead to either regression into infantile behaviors or personal growth and maturation, depending on their emotional regulation and maturity.

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.

Why Narcissist APPEARS So STUPID (Borderlines and Psychopaths, too!)

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses the topic of narcissistic abuse and the intelligence of individuals with Cluster B personality disorders. He explains that while these individuals may possess high IQs, they often exhibit behaviors that appear foolish and self-defeating. Vaknin attributes this to factors such as grandiosity, lack of empathy, identity disturbance, and external locus of control. He argues that these individuals are ultimately disabled and ill-equipped to navigate life and human relationships, despite their intellectual abilities.

Collapsed Narcissist, Collapsed Histrionic

Pathological narcissism is a post-traumatic condition that is a result of severe abuse by primary caregivers, peers, or authority figures. Narcissists require a form of narcissistic supply, and when the supply is deficient, they resort to several adaptive solutions. These solutions include the delusional narrative solution, the antisocial solution, the paranoid schizoid solution, the paranoid, aggressive or explosive solution, and the masochistic avoidance solution. In extreme cases, the collapsed narcissist or collapsed histrionic falls apart in a process of disintegration known as decompensation, which is accompanied by acting out.

Asperger's Disorder Misdiagnosed as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)

Asperger's Disorder can be diagnosed in toddlers as young as three years old, while Narcissistic Personality Disorder cannot be safely diagnosed until late adolescence. However, Asperger's Disorder is often misdiagnosed as Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Both types of patients are self-centered and engrossed in a narrow range of interests and activities, with severely hampered social and occupational interactions. The gulf between Asperger's and pathological narcissism is vast, with the narcissist switching between social agility and social impairment voluntarily, while the Asperger's patient's social awkwardness is an inevitability.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder Clinical Features

Narcissistic traits in childhood may lead to full-fledged narcissistic personality disorder later in life, especially if the child has experienced abuse or trauma. Narcissists use a false self to garner attention, or "narcissistic supply," which helps them cope with pain and feel important. Narcissists are vulnerable to criticism and disagreement, and they struggle to maintain healthy relationships. Treatment for narcissistic personality disorder includes talk therapy and medication, but the prognosis for an adult with the disorder is poor.

Lonely, Schizoid Narcissist

Narcissistic personality disorder is often diagnosed with other mental health disorders, such as borderline, histrionic or antisocial psychopathic personality disorder. Narcissism is often also accompanied by substance abuse and other reckless and impulsive behaviors, and this we call dual diagnosis. There is one curious match, one logic-defying appearance or co-appearance of mental health disorders, narcissism, together with schizoid personality disorder. A minority of narcissists, therefore, choose the schizoid solution. They choose to disengage, to detach both emotionally and socially.

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