Narcissism: Multiple Personality Disorder/Dissociative Identity Disorder?

Uploaded 1/25/2011, approx. 3 minute read

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

Dissociative Identity Disorder, or DID for short, is the official formal name given to what used to be called multiple personality disorder.

Are narcissists dissociative? Do they have multiple personalities? Is the true self of the narcissist the equivalent of the host personality in the DID person, in the multiple personality disorder patient? Is the false self one of the fragmented personalities, also known as alters?

The false self is a mere construct rather than a full-fledged self. It is the locus of the narcissist fantasies of grandiosity, its feelings of entitlement, omnipotence, magical thinking, omniscience, and magical immunity.

But the false self lacks many other functional and structural elements. It is not a full-fledged personality, as would happen and appear in a multiple personality disorder patient.

Moreover, the false self has no cut-off date. DID alters these multiple personalities. They all have a date of inception, usually as a reaction to trauma or abuse.

In other words, they all have an age.

The false self is a process. It is not an entity. It is a reactive pattern, a reactive formation, if you wish.

The false self is not really a self, nor is it very false. It is very real, more real to the narcissist than his own true self.

As Kernberg observed, the narcissist actually vanishes and is replaced by the false self. There is no true self inside the narcissist in any functional sense.

The narcissist is a whole of mirrors, but the whole itself is an optical illusion created by the mirrors. Narcissism is reminiscent of a painting by Escher.

Stairs go up and down, but lead nowhere. In DID, in multiple personality disorder, the emotions are segregated into personality-like internal structures, entities, alters.

The notion of unique, separate, multiple, whole personality is wrong and primitive. DID is a continuum, emotional continuum, mental continuum, psychological continuum.

The inner language of the DID patient breaks down into polyglot chaos. In DID, emotions cannot communicate with each other for fear of provoking overwhelming pain and its fatal consequences.

So what these emotions do instead, they keep apart or are being kept apart by various mechanisms.

A host or birth personality, a facilitator personality, moderator personality, and so on and so forth. All personality disorders involve a modicum of dissociation, but the narcissistic solution is to emotionally disappear altogether.

Hence the tremendous insatiable need of the narcissist for external approval, for the external gaze, for the outside confirmation that he exists. The narcissist exists only as a reflection. He has no other presence.

Since the narcissist is forbidden to love his true self, he chooses to have no self at all.

It is not dissociation in the case of narcissism. It is a vanishing act.

Narcissistic personality disorder is a total, pure solution. Self-extinguishing, self-abolishing, entirely fake.

Other personality disorders are diluted versions on the themes of self-hate and perpetuated self-abuse.

The borderline personality disorder involves lability, the movement between poles of life wish and death wish, and so on.

So, to summarize, narcissism, pathological narcissism, is not a variety or a subspecies of multiple personality disorder, simply because the true self is not a full-fledged personality and the false self is not a full-fledged personality, as happens in multiple personality disorder.

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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.

Depressive Narcissist

Pathological narcissism is often considered a form of depressive illness, with the life of a typical narcissist punctuated with recurrent bouts of dysphoria, sadness, hopelessness, anhedonia, loss of the ability to feel pleasure, and clinical forms of depression. Narcissists react with depression not only to life crises but to fluctuations in narcissistic supply and to the internal dynamics that these fluctuations generate. There are several types of dysphoria and depression in pathological narcissism, including loss-induced dysphoria, deficiency-induced dysphoria, self-worth dysregulation dysphoria, grandiosity gap dysphoria, and self-punishing dysphoria. Many narcissists end up delusional, schizoid, or paranoid to avoid agonizing and knowing depression.

Idealized, Devalued, Dumped

Narcissists have a cycle of overvaluation and devaluation, which is more prevalent in borderline personality disorder than in narcissistic personality disorder. The cycle reflects the need to be protected against the whims, needs, and choices of other people, shielded from the hurt that they can inflict on the narcissist. The overvaluation and devaluation mechanism is the most efficient one available to the narcissist, as the narcissist's personality is precariously balanced and requires inordinate amounts of energy to maintain. The narcissist's energies are all focused and dedicated to the task concentrated upon the source of supply he had identified.

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.

Narcissist: No Custody, No Children!

Parents diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder should be denied custody and granted only restricted rights of visitation and care under supervision, according to Professor Sam Vaknin. Narcissists regard children as sources of narcissistic supply and can be abusive, putting children at risk of emotional, physical and sexual abuse. Narcissistic parents can also use control mechanisms to sustain the illusion that the child is a part of them, which can be emotionally turbulent for the child. The child is the ultimate secondary source of narcissistic supply, and the narcissist's love is conditional upon the supply of narcissistic supply.

Bipolar Disorder Misdiagnosed as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)

The manic phase of bipolar disorder is often misdiagnosed as narcissistic personality disorder due to the similarities in symptoms. However, the manic phase of bipolar disorder is limited in time and followed by a depressive episode, whereas narcissistic personality disorder is not. The source of the bipolar patient's mood swings is brain biochemistry, not the availability or lack of availability of narcissistic supply. Additionally, the bipolar patient is dysfunctional, while the narcissist is functional.

Narcissist Father: Save Your Child

Parents who are worried about their children becoming narcissists under the influence of a narcissistic parent should stop trying to insulate their children from the other parent's influence. Instead, they should make themselves available to their children and present themselves as a non-narcissistic role model. Narcissistic parents regard their children as a source of narcissistic supply and try to control their lives through guilt-driven, dependence-driven, goal-driven, and explicit mechanisms. The child is the ultimate secondary source of narcissistic supply, and the narcissistic parent tries to perpetuate the child's dependence using control mechanisms. The narcissistic parent tends to produce another narcissist in some of their children, but this outcome can be effectively countered by loving, empathic, predictable, just, and positive upbringing, which encourages a

Raging Narcissist: Merely Pissed-off?

Narcissistic rage is a phenomenon that occurs when a narcissist is frustrated in their pursuit of narcissistic supply, causing narcissistic injury. The narcissist then projects a bad object onto the source of their frustration and rages against a perceived evil entity that has injured and frustrated them. Narcissistic rage is not the same as normal anger and has two forms: explosive and pernicious or passive-aggressive. People with personality disorders are in a constant state of anger, which is effectively suppressed most of the time, and they are afraid to show that they are angry to meaningful others because they are afraid to lose them.

Narcissism is Tiring Energy-depleting

Personality is a dynamic, ongoing process that is ever-evolving. The more primitive the personality, the less organized, the more disordered, the greater the amount of energy required to maintain it in a semblance of balance and function. Narcissists externalize most of the available energy in an effort to secure a narcissistic supply. The narcissist's constant fatigue and ennui, his short attention span, his tendency to devalue sources of supply, even his transformed aggression.

DSM V Gets Narcissistic Personality Disorder Partly Right

The DSM-5 criteria for diagnosing narcissistic personality disorder include impairments in personality functioning, both self and interpersonal, and the presence of pathological personality traits. The impairments in self-functioning include identity and self-direction, while the impairments in interpersonal functioning include empathy and intimacy. The DSM-5 also focuses on pathological personality traits of the narcissist, which are characterized by antagonism, grandiosity, and attention-seeking. The diagnostic criteria should be stable across time, consistent across situations, and not solely due to direct physiological effects of a substance or general medical condition.

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