Narcissist: Is He or Isn't He?

Uploaded 11/1/2010, approx. 3 minute read

I am Sam Vaknin, and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.

If a right to ask me, isn't your definition of malignant narcissism far too wide?

They say, having read your book, I think that it fits my neighbors, co-workers, friends and family to a T. Everyone seems to be a narcissist to me now.

The answer is that this is an understandable reaction. All of us have narcissistic traits. Some of us even develop a narcissistic personality or a narcissistic style.

Moreover, narcissism is a spectrum of behaviors, from the healthy to the utterly pathological, a condition known as narcissistic personality disorder or NPD.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the DSM, uses this language to describe the malignant narcissist.

An all-pervasive pattern of grandiosity in fantasy or behavior, need for admiration or adulation, and lack of empathy, usually beginning by early adulthood and present in various contexts.

So, what matters is that these characteristics often found in healthy people appear jointly and not separately or intermittently, and that they are all pervasive.

They invade, they penetrate, and they mold every aspect, nuke and cranny, of the personality and of interpersonal relationships.

In a malignant narcissist, grandiose fantasies are abundantly discernible. Grandiose behavior, often ridiculous ones, are present.

There is an overriding need for admiration and adulation or attention.

Narcissistic supply. The person lacks empathy, regards other people as two-dimensional cartoon figures and obstructions, unable to stand in their shoes.

These traits and behaviors in a malignant narcissist begin at the latest in early adolescence and more often in childhood.

The narcissistic behaviors pervade all social and emotional interactions of the narcissist.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual specifies nine diagnostic criteria. For narcissistic personality disorder to be diagnosed, five or more of these criteria must be met.

There is a special video on my YouTube channel which deals with the diagnostic criteria. Be sure to watch it.

So how would I define clearly, unequivocally and unambiguously, a malignant narcissist?

The type that has narcissistic personality disorder and breaks havoc on himself and his surroundings?

Well, first of all, he feels grandiose and self-important. He exaggerates accomplishments, talents, skills, contacts and personality traits to the point of lying. He demands to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements. He is obsessed with fantasies of unlimited success, fear, fearsome power or omnipotence, fame, unequal brilliance, bodily beauty or sexual performance, or an ideal everlasting, all-conquering love or passion.

The narcissist is firmly convinced that he or she is unique and being special can only be understood by and should only be treated by or associated with other special or unique or high status people or institutions.

The narcissist requires excessive admiration, adulation, attention and affirmation, or failing that wishes to be feared and to be notorious.

The narcissist feels entitled. He demands automatic and full compliance with his or her unreasonable expectations for special and favorable priority treatment.

The narcissist is interpersonally exploitative. In other words, he uses others to achieve his or her own goals and ends. He is devoid of empathy. He is unable or unwilling to identify with, acknowledge or accept the feelings, needs, preferences, priorities and choices of other people. He is constantly envious of others and seeks to hurt or to destroy the objects of his or her frustration. He suffers from persecutory delusions as he or she believes that they feel the same about him and are likely to act similarly. He behaves arrogantly and haughtily. He feels superior, omnipotent, omniscient, invincible, immune, above the law and omnipresent. This is called magical thinking. He rages when he is frustrated, contradicted or confronted by people he or she consider inferior to him or her and unworthy.

So this is, in a nutshell, the malignant narcissist.

You surely come across such people in your life, but definitely this amalgamated description does not fit everyone.

The narcissist truly is unique.

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

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.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder Diagnostic Criteria (DSM IV-TR)

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is an extreme form of pathological narcissism, which is one of four personality disorders in Cluster B. The International Classification of Diseases, Edition 10, does not recognize NPD as a personality disorder, while the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 4th Edition, text revision, provides a diagnostic criteria for NPD. The DSM defines NPD as an all-convasive pattern of grandiosity in fantasy or behavior, need for admiration or adulation, a lack of empathy, usually beginning by early adulthood and present in various contexts such as family life or work. The narcissist feels grandiose and self-important, is obsessed with fantasies of unlimited success, and is devoid of empathy.

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.

Narcissist Loves his Disorder and Narcissistic Personality

Narcissists may modify their behavior to become more socially acceptable, but they never heal or get better because they have an emotional investment in their disorder. Narcissistic personality disorder serves two critical functions: it endows the narcissist with a sense of uniqueness and provides an alibi for their misconduct. Narcissists reject the notion that they are mentally ill or disturbed, and their disorder becomes an integral and inseparable part of their inflated self-esteem and grandiose fantasies. The narcissist is emotionally attached to their narcissistic personality disorder and loves their disorder passionately.

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.

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.

Narcissists Hard to Spot

Narcissistic personality disorder is difficult to isolate with certainty, and it is important to distinguish between inherent traits and reactive patterns. Narcissism is considered pathological only when it becomes a rigid personality structure with primitive defense mechanisms and leads to dysfunctions in one or more areas of life. Pathological narcissism is the art of deception, and the narcissist projects a false self to manage social interactions. Victims of narcissists often find themselves involved before discovering the narcissist's true nature, and the narcissist emits subtle signals even on a first or casual encounter.

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.

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.

Narcissism: Multiple Personality Disorder/Dissociative Identity Disorder?

Narcissistic personality disorder is not a form of dissociative identity disorder (DID) because the false self of a narcissist is not a full-fledged personality, as happens in DID. The false self is a mere construct, a reactive pattern, and lacks many functional and structural elements. DID alters have a date of inception, but the false self is a process without a cut-off date. Narcissism is a total, pure solution of self-extinguishing and self-abolishing, while other personality disorders are diluted versions of self-hate and perpetuated self-abuse.

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