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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:

Narcissists and Codependents: Same Problems, Different Solutions

Codependence and narcissism are pathological reactions to childhood abuse and trauma. The codependent has a realistic assessment of herself but a fantastic view of others, while the narcissist has a fantastic view of himself but a penetrating view of others. The codependent seeks validation to restore a sense of reality, while the narcissist seeks narcissistic supply to enhance his grandiosity. Inverted narcissists are a subtype of covert narcissists who team up with classic narcissists to obtain vicarious supply. The overwhelming majority of narcissists have codependent traits and are dependent on other people for their sense of self-worth, self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-image.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Schizoid and Paranoid Narcissist

Narcissistic personality disorder is often diagnosed with other mental health disorders, other personality disorders such as borderline, histrionic or antisocial. This phenomenon of multiple diagnosis in the same patient is called co-morbidity. Narcissists are often paranoid and some of them are schizoid. The narcissist depends on people, but hates them and despises them. A minority of narcissists choose the schizoid solution.


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.

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