Narcissist: Psychotic?

Uploaded 9/14/2010, approx. 4 minute read

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

When narcissistic supply is deficient, the narcissist decompensates. He acts out in bizarre and unusual ways, becomes aggressive, egosyntonic environment.

Narcissists sometimes experience psychotic micro-episomes, for instance, during therapy, or when they suffer narcissistic injuries in a severe life crisis.

But can the narcissist go completely over the edge? Do narcissists ever become full-fledged psychotics?

The definition of psychosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual is restricted to delusions or prominent hallucinations, with the hallucinations occurring in the absence of insight into their pathological nature.

A delusion is a false belief based on incorrect inference about external reality that is firmly sustained despite what almost everyone else believes, despite what constitutes incontrovertible and obvious proof or evidence to the contrary.

In contrast, a hallucination is a sensory perception that has the compelling sense of reality of a true perception, but that occurs without external stimulation of the relevant sensory organ.

The narcissist's hold on reality is tenuous.

Narcissists sometimes fail the reality test.

Admittedly, narcissists often seem to believe in their own confabulations and lies. They are unaware of the pathological origin and nature of their self-delusions, and so they are technically delusional.

But narcissists rarely suffer from true hallucinations, disorganized speech, disorganized catatonic behavior, and so on.

So in the strictest sense of the word, we can say that narcissists appear to be only partly psychotic.

But actually, they are not psychotic at all.

There is a qualitative difference between benign though well entrenched self-deception or even malignant core artistry and losing it altogether.

Pathological narcissism should not be construed as a form of psychosis because the narcissist is usually fully aware of the difference between true and false, real and make-believe, invented in the extant right and wrong.

The narcissist cautiously chooses to adopt one version of the events, an aggrandizing narrative, fairy tale existence, a what-if counter-factual life.

He is emotionally invested in his own personal myth.

The narcissist feels better as fiction than as fact, but he never loses sight of the fact that it is all just fiction.

Additionally, throughout, the narcissist is in full control of his faculties, cognizant of his choices, and goal-oriented. His behavior is intentional and directional. He is a manipulator, and his delusions are in the service of his strategists.

Hence, his chameleon-like ability to change guises, his conduct, and his convictions on a dime.

Narcissistic delusions rarely persist in the face of blanket opposition and reams of evidence to the contrary.

The narcissist usually tries to convert his social milieu to his point of view. He attempts to condition his nearest and dearest to positively reinforce his delusional false self.

But if he fails, he modifies his profile on the fly. He plays it by ear. His false self is extemporaneous. A perpetual work of art permanently improvised and reconstructed in a reiterative process designed around intricate and complex feedback loops.

Though the narcissistic personality is rigid, its content is always in flux. Narcissists forever reinvent themselves, adopt their consumption of narcissistic supply to the marketplace. They are attuned to the needs of their suppliers.

Like the performers and the actors that they are, they resonate with their audience, giving it what it expects, what it wants, and what it demands.

Narcissists are efficient instruments for the extraction and consumption of human reactions.

As a result of this interminable process of fine-tuning, narcissists have no loyalties, no values, no doctrines, no beliefs, no affiliations, no convictions. The only constraint is their addiction to human attention, positive or negative.

Psychosis and psychotics, by comparison, are fixated on a certain view of the world and of their place in it. They ignore any and all information that might challenge their delusions.

Gradually, psychotics retreat into the inner recesses of their tormented mind. They become completely dysfunctional. This never happens to the narcissist.

Narcissists cannot afford to shut out the world because they are so heavily dependent on it for the regulation of their lab-built sense of self-worth.

Owing to this dependence on narcissistic supply, narcissists are hypersensitive and hypervigilant. They are alert to every bit of new data. They are continuously busy, rearranging their self-delusions to incorporate new information in an egosyntonic manner.

This is why the Narcissistic Personality Disorder, in my view, is insufficient grounds for claiming a diminished capacity or insanity defense.

Narcissists are never divorced from reality. They crave it. They need it. They consume reality in order to maintain the precarious balance of their disorganized, borderline psychotic personality.

All narcissists, even the freakiest ones, can tell right from wrong, act with intent and are in full control of their faculties and actions.

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

Narcissist Never Sorry

Narcissists sometimes feel bad and experience depressive episodes and dysphoric moods, but they have a diminished capacity to empathize and rarely feel sorry for what they have done or for their victims. They often project their own emotions and actions onto others and attribute to others what they hate in themselves. When confronted with major crises, the narcissist experiences real excruciating pain, but this is only a fleeting moment, and they recover their former self and embark on a new hunt for narcissistic supply. They are hunters, predators, and their victims are prey.

Discontinuous Narcissist's Multiple Personas

Narcissists do not have criminal intent, but they do victimize, plunder, terrorize, and abuse others as a manifestation of their genuine character. The narcissist is a walking compilation of personalities, and each of these personalities has its personal history. The narcissist is unable to link his past acts or inaction with their outcomes in the present. The slicing of the narcissist's life is what stands behind the narcissist's apparent inability to predict the inevitable outcomes of his actions.

The Signs of the Narcissist

Narcissists are difficult to spot, but there are subtle signs that can be picked up on, such as entitlement markers, idealization and devaluation, and a lack of empathy. Narcissists are often perceived as anti-social and are unable to secure the sympathy of others. They are also prone to projecting a false self and using primitive defense mechanisms such as splitting, projection, projective identification, and intellectualization.

Narcissist's Impossible Jigsaw Puzzle

Narcissists are fascinating due to their contradictory traits and behaviors. They can be highly intelligent and creative, yet emotionally immature and self-destructive. They can appear self-sufficient but are extremely dependent on others for validation. These disconnects challenge our understanding of psychology, as narcissists seem to defy the typical integration of cognitive, emotional, and behavioral aspects of a person. Narcissism remains a perplexing and unchanging phenomenon, providing valuable insights into the human mind.

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.

Narcissist as Spoiled Brat

Narcissists require attention and narcissistic supply, and when they cannot obtain it, they may experience decompensation, which can lead to acting out in various ways. Narcissists may resort to several adaptive solutions, including delusional narratives, antisocial behavior, passive-aggressive behavior, paranoid narratives, and masochistic avoidance. These behaviors are all self-generated sources of narcissistic supply. Masochistic narcissists may direct their fury inwards, punishing themselves for their failure to elicit supply, and this behavior has the added benefit of forcing those closest to them to pay attention to them.

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.

Your Empathy as Narcissistic Injury: Narcissist Never Learns, No Insight

Narcissists reject empathy and intimacy because it challenges their grandiosity, and they become paranoid and aggressive when someone tries to be intimate with them. Narcissists lack empathy and access to positive emotions, leading to a truncated version of empathy called "cold empathy." Narcissists are self-aware but lack the incentive to get rid of their narcissism, and therapy is more focused on accommodating the needs of the narcissist's nearest and dearest. Cold Therapy is experimental and limited, as it removes the false self but does not develop empathy or improve the narcissist's interpersonal relationships.

Zombie Narcissist: Deficient Narcissistic Supply

Narcissists are constantly seeking praise, adoration, admiration, approval, applause, attention, and other forms of narcissistic supply. When they fail to obtain sufficient supply, they react much like a drug addict would. They become dysphoric, depressed, and may resort to alternative addictions. In extreme cases of deprivation, they may even entertain suicidal thoughts. Narcissists also have a sense of magical thinking, believing that they will always prevail and that good things will always happen to them, rendering them fearless and cloaked in divine and cosmic immunity.

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.

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