My name is Sam Vaknin. I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.
Narcissists are an elusive breed. They are hard to spot, harder to pinpoint, and impossible to capture.
Even an experienced mental health diagnostician, with unmitigated access to the record and to the person examined, would find it finisially difficult to determine with any degree of certainty whether someone suffers from an impairment, mental health disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, or whether then someone merely possesses narcissistic traits, a narcissistic character or personality structure, or a narcissistic overlay superimposed on another mental health problem.
It's difficult to isolate with any degree of exactitude, narcissistic personality disorder.
Moreover, it is important to distinguish between the traits and behavior patterns that are independent of the patient's social and cultural context, in other words, the traits and characteristics that are inherent or idiosyncratic to the patient, and reactive patterns or conformity to cultural and social mores and edicts.
Reactions to severe life crisis are often characterized by transient pathological narcissism. This has been established by Ronnigstam and Gunderson as early as 1996.
But such reactions to life crisis or to social and cultural norms, these do not constitute narcissistic personality disorder and do not constitute a narcissist.
When a person lives in a society in a culture that has often been described as narcissistic by the leading lights of scholarly research, such as Theodore Millon, and social thinking, such as Christopher Lash, well, how much of such a person's behavior can be attributed to his milieu, to his civilization, and which of his traits are really the most important of his traits are really purely his?
There is also a qualitative difference between having narcissistic traits, a narcissistic personality, or the narcissistic personality disorder.
The latter is rigorously defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual and includes strict criteria and differential diagnosis.
Narcissism is regarded by many scholars to be an adaptive or reductive strategy. It is called healthy narcissism. Narcissism is considered pathological in the clinical sense only when it becomes a rigid personality structure replete with a series of primitive defense mechanisms, such as splitting, projection, projective identification, and intellectualization.
Narcissism, pathological narcissism, also manifests and should lead to dysfunctions in one or more areas of life.
In other words, one can be overtly and overly narcissistic, but if this does not hurt or harm his functioning in a variety of fields of life, he may not be a narcissist in the clinical sense.
Pathological narcissism is the art of deception. The narcissist projects a false self and manages all his social interactions through this concocted fictional construct.
People often find themselves involved with the narcissist, emotionally, in business, or otherwise, before they have a chance to discover his true nature.
When the narcissist reveals his true colors, it is usually far too late. His victims are unable to separate from him. They are frustrated by this acquired helplessness and dependence. They are angry that they fail to see through the narcissist earlier on, but the narcissist does emit subtle, almost subliminal signals, the presenting symptoms, even on a first or casual encounter.
Be sure to watch the videos about how to tell a narcissist on a first date.