Narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Definition of narcissism, characteristics of a narcissist and Narcissistic Personality Disorder explained.

What is Narcissism?

The term narcissism actually comes from the Greek story about narcissus, a young man who fell in love with his own image reflected from the water he was looking at. Nowadays, narcissism refers to those who have intense emotions and an abnormal love of themselves, and a difficulty in empathizing with or caring about the needs of others. In fact, people with exaggerated narcissism have difficulty understanding the reality that others may have needs as well, and unless the needs of others can help him, they do not seem to care.

Narcissism: An Inflated Sense of Self

Narcissists tend to exaggerate their own talents and attributes (such as appearance, talents, IQ level) and they believe they are entitled to special treatment and notice. They are very self-centered and they seek constant input, admiration and attention from others. They often will take advantage of others in order to fulfill their own needs.

Narcissism is a lifelong pattern of this type of thought and behavior and is unyielding. It is one's personality and doesn't represent a change from the way someone was previously (as might be the case with a depression or anxiety disorder).

Narcissistic Personality Disorder Defined

In DSM-V, characteristics of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) involve:

  • a pervasive pattern of grandiosity in fantasy or behavior
  • a need for admiration
  • a lack of empathy
  • a sense of entitlement
  • exploiting others
  • lacking in empathy (an inability to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others)

In addition, the narcissist often seems envious of others or believes that others are envious of them.

People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder are very difficult to get close to because their needs always come above the needs of others in the relationship. They appear as selfish and self-assured to a fault.

While on the outside appearing to be overly confident, on the inside people with NPD may, in fact, have great needs and concerns about their own selves. They depend on input from others about how wonderful, how smart, how attractive they are in order to feel better about themselves.

Treating Narcissistic Personality Disorder

It is very difficult, if not impossible, to change the characteristics of one's personality. Treatment of Narcissistic Personality Disorder is extremely difficult and involves long-term psychotherapy. In addition, people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder may have other coexisting emotional problems (anxiety disorders, substance abuse, depression) that may be helped by psychotherapy or medications.

Watch HealthyPlace TV Show on Narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)

On Tuesday's (October 6, 2009) HealthyPlace TV show on narcissism, we will talk to a man (a PhD) who has written a book on Narcissistic Personality Disorder and understands the condition "from the inside out" since he, himself, suffers from NPD. Tune in for what I believe will be a fascinating show.

You can watch it live (7:30p CT, 8:30 ET) and on-demand on our website.

Dr. Harry Croft is a Board-Certified Psychiatrist and Medical Director of Dr. Croft is also the co-host of the HealthyPlace TV Show.

next: Does Sexual Addiction Really Exist?
~ other mental health articles by Dr. Croft

APA Reference
(2009, October 1). Narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Last Updated: January 14, 2014

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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