Narcissistic Personality Disorder - Diagnostic Criteria

Criteria (signs and symptoms) used to diagnose Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).

The Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is not a new psychological construct. In previous centuries it was called "egotism" or "megalomania". It is an extreme form of pathological narcissism.

The Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is one of the four personality disorders in Cluster B (dramatic, emotional, or erratic). It was first described in the DSM III-TR (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) in 1980. The ICD-10 (International Classification of Diseases), published by the World Health Organization in Geneva [1992], does not include the Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). It regards it as "a personality disorder that fits none of the specific rubrics" and puts it together with other bizarre dysfunctions such as, "haltlose", immature, passive-aggressive, and psychoneurotic personality disorders and types in a catchall category: "Other Specific Personality Disorders".

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR) [2000], published by the American Psychiatric Association, based in Washington D.C., USA, provides the diagnostic criteria for the Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) (301.81) on page 717.

The DSM-IV-TR defines Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) as "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", such as family life and work.

Five or more of the DSM's nine diagnostic criteria must be met for a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) to be rendered.

[In the text below, I have proposed modifications to the language of these criteria to incorporate current knowledge about this disorder. My modifications appear in bold italics.]

[My amendments do not constitute a part of the text of the DSM-IV-TR, nor is the American Psychiatric Association (APA) associated with them in any way.]


Proposed Amended Criteria for the Narcissistic Personality Disorder

  • Feels grandiose and self-important (e.g., exaggerates accomplishments, talents, skills, contacts, and personality traits to the point of lying, demands to be recognised as superior without commensurate achievements);
  • Is obsessed with fantasies of unlimited success, fame, fearsome power or omnipotence, unequalled brilliance (the cerebral narcissist), bodily beauty or sexual performance (the somatic narcissist), or ideal, everlasting, all-conquering love or passion;
  • Firmly convinced that he or she is unique and, being special, can only be understood by, should only be treated by, or associate with, other special or unique, or high-status people (or institutions);
  • Requires excessive admiration, adulation, attention and affirmation - or, failing that, wishes to be feared and to be notorious (Narcissistic Supply);
  • Feels entitled. Demands automatic and full compliance with his or her unreasonable expectations for special and favourable priority treatment;
  • Is "interpersonally exploitative", i.e., uses others to achieve his or her own ends;
  • Devoid of empathy. Is unable or unwilling to identify with, acknowledge, or accept the feelings, needs, preferences, priorities, and choices of others;
  • Constantly envious of others and seeks to hurt or destroy the objects of his or her frustration. Suffers from persecutory (paranoid) delusions as he or she believes that they feel the same about him or her and are likely to act similarly;
  • Behaves arrogantly and haughtily. Feels superior, omnipotent, omniscient, invincible, immune, "above the law", and omnipresent (magical thinking). Rages when frustrated, contradicted, or confronted by people he or she considers inferior to him or her and unworthy.

Read Notes from the therapy of a Narcissistic Patient

This article appears in my book, "Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited"



next: Narcissistic Personality Disorder - Prevalence and Comorbidity

APA Reference
Vaknin, S. (2009, October 1). Narcissistic Personality Disorder - Diagnostic Criteria, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 19 from

Last Updated: July 5, 2018

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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