Published On: July 12, 2022
Reviewed On: July 12, 2022
Updated On: June 22, 2023
The word “narcissism” is often used to refer to someone who’s so self-involved that they ignore the needs of people around them. However, just because a person thinks about themselves a lot, doesn’t necessarily mean they have narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).
People with NPD can be extremely charming and charismatic, at least at the beginning of their relationships. They generally have a sense of grandiosity and a need for excessive admiration, dedication, and near-constant attention.
NPD commonly coexists with other conditions, such as borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, and anxiety and depressive disorders. The comorbidity factor means that it’s not always easy to determine if someone has NPD, and only a skilled, trained medical professional can truly make a narcissistic personality disorder diagnosis. That said, there are some distinct signs and symptoms that help if you suspect you or someone you know might have NPD.
Keep reading to learn more about narcissistic personality disorder symptoms you should be aware of.
Mental health professionals use criteria from The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) to diagnose NPD. There are 9 key traits identified in the DSM-5, five of which must be present to make a diagnosis. These traits include:
Some of the most common major NPD symptoms and signs follow.
A common belief many people with NPD have is that they’re superior or more intelligent than virtually everyone else around them. As a result, they deeply feel they should have (and expect to have) special treatment. This intense belief that they’re better than others might make them feel that:
A person who would appear as a “narcissist” can be extremely manipulative and controlling. While they may do this with charm, it can eventually become clear that their needs always come first. Common narcissistic behavior includes:
It’s common for someone with NPD to have a strong need to be admired. While the need to be liked may, to a certain extent, be somewhat true for everyone, takes it to an extreme. People with NPD tend to:
A hallmark of NPD is a lack of empathy and compassion toward others. Common narcissistic behavior includes:
Another sign of NPD is arrogance. Because people with NPD see themselves as superior to others, they might:
There are two main narcissistic personality disorder types — grandiose and vulnerable (there are also several other subtypes). Each has its own set of NPD symptoms.
“Both forms of narcissism are commonly rooted in different types of childhood experiences. The 2 types have common traits, including putting themselves first and internal suffering that they typically don’t discuss for various reasons.”
People with grandiose narcissism feel strongly that they’re superior to others. They were likely treated as if they were above others in childhood, and their feelings remained with them into adulthood. People with grandiose narcissism:
Individuals with vulnerable NPD were often neglected or abused as children. This can also be referred to as covert narcissism and people with this type of NPD can be more sensitive than those with grandiose NPD. Vulnerable narcissistic personality disorder symptoms can include:
One of the biggest challenges in treating narcissistic personality disorder is that a large percentage of people either fail to seek help, or they’ll self-terminate treatment. They often don’t believe they have anything that needs mental health treatment. However, there are many benefits to seeking narcissistic personality disorder treatment. Ultimately, getting help can improve the quality of life both for the person showing symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder and for those closest to them.
“There is no right or wrong time to look for help. People must look for help when they realize that their behaviors and emotions are affecting their daily life, relationships, or professional life.”
It can be hard to learn how to help a narcissist but it is important to know that treatment can be very effective. Successful treatment plans can help change the course of someone’s life, allowing for mutually supportive and rewarding relationships and a healthy self-image.
Narcissistic personality disorder symptoms can be helped with the right course of treatment, which will often include a combination of medication and therapy for narcissistic personality disorder.
Psychotherapy — which is also known as talk therapy — is known to be beneficial in treating NPD. Various types of cognitive-behavioral therapy, such as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), schema therapy, and others, can help flesh out the root cause of NPD symptoms. It can also teach someone new skills so they can relate better to others and be able to communicate more effectively.
To find a therapist in your area with experience in treating NPD, start first with your primary care physician. They should be able to connect you with someone skilled and trained in treating NPD.
If you’re looking for a convenient and effective way to access therapy, consider Talkspace. Talkspace’s platform offers online therapy that simplifies the process and offers incredible results. Find out how Talkspace can help you manage and treat NPD today.
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Cynthia Catchings is a trilingual licensed clinical social worker-supervisor, mental health consultant, professor, and trainer for federal law enforcement agencies. Cynthia has over 15 years of experience in the mental health profession. She is passionate about women’s mental health, life transitions, and stress management. Her clinical work, advocacy, and volunteer service have focused on working with domestic violence survivors and conducting mental health research in over 30 countries.