Published On: August 16, 2022
Reviewed On: August 16, 2022
Updated On: October 5, 2023
Parenting teenagers is never simple or easy, but it can be especially challenging to raise a teen with narcissistic personality disorder. While it’s normal for teens to be slightly self-obsessed, a teenager with NPD will show behaviors that go beyond “normal” levels of narcissism.
When a teen has NPD, narcissistic behavior can overtake every aspect of their (and your) life. This can make it difficult for them to manage stress, regulate emotions, maintain healthy interpersonal relationships, or handle criticism. As a parent, it’s important to understand your teen’s behavior, so you can provide them with the appropriate support they need. We’re sharing everything you need to know about narcissistic personality disorder in teens here.
Some symptoms associated with NPD, like the narcissistic trait of entitlement or self-absorption, are normal for teens who are still developing a sense of self. However, someone with teenage narcissistic personality disorder will exhibit narcissistic behaviors that interfere with their personal relationships and day-to-day life. Symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder in teens may include:
We don’t know exactly what causes narcissistic personality disorder in teens. However, experts believe that certain parenting practices might contribute to NPD. Excessive pampering, a lack of discipline, and overprotective parenting are all linked to higher rates of teenage narcissistic personality disorder.
The truth is, research shows us that many parenting practices can increase the risk of developing any of the narcissistic personality disorder types. Children who receive too much positive attention, for example, may develop an inflated sense of self and thus might struggle when people outside their family don’t view them in the same way.
On the flip side, children who don’t receive enough positive attention from parents have the potential to become dependent on getting that attention from others.
Parenting styles may play a role in NPD, but they’re only one potential cause. Other research suggests that there’s likely a genetic component to narcissistic traits. Biological components, like brain structure and oxidative stress levels, are also potential factors.
Teens may also develop this mental health condition as a result of trauma. Experiencing severe loss or extreme trauma early in life might cause teens to develop an identity around their traumatic experiences. They may believe that they’re entitled to special treatment because of what they’ve experienced.
It’s likely that there’s not a single cause for narcissistic personality disorder. Instead, a young adult with NPD probably develops narcissistic traits due to a variety of factors.
Dealing with an NPD teenager can be difficult and overwhelming. Your teen may feel entitled to certain levels of treatment, or they might believe that the rules shouldn’t apply to them. NPD can also make some teens more sensitive to criticism, which can make it difficult to get them the help they need to correct inappropriate or unhealthy behaviors.
When it comes to how to deal with narcissistic personality disorder, thankfully, there are coping mechanisms and strategies that can teach you to effectively parent your teen. The teenage brain is still developing, and the right techniques could be instrumental in addressing these behaviors before your teen becomes an adult.
It’s never easy to receive criticism, especially when you’re a teen with symptoms of NPD. If you have feedback or constructive criticism for your teenager, you can soften it by sandwiching things between two compliments. This might help to minimize distress and make your teen more receptive to what you have to say.
Even if your young adult reacts defensively to negative feedback, you shouldn’t allow them to treat you or others poorly. When your teen behaves badly, it’s important that you address the behavior as soon as possible. Explain how their actions can be hurtful or harmful to others.
Teens with NPD often feel entitled to do what they want, when they want. By setting firm family boundaries and introducing structure to your teen’s life, you can teach them that there are rules they must follow. It’s likely that your teen will push back against these boundaries at first, but if you continue to enforce them, they’ll be more willing to accept them in time. Need more tips? Learn how to set boundaries with a narcissist.
When a teen has narcissistic traits, they may feel like they shouldn’t have to do chores, homework, or other basic tasks. You can give your teen a sense of control by allowing them to choose between two different positive behaviors. For example, you could ask your teen if they’d like to do the dishes or take out the trash.
While low empathy is a symptom of NPD, it is possible to develop empathy over time. Reading and volunteer work are just a few of the many ways you can cultivate compassion in teens. When teens have negative interpersonal interactions, encourage them to put themselves in the other person’s shoes.
“Ask your teen questions after a major news event, focusing on how it affected those in the story. As a parent, it can be beneficial to talk about your feelings and how events affect you. You can teach your kids to be less self-centered and have more compassion for others.”
Even though your teen may roll their eyes when you tell them what to do, they still see you as a role model. That’s why you should strive to model empathetic, positive behaviors in your own life. Try to increase your own awareness about your behaviors, so you can set a better example for your teen.
Narcissistic behaviors can impact every member of your household. In family therapy, you’ll have the opportunity to address these behaviors. Some teens might be more receptive to treating narcissistic personality disorder if they’re not the only one involved.
“Parenting style may add to the lack of empathy and self-centered traits that are exaggerated in narcissistic personality disorder in teens. Lack of charity emphasis and a grandiose, self-important world view may be the parenting style that awards a lack of concern for others. Family therapy can help improve communication between teens and parents.”
Narcissistic personality disorder in teens can be incredibly challenging in so many ways. If this is something that your family is struggling with — whether your teen already has a narcissistic personality disorder diagnosis or you just suspect your teen might have NPD — you should seek out support.
It can be concerning to see symptoms of NPD in your teen, but it’s important to remember that these traits can change over time. A mental health professional can help your teen become more aware of their behavior and help them see how it impacts their personal relationships with others. Types of talk therapy like cognitive behavioral therapy for narcissistic personality disorder can give your teen effective, useful tools and coping mechanisms they’ll carry into adulthood.
People with NPD often refuse to seek treatment, which is why it’s important to address your teen’s symptoms as soon as possible. Even though they may be reluctant to start therapy, getting your teen professional help might be the best thing you ever do for them.
If you’re looking for a convenient, affordable way to get your teen into therapy, Talkspace is an online therapy platform that’s changing the face of mental health care. Find out why so many people are turning to Talkspace for therapy for themselves or their loved ones.
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Dr. Karmen Smith is a board-certified Clinical Social Worker in the state of Nevada. She has worked over 20 years for Clark County Family Services with abused and neglected children in the shelter, adolescents in juvenile detention, and adults who have suffered severe trauma. Dr. Smith is a shamanic teacher and minister of metaphysics and her doctorate is in Pastoral Counseling.