What is a Narcissist and What is Narcissism?

The Story of Narcissus

The story of Narcissus comes from Greek mythology. Narcissus was a beautiful, proud young man.When he chanced to see his reflection in a pool of water for the first time, and did not recognize it as his own image, he became so enamored that he was unable to stop gazing at his own image. He was unable to leave the image at the water’s edge and eventually wasted away, changing into a flower that bears his name (the Narcissus flower).

Narcissism and Narcissist

Narcissism is based on the character of Narcissus. A narcissist is simply someone who demonstrates the characteristics of narcissism. He, or she, appears to be so in love with himself that he cannot love anyone else. They are totally self–absorbed and tend to see themselves as perfect. Narcissism is a disorder of the personality which is characterized by arrogance and extreme selfishness. People with narcissism exhibit behaviors that would be described as conceited, boastful and pretentious. Their behavior is often grandiose (meaning “bigger” or “larger than life”, i.e., flamboyant and extravagant) and highly egotistical, with an exaggerated sense of self-importance. They are commonly called arrogant and self-centered.

Narcissists take advantage of other people, using them or exploiting them to meet their own
needs. A narcissist will monopolize conversations. He or she belittles people that they feel aren’t as good as them. Narcissists have a strong sense of entitlement which makes them feel they deserve special treatment. If they don’t get that special treatment, they tend to become impatient or get angry, sometimes flying into a rage. Narcissists see themselves as superior and want their lifestyles to reflect that despite their socio-economic bracket. Often living beyond what they can afford, a narcissist wants “the best” of everything: they insist on having the best cars, the best houses, the best athletic or country club, and having their children attend the best schools. They cannot empathize with others or put themselves “in someone else’s shoes”. They are only aware of their own feelings and do not understand how others may feel. A narcissist has difficulty handling criticism as they need to see themselves as perfect. He or she is so arrogant and self- centered that people often do not like to be around them.

Narcissists believe they are better than other people and will befriend only those in their
status group or those that lavish praise and admiration on them. They are unhappy unless they are surrounded by others who praise or admire them. An individual with narcissism desperately seeks constant praise and admiration. The unusual twist is that they don’t care if they are liked, just so long as they are admired.

Characteristics of Narcissism

  • Believes that he or she is better than others
  • Fantasizes about power, success or attractiveness
  • Exaggerates achievements or talents
  • Expects constant praise and admiration
  • Believes they are special and acts accordingly
  • Fails to recognize other people’s emotions and feelings
  • Expects others to automatically go along with their ideas and plans
  • Takes advantage of others
  • Express disdain for those that they feel are inferior to them
  • Jealous of others
  • Believe that others are jealous of them
  • Trouble keeping healthy relationships
  • Setting unrealistic goals
  • Easily hurt and easily feel rejected

Areas of Difficulty

Due to these behaviors and characteristics, narcissists usually have problems in many areas of
their lives. They have difficulty maintaining relationships, difficulty at work or school, and not uncommonly difficulty with their financial affairs.

Narcissists present as toughminded and unemotional individuals. Interestingly, beneath all
the boasting and superior attitude, lies a very fragile self-esteem. They have difficulty accepting even the slightest criticism and one mild critical remark may cause them to shut that person out forever. Some of them harbor secret feelings of shame or humiliation. They make themselves feel better by reacting with rage or contempt; they frequently belittle other people in order to make themselves appear better. They easily become jealous of others and feel that others are jealous of them.

Narcissists not only fantasize about power, success or their attractiveness, but they become
preoccupied with these thoughts. They show no remorse if they need to exploit or even “step on”
someone in order to reach their goal.

Are There Positives about Being a Narcissist?

Although most narcissists are arrogant and boastful, their extreme confidence can also make them charming and attractive to others. They are often popular at first, surrounded by admiring friends, colleagues or associates. Individuals with mild to moderate narcissism can function well as entrepreneurs, surgeons, salesmen, entertainers or leaders in cut-throat professions (think Donald Trump or Steve Jobs).

They don’t have doubts about their abilities or decisions; they do not feel remorse or think twice about taking advantage or using people to get what they want. It is not unusual to find that many CEO’s of large companies have some degree of narcissism; they used their confidence and ability to be a cut-throat competitor to get where they are at.

Conclusion

Narcissism is a personality disorder in which people have an over-inflated sense of their own importance, excessive self-centeredness and a lack of empathy for others. Personality disorders are conditions in which people have traits, or characteristics, that cause them to feel and behave in ways that have a negative social impact, limit their ability to function in relationships, and limit their ability in other areas of their life such as work, school, or finances. A narcissist is someone who displays the characteristics of narcissism.

The main characteristic or trait of this disorder is an egotistical preoccupation with himself or herself and his or her personal preferences, aspirations, needs, success, and how he or she is perceived by others. Individuals with milder forms of narcissism, or who have some narcissistic traits, can function well in society in certain professions although they generally still have difficulty with interpersonal relations and maintaining healthy relationships.

There is a significant difference between people exhibiting narcissistic traits and those individuals with a narcissistic personality disorder. The people with narcissistic traits are often viewed as arrogant, confident and self-centered but they do not have the exaggerated or grandiose self perception of their abilities that a person with a narcissistic personality disorder has.

References:

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/narcisstic-personality-disorder
http://www.psychologytoday.com23049
http://psychology.about.com/od/personalitydisorders/a/narcissticpd.html

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22 Responses to “What is a Narcissist and What is Narcissism?”

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  1. Tom says:

    Hi there, great articles on Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I have read all the articles you have written on the subject and they provide a fascinating insight into this personality disorder. I am grateful for your contributions and I’m sure others are too. Please keep up the good work.

    • Luciel says:

      Someone who spreads biased information and unnecessary fear on the internet doesn’t sound like someone I’d trust, in a professional setting or otherwise.

      This article is clearly written in a subjective way and worded to give you a certain impression of every single person with NPD, and leaves out certain criteria for personality disorders. From the start, you’re not getting all the information and it’s overly generalizing.

      I’d suggest finding peer-reviewed scholarly articles and research on NPD if you wish to learn about it in a more factual manner.

      • Geraldine says:

        I was married to a narcissist and find the article most helpful. I now have to see a psychiatrist and psychotherapist regularly to cope with the mental and spiritual effects of his abuse over eighteen years of marriage. He died four years ago and I’ve only been able to start this work over the last year.

        If you are an academic perhaps you are lacking in empathy, if you’re a narcissist you wouldn’t believe you are reading about yourself.

        Wake up.

  2. Nita says:

    Thank you for writing such insightful articles. I began reading them tonight, and they reminded me that the Narcissistic Personality lacks empathy…a critical fact if one finds themself attempting to logically explain feelings to someone who lacks emotional connections. Could you also comment on the neurology of the Narcissistic Personality? Is the amygadala affected so that emotions cannot be felt (pathways) or are specific neurotransmitters affected so that receptors are blocked? If so, which neurotransmitters and how? Are there pharmaceutical products to counter the effects in the brain for this disorder? Thank you for reaching out to all of us.

    • Luciel says:

      Hi Nita!

      It may come as a shock to you, but in psychology there are two types of empathy- affective and cognitive. “Affectivity” in psychology terms refers to emotions, and “cognitive” refers to thoughts and the mind.

      People with NPD will typically only have low affective empathy. Meaning that their emotions do not “match” the people around them (e.g, if someone cried they would not have the empathy to emotionally FEEL sad when someone else does), but they can cognitively understand and recognize that someone is sad.

      Believe it or not there’s lots of mental and physical disorders that can cause low empathy in both categories. Lots of these people can function well in society and are not inherently monsters. If you claim that everyone without empathy is a monster, you’re saying that about people with autism, brain damage, even some people with depression. I don’t think it’s a fair statement to make. Many people with differing levels of empathy can be genuinely nice people with good intentions, and very small number of them are heinous manipulators. You wouldn’t be able to tell if your best friend has low affective empathy, since it’s completely internal and does not outwardly manifest in a certain way in all people.

      People with NPD can definitely feel emotions. Otherwise they would not be able to feel angry or have self-esteem problems, or experience happiness when their achievements are recognized. If you want to know more about the neurology of people with NPD, I’d suggest using google’s feature to search scholarly articles. They will be a lot more likely to have factual information and be unbiased. Sites that are obviously biased will have people who are obviously biased commenting- and they will be less likely to have correct knowledge.
      Therefore, scholarly peer-reviewed psychology/neuropsychology articles will be your best bet of researching this.

      Currently there is no cure for any personality disorder, only treatment. Medication can typically help with side effects of different PDs- such as mood stabilization, depression, etc. Therapy can also help someone learn how to manage their symptoms, and some people want to for their own sake.

  3. Jo Ann says:

    Thank you for enlightening me on Narcissistic Personality Disorder. The description describes my father to a tee. My question to you is, does anyone seek treatment, because from my experience, the person is not aware that a problem exists?

    I always say, it’s terrible if you don’t know that your doing anything wrong, because you’ll never get a chance to correct yourself. Very righteous people with this disorder in my family. And I feel that they leave many trails of destruction behind them as they move though life.

    I officially stopped speaking to my aging father and oldest sister, who I believe has Jealous envy. She enjoys sabotaging any relationship, in which the person is helping for doing good for my father. Makes us think that we are crazy, and then we have to step back and say they are the crazy ones! Meanwhile, you can’t do enough for my father, and he is never appreciative of the things that are done for him, by everyone. We bend over backwards for him, and he had said things like, “I should have had pigs instead of kids”, and “I should line all my kids up and shoot them with a machine gun”. (He is old, but a healthy old person. I try to blame it on his age. He once said, “I don’t have to hold your son, I have my own son to hold”.)

    Very sad situation, but I don’t have a PHD in Psychology, so I don’t think I can fix this problem.

    • Human says:

      Even with a PhD, you couldn’t fix his problem. So you might as well focus on making the most out of your own life.

      • Luciel says:

        Hi Jo Ann and Human!

        I personally know of people who have NPD and seek treatment for their own sake. It is a difficult thing to live with especially with fluctuating self esteem and the need for praise and validation, it can be hell to have and interferes with your personal life. Personally it makes a lot of sense to want to manage your own disorder.

        I do agree with Human in that you should not try to change or fix anyone- frankly it’s not your job, and you do not have the trained professional skills to give therapy to anyone for any problem. I can think of a large number of things that would be better to spend your time on, such as watering plants.

        Since you don’t have a phd you also can’t diagnose anyone- sorry this website lied to you.

        Sadly nothing ever seems to be good enough for my parents either, but I doubt they’d have NPD. There’s a lot of people like this who don’t have any mental disorders. There are a lot of abusive people who have empathy.

        Obsessing over spotting narcissists is not good or healthy for you. I’m not accusing you of it, but it seems that a fair amount of people fall into this trap- truth be told, bad psychologists just want you to buy their books and buy into the fear-mongering.

        If you think that someone you know would benefit from counseling, it would probably be good for them to see a doctor.

        You might even want to consider therapy for yourself so you have a place to let out your feelings, learn good coping mechanisms for stress (which we all suffer from,) and get advice from a trained professional on how to deal with your sister and father instead of getting your advice from untrained people on the internet! (that’s a joke, because i’m also a stranger on the internet.)

  4. Jeni says:

    My daughter brought me a print out of your website while I was in hospital 3 weeks ago recovering from my second heart attack. This was caused in part by responding to my 89 year old mother’s giving me the run round during what was supposed to be my two week holiday.
    She suddenly decided one Saturday morning, after getting up, getting washed and dressed, going up and down stairs in the process and getting breakfast, that she couldn’t walk any more. her neighbour summoned me !
    The number of points she ‘scored’ on your identification list was many!
    I try to stay away from her as much as possible. if my daughter in law takes my grandchildren to visit her – she rings me to tell me as if she’s scored some points over me.
    Anything I advise her to do or discuss with her is always over ridden or out done by the next door neighbours !
    In my twenties and thirties my then husband and I lived some distance away. My children came along and she and dad visited frequently BUT by that stage the neighbours and their children had become her substitute family and of course they fitted her model of perfect family more than I. They are a parochial pair and neither they nor their children have moved more than 5 miles from where they were born !
    I got divorced – but she encouraged it because she didn’t like my husband – but then he did prove to be a controlling A.S.D
    She ruined my first love by going through my personal things and discovering we had slept (and only slept) together. That relationship didn’t survive very long because I felt it had been invaded and sullied.
    My last adult relationship ended after thirteen years when I had gone through successful treatment for bowel cancer. My partner didn’t cope with sickness but had to wait until I was ‘cured’ because it would have looked bad if he’d deserted me in the middle of it all.
    In spite of all this, and it took me until my 40s to find myself and my own value and confidence to be myself, I have had a pretty good life experience and have two great kids.
    But I find that even now at 65, she is still around, still quite unaware that she makes my life hell. I will never measure up to her neighbour – who had the cheek to tell me she was her mother as well – am I bothered? no but yes!
    I still resent her, I feel I shouldn’t but I do.
    If I watch the training film we use at work for new staff about attachment disorder I can’t help crying, but that’s ok, it’s allowed.
    I still remember her mother being amazed that me, in my thirties had decorated and cleaned her flat because ‘we all thought you were such a useless little thing when you were a child’ ! I know my father’s mother described her as a ‘wicked woman’ on one of my birthday cards, and that she cried so much for a bar of chocolate that my father bought it with the last sixpence he had left for that week.
    So thanks for your web page and information – and God Bless anyone else who finds themselves born to a narcissist – may you find this web page too !!

  5. JetFire says:

    I have two questions actually. One do narcissists typically wear their wedding bands. I know a young couple that do not and thought it was odds until I noticed the wife exhibiting narcistic traits.

    Would the extension portion of NPD be watching all of their movies constantly, rejecting activities of a person and doing what they want ALL of the time? Rejecting game activities out of fear of being beaten and thus feeling inferior?

    • Luciel says:

      Hi JetFire. NPD has nothing to do with whether or not you’d wear a wedding band- there’s probably a lot of factors that go into a decision like that. They might have even made the decision together, especially if they both don’t wear any. You can’t possibly know why someone else has decided not to unless they hint at it or tell you.

      As for your second question, anyone has the capability of being selfish NPD or not. Someone with NPD might even try to be as nice as possible so that people like them- a disorder does not present the same way in every person. Have you considered asking why they’re doing this? Or had a discussion about it?

      If you think someone you know is suffering from a disorder, depending on who it is I’d say that 1- it’s either not your business if they are not someone who is close to you, 2- if they are I think the best course of option is to politely suggest that they try out counseling, or express your concerns about their health.

      • Samantha says:

        …gaslighting in it’s truest form right there. Telling us our reality is not what it appears. And we have it all wrong. Well, once you’ve been in a relationship with a Narc, there’s no mistaking it. It’s unfathomable to believe, but we all read each others stories and it’s like we are reading our very own. Right down to the smallest of details, the minutest of mannerisms, we all can relate to the insanity brought upon us from someone with NPD.

        I can only speak for myself, but I believe most of us in here aren’t looking for a mental health expert. It can be much more beneficial post-discard/breakup (with the Narcissist) hearing that the feelings of utter disbelief and devastation that we’ve individually felt are shared and completely understood by a small sector of society.

        So, what are you really here to do? Are you a flying monkey? A lieutenant? The concerned citizen bit isn’t really going over that well.

        “When you dance with the devil, you haven’t got a clue. For you think you’ll change the devil, but the devil changes you. “

  6. Kimberly says:

    Thank you for the insight! He began or exhibited mild traits because he was in the military. The day he retired all hell broke loose and magnified to the extent provided in the article.

    I am afraid of him!

    • Luciel says:

      Hi Kimberly! NPD is a disorder that develops from the time between someone’s childhood and their early adult life. It is often something caused by trauma or neglect in their childhood, or influenced by genetics, and it is something that is an unchanging part of their personality and does not suddenly appear out of nowhere.

      If someone you know was in the military and came back very different it is not a personality disorder. The military can be traumatizing for some people- he could be suffering from a wide range of disorders, from depression to ptsd. It is neither my nor your place to diagnose him with anything, but I think a doctor or psychologist might be able to help in this situation.

  7. Think my partner of 5 years started showing traits of this. When I try to discuss things with him that have upset me or hurt me ie his actions he goes on the attack. Saying I’m moaning never happy all me me etc when I just want to tell him I’m a little upset etc. I feell like I’m not enough for him. Not good enough. His really clever I’m not. He seems very secretive has codes on all devices even kindle reader. Last year we had 1 problem after another. Even him not telling me when he has texts of people. He has they aren’t important so why should he remembered them. When he only had the txt few hours before. Feel like he doesn’t really open up/ can’t open up. I feel shut out a lot from him. He can be very loving when he wants to be. I feel very confused. When things do happen it brings me right down don’t feel.goid about myself. He had been married twice his 1st wife had affairs so they split. My 1St husband was very controlling. Now feel like it happening again. Can’t do anything right. Words always twisted around when things happen. Like I’m doing something wrong. I only wanna love him & be with him but feel like we getting further apart.

    • Elly says:

      Wow. I feel like I’m going through the same thing as you. He is either the best husband in the world or a very mean person to me. Everyone else thinks he is a great guy.

    • Anon says:

      Don’t waste anymore time on that relationship! Took me almost 20 years to figure it out. 🙁

  8. Luciel says:

    websites that claim all abusers are narcissists (and vice versa) and encourage people to armchair diagnose people they know are more harmful than hurtful.

    a fair amount of people with npd are not abusive, and have been victims of abuse and/or neglect themselves.

    furthermore their traits are not inherently abusive- only people who want to make money off of “”how to spot a narcissist”” books and fearmongering will tell you that, not professional psychologists. sure someone with npd could be abusive, but anyone can be abusive. take any group of people and a certain amount of them will be abusive or have abusive traits.

    you dont have to be mentally ill to be abusive either. there’s lots of very shitty, non-disordered people. a lack of empathy doesnt mean you cant cognitively understand other people’s feelings either, or that you’re an abuser. there’s lots of mental and physical disorders that may cause low empathy and no one is inherently some inhuman monster because of it.

    it’s very sad that some people here have been manipulated or abused but conflating it all to the mentally ill and armchair diagnosing every single one with npd is wholly inaccurate. a lot of these people probably don’t have the disorder. i think a lot of people don’t really understand the core requirements for any PD, or the dsm requirements for npd. there’s a lot of stuff you can’t possibly know about someone since it’d be all internal- such as the requirement for not having a sense of identity. and that’s only one example.

    frankly it’s disheartening seeing things like this. please do a lot more research on psychology using scholarly articles and objective sources rather than overly biased websites. your obsession with narcissists and spotting them and diagnosing people isn’t healthy for you either. you’ve fallen victim to shitty mass media.

    it’s not like mentally ill people get enough stigma already.

  9. Anon says:

    Having dealt with the most self absorbed sister with her monumental selfish and arrogant acts over the last fourty odd years, it has only dawned on me when she was challenged that she is a complete narcissist. All my fault, no acceptance of any wrong doing, spoken in a houghty arrogant manner – she ticks every single narcissist box. From reading this website I see there is no cure and best all round not to have contact….

  10. Grace says:

    OMG, Luciel. What *is* your problem? You have had more than your fair say, but if you don’t agree with or like what is shared on this website, why can’t you just go elsewhere. Rather than make a decent case for issues with the website, it is my opinion that what you really have made clear is that you have emotional problems. The fact that you have such an obsessive need to discredit this website, points to the issue being yours. That you go so far as to call the things said here as, “lies”, points to, a reactivity and personalization to a website that in the main aggregates information from people who are experts in their field. I would advise that you get some help somewhere, as you find this one unhelpful. Let others determine for themselves whether this website is helpful or not. I, for one, have found it a godsend.

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