What are the Causes of Narcissism?

Approximately 6.2% of people in the United States have narcissistic personality disorder. But what are the causes of narcissism? Read on to learn some of the key reasons why some people develop a narcissistic personality disorder.

The Signs of Narcissism

If you live with a narcissist, or someone close to you is a narcissist, you may feel exhausted. Trying to provide a narcissist with the attention that they seem to need can be overwhelming. Here are a few signs of narcissism to watch out for:

  • Lack of empathy for others
  • Constant need for admiration and attention
  • Exaggerates their own importance
  • Belief that they are special and only understood by others who are special
  • Takes advantage of other people to reach their own goals
  • Envious of others, or believes that others are envious of them
  • Has arrogant attitudes and behaviors

The Causes of Narcissism

The causes of narcissism aren’t yet well-understood. It’s thought that many biological and genetic factors can contribute. Early life experiences and environment can also play a role in the condition’s development.

Some experts believe that parents are one of the main reasons why kids become narcissists. Narcissism is more likely to develop when parents need their kids to be special or talented to boost their own self-esteem. Another key factor is when kids are excessively overindulged or pampered when young.

On the other hand, other experts also believe that narcissism is a result of trauma, abuse, or neglect inflicted by parents. Some studies also suggest that narcissism is at least partially due to genetics.

There are many reasons why someone may become a narcissist. The most common theme is that a child fails to transition into adulthood in some way. This means that they remain in the early stage of development, which is self-focused and primarily narcissistic.

Narcissism is something that sometimes appears in families. This could be due to a genetic cause. But it may also be due to a narcissistic parent failing to bond with their children. This, in turn, causes the kids to become narcissists too.

Risk Factors

Recently been hanging out with teenagers? You could be forgiven for assuming they’re all narcissists. The rise of social media and selfie culture has even caused some people to believe we’re living through a narcissism epidemic.

Some adolescents may seem to have a few narcissistic traits. But this is a normal developmental stage. It doesn’t mean they’ll develop a narcissistic personality disorder.

Here are some of the risk factors and causes of narcissism you should look out for:

  • Parental derision for needs and fears during childhood
  • Lack of praise and parental affection during childhood
  • Emotional abuse or severe neglect during childhood
  • Excessive overindulgence or praise by peers or family members
  • Unreliable or unpredictable care from parents
  • Seeing manipulative behavior from one or both parents
  • Continually praised for exceptional abilities or looks by adults
  • Excessive criticism for bad behaviors and excessive praise for good behaviors


Many experts also believe that genetics play a large part and may be one of the causes of narcissism.

Researchers study the impact genetics have on personality in two different ways. The first involves studying identical twins. These usually involve identical twins who were separated at birth and then raised by different families. Identical twins have the same genes. So if they also have similarities in personality traits, these can be attributed to genetics.

Researchers also examine human genomes to better understand the human body.

They’ve discovered a gene called tryptophan hydroxylase-2. This gene has been found to influence personality traits and disorders such as narcissism. It helps us regulate our production of serotonin, which helps us regulate our moods.

Childhood Abuse

Severe neglect or abuse in childhood is thought to be one of the causes of narcissism and other personality disorders.

People with documented childhood neglect or abuse are more than 4 times more likely to be diagnosed with a personality disorder.

Environmental factors can influence a child’s likelihood of developing narcissism. For example, if a child learns from their parents that it’s unacceptable to be vulnerable, they may lose their sense of empathy.

Often, narcissists are taught that love is conditional. They’re showered with praise when they come first or win a competition. And when they don’t, they’re ignored. Overindulging and teaching a child that they’re excessively special is also considered to be one of the causes of narcissism.

Social Conditioning

Let’s face it: modern media is bombarding all of us with information about how we should be achieving greater things. The media teaches people that they should be special and that a celebrity status is all that matters. There is now little regard for helping others, and more people are interested in looking out for number one.

Does this cause narcissism? No one can pinpoint the media and social conditioning as being one of the causes of narcissism. But what if someone has grown up with other risk factors, such as overindulgent and neglectful parents? The media may encourage the development of narcissistic tendencies.

No one can pinpoint the media and social conditioning as being one of the causes of narcissism. But what if someone has grown up with other risk factors, such as overindulgent and neglectful parents? The media may encourage the development of narcissistic tendencies.

Can Narcissism be Fixed?

Narcissism can be difficult to diagnose, and even more difficult to treat. Most treatment is centered around psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy.

This therapy helps the person relate better with other people. That means they can have more rewarding, enjoyable, and intimate relationships. It also teaches them to understand what causes their emotions. They’ll learn why they’re driven to distrust and compete against others.

There are no medications used specifically for treating narcissm. But many narcissists also have symptoms of anxiety or depression. For this reason, medications like anti-anxiety drugs and antidepressants may sometimes be helpful.

Wrapping up

Understanding the causes of narcissism can be helpful if you’re wondering whether someone close to you is a narcissist. Once you begin looking deeper into their childhood you can often see what made them the way that they are.

If someone close to you is a narcissist, check out some of our other popular posts to learn how to deal with them.

  • This article confirms what I believe has caused narcissism in my mother.

    (When I read the criteria for NPD in the DSM-IV manual, I’m not sure she meets them, but she fits most of the criteria you list here: https://thenarcissisticlife.com/do-i-have-a-narcissistic-mother-21-signs-of-a-narcissistic-mother/ )

    My grandmother treated my mother terribly….with severe emotional and verbal abuse….when she was growing up. It caused such low self-esteem in my mother. That’s not an excuse for my mother’s behavior and treatment of me, but it is the reason.

    Understanding the reason my mother is a narcissist has helped me to forgive my mother. Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. Forgiveness takes “me”, while reconciliation takes “we”.

    Forgiveness causes a HUGE burden to be lifted off of me. I read in the Bible that a root of bitterness troubles us and defiles us, and I decided that I didn’t need that in my life!

    My forgiveness of my mother has meant that she owes me nothing in the form of a debt because of what she has done to me all of my life, and I will not try to retaliate against her to “punish” her or “pay her back”.

    Thank you for this article and for confirming for me that narcissists are wounded people who don’t like themselves very much.

    I pray for my mother and all of those like her. May they see themselves through God’s eyes and the love He has for every person some day. May they know they are valuable just because God said so.

  • >