The gracious, charming narcissist.
MENTAL HEALTH You possess many lofty qualities, perhaps excelling in sales or a heightened fashion sense may be self-evident. Abilities in several other areas often surpass peers. So who really qualifies to identify your narcissism? With a good measure of physical attractiveness and above average intelligence, you are in the best position to identify personality faults and excelling qualities.
What is It?
Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a long-term pattern of abnormal behavior characterized by exaggerated feelings of self-importance, an excessive need for admiration, and a lack of understanding of others’ feelings. Beneath the superficial ultraconfidence is a fragile self-esteem that is vulnerable to the slightest criticism. Therapy is often difficult, as people frequently do not consider themselves to have a problem, often viewing at least some of the symptoms as positive attributes. There is evidence of both environmental and genetic causation. Possible factors that promote the development of NPD include:
- Oversensitive temperament at birth
- Excessive praise or criticism for childhood good or bad behaviors
- Frequent praise for attractiveness or abilities by adults
- Severe emotional childhood abuse
- Unpredictable or unreliable parental caregiving
- Environment of familial manipulative behaviors
- Valued by parents as a means to regulate their own self-esteem
Psychologists differ over the number of subtypes (which are not recognized in the DSM or ICD). Theodore Millon (August 18, 1928 – January 29, 2014) identified five, ranging from Amorous Narcissist to Malignant Narcissist. Will Titshaw lists three. Common anti-social behavior includes disloyalty, guiltlessness, vindictiveness and exploitive tendencies. Lack of real intimacy or empathy is common. The Malignant Narcissist may be suicidal or homicidal. Frequently there is comorbidity with Bipolar Disorder, Paranoid Personality Disorder, Histrionic Personality Disorder and/or other depressive disorders.
French psychoanalyst André Green (March 12, 1927 – January 22, 2012) saw moral narcissism as the attempt to elevate oneself above ordinary human needs and attachments - an ascetic attempt at creating an impregnable sense of moral superiority. You can complete a 23-question quiz at Scientific American to learn the extend of your narcissism.
For an estimated 6% of the population with NPD, it causes problems in many areas of life, such as relationships, work, school or financial affairs. You may be generally unhappy and disappointed when you do not receive the special favors or adoration you believe you deserve.
Living and Working With a Narcissist
The basic narative of narcissists is that others are inferior. As hard as it can be, you should not try to compete with a narcissist. They do not take loss well and hold onto to grudges. Narcissists can surprise people with their meanness. “They’re not in touch with their own feelings, so if they’re having a bad day, they’ll project that onto other people,” explains Karyl McBride, PhD, licensed marriage and family therapist.
In a work setting, a narcissist, like someone with OCPD, is more likely to request more than the usual of others; projects can go over budget from an obsession with minutiae. Without an “off switch,” a narcissist is prone to continually make extreme demands upon workmates without regard for time or budgets. (S)he may be a workaholic and expect no less from others. Without intervention of a trusted companion, (s)he can micromanage the joy out of coworkers.
One key difference between workaholism and work engagement is the motivations underlying these behaviors. Whereas engaged workers are driven to work because they find it intrinsically pleasurable, workaholics are driven to work because they feel an inner compulsion to work — feelings that they “should” be working (Graves, Ruderman, Ohlott & Weber, 2012). The cumulative body of research suggests that workaholism is primarily linked with negative outcomes.*
The negative feelings projected at others can have terrible consequences on the narcissist and those with whom (s)he comes in contact. It wastes precious mental energy and can take a toll “on the body in the form of high blood pressure, stress, anxiety, headaches and poor circulation. Research also shows that even one five-minute episode of anger is so stressful that it can impair your immune system for more than six hours. All of these health issues can lead to more serious problems such as heart attacks and stroke,” explains cardiologist Dr. Cynthia Thaik. This can be avoided if you are alert to the tell-tale signs published by John White in Inc. online before accepting employment. The first of seven is your future boss speaks poorly about current staff in the interview.
Narcissism has several differentials. For example, symptoms overlap obsessive compulsive personality disorder (OCPD). Those with elevated IQs may frequently denigrate others. Social interaction difficulties could be result of a poor sleep routine. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a condition characterized by difficulties in regulating emotion. This difficulty leads to severe, unstable mood swings, impulsivity and instability, poor self-image and stormy personal relationships.
Narcissism is deeply rooted in childhood experiences and character development. For better or worse, it is an ingrained personality. To improve social acceptance, use your wit in a self-deprecating manner rather than belittling others. Instead of elaborating on personal successes, pretend you are a talk-show host and query others about their likes, dislikes and successes. The next time you feel the urge to tell everyone about your outstanding accomplishment, look for someone else to whom you can say, “I’m proud of you.”
A disproportionately large amount of selfies may support the notion of self-admiration. But this scratches the surface of analysis. To be A Bit More Healthy, seek appropriate medical attention if you feel pervasive alienation from others or are unable to qualify for management positions despite an abundance of ability. A happy balance is to think less of yourself and more of others while remaining productive.
- How to Profile a Narcissist With One Simple Question. psychologytoday.com
- Narcissistic personality disorder. wikipedia.org
- How to handle holidays with a narcissist. cnn.org
- Narcissistic personality disorder. mayoclinic.org
- 23 Signs You're Secretly a Narcissist Masquerading as a Sensitive Introvert. scientificamerican.com
- Workaholism: It’s not just long hours on the job. apa.org
- 7 Warning Signs Your Potential Employer Has a Toxic Culture. inc.com
- Science: The Negative People in Your Life Are Literally Killing You. inc.com
- Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). nami.org
* Not all workaholics are narcissists. The limited study demonstrates potential comorbidity but the two traits may occur apart from one another. See reference 6.