Narcissistic Behavior

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The term narcissistic personality disorder replaces megalomania in professional settings.

Feelings of Importance

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You have many lofty qualities. Perhaps you excel in sales, inge­nu­ity, or have a heightened fashion sense. Abilities in several other areas often surpass peers. Likely, you have a position of authority. This sounds appealing but is your view of this position problematic?

Identifying Narcissism

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a long-term pattern of abnormal behavior characterized by exaggerated feelings of self-importance. This accompanies an excessive need for admiration and a lack of understanding of others’ feelings. In the field of psychology, megalomania, which literally means large great madness, is NPD. This personality flaw is evident by personal grandiosity or deification among the traits listed below:

  • Self-admiration
  • Aggression towards others
  • Mood swings
  • Bad temperament
  • Manipulative
  • Overconfident
  • Egotistical
  • Lack of empathy
  • Need to be feared
  • Feeling infallible

Beneath the superficial ultra­confidence is a fragile self-esteem, vulner­able to the slightest criticism. Therapy is often difficult, as people with NPD do not consider themselves to have a problem. At least some of the symptoms are 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.

Narcissistic Behavior

Psychologists differ over the number of subtypes (which are not recog­nized in the DSM-5 or ICD). Theodore Millon (August 18, 1928 – January 29, 2014) identified five, rang­ing from Amorous Narcissist to Malignant Narcissist. DSM-5 sug­gests a dimen­sion­al approach to diagno­sis based upon the severity of the dysfunc­tional-personality-trait domains.

Common anti-social behavior includes disloyalty, guiltless­ness, vindictive­ness and exploi­tive tenden­cies. Lack of real intimacy or empathy is popular. The Malignant Narcissist may be suicidal or homicidal. NPD often overlaps 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.

An estimated 6% of the popula­tion has NPD. It causes problems in many areas of life, such as rela­tion­ships, work, school, and financial affairs. Often, people with NPD feel disappoint­ment when special favors or adoration is absent.

Living and Working With a Narcissist

The basic narrative of narcissists is that others are inferior. Do not try influencing a narcissist with emotional tears or sadness. They will delight in your display of weakness. 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.

An estimated 6% of the population has narcissistic personality disorder.

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, similar to some­one with obses­sive com­pul­sive per­sonal­ity dis­order (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 by a trusted companion, (s)he can micro­manage the joy out of coworkers.

The negative feelings projected on others can have terrible consequences for a narcissist. The same is true of those with whom (s)he comes in contact. It wastes precious mental energy and takes 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 the immune system for more than six hours. These health issues can lead to more serious problems such as heart attacks and stroke,” explains cardiologist Dr. Cynthia Thaik.

Avoid these outcomes by being 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.

NPD has several differen­tials. For example, symptoms overlap OCPD. Those with elevated IQs may frequently denigrate others. Social interaction difficulties could be the result of a poor sleep routine. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is characterized by emotional deregu­lation. This difficulty leads to severe, unstable mood swings, impulsivity, poor self-image, and troublesome personal relationships.

You’re the Narcissist

Are you a narcissist? Complete a 23-question quiz at Scientific American to discover your level of narcissism. NPD may have its roots in child­hood experi­ences and character develop­ment. Don’t be misled by a public persona. In the 90s, psychologist Paul Wink analyzed a variety of narcissism scales and con­firmed two distinct faces of narcissism, labeled “Grandiosity-Exhibitonism” and “Vulnerability-Sensitivity.” For better or worse, NPD 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. Seek appro­priate medical attention if you feel pervasive alienation from others. A happy balance is to think less of yourself and more of others while remaining productive.

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References
Kevin Williams is a health advocate, local editor, and writer of hundreds of articles for multiple web­sites, including: A Bit More Healthy, KevinMD (WebMD), and Sue’s Nutrition Buzz. He was a 15-year Neutrogena Research and Scientific Affairs graphics con­sul­tant.

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