Psychology Wiki
Narcissistic Personality Disorder
ICD-10 F608
ICD-9 301.81
OMIM [1]
DiseasesDB [2]
MedlinePlus [3]
eMedicine /
MeSH [4]

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), is one of the cluster B personality disorders. It was not included in the DSM until 1982, but the condition has been recognized for almost 100 years. Before it took its present name, it was commonly referred to as "megalomania" or "narcissism." The term was first used by Heinz Kohut in 1971[1], is a form of pathological narcissism acknowledged in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1980, in the edition known as DSM III-TR. Narcissistic Personality Disorder, is a condition in which people feel that they are superior to others, have shallow emotions, show little-to-no empathy, and have a grandiose sense of themselves. Further characteristics are specified in the DSM IV-TR.


DSM-IV divides personality disorders into three clusters, based on symptom similarities[2]:

Narcissistic personality disorder is a DSM-IV-TR "Cluster B" personality disorder.

The ICD-10 (International Classification of Mental and Behavioral Disorders, published by the World Health Organisation in Geneva 1992), regards narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) as "a personality disorder that fits none of the specific rubrics". It relegates it to the category known as "Other specific personality disorders", which also includes the eccentric, "haltlose", immature, passive-aggressive, and psychoneurotic personality disorders.

Diagnostic criteria

At least 3 or more of the following are necessary for a diagnosis:

  1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance.
  2. Being preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
  3. Believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by other special people.
  4. Requires excessive admiration.
  5. Strong sense of entitlement.
  6. Takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends.
  7. Lacks empathy.
  8. Being often envious or believes others are envious of him.
  9. Arrogant affect.
(see also full list in DSM-IV-TR)

Prevalence, age & gender features

According to DSM-IV, the prevalence of NPD is less than 1% of the general population, although it manifests itself in 2-16% of psychiatric outpatients. Studies have not demonstrated any ethnic, social, cultural, economic, genetic, or professional predilection to NPD[3]. Some suspect that the prevalence of NPD is much higher than records will show as many people having NPD are never diagnosed.

Some narcissistic traits are common and a normal developmental phase. When these traits are compounded by a failure of the interpersonal environment and continue into adulthood they may intensify to the point where NPD is diagnosed. The disorder occurs 50-to-75 percent more frequently in men than in women. It has been suggested and widely excepted that NPD may be exacerbated by the onset of aging and the physical, mental, and occupational restrictions it imposes[3].

Clinical experience

Narcissistic personality disorder is a psychological disorder, resulting from a person’s belief that he or she is flawed in a way that makes the person fundamentally unacceptable to others [4]. This belief is held below the person’s conscious awareness; such a person would typically deny thinking such a thing if questioned. In order to protect themselves against the intolerably painful rejection and isolation they imagine would follow if others recognized their supposedly defective nature, such people make strong attempts to control others’ view of them and behavior towards them.

The common use of the term “narcissism” refers to some of the ways people defend themselves against this narcissistic dynamic: a concern with one’s own physical and social image, a preoccupation with one’s own thoughts and feelings, and a sense of grandiosity. There are, however, many other behaviors that can stem from narcissistic concerns, such as immersion in one’s own affairs to the exclusion of others, an inability to empathize with others’ experience, interpersonal rigidity, an insistence that one’s opinions and values are “right,” and a tendency to be easily offended and take things personally.

Among professionals, narcissism is commonly believed to result from an impairment in the quality of the narcissistic person’s relationship with their primary caregivers, usually their parents, in that the parents were unable to form a healthy, empathic attachment to them. This results in the child conceiving of themselves as unimportant and unconnected to others.The child typically comes to believe that he or she has some defect of personality which makes them unvalued and unwanted [5].

To the extent that people are narcissistic, they can be controlling, blaming, self-absorbed, intolerant of others’ views, unaware of other’s needs and of the effects of their behavior on others, and require that others see them as they wish to be seen [3]. They may also demand certain behavior from their children, because they see the children as extensions of themselves, and need the children to represent them in the world in ways that meet the parents’ emotional needs[6]. (For example, a narcissistic father who was a lawyer demanded that his son, who had always been treated as the “favorite” in the family, enter the legal profession as well. When the son chose another career, the father rejected and disparaged him.)

These traits will lead narcissistic parents to be very intrusive in some ways, and entirely neglectful in others. The children are punished if they do not respond adequately to the parents’ needs. This punishment may take a variety of forms, including physical abuse, angry outbursts, blame, attempts to instill guilt, emotional withdrawal, and criticism. Whatever form it takes, the purpose of the punishment is to enforce compliance with the parents’ narcissistic needs[6].

People who are narcissistic commonly feel rejected, humiliated and threatened when criticized or their misbehavior being called out by their victims. To protect themselves from these dangers, they often react with disdain, rage, and/or defiance to any slight, real or imagined [7]. To avoid such situations, some narcissistic people withdraw socially and may feign modesty or humility.

There is a broad spectrum of narcissistic personalities, styles, and reactions -- from the very mild, reactive and transient, to the severe and inflexible narcissistic personality disorder.

Although, individuals with NPD are often ambitious and capable, the inability to tolerate setbacks, and disagreements or criticism, makes it difficult for such individuals to work cooperatively with others or to maintain long-term professional achievements [8]. The narcissist's perceived fantastic grandiosity, often coupled with a hypomanic mood, is typically not commensurate with his or her real accomplishments.

The interpersonal relationships of patients with NPD are typically impaired, due to the individual's lack of empathy, disregard for others, exploitative behavior, sense of entitlement, and constant need for attention. They frequently select as mates, and engender in their children, "co-narcissism," which is a term coined to refer to a codependent personality style, similar to co-alcoholism and codependency [6]. Co-narcissists organize themselves around the needs of others. They feel responsible for others, accept blame readily, are eager to please, defer to other's opinions, and fear being considered selfish if they act assertively.

Treatment & prognosis

It is unusual for people being diagnosed with NPD to seek treatment for their problems, or even to consider that they might have a problem [9]. The fears that narcissistic people have of being inadequate make it very difficult for them to imagine having “something wrong” with them, and they certainly would not feel safe in acknowledging these fears to another person. They are typically very threatened by the notion of entering psychotherapy, since they fear the result would be that the therapist would be critical and rejecting towards them. Essentially, they imagine that the therapist would relate to them as their parents did. They are very likely to be disdainful and disparaging in response to the notion of psychotherapy. Unfortunately, NPD is a relatively stable condition and tends to remain relatively unchanged over one’s lifetime. Current treatments for psychological disorders have minor effects in the short term, but depending on the individual, drastic long-term changes in NPD have been observed. {{Citation needed}}

See also


  1. Kohut, Heinz, The Analysis of the Self, 1971
  2. DSM IV-TR, Diagnostic criteria for 301.81 Narcissistic Personality Disorder
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition. Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Association, 1994, p. 660
  4. Golomb, Elan PhD (1992). Trapped in the Mirror. New York: Morrow, pages 19-20
  5. Johnson, Stephen M PhD (1987). Humanizing the Narcissistic Style. New York: Norton, page 39
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Rappoport, Alan, Ph.D.Co-Narcissism: How We Adapt to Narcissistic Parents. The Therapist, in press
  7. American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition. Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Association, 1994, p. 659
  8. Golomb, Elan PhD (1992). Trapped in the Mirror. New York: Morrow, pages 22
  9. Golomb, Elan PhD (1992). Trapped in the Mirror. New York: Morrow, page 23

Additional references

  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition, text revision (DSM IV-TR), American Psychiatric Association, Washington, D.C., 2000.
  • Robert C. Schwartz, Ph.D., DAPA and Shannon D. Smith, Ph.D., DAPA, "Psychotherapeutic Assessment and Treatment of Narcissistic Personality Disorder" (American Psychotherapy Association, Article #3004 Annals July/August 2002)
  • Goldman, Howard H., Review of General Psychiatry, fourth edition, Prentice-Hall International, London, 1995.
  • Gelder, Michael, Gath, Dennis, Mayou, Richard, Cowen, Philip (eds.), Oxford Textbook of Psychiatry, third edition, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1996, (reprinted 2000).
  • Gabbard, Glen O (Ed); Beck, Judith S (Ed); Holmes, Jeremy (Ed). Oxford Textbook of Psychotherapy. (pp. 279-289). ix, 534 pp., 2005.
  • Maccoby, Michael. The Productive Narcissist.
  • Ronningstam, Elsa F. Identifying and Understand the Narcissistic Personality.

External links

Personality Disorder
Personality disorder | Psychopathy 

DSM-IV Personality Disorders

Cluster A (Odd) - Schizotypal, Schizoid, Paranoid
Cluster B (Dramatic) - Antisocial, Borderline, Histrionic, Narcissistic
Cluster C (Anxious) - Dependent, Obsessive-Compulsive, Avoidant
Personality disorder not otherwise specified
Assessing Personality Disorder
MCMI | MMPI | Functional assessment
Treating Personality Disorder
DBT | CBT | Psychotherapy |Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy
Prominent workers in Personality Disorder
Millon | Linehan

DSM-IV Personality Disorders edit

Cluster A (Odd) - Schizotypal, Schizoid, Paranoid
Cluster B (Dramatic) - Antisocial, Borderline, Histrionic, Narcissistic
Cluster C (Anxious) - Dependent, Obsessive-Compulsive, Avoidant
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