Someone with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) has an exaggerated estimate of him or herself, and is self-centered and self-absorbed. The person is unable to empathize with the effects of his or her behavior on others.
Everyone has characteristic patterns of perceiving and relating to other people and events. These are called personality traits. Someone with a personality disorder is not aware that his or her behavior or thought patterns are inappropriate. The individual often believes that his or her patterns are normal and right. A person with a narcissistic personality disorder has a sense of superiority and an exaggerated belief in his or her own value or importance.
A person with narcissistic personality disorder may: desire constant attention and admirationlack empathyexaggerate achievements and talentsreact to criticism with feelings of rage, shame, or humiliationbe impulsive, anxious, or envious of otherstake advantage of others to achieve his or her own goalsexpect special treatmentbe preoccupied with ideas of unlimited success, power, brilliance, strength, and beautybecome quickly dissatisfied with others
Many of these traits are relatively common. During adolescence, they are to be expected to some extent, and do not indicate NPD.
The cause of narcissistic personality disorder is unknown. One theory is that the parents of people who develop NPD need their children to be talented or special in order to maintain their own self-esteem.
There is no known prevention for narcissistic personality disorder.
A psychological evaluation is performed, and the diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder is based on the pattern of symptoms. Psychological testing is sometimes used to help diagnose NPD.
A person with narcissistic personality disorder tends to have stormy, and often unsuccessful, relationships. He or she may have a lot of trouble adjusting to the normal limitations of aging.
Narcissistic personality disorder is not contagious, so there are no risks to others.
As in most personality disorders, NPD is made more difficult to treat by the fact that the person does not see him- or herself as ill. Treatments that can be helpful if a person can be persuaded to take them include cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, and individual psychotherapy.
Therapy may help the person relate to others in a more positive and rewarding way. Medication is commonly used only as an adjunct to counseling and therapy. Antidepressants can help stabilize moods and treat any depression.
Side effects to medications vary, but may include drowsiness and allergic reactions.
In many cases, a person with narcissistic personality disorder does not comply with treatment.
A person with narcissistic personality disorder should be followed closely by the healthcare professional. If medications are used, blood levels should be checked periodically. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.
Textbook of Psychiatry, Hales, 1994
The Merck Manual of Medical Information, 1997
Principles and Practice of Psychiatric Nursing, Stuart and Sundeen, 1991
Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment, Tierney, 2000