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What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

“Narcissistic” is a term that tends to get used loosely, often describing people who appear to be selfish or self-admiring. However, there is a big difference between having the tendency to admire oneself and having an actual personality disorder, which is what narcissism actually is (Narcissistic Personality Disorder). A personality disorder is a long-term pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates from the norm of the individual’s culture. This pattern is inflexible and pervasive over a broad range of personal and social situations and typically leads to significant distress or impairment in social, work or other areas of functioning. Personality disorders can only be diagnosed by a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist, and according to the DSM-IV, a person must meet five or more of the following symptoms to be diagnosed:

  • Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).

  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.

  • Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)

  • Requires excessive admiration.

  • Has a very strong sense of entitlement, e.g., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.

  • Is exploitative of others, e.g., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends.

  • Lacks empathy, e.g., is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.

  • Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.

  • Regularly shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.

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