Is toxic narcissism or narcissistic personality disorder always caused by bad parenting? Is it possible that a person raised by healthy, loving parents in a good, decent home could become a narcissist? Could someone turn into a narcissist as an adult? I’ll answer all of your questions in this video.
If you are in any way related to or otherwise involved with a narcissist, you’ve probably asked yourself at one time or another how they got that way, right? What made them a narcissist? How did they GET LIKE THIS?
And, if you’re like me, you needed to know in order to heal. So, you did your research and you found out that in most cases, it is related to their parents – and sadly, most often, to their mothers or primary caregivers and their attachment styles. That’s why, when you think of any narcissist, the first thing that likely goes through your mind is how badly their parents messed them up.
Because of the fact that most narcissists seem to stop developing emotionally when they are toddlers or middle schoolers at best, and because most research points to the fact that their parents did not give them the love and attention they needed in order to evolve, which led to their emotional immaturity, it’s easy to blame their mothers or parents in general.
But if you’re the parent or sibling of someone who might be a narcissist, and you know for sure that these issues don’t apply to them, you might doubt this theory and find yourself digging for an alternative possibility. And what about those families that have more than one child, and only one turned out to be a toxic narcissist? Or what about people who had good families and didn’t suffer any trauma in childhood?
You want to know if it’s ALWAYS the fault of the parents, right? Well, let’s talk about it.
Are parents always at fault when someone develops narcissistic traits?
Published research studies tell us that the area of the brain that controls emotional empathy and compassion is thinner in those who have NPD than in those who don’t. So, neurology as well as genetic predisposition will have an effect on how a person’s personality turns out.
And then you have situations where their parents who really did their absolute best to raise their children right, but due to their jobs or other responsibilities, might inadvertently neglect their emotional needs, which leads to their child developing a narcissistic personality. They may be clothed and fed well and taken care of when they are sick, and they may have all of the material things in the world – but the parents may not have given them the love and attention they felt they needed.
In these cases, the parents were clearly not in any way abusive. It may have been due to the fact that they had other kids, or they had a sick parent to take care of, or they had a demanding job that was necessary to support the family.
Of course, there are also times when narcissists end up becoming that way because of parents who were, believe it or not, overly validating (such as praising a child when the child may not have deserved it) and overly permissive. These parents may have not provided enough limits or discipline for their kids. And while some kids will sort of naturally self-limit, others won’t, and in some cases, they may become narcissists themselves as a result.
Research on How People Who Weren’t Abused or Neglected by Parents Can Become Narcissists
A 2015 study points to the fact that some parents might have overly praised their kids when they might not deserve it, or have always focused on how much “better” their kids were than other kids. And in some cases, they might have simply given too much attention and indulgence and not enough discipline.
“Loving your child is healthy and good,” as one of the study authors, Brad Bushman, a psychology professor at Ohio State University points out, “but thinking your child is better than other children can lead to narcissism, and there is nothing healthy about narcissism.”
In these situations, kids will often develop an overblown sense of entitlement, which they carry into adulthood. In many cases, they were also not required to show any empathy, nor were they asked to check their egos at the door.
This can happen in a number of situations, for example, being overly permissive with and over-praising children are often reported with only children. Please note that this isn’t always the case and that in fact, it is relatively rare. In some cases, though definitely not all, it can be a bigger issue when parents have struggled to get pregnant or when they’re adopted after a long struggle with infertility, or when they are born prematurely or with other issues that caused their parents to fear for their lives .among others.
And of course, in both the case of the adopted child who is older than newborn at the time of adoption and in the case of the premature or otherwise sick child who spends weeks or months in the hospital after birth, their attachment styles can be affected. That’s because parents aren’t able to connect on the same level as they would normally, so they develop a less healthy attachment style, which goes back to the original theory of the attachment style predicting narcissism.
Sometimes, people become narcissistic that has nothing to do with the parents at all. For example, if a child was ruthlessly bullied at school, or if someone else in their lives caused trauma in any way for them. In these cases, while their parents could have been loving and caring, the trauma they experienced at the hands of bullies or other outsiders could certainly have also been a risk factor for them becoming narcissistic.
And then there are those who end up with something we call acquired situational narcissism.
What Is Acquired Situational Narcissism?
So, we know that it might be possible that someone who was raised in a relatively healthy home by decent parents, but who had other traumas and issues, to become a narcissist. But what other situations could lead to toxic narcissism or narcissistic personality disorder?
And if so, what other types of situations and factors can play into it? Let’s talk about it.
Research on Acquired Situational Narcissism
Research published back in 1996 points to a condition that is referred to as transient, temporary, or short-term narcissism. And even before 1996, psychologists often recognized something they called “reactive narcissistic regression,” which meant that when someone was dealing with a big life crisis, they might end up going through a sort of temporary narcissistic phase where they’d behave like a toxic narcissist until the crisis was over.
And, according to what I’ve found in this and other published research papers, these types of temporary narcissism can also be triggered by medical conditions and even injuries. For example, traumatic brain injury (TBI) has often been linked to narcissistic behaviors and antisocial traits in people who had not previously displayed them.
How to Identify Acquired Situational Narcissism
So what does acquired situational narcissism (ASN) look like in real life? Well, do you know someone who is normally quite humble, but who ended up getting a high-end job and makes a lot of money, or who suddenly ranks high socially, or who ends up gaining celebrity status out of the blue? In these situations, many people are able to keep their heads on straight, but others will seem to sort of lose their humility.
In fact, according to Robert B. Millman, a professor of psychiatry at Cornell Medical School, this is what acquired situational narcissism looks like. He points to known narcissists who are among the billionaires, people who become suddenly famous or who manage to rise to aspirational levels in their careers who develop narcissism in adulthood.
Millman adds that celebrities and other suddenly wealthy people will often have lives that are outside of what we’d consider typical. Plus, they might be surrounded by “yes men,” who will ensure that they are given filtered feedback, excessive admiration and are never told “no” for any reason. Plus, anytime someone is a celebrity or a CEO or otherwise wealthy, they might be sought after in ways that will cause them to feel more important or better than others. All of this is like narcissistic supply on steroids if you think about it.
And, let’s not forget celebrities and other public figures might feel a certain amount of pressure from the public – fans and haters alike – to present a certain image and to live a certain lifestyle.
An Example of Acquired Situational Narcissism
A good example of this is the guy you grew up with who was considered a nerd and who was often picked on, but who grew up and invented some big app, or he created a YouTube channel that somehow got a bazillion subscribers and brought him fame, or he became an actor or singer – or who otherwise found himself a celebrity. In any case, this formerly geeky guy managed to attain success to the point he began to be recognized in public, or he suddenly became a member of the social elite for whatever reason.
As soon as he found himself outgrowing that geeky, quiet image, he suddenly felt like a whole new person. Maybe he went a little overboard and started to focus too much on his self-image, and on his own needs and wants. This, along with the fact that his life is very different from the average person’s (as the lives of all public figures will be), might cause him to lose any sense of compassion and emotional empathy he once had. That might lead to him being unconcerned with the “little people” to the point that he would end up inadvertently or directly abusing the people closest to him without remorse. So, while his transition wouldn’t happen as a child, he still would essentially have developed his narcissism the same way that any other narcissist did – just not in childhood.
But why does this happen to some people and not others?
Well, according to Millman, while it is possible to develop narcissism in adulthood for these reasons, among others, acquired situational narcissism is most likely to happen when there were already some pre-existing factors that would have led to narcissism under the right circumstances. All of this means that, at least in some cases, narcissism can be developed by people who had good, healthy upbringings – and that it isn’t, in fact, always the fault of the parents.
Let’s begin today by briefly defining narcissistic abuse. In a nutshell, narcissistic abuse is officially defined as the intentional construction of a false perception of someone else’s reality by an abuser for the purposes of controlling them. It involves a sort of constructed reality in which the narcissist manipulates you emotionally and psychologically over a long period of time.
It can be difficult to figure out that you’re dealing with narcissistic abuse because it can be very subtle and pervasive. It took me personally 35 years to recognize it. So how do you know if it’s happening to you? Well, I’m here to help you with that. Please grab a pen and a piece of paper, or open up a note on your phone. As you read through the signs that you’re a victim of narcissistic abuse, go ahead and make a tick mark for each one that resonates with you.
Narcissists believe they’re special and superior to other people.
They are certain that their own opinions and ideas are more valid than those of others.
They have an inflated sense of self-importance and tend to demand attention and admiration. The type and intensity of their need for narcissistic supply will vary between covert narcissists and grandiose ones.
If you understand what constitutes Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), which signs indicate someone is exhibiting narcissistic tendencies, and how to handle each sign using these strategies, then you will be able to change your view of yourself by taking responsibility for your own feelings, thoughts, and behavior.
A Real-Life Example of a Narcissistic Friend
A few months after I left my ex-husband and became a single mom, I got a job working in healthcare billing. The hours were good for a single mom, I got health insurance for my son and me, and the pay was better than I could do elsewhere at that time.
After a few weeks on the job, I met a fellow single mom working in my department. Let’s call her Brenda.
I was so happy to meet Brenda because I didn’t know anyone in the area (because my narcissist ex had isolated me quite thoroughly and because I’d moved to be closer to my family when I left him).
Plus, our kids were of similar ages, and we could hang out and have playdates outside work. It seemed perfect.
At work, we started having lunch together every day. I was thrilled to have someone to hang out with and fully embraced the friendship.
But after a few months, I noticed that every time I spent time with Brenda, I felt super-stressed and like I needed to calm down. I couldn’t figure out why at first, which sounds odd, but I wasn’t as self-aware back then as I am now.
I wrote about it in my journal a few times and realized I must be missing something. There didn’t seem to be a logical reason I’d feel the way I did – Brenda was a good friend, right?
After that, I watched our conversations a little closer and realized that Brenda was very negative.
If I had an idea or talked about trying something new, she’d instantly go into all the reasons I shouldn’t bother doing it, or why it wouldn’t work.
If I bought my lunch, she’d make subtle jabs at me for not being more frugal – and if I brought my lunch, she’d pick it apart for any given reason.
If I talked about a guy I was interested in, she’d do everything she could to tear him down and divert my attention.
And she NEVER liked it if I tried to bring another friend along to hang out – she’d tear that person apart verbally and refuse to participate in whatever we were doing.
She was SO negative!
I struggled to find a time when she said anything positive. But when we’d first met, I had taken her negativity as a sort of commiseration between two single moms – you know how it is.
Once I realized what was going on, I wondered if I should end the friendship.
I mean, it wasn’t like I had a million friends at that point in my life, but should I really maintain a relationship with someone who was bringing me down so much?
After a few days, I realized that I wanted to be her friend, so I started trying to turn our conversations toward the positive subtly.
I’d counter all of her negativity with phrases like “but on the plus side” and “now here’s the silver lining…”
But Brenda didn’t respond much to those things – except to occasionally roll her eyes and continue with her negativity.
Then, one day, I got moved to a new team within the department, and they all invited me to lunch.
Brenda was annoyed when I invited her to go along. She refused and told me she’d rather eat lunch in her car than put up with those people and that we’d just resume our lunches the following day.
After spending my lunch break with this group, I felt a bit of an uplift in my spirits. And the next day, they invited me to join them again.
Once again, I invited Brenda, and this time, she begrudgingly accepted. With all of these more positive people around, I felt better.
Brenda’s negativity couldn’t quite infect me the way it usually did, and it was harder for her to dominate the conversation with so many of us at the table; but after a few days, she told me she was done with them.
It was too much for her. And she gave me an ultimatum: her or the group.
Whether it was right or wrong, I chose the group.
And while I told Brenda that it didn’t need to be this way, that we could all be friends – or at least that I could be friends with them and her as well, she disagreed, and she gave me the silent treatment for the remainder of the time we worked together.
I felt bad about it, but I knew I’d made the right choice. Negativity is so difficult to deal with – and Brenda’s especially toxic version of it was infecting me like a disease. I knew that if I wanted to feel better, I had to move on.
Now, I can’t say for sure if Brenda was a narcissist or just a very broken woman. But either way, she had become toxic for me.
So let me ask – does any of this sound familiar to you?
They’re extremely sensitive to criticism, so you’ll need to tread lightly when discussing their behavior to keep the peace.
Everyone has a slightly different definition–but the bottom line is that a true friend is someone who is there for you when you need him or her, who you trust, and who makes you feel good.
Probably you have great conversations, share interests, and support one another in your everyday lives. You help each other out. You have each other’s backs. You know.
But what happens when a friend turns out to be “not so good” for you – if the friendship becomes toxic? Worse, what if your friend is a toxic narcissist?
What does a toxic or narcissistic friend look like?
In layman’s terms, a toxic or narcissistic friend is someone who makes you feel bad about yourself instead of good after spending time with them.
This person might be critical of you — sometimes subtly, and other times, not so subtly.
They may also make you feel drained – emotionally, financially, and/or mentally.
Ultimately, this is someone who you might recognize as not very good for you.
How do you identify a toxic friendship?
It can be difficult, especially if you have been close to a friend for a long time. If you suspect that a friend is (or has become) toxic, ask yourself the following questions:
How do you feel after spending time with or speaking to this person? Do you feel good and positive (for the most part) or do you find yourself worrying, stressing or obsessing about some aspect of the visit or call?
Are you afraid to tell your friend about some aspect of your life for fear of how they’ll react or fear of being judged harshly?
Do you sometimes find yourself avoiding contact with the person or ignoring their calls?
Does your friend consistently “forget” about your plans or cancel at the last minute?
Does your friend actively insult or offend you on a consistent basis?
Do you find yourself feeling uncomfortable or bothered by your friend’s life choices, behavior or moral conduct?
Do you feel comfortable bringing up concerns about your friendship with this friend?
Does this friendship benefit you?
Do you trust this friend, really trust him or her?
These are just a few questions to get you started. In general, your friends should be an asset to your life, not a detriment.
How do you deal with a toxic friendship?
Does someone in your life seem to be more of a hindrance than a help in your life? If so, it may be time to reevaluate your choices. So, once we’ve figured out that a friend IS toxic, what can we do about it? How do we deal with a toxic friendship?
1. Recognize the Problem
When we start feeling bad about spending time with or talking to our friends, it’s time to look at the relationship. Identifying the friendship as a toxic one is the first step to dealing with the problem.
Remember too that this behavior isn’t really about you. A narcissist often tries to make herself seem more important by putting others down. She may also use flattery to gain attention. This behavior isn’t personal; it’s just an attempt to manipulate people into doing what she wants them to do.
2. Check Your People-Pleasing Behaviors
Friends of toxic types often have something in common.
According to Charles Figley, a spokesman for the American Psychological Association, “It’s a pleaser personality — you want people to like you, you want to get along, and it’s hard to say no. But you can pay the price in one way by having toxic friends.”
The fact is that, whether you can see it or not, you’ve got some responsibility in this relationship too.
Maybe you’ve allowed your friend to treat you negatively or to make you feel bad about yourself because you want them to like you or because you don’t like confrontation.
3. Develop Strong Boundaries
Often, people pleasers aren’t good at setting boundaries. When your friendships become toxic, it’s time to stand up for yourself and let friends know what isn’t acceptable.
For example, I used to have a close friend in college who always did the “one-up” thing when I told her about my problems or accomplishments.
When I told her about a promotion I had received at work, she was like, ‘oh yeah, I heard I might be getting a promotion at my job, too.’
Then she went on to tell me how much better her promotion would be than mine and how much more money she’d be making than me.
Another time, I told her about a problem with a guy I was dating, and wouldn’t you know it? She launched into a big monologue about her problem with her boyfriend, which was far more serious and difficult than mine.
So, in that case, I could’ve set boundaries by explaining my concerns to my friend and asking her to avoid the “one-up-manship.” I never did, unfortunately. But hindsight is always 2020, right? Anyhoo…
4. Talk It Out
Talk to a trusted (non-toxic) friend or family member about your concerns if you have one you can trust.
Many times, it’s easier to figure out the problem when you’re “outside looking in”–that is, when you’re not the one with the problem, the solution to it can seem crystal clear.
If you can’t find an “objective” third party, it’s a good idea to seek outside counseling. By employing the skills of a trained coach or therapist, you not only get the objectivity you need, but you may also get answers or learn coping techniques you wouldn’t on your own.
You could also journal or blog about the problem. I have worked through almost every problem in my life this way – including toxic friendships.
Sometimes, just putting our thoughts into words and getting them out of our heads can be enough to help us figure out our issues.
6. Stay Friends? How to Decide.
It’s important to consider whether it is worth losing the friendship. If you don’t want to lose the friendship, you need to figure out if the benefits of staying in this relationship outweigh the consequences of continuing it.
Try using “I Statements” – meaning make an assertive statement without putting your friend on the defensive.
Explain clearly (but kindly) how their behavior makes you feel. Say something like ‘Brenda, I feel upset when you ask me for advice and then tell me that I don’t know what I’m talking about.’ Or “Brenda, I feel stressed out after having lunch with you each day because it feels like you rarely have anything positive to say.”
Be clear and assertive. Let your friend know that you care about them, but you don’t feel like you can be involved in a friendship with them any longer. Give the person a chance to respond, they may not even be aware of their behavior, and the idea of losing a friend might give them a good reason to think about their own behavior. If the conversation turns toward the negative, you can just end it there and walk away.
Of course, this is always much easier said than done. But I promise you, when you have the weight of a toxic friend lifted off your shoulders, you’ll feel so much better and be able to heal that much faster.
7. If All Else Fails, Walk Away and Go No Contact
If you’ve tried setting boundaries and discussing the problem with your toxic friend and have not been able to resolve the issues, it may be time to consider limiting contact or ending the friendship.
It’s not an easy choice and certainly shouldn’t be taken lightly, but when it comes down to it, your sanity and mental health are more important than any toxic friendship.
Take care of yourself first, and then take care of others. People pleasers often forget this little piece of wisdom.
You can do this in many ways: email, phone call, or just stop talking to the person. But in an ideal world, you’d do it in person. Maybe you’d invite the person to coffee or lunch. Before meeting them, think about why you don’t want them in your life anymore and figure out how to phrase them in non-judgmental ways.
Don’ts: Things to Avoid with Narcissistic Friends
It’s easy to fall into a pattern of putting up with narcissists in our lives, especially if they’re family members. But if you have a friend who’s never going to change, your time is better spent elsewhere. Here are some tips for detaching from someone who has narcissistic tendencies:
Don’t try to change them.
Narcissists have pretty rigid ways of thinking about themselves and the world around them—they don’t want or need your help changing those views.
Don’t get caught up in their drama.
Narcissists often make quite a show of everything that happens to them—whether it’s good news or bad news—and they try to use others as pawns in their own dramas by making them feel sorry for or jealous of the situation at hand (even when there’s no real problem).
By not participating in these games, you’ll feel less stressed and more grounded when interacting with this person overall!
Don’t let them use you as a doormat.
If someone constantly uses your generosity for their own benefit without giving anything back in return, wouldn’t that be frustrating?
The same principle applies here: if someone is constantly asking favors from you while offering little or nothing in return except perhaps an occasional smile or compliment on how nice you look today, it might be time to start reassessing whether this person is truly worth staying connected with.
Don’t try to change them or fix their problems for them.
And don’t let them manipulate you into doing something that goes against your values just because they’ve asked nicely (or not).
Narcissists can easily guilt trip others into doing things for them—and if it doesn’t work out, they’ll blame everyone else around them instead of taking responsibility for their actions.
Don’t take their behavior personally.
Narcissists usually don’t mean anything by what they do; it’s all about getting attention from others so that the narcissist feels better about themselves in the end—even if those actions cause harm on top of what was already there before any incident occurred!
Take Care of Yourself
In this case, self-care is going to be very important for you. And you’ll need to start with your own perception.
Change your view of yourself by taking responsibility for your own feelings, thoughts, and behavior.
The first step is recognizing that your friend may suffer from a personality disorder and in some cases, mental illness.
You cannot control how someone else feels or thinks, but you can control how you respond to them.
You should not feel responsible for another person’s actions or reactions—even if it seems like they are trying to make you feel bad about yourself.
Ultimately, your choice is whether you want to continue having this type of friendship.
If you decide it isn’t worth it, just cut ties and move on with your life.
However, if you decide to stay friends with a narcissist, then make sure that you know their behavior and nurture your own ability to handle any relationship issues that arise from dealing with this personality type.
Resources for Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support
The QueenBeeing SPANily, Official – We consider this to be the best narcissistic abuse recovery support group on the web. Offers several subgroups and features a vigilant, compassionate admin team full of trained coaches and survivors, supporting more than 12k members. SPAN is an acronym created by Angie Atkinson that stands for Support for People Affected by Narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships.
Other Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups– We also have separate groups for each stage in your narcissistic abuse recovery, as well as some for those who have moved past recovery and are evolving into the next stage of their own life. Survivors have unique and individual needs, even when they’ve moved on – so we’re still here for you.
One-on-One Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Coaching – If you prefer to get more personalized support in your recovery, you might like to schedule a session with one of our coaches to plan and execute your own narcissistic abuse recovery plan.
Find a Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Therapist – If you’re looking for a therapist for narcissistic abuse recovery, either because you cannot afford coaching and want to use your health insurance or because you have additional issues you need to address that do not fall within the realm of coaching, you will want to find the right therapist for you – and as far as we’re concerned, that therapist must understand what you’ve been through. This page offers assistance to help you do exactly that.
They want to be admired and need to monitor the amount of respect you give them. They exaggerate their achievements and seem to only care about themselves.
And we all know they manipulate people to get what they want.
But as I’m sure you are well aware, narcissists are boastful and exaggerate their self-importance. They also don’t acknowledge that anyone else has needs, wants, and feelings, thanks to their extreme lack of empathy. They seem to literally believe they are the center of the universe. Sound familiar?
And the other thing that narcissists refuse to do is to be reflective and dig within to become self-reflective. In fact, they are threatened by that idea and will avoid it at all costs. God forbid they should catch a glimpse of their true selves! It would destroy them.
(To be fair, covert narcissists often seem a little – or a lot – insecure. But most narcissists seem to carry around some level of insecurity with them.)
Let’s break it down further as to how they are insecure.
They need to boast about everything.
Someone secure will not need to brag about their accomplishments.
Those who are sure of themselves are modest and don’t like showing off.
However, as you see, the narcissist must make it known that they have the best car on the block, or the biggest house on the block, the fanciest clothing, and so on.
While it might seem that it’s all about showing off, the sad truth is that they do this to validate their struggling self-worth.
They put people down on purpose, with purpose.
Anyone secure will always treat others with respect, and if they don’t like someone, they will just not associate with them in any way at all – or keep it at a polite minimum at the very least.
And along with that, the narcissist is known to brag and boast.
They want to make you feel inferior so that you will “know” that they’re “above you or better than you.”
In fact, they need to make you feel that way because it helps them feel better about themselves.
This is another blatant indication of the narcissist’s insecurity – after all, people with a relatively healthy self-image don’t need to stand on the pain of others in order to feel good about who they are.
Narcissists don’t care about your needs or wants.
Narcissists don’t care if you are missing out on something or not getting what you need. This is due to their extreme lack of empathy.
However, they care VERY MUCH about their own wants and needs. In fact, they seem to ONLY care about getting what they need.
And at times, the fact that they get what they need might make them seem almost nice to be around. For a short time, anyway.
They will react angrily, often clapping back at the person giving them criticism with a passive-aggressive response or even mocking them. This humiliates the one giving the criticism, and they feel rejected.
The biggest difference is that when you have actual self-esteem, you are more likely to focus on things like healthy relationships and happiness, while narcissists fail to do this because they genuinely do not care how others feel.
Rather, they want to know what people can do for them. Plus, they’re always trying to validate their self-worth – and when you have actual self-esteem, you don’t need to do that all the time.
Are there more narcissists in a polyamorous community? Signs of narcissism and how to stay safe within an open relationship so you steer clear of narcissists. Have you experienced a narcissist who is in an open relationship? Thoughts or comments?
For information about Lise Colucci and how to schedule coaching, group coaching or to call in as a survivor on a future you can find her here https://queenbeeing.com/lise/