Toxic family relationships can take a toll on anyone who has to deal with them, especially when mental illness is involved. Any sort of mental illness or personality disorder among family members, especially left untreated, can cause stress and discord in the family, but sometimes, the affected person doesn’t even realize there’s a problem. This is especially the case with narcissistic personality disorder, generally because a narcissist, by nature, sees no fault in him/herself. And he/she’s not capable of it, either.
Spending time with a narcissist isn’t easy, and if you’ve ever dealt with someone with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), you’ll know exactly what I mean.
“They tend to exaggerate in an immensely obvious way – as people, they’re unusual in their personality,” says clinical psychologist Jillian Bloxham. “It becomes very evident when a person is narcissistic.”
Healthy self-esteem is important for everyone, but some people develop an over-inflated sense of self-importance that leads to the belief that other people’s feelings, thoughts, and beliefs have no relevance. This is the first sign many people recognize in a person who suffers from NPD.
NPD is a tricky condition because often, narcissists don’t even realize anything is wrong–so identifying narcissistic personality disorder can be a challenge–but mostly for the narcissists themselves.
In general, narcissists are known for their sense of personal entitlement that causes them to expect people around them to cater to their every desire, to anticipate their every need, and to respond post-haste in fulfilling them.
“It is good to think highly of yourself – but for these people, it is out of control,” says personality disorders expert and consultant forensic psychologist Kerry Daynes. “It has gone off the scale.”
What are the symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD)?
Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is not considered to be a “mental illness,” but a personality disorder that manifests in an inflated sense of importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. The official list of symptoms is as follows.
A victim of narcissistic personality disorder will exhibit at least five of the following traits*
1. A grandiose sense of self-importance
2. A preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
3. A belief that he or she is “special” and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
4. A requirement for excessive admiration
5. A sense of entitlement – unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
6. Interpersonal exploitativeness – taking advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
7. A lack of empathy and an unwillingness to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
8. Enviousness of others – along with the belief that others are envious of him or her
9. A tendency to arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
Source: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV*
Do you know a narcissist?
Narcissists tend to be caught up in their own lives, their own personal worlds. This means that in general, they have no time to consider the feelings, thoughts or needs of the people around them. Rather than offer sympathy if you are dealing with pain or frustration, they’ll just share some of their own with you (which, of course, will be far more serious than your own.)
While a narcissist may appear to be an upbeat, happy person to outsiders in his or her life, people who know him or her intimately are likely to see a whole other personality. This can manifest in several ways–but a primary marker is that they are unable to empathize with those around them, and they consistently blame others for problems they’ve caused.
Since narcissists tend to see other people as objects or possessions, they cannot fathom it when they are not obeyed or catered to. If the person is a friend or acquaintance, the narcissist may just discard them and pretend they don’t exist–but if it’s a family member, things can get more serious.
For example, the narcissist may try to pressure the family member into conforming to his or her wishes, and if that doesn’t work, additional and potentially life-altering steps may be taken to get what is desired.
Because narcissists are incapable of empathizing with others, they don’t even consider (or care) how their words or actions could affect others–and they will never admit that they are wrong. Instead, they will play the victim and use the situation to gain more attention from others around them.
As with any other toxic family situation, it may be best to distance yourself from a person with NPD. This is especially true because they don’t generally realize that anything is wrong. Plus, there is currently no known “cure” for NPD–though if a person affected with it seeks therapy, change is possible. However, it’s very unusual for a person with NPD to seek therapy since they don’t see a problem with their behavior.
“Why would someone who thinks they’re special and great come for therapy?” Bloxham says.
Do you think someone you love might have NPD?
If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy reading Gaslighting, Love Bombing and Flying Monkeys: The Ultimate Toxic Relationship Survival Guide for Victims and Survivors of Narcissistic Abuse by Angela Atkinson
Are you in a relationship with someone who makes you feel crazy and “not good enough” all the time? Do you find yourself constantly shocked at the outrageously disrespectful behavior and excessive bullying of a friend, family member or co-worker?
Narcissists and people with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) make you feel worthless and numb, and they leave you wondering if you’re even a real person sometimes. (Read more)