Narcissism: definition of a person whose grandiosity and entitlement based thinking causes them to feel superior to and entitled to use and abuse other people. They are not nice human beings — but they certainly do come across at first as charming, socially savvy, and bright. But before you are duped into believing one’s stories about themselves and other people, it’s crucial for normal folks to realize that Cluster B people simply don’t process “life” right.
Narcissism is one of the four Cluster B personality disorders classified in the DSM5. It’s considered to statistically be the most common disorder with regard to personality type.
Don’t think you know a Narcissist? We can almost guarantee you are wrong. With well over 6% of the world’s population registering high scores for Narcissistic Personality Disorder, one can safely presume they are virtually everywhere — hiding in plain sight.
Hallmark signs of Narcissism are easy traits to spot. Once you know what the diagnostic criteria are, all it takes is a little observation and some honest thought.
In order to be classified as a Narcissist (by definition), a suspected subject must show all the characteristic traits of a Narcissist regardless of circumstance. If a person behaves in a narcissistic manner with regard to only a few ethical situations or circumstances but proves to be biologically capable of change and processing complex emotions like empathy on a grand scale, their toxic behavior is thought to have been culturally nurtured and enabled (rather than biological or by genetic nature).
People who are narcissistic by nature, as well as nurture, are thought to be “untreatable” by the psychiatric community — not for a lack of interest in trying to save them but because their brains simply process things like complex emotions and social interactions different from the average (stereotypical) “normal” human. Predatory and pack animal in their thinking, Narcissists tend to band together to engage in acts of mobbing narcissistic rivals then turn compulsively on one another when and if a preferred scapegoat or new target is not available.
The Mayo Clinic is one of the best academic resources about the DSM5 standard diagnostic criteria for Cluster B conditions. Regarding Narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder, the well respected medical site shares the following summary of NPD, the acronym for Narcissism as a personality type rather than psychological or biological illness (of sorts):
Many experts use the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, to diagnose mental conditions. This manual is also used by insurance companies to reimburse for treatment.
DSM-5 criteria for narcissistic personality disorder include these features:
- Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance
- Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
- Exaggerating your achievements and talents
- Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
- Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people
- Requiring constant admiration
- Having a sense of entitlement
- Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectations
- Taking advantage of others to get what you want
- Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
- Being envious of others and believing others envy you
- Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner
Although some features of narcissistic personality disorder may seem like having confidence, it’s not the same. Narcissistic personality disorder crosses the border of healthy confidence into thinking so highly of yourself that you put yourself on a pedestal and value yourself more than you value others.
Regarding the causes of NPD and narcissistic traits in human beings in general, the website shares an honest assessment of why the condition develops in certain people.
They write, “It’s not known what causes Narcissistic Personality Disorder. As with other mental disorders, the cause is likely complex. Narcissistic Personality Disorder may be linked to mismatches in parent-child relationships with either excessive pampering or excessive criticism.”
The source also notes there can also be a strong genetic or biological impetus to develop such a condition. When discussing the study of Genetics or Psychobiology — the connection between the brain and behavior and thinking — it’s important to note that new brain scan technology is helping mental health professionals and family members or people who love those with Cluster B personality types like NPD to “see” how abnormal or deviant brains process things intellectually.
Recent studies (primarily emerging in 2015) have shown that people who are born with a limited capacity to perceive complex emotions like empathy tend to relate to the world in a more animalistic fashion. The area of their brain where emotions are processed tends to show a thinning.
If the capacity to engage in social interaction for the sake of interacting is not perceivable to a person with NPD, chances are they are likely to behave competitively (rather than collaboratively) in nearly every social setting. Because Narcissists only tend to view other human beings — even those they claim to know and love the best — as Narcissistic Supply Sources, they simply use and abuse other people for their own social, emotional, physical, or spiritual gain or advantage.
Somatic Narcissists tend to obsess over appearance and status. Cerebral Narcissists love nothing more than competing academically or psychologically to prove to themselves and others they are smart. Malignant Narcissists pervasively strive to triangulate other people, gaslight, and con other people out of things like money or attention.
Narcopaths (by pop culture definition) are narcissistic Sociopaths who display comorbid traits of both NPD and ASPD — Anti-Social Personality Disorder. The more malevolent and self-aggrandizing they are, the more likely they are to be considered “Dark Triad” by their victims — noting that the most abusive personality types meet diagnostic criteria for NPD, ASPD (manifesting as Psychopath or Sociopath by nature), and are intellectually capable and guilty of acting out complex social manipulations based on their pervasively conscience-free style of Machiavellian thinking.
Because grandiose thinking (or “Grandiosity”) tends to make a person believe they are truly better than other human beings. The more a person is raised to believe that their feelings, emotions, wants, needs, and desires are more important than others, the bigger their entitlement complex and the more likely they are to use and abuse other human beings directly [as well as indirectly] habitually.
Learning to spot the warning signs that a person is shallow and socially competitive to the extreme by nature or nurture is the key to avoiding interacting with one personally. If a person has narcissistic traits but does not have full NPD, the same advice applies: strive to avoid popping up on their radar to avoid being targeted for abuse, but go low contact to “No Contact” with them if and when it’s too late and you already have been targeted.