Mirror, mirror on the wall, you better believe that I am the fairest of them all!’
If only psychological disorders were as easily identifiable as physical ailments. Anytime we are not well, or suffer from serious physical symptoms, we go to the doctor, get a thorough examination and hopefully, by the end of it, our trusted medical practitioner should be able to identify the root cause of our affliction.
Unfortunately clinical psychologists have a much tougher job identifying and diagnosing the many complex and sometimes vague disorders originating from mental processes.
One of these psychological disorders that afflicts millions of people around the world, often undetected and very difficult to diagnosis is called Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NDP), a condition characterised by long-standing patterns of negative inner experience and behavior that are dreadfully rigid and innate, bringing a person into repeated conflicts with his or her social environment.
NPD suffers are incredibly self-absorbed, have an excessive fascination with themselves, insensitive and their focus on the self and self-admiration is taken to an extreme. The word ‘narcissism’ comes from a Greek myth in which a handsome young man named Narcissus sees his reflection in a pool of water and falls in love with it.
Although we are still unsure about the exact causes, we do know that NDP usually begins in childhood and it is associated with people who were physically, verbally or sexually abused, had an unhealthy attachment with their care providers, excessive pampering, might have been abandoned or neglected or raised by highly critical and authoritarian parents.
These people have a delusional sense of self, mostly thinking that they are superior or better than everyone else, problems controlling impulses, constantly showing off, have a razor sharp tongue that hurts close friends and family members and unable to feel sorry for anyone else but themselves. Perhaps the people who suffer the most are children of narcissists because they constantly seek love and attention from a person who is unable to give it.
A person with narcissistic personality disorder may:
υ Take advantage of other people to achieve his or her own goals
υ Have excessive feelings of self-importance
υ Exaggerate achievements and talents
υ Be preoccupied with fantasies of success, power, beauty, intelligence, or ideal love
υ Have unreasonable expectations of favourable treatment
υ Need constant attention and admiration
υ Have obsessive self-interest
υ Pursue mainly selfish goals
Now one of the most interesting facets of this disorder is that both the person affected as well as those around them suffer incredibly and consistently. Family and friends are forever confused, hurt, insecure and uncomfortable around the NPD sufferer since they don’t know when he or she might lash out, start an illogical argument to be centre of attention or place blame for everything on others rather than accepting that perhaps once in a purple moon, they too are human and capable of making mistakes…good luck waiting for the purple moon.
Eventually, those around will gradually abandon these arrogant and self-centered individuals due to their repetitive critical mannerism and unpredictable and inexcusable outbursts. Of course this only perpetuates the narcissistic’s philosophy about being too good for other people, everyone is jealous of them and that they are better off without them. I can almost here your sigh from here.
Other common narcissistic personality disorder traits include:
υ Belief that he or she is ‘special’ and unique, and can only be understood by other special people
υ Expectation that others will automatically go along with what he or she wants or else there will be consequences
υ Inability to recognise or identify with the feelings, needs, and viewpoints of others
υ Envy of others or a belief that others are envious of him or her
υ Hypersensitivity to insults (real or imagined), criticism, or defeat, possibly reacting with rage, shame, and humiliation
Living or working with a narcissist can be frustrating and thorny. If possible, interaction should be kept at a minimum, arguments avoided and clear boundaries should be set to try and steer clear of confrontations. Sometimes, you will be lured back by their charm or financial gifts and rewards, however keep in mind that these tactics are used as tools of manipulation rather than tokens of love or admiration.
If narcissists ever admit or come to terms with their condition they may seek the help of a psychologist to try and identify the reason why they feel frustrated, angry and alone. Depending on the severity of the disorder, through therapy, most are able to modify their behaviour to a certain degree.
Nevertheless, with sufferers of Narcissist Personality Disorder, you shouldn’t wait for them to change; instead steps need to be taken to protect yourself from being affected by their troubled ways.
Samineh I Shaheem is an author, an assistant professor of psychology, currently lecturing in Dubai, as well as a cross cultural consultant at the Human Relations Institute. She has appeared on numerous radio programs and conferences and has studied and worked in different parts of the world, including the United States of America, UK, Netherlands, and the UAE. Please forward your thoughts toOutOfMindContact@gmail.com