Narcissistic personality disorder is a long-lasting condition in which a person feels that he is better than others. Although narcissists may at first appear to be extremely confident, people with this disorder are often hiding a very low level of self-esteem beneath their blustery personalities. Hypersensitive to rejection and criticism, they often belittle and humiliate others in order to keep their inflated egos intact.
Narcissisitic personality disorder is a relatively rare condition, and is more common in men. Women with narcissistic personality disorder are unusual; according to statistics from the Armenian Medical Network (2006), between 50 and 75 percent of people diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder are male.
Signs of Narcissism
One of the most obvious signs of narcissism is the presence of grandiose behavior. This goes beyond simple bragging–many people with narcissistic personality disorder will exaggerate their accomplishments and talents. Other signs of narcissism include:
- Attraction to leadership roles or other high-profile positions at work
- Extreme aversion to criticism and rejection
- Inability to maintain healthy relationships
- Lack of empathy
- Need for approval
- Need to be at the center of attention
- Pattern of alternatively idealizing others and devaluing them
- Preoccupation with appearances
- Tendency to deem others as useful or not.
What Causes Narcissism?
The causes of narcissistic personality disorder are complex and not yet entirely understood. Several theories exist as to the causes of narcissism, however.
One theory is that heredity and genetics are responsible. According to “Psychology Today” (2010), genes can influence up to 50 percent of personality development. But most scientists believe that outside influences also have a great effect on narcissism’s development, and several theories attempt to explain this influence.
One theory suggests that narcissistic personality disorder develops due to a dysfunctional parent-child relationship. According to this theory, a child with an inconsiderate or uncaring parent may have a tendency to withdraw and focus only on personality attributes that the parent appears to value, such as physical beauty or talent at a certan sport. When this happens, the child’s sense of self becomes inflated and any weaknesses are ignored. As the child grows older, he may fluctuate between feelings of entitlement and feelings of worthlessness. As an adult, he depends heavily on approval from others and has a difficult time forming healthy relationships.
Another theory implies that narcissistic personality develops in response to social cues. Many things that are valued in society–such as wealth, fame and physical attractivness–foster an environment that allows narcissism to develop. It is also possible that children learn narcissistic behaviors from their parents.
Until personality disorders are better understood, scientists can only theorize about the causes of narcissistic personality disorder. However, many argue that the most likely cause of narcissism is a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders. (n.d.). Narcissistic personality disorder. Retrieved September 7, 2010, from http://www.minddisorders.com/Kau-Nu/Narcissistic-personality-disorder.html
Groopman, L.C. and Cooper, A.M. (2006). Narcissistic personality disorder. Retrieved September 7, 2010, from http://www.health.am/psy/narcissistic-personality-disorder/
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2009). Narcissistic personality disorder. Retrieved September 7, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/narcissistic-personality-disorder/DS00652
Psychology Today. (2010). Narcissistic personality disorder (causes). Retrieved September 7, 2010, from http://www.psychologytoday.com/conditions/narcissistic-personality-disorder?tab=Causes
The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. (2009). Narcissistic personality disorder. Retrieved September 7, 2010, from http://my.clevelandclinic.org/disorders/personality_disorders/hic_narcissistic_personality_disorder.aspx