Narcissistic Personality Disorder

What is narcissistic personality disorder?

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a condition that causes you to feel more important than others. If you have this disorder, you need to be admired. You do not notice or pay attention to the feelings of others. It is normal and healthy to care about your own well-being, but if you have NPD, you take this to an extreme and it creates problems for you and for those around you.

What is the cause?

The exact cause of this disorder is not known. Possible causes include:

  • The brain makes chemicals that affect thoughts, emotions, and actions. Without the right balance of these chemicals, there may be problems with the way you think, feel, or act. People with this disorder may have too little or too much of some of these chemicals.
  • Stress plays a part. You may be at higher risk due to problems such as abuse, financial stresses, or the death of loved ones.
  • Problems in your family when you were growing up may increase your risk. For example if you did not get regular attention, love, and support as a child, you may think that you have to be extra special just to be accepted.

More men than women have this disorder. NPD usually becomes a problem in the teen or early adult years.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

  • Believing and acting like you are better than others
  • Constantly thinking about yourself being successful, powerful, or attractive
  • Believing that you are special and can only be understood by other special people
  • Expecting everyone to admire you and go along with what you want
  • Taking advantage of other people
  • Not noticing or caring much about other people’s feelings
  • Being jealous of what other people have or thinking that others are jealous of what you have

You may not show it, but you can easily feel hurt and rejected. This often happens because your expectations are so high. Your relationships with other people tend to be very poor.

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider or a mental health therapist will ask about your symptoms and any drug or alcohol use. He or she may also:

  • Ask about your relationships with family, friends, and coworkers
  • Give you a personality test
  • Make sure medicines are not causing or increasing your symptoms

You may have lab tests to rule out medical problems.

How is it treated?

This disorder changes the way you relate to others and the way you think about everyday activities. Several types of therapy may help.

  • Talk therapy involves talking with a therapist about your problems and issues, and working toward solutions.
  • Behavior therapy helps you recognize that the way you act affects others. This can help you change problem behaviors.
  • Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is a way to help you identify and change views you have of yourself, the world, and the future. CBT can make you aware of unhealthy ways of thinking. It can also help you learn new thought and behavior patterns.

Medicine is not used to treat this disorder, but may help if you also have problems with anxiety or depression.

For more information, contact:

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-11-11
Last reviewed: 2014-11-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
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