Narcissistic personality disorder is destructive to social relationships, be it family, spouse, friends, co-workers etc. What draws the line between having some narcissistic personality traits and actual NPD? NPD is not easily diagnosed because a comorbidity of other personality disorders can be present. Although, NPD is rare there are some obvious traits that are linked to people who have this particular disorder.
There are three clusters of personality disorders with many subtypes and NPD falls under cluster B which is a category of personality disorder consisting of emotional/dramatic/irrational behavior and perception (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2010). The DSM-IV (1994) 4th edition mentioned in (Narcissism 101, 2011) defines the diagnostic criteria of NPD of possessing at least five of the symptoms that include “A grandiose sense of self-importance, preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, believe he/she is ‘special’ and should only associate with other special people, requires excessive admiration, a sense of entitlement, exploitive behavior, lacks empathy, envious/believes others are envious of him/her, and an arrogant haughty behavior/attitude” (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). Trained clinicians are able to identify accurately and diagnose individuals showing NPD traits. However, NPD traits contradict its own definition because an individual who has NPD alter their behavior despite their true feelings hence due to a false perception of themselves. In a book titled “Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited”, Vaknin implied that NPD traits include behaving in a deceitful manner, compulsive lying, conniving and indifference to the feelings of others (Vaknin, 2003). Levy (2012), states that theorists came to offer two subtypes of narcissistic personality as the ‘overt’ type and the ‘covert’ type. Levy describes,
“The overt type is characterized by grandiosity, attention seeking, entitlement, arrogance, and little observable anxiety…these individuals can be socially charming despite being oblivious of others’ needs, interpersonally exploitative, and envious. In contrast, the covert type is hypersensitive to others’ evaluations, inhibited, manifestly distressed and outwardly modest” (pp.886-897).
People may see individuals with NPD as genuine, popular, intelligent, charming and charismatic, which is unlike who they truly are based on their motives, utilizing manipulation as a way to exploit others is not uncommon (Vaknin, 2003). Do those diagnosed with NPD still want to seek approval? Otherwise if a person who is diagnosed with NPD feels they have attained what they initially wanted, they simply move on.
Statistically, there are only 1% recorded adults who have NPD in the United States and NPD affects more men than women (Cherry, 2013). This small percentage suggests that there are many undocumented cases of individuals who may qualify for NPD. NPD is rare because the defining symptoms cause a complexity in confronting individuals with NPD moreover individuals who are diagnosed with NPD lack the commitment to complete professional treatments (Heffner, 1992). Although many people may have witnessed someone from their lives behave in ways that are similar to narcissistic traits, it can still be difficult to be sure. Narcissism 101 (2011) listed different personality disorders that coincide with NPD: histrionic personality disorder, anti-social personality disorder, borderline personality disorder are similar to the symptoms of NPD but also have its own distinct traits.
In cases where narcissistic personality traits are extreme, it can benefit the general public to become aware of NPD and its apparent characteristics that can lessen the natural human tendency to trust others. It’s substantial to familiarize ourselves with a personality disorder rare in diagnosis because narcissism can be damaging emotionally and spiritually to people who associate with, as well as individuals diagnosed with NPD. A better understanding of NPD symptoms can give an awareness of what to look out for in terms of helping people diagnosed with NPD seek treatment.