Author Archives: My Thoughts

Prevalence of Narcissism in College: Increased NPI Scores

Narcissistic personality trait is becoming prevalent within the adolescent to early adulthood and is prolonging further by the sociocultural aspects. Twenge & Foster (2010) mention that changes in cultural practices that lead towards individualism also increases narcissism. Narcissistic personality characteristics stems from sociocultural environment that promotes individualistic ways and is prevalent in adolescence to early adulthood.

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People with narcissistic personality disorder are self-focused, a study by Twenge et al., (2010) collecting data scores between different college campuses found that the narcissistic personality inventory (NPI) test among different college campuses across the U.S. have increasing scores.. Twenge et al. (2010) states, “American culture has become more individualistic over the past few decades” (p.101). In connection, the birth cohort study of 84 college students show an increase measurement in NPI tests. Significant increases in the mean of NPI scores for later generations means that percentages have increased in self reporting of narcissistic personality traits. This does not necessarily mean that these people have a personality disorder, because narcissistic personality can be mild to severe and it really depends on the individual with correlation to their sociocultural experiences (Twenge et al., 2010). Although, a number of confounds in the previous data affected the scores results because these confounds were the effect of college campus on the years that the students were given the NPI self-report evaluation. Selecting a larger and diverse sample of students gives data a more accurate analysis in measuring NPI scores. Twenge & Campbell (2009), mentions that increases in NPI scores in their study is a result of the shifts in parenting, education and the media, encouraging ‘Individualism’ (as cited by Twenge et al., 2010). Can it be that narcissistic personality stems from a shift in cultural teachings to each generation?

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In relation to the western individualistic culture there is a case study of a medical student researchers call Mr. L who is currently seeking psychotherapy due to issues of anxiety and depression. As a student he does well in his academics and takes pride in his achievement, though too proud that he believes he is smarter than his peers and his professors (Ambardar & Bienenfeld, 2011). Mr. L’s behavior is a type of narcissistic behavior, narcissism is not just confidence, it is overconfidence (Twenge, et al., 2010). According to Ambardar et al., (2011) “Mr. L has very few close friends and believes that this is because he doesn’t meet people who are up to his high intellectual and physical standards” (as cited by Twenge et al., 2010, p.1). It is common that people with NPD who behave hastily or risky to be hospitalized for a short period (Psych Central Staff, 1995-2013). However, in Mr. L’s situation is not a severe narcissistic behavior that manifests danger onto himself. It can be complex to treat people who have NPD because health care professionals need to establish a dual approach towards the patient, such as acknowledging their feelings of self-importance but at the same time not to intensify their confidence with risking the patient in not believing there is an issue at all (Psyc, 1995-2013). Psychotherapy is another type of treatment service available for NPD and the three kinds of treatment is Individual Psychotherapy and Group Therapy/Family Therapy.

In individual therapy the healthcare professional will help the patient recognize the unhealthy thoughts and behaviors they display and helping form positive ones (Mayo Clinic Staff, 1998-2013). Psychiatrist will also need to be aware of not seeming confrontational towards the patient in risking them devaluing the credibility of the psychiatrist, therefore complete understanding of NPD is helpful. Group therapy/Family therapy focuses on the patient in developing empathy towards others as the patient will discuss with others and being able to hear what others have to say whether confrontational or support (Psyc Central Staff, 1995-2013). Complete understanding of NPD is necessary for health care professionals to help treat individuals who exhibit narcissistic traits because of the significant risks that patient may not continue treatment if not administered carefully.

A shift to a more collectivistic view encouraging altruism may have NPI score measurements decrease in comparison to the recent data analysis conducted by Twenge et al., (2010) in a cohort study of college students. Although, the responsibility also falls with the influences from sociocultural environment that has a greater effect on children’s early learning. There is no existing medication for NPD, though psychotherapy is the current approach in treating NPD implying that NPD is a sociocultural manifesting personality disorder. Additional future research can focus on whether NPI scores show a decrease in NPD to later generations by changing the sociocultural environment that unintentionally promotes ‘Individualism’.


Influences Towards Narcissistic Personality

There is a distinguishing aspect of narcissistic personality disorder that separates the normal self-love from narcissism. Many people who have high self-esteem are not necessarily heading towards narcissism show that there are factors that can increase narcissism; reality television, common use of social networks and exposure to media can tender attitudes that lead to narcissism.

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Narcissism correlates with a rise in media that encourages people to express themselves (Conjecture Corp. 2003-2013). The media support for expressing uniqueness creates a mindset to viewers that they should express themselves quite strongly. Many people today are interested in television shows broadcasting people’s daily lives. Reality television shows has great influence towards the younger generation in shaping how they see the world (Twenge, 2009). McDonnell affirms, “The rise of reality TV shows is based on the endless supply of narcissists who want to become famous – it isn’t about the money” (2010). To some people, money is not much of a motivation, but becoming famous is their goal. The younger population learns what the media subtly promotes, for example MTV reality shows display an image of “real life” that derives from over self-involvement and self-love (Albow, 2013). Comparatively, as reality television and the media correspond to the increase of narcissism, studies show that the rise of social networking attracts many who have narcissistic personality disorder as well.

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Before social networking became part of our daily activities there was more quality time spent with friends and family instead of quality time behind a computer screen. Studies show a relationship between social networks such as Facebook and the rise of narcissism. In social networks people are able to portray their self-image in a good light by controlling which photos to share and revealing only good qualities of themselves, possibly where many people with NPD can inflate their self-esteem and egos (Albow, 2013). Before social networking became a norm people were more in touch with reality, for example friends are people we actually have bonds with, likewise friendships were more intimate before social networking use. On Facebook, people can make believe they have hundreds-thousands of friends which is far from the truth (2013). Although Albow claims having many friends may seem impossible and shows narcissism characteristics, there is no evidence that having many Facebook friends mean the person has NPD or will have NPD. Incidentally, Facebook more likely attracts those who have NPD as Gearing (2010) states, “Facebook is a Narcissist’s dream come true”. Social networking can be used for the advantage of easy manipulation. Celebrities as well, with their wide public image, attitudes and behaviors they exhibit are highly influential to the younger populations with thousands of fans following their life updates and news.

Related to celebrities and the use of Facebook, there was a recent controversial incident when Justin Bieber had toured the museum in memory of a historical figure, Anne Frank. The Facebook page of the site posted the message Bieber wrote on their guestbook stating, “Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber” (Duke, 2013). This was controversial to the public many people responded back, “Glad he went, but, the last sentence is VERY self-serving. He missed the lessons of Anne totally”. Another person responded, “Way to turn an inspiring moment into something about yourself”. Celebrities and the media they are the super spreaders of narcissism. Celebrities are viewed as idols or icons for many people and how celebrities behave in the limelight will surely be either copied, mimicked or criticized by others making makes it seem that materialism and vain is normal” (Twenge & Campbell, 2009).

Relevant to the fact that people who have NPD is challenging to treat, many factors unknowingly promotes such personality qualities. Aside from the low percentage of NPD recorded there is a rise in narcissistic characteristics. Reality television in of itself can condition viewers of what trends are in which makes it easy for people to catch on and act accordingly to what they are exposed to in the media. If the media encourages people to become self-absorbed then people will begin to think it is okay. In social networking, people can control what image to construct for themselves, and studies show Facebook can attract people who have NPD. Equally important, television icons influences the general public because what they do and say is easily transcribed by people especially the younger population. It is hard to avoid the influences of reality television shows, using social networks as ego boosters and following the current trend and behaviors of media icons but becoming aware of the effect it has can slowly prevent the spread of narcissistic behavior in becoming a norm.

Parenting Style Influence on NPD

Relationship bonds with people who are diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder can lead to confusion towards the individual without NPD because of emotion inconsistency. A person diagnosed with NPD has internal insecurity and creates an illusion of who they are to people around them. The divergence of the false persona versus reality causes a downfall in relationships to others that can be emotionally destructive, more so for the other individual without NPD. Studies show parenting style correlates to whether a person may develop NPD later in life because too much admiration or lack of attention is a factor that leads to narcissistic traits which compromises many close relationships.

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What is learned early in life from their caregivers is long lasting and creates their internal personality (Vater, Ritter, Schorder, Schutz, Lammers, Claas, Bosson & Roepke, 2013) suggesting that parenting styles may lead to Narcissistic features (Vater et al., 2013).Researchers did many studies, and found some contradictory explanations of NPD. Kernberg (1975) suggested, “Inadeqate parenting leads to deep-seated feelings of inferiority which are accompanied by attempts to maintain positive explicit self-concepts despite a general lack of implicit confidence” (p.37-47). Suggesting that people who are diagnosed with NPD have internal low self-efficacy because of emotional neglect during childhood seems to fit the theory of why NPD begins, but it is not enough to suggest that it is a causal relationship. A different view proposes that a grandiose sense of self may have derived from parenting in which overvaluation of the child creates a mindset that evolves into an egotistic self-concept (Milton, 1981). The second theory states that NPD begins from early childhood when a child is given too much attention, admiration, and lacks any constructive criticism. This can lead those experiencing traits of NPD to feel that they are extraordinary amongst others. Inadequate or overvaluation parenting style can strongly affect an individual’s self-esteem later in life and though both viewpoints have their own concept on how NPD begins, both theories can be accepted presently.

Do people who are diagnosed with NPD have low self-esteem, or do they have extremely high self-esteem? Research findings contradict the definition of NPD. Vater et al. (2013) introduces what Bossom, Brown, Hill & Swann (2003) refer to as explicit and implicit self-esteem; explicit self-esteem is a conscious evaluation of self and implicit self-esteem is an automatic, unconscious deep set feeling towards self. Explicit self-esteem is controlled thoughts a person has and acts to demonstrate to the external world, while implicit self-esteem is what they deeply feel about themselves. Implicit self-esteem derives from early childhood association and is kept as an underlying feeling that may later coincide with recent positive or negative explicit self-esteem (Bowlby, 1982). For example, a person may feel negatively towards themselves from experiencing unreceptive and neglectful caregivers, but later finds support from others which compensate for the negativity they feel. Even though a person may begin to explicitly feel good about themselves, the primary negative feelings they had in the early years linger as unconscious thoughts are difficult to forget entirely. NPD is when an individual do not feel ‘at one’ with themselves which creates a temperament tendency to “Take, harm, maim, manipulate or lie” (p.1). Negative implicit self-esteem not only affects the person who is diagnosed with NPD but also sustaining a healthy relationship with people is often difficult.

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Relationships with people who have NPD can be emotionally and mentally destructive in the end (Evans, 2007). The person without NPD feels they have a genuine relationship that may not exist to the person who has NPD and to realize such deception can be hurtful. People with NPD have an underlying insecurity with their self and will purposely hide behind a ‘mask’ and take from external energy to feel good about themselves (Evans, 2007). The relationship that seems strong in the beginning starts to lose its security when the person feels something is wrong, as Evans (2007) simply states that people who have NPD have an “I win, you lose” mentality which causes relationships to dissipate over time. The covert type of NPD is harder to identify because anyone can quickly feel comfortable with the person which Martinez-Lewi (2011) claims people with NPD “Often use a ploy of being someone you can always count on and are highly secretive”.

The DSM-IV-TR describes NPD symptoms as a person who has high self-esteem and thinks of themselves as superior. Studies that analyze NPD suggest that there is an internal self-conflict between what the person implicitly feel toward themselves versus how they demonstrate themselves to others. The theory of parenting style influence on NPD helps clarify the reason between the conflicting automatic self-concept and the conscious self-concept which if not balanced leads to devastating relationships with others. Parenting has an influence on the development of NPD as research provides the correlation of external self-esteem and internal self-esteem to early childhood experiences.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Common Traits and Rare Diagnosis


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.