Navigating Narcissism: Understanding Traits, Effects, and Coping Strategies

Navigating Narcissism: Understanding Traits, Effects, and Coping Strategies

What is narcissism, and what is the best way to identify narcissists? In a balanced way, self-love can be pretty healthy. Self-love in exaggerated form is called narcissism, in extreme cases, even as a narcissistic personality disorder. The term narcissism goes back to ancient Greek mythology: Narcissus, a vain youth, rejected the love of the nymph Echo and was punished for it by Nemesis, according to other sources by Aphrodite. The goddess condemned him to insatiable self-love. A love that ultimately destroyed Narcissus.

Narcissism as a personality trait

Narcissism as a personality trait is, therefore, primarily characterized by a pronounced, exaggerated self-love. Moderately pronounced narcissism usually leads to a high level of self-demand, which can lead to extraordinary achievements.

Narcissists often tend to do something extraordinary: For example, they pursue an unusual hobby, are very status-conscious, have elitist manners or are incredibly successful professionally. Most of the time, narcissists react inappropriately to criticism. While moderate levels of narcissism can be stressful for the narcissist’s family, partner, and co-workers, it doesn’t necessarily lead to problems. There is rarely a need for treatment here.


Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Narcissism in extreme forms, on the other hand, can lead to enormous interpersonal problems. Especially in the areas of work, relationships, partnership and sexuality, narcissism leads to severe conflicts. This is called a narcissistic personality disorder.

Narcissism: Symptoms and Signs

Typical symptoms of a narcissistic personality disorder are:

  • excessive self-love
  • Idea of ​​being superb and unique
  • lack of empathy
  • excessive sensitivity to criticism
  • Using others for your ends
  • Exaggeration of own abilities and achievements
  • Search for extreme admiration
  • arrogant, haughty behaviour
  • often low self-esteem

Although narcissistic personalities appear incredibly confident and self-assured, they rarely are. Narcissism tends to compensate for deep feelings of inferiority and insecurities. Narcissists are constantly looking for admiration and approval. They feel offended very quickly and never appreciated enough. Accordingly, narcissists often suffer from depression. The risk of suicide is also increased. Narcissistic men are often affected by sexual dysfunction.

Narcissism: causes and frequency

Narcissistic personality disorder is rare in the general population (less than 1%). In patients undergoing psychiatric or psychotherapeutic treatment, the frequency of narcissistic personality disorders is estimated at 1-2%. For comparison, Almost 15% of all psychiatric patients are affected by a borderline personality disorder.

Little is known about the causes and development of narcissism. A widely used explanatory model assumes that a personality disorder arises from an interaction between genetic predisposition and specific experiences in childhood and adolescence. Another theory is that parenting style (“You are something better”) favours the emergence of narcissism.

Narcissism: therapy and treatment

Narcissistic personality disorders are usually treated through psychotherapy. If severe depression or suicidality is present at the same time, an inpatient stay and additional medication treatment may be helpful. In general, all personality traits, including narcissism, are complex to change fundamentally. Therapy for narcissistic personality disorder, therefore, attempts to resolve the problems resulting from the disorder at work and in family, relationships and partnerships.

Approaches in behavioural therapy, for example, try to teach narcissists appropriate behaviour in dealing with others by training social skills. In role-playing games, narcissistic people learn to empathize with other people and adopt other perspectives. Cognitive approaches specifically target the thinking styles, attitudes, and beliefs that so often cause problems for narcissists in interpersonal relationships.

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