Narcissistic personality disorder

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Definition

Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental condition in which a person has:

  • An excessive sense of self-importance
  • An extreme preoccupation with themselves
  • A lack of empathy for others

Alternative Names

Personality disorder - borderline; Narcissism

Causes

Cause of this disorder is unknown. Early life experiences, such as particularly insensitive parenting, are thought to play a role in the development of this disorder.

Symptoms

A person with narcissistic personality disorder may:

  • React to criticism with rage, shame, or humiliation
  • Take advantage of other people to achieve his or her own goals
  • Have excessive feelings of self-importance
  • Exaggerate achievements and talents
  • Be preoccupied with fantasies of success, power, beauty, intelligence, or ideal love
  • Have unreasonable expectations of favorable treatment
  • Need constant attention and admiration
  • Disregard the feelings of others, and have little ability to feel empathy
  • Have obsessive self-interest
  • Pursue mainly selfish goals

Exams and tests

Narcissistic personality disorder is diagnosed based on a psychological evaluation. The health care provider will consider how long and how severe the person's symptoms are.

Treatment

Talk therapy may help the person relate to other people in a more positive and compassionate way.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Outcome of treatment depends on the severity of the disorder.

Possible Complications

Complications may include:

  • Alcohol or other drug dependence
  • Relationship, work, and family problems

References

American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. 5th ed. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing. 2013.

Blais MA, Smallwood P, Groves JE, Rivas-Vazquez RA. Personality and personality disorders. In: Stern TA, Rosenbaum JF, Fava M, Biederman J, Rauch SL, eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Clinical Psychiatry. 1st ed. Philadellphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2008:chap 39.

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 10/31/2014
  • Fred K. Berger, MD, Addiction and Forensic Psychiatrist, Scripps Memorial Hospital, La Jolla, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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