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Narcissistic Personality Disorder An Introduction





Narcissistic Personality Disorder - An Introduction   by Sam Vaknin


NARCISSISM (n. sing.)

A pattern of traits and behaviours which signify infatuation and obsession with one's self to the exclusion of all others and the egotistic and ruthless pursuit of one's gratification, dominance and ambition.

Narcissism is named after the ancient Greek myth of Narcissus who was a handsome Greek youth who rejected the desperate advances of the nymph Echo.

In punishment of his cruelty, he was doomed to fall in love with his own reflection in a pool of water.

Unable to consummate his love, he pined away and changed into the flower that bears his name to this very day.

WHAT IS NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder)?

The Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) has been recognized as a seperate mental health disorder in the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual (DSM) in 1980. Its diagnostic criteria and their interpretation have undergone a major revision in the DSM III-R (1987) and were substantially revamped in the DSM IV in 1994. The European ICD-10 basically contains identical language.

An all-pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behaviour), need for admiration or adulation and lack of empathy, usually beginning by early adulthood and present in various contexts. Five (or more) of the following criteria must be met:

(1) Feels grandiose and self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents to the point of lying, demands to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)

(2) Is obsessed with fantasies of unlimited success, fame, fearsome power or omnipotence, unequalled brilliance (the cerebral narcissist), bodily beauty or sexual performance (the somatic narcissist), or ideal, everlasting, all-conquering love or passion

(3) Firmaly convinced that he or she is unique and, being special, can only be understood by, should only be treated by, or associate with, other special or unique, or high-status people (or institutions)

(4) Requires excessive admiration, adulation, attention and affirmation -
or, failing that, wishes to be feared and to be notorious (narcissistic supply).

(5) Feels entitled. Expects unreasonable or special and favourable priority treatment. Demands automatic and full compliance with his or her expectations

(6) Is "interpersonally exploitative", i.e., uses others to achieve his or her own ends

(7) Devoid of empathy. Is unable or unwilling to identify with or acknowledge the feelings and needs of others

(8) Constantly envious of others or believes that they feel the same about him or her

(9) Arrogant, haughty behaviours or attitudes coupled with rage when frustrated, contradicted, or confronted.

The language in the criteria above is based on or summarized from:

American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, fourth edition (DSM IV-TR). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

Sam Vaknin. (1999, 2001, 2003). Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited, fifth revised printing. Prague and Skopje: Narcissus Publication.

("Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited"
http://www.geocities.com/vaksam/faq1.html )

I. PATHOLOGICAL NARCISSISM OVERVIEW

Whether narcissism and its pathology are the results of genetic programming (see Anthony Benis and others) or of dysfunctional families and faulty upbringing or of anomic societies and disruptive socialization processes - is still an unresolved debate. The scarcity of scientific research, the fuzziness of the diagnosic criteria and the differential diagnoses make it unlikely that this will be settled soon one way or the other.

It is the psychoanalytic belief that we are all Narcissists at an early stage of our lives. As infants and toddlers we all feel that we are the center of the Universe, the most import ant, omnipotent and omniscient beings.

At that phase of our development, our parents are perceived by us to be mythical figures, immortal and awesomely powerful, there solely to cater to our needs, to protect and nourish us.

Both Self and others are viewed immaturely, as idealizations. This, in the psychodynamic models, is called the phase of "primary" narcissism.

Inevitably, the inexorable processes and conflicts of life erode these perceptions and reduce the ideal into the the real.

Adaptation is a process of disillusionment. If this process is abrupt, inconsistent, unpredictable, capricious, arbitrary and intense - the injuries sustained by the infant's tender, budding, self-esteem, are severe and, often, irreversible. Moreover, the empathic support of our caretakers (the Primary Objects, the parents) is crucial. In its absence, our sense of self-worth and self-esteem in adulthood tends to fluctuate, to alternate between over-valuation (idealization) and devaluation of both Self and others. Narcissistic adults are widely thought to be the result of bitter disappointment, of radical disillusionment in the significant others in their infancy. Healthy adults accept their self-limitations (the boundaries and limitations of their selves). They accept disappointments, setbacks, failures, criticism and disillusionment with grace and tolerance. Their self-esteem is constant and positive, not substantially affected by outside events, no matter how severe.



About Author Sam Vaknin :

Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East. He is a columnist for Central Europe Review, United Press International (UPI) and eBookWeb and the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory, Suite101 and searcheurope.com. Visit Sam's Web site at http://samvak.tripod.com


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