Narcissism is a term that has often been used colloquially in society. Not only has it rooted itself in society, but also in mainstream culture such as the shows that individuals watch, the music that is listened to and social media. Most of the time when someone is called a narcissist, it’s because they are deemed to be rude, mean or self-centered. But for people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), it isn’t just a synonym for being a dislikable person.
The Mayo Clinic defines Narcissistic Personality Disorder as “… a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others”. This definition is quite broad. Therefore, many people may be able to compare themselves and find certain personality traits of theirs that are listed in the definition of NPD. However, this form of comparison makes it difficult for many to understand the depth of this personality disorder and causes people to undervalue Narcissistic Personality Disorder. This lack of understanding and the vague definition also makes it difficult to do clinical research and empirical trials. A study by Aaron L. Pincus and Mark R. Lukowitsky found that approximately less than 1% of outpatient samples are people with NPD. This coupled with the fact that “most of the literature regarding patients suffering with narcissistic personality disorder is based on clinical experience and theoretical formulations, rather than on empirical evidence” leads to a larger stigma and misunderstanding of the disorder itself and the people who have it (Pincus, 2010).
The ignorance and stigma behind the name of the disorder itself does not reflect the real dangers that occur with people who have NPD. The Mayo Clinic refers to the psychological impacts of having NPD as being a mask of extreme confidence that lies behind a fragile self-esteem which is vulnerable to the slightest criticism This means that people with NPD are very susceptible to harmful risks that most people are not. Although there are not a substantial amount of studies conducted about Narcissistic Personality Disorder, there was a study that researched how different disorders were related to suicidal behaviors and the act of suicide. Suicidal behaviors can have varying meanings for people with NPD. The study defined suicidal behavior as “including an attempt to raise self-esteem through a sense of mastery; an attempt to protect themselves against anticipated narcissistic threats—‘death before dishonor’; a vengeful act against a narcissistic trauma; the false belief of indestructibility; and a wish to destroy or attack an imperfect self” (Links, 2003). The study concluded that people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder are more likely to have suicidal behaviors than people without NPD. Among the deceased belonging to the population group of the study , researchers found that people with NPD had a nine percent increase in suicide rate compared to the people without NPD. According to the 15-year follow-up, patients with narcissistic personality disorder or traits were significantly more likely to have their cause of death be suicide, compared with patients who did not have narcissistic personality disorder or traits (14% vs 5%; P < 0.02) (Links, 2003).
Unfortunately, people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder are also risk at having a “Richard Corey suicide” (Links, 2003). The “Richard Corey suicide” is from a poem named aptly “Richard Cory” by Edwin Arlington Robinson. Summarized, the poem is about a man named Richard Cory who seems to have everything anybody could ever want. The town is jealous of him, but they respect him because he is the star man of the town. However, by the end of the poem it is revealed that he takes his life. That being said, the study found that people with NPD even when not clinically depressed and seemingly happy, are also at risk.
Lastly, due to limited research and disconnect in clinical practice, Narcissistic Personality Disorder is not taken as seriously as it should be. To reduce stigma and spread awareness, revisions of the definition and criteria of NPD should be sufficiently considered.
Duke, J., & Robinson, E. A. (1948). Four poems by Edward [sic] Arlington Robinson. New York: C. Fischer.
Links, P. S., Gould, B., & Ratnayake, R. (2003). Assessing Suicidal Youth with Antisocial, Borderline, or Narcissistic Personality Disorder. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 48(5), 301-310. doi:10.1177/070674370304800505
Narcissistic personality disorder. (2017, November 18). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/narcissistic-personality-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20366662
Pincus, A. L., & Lukowitsky, M. R. (n.d.). Pathological Narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder | Annual Review of Clinical Psychology. Retrieved from https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/full/10.1146/annurev.clinpsy.121208.131215#abstractSection