Categories
Personality Disorders

Does Upbringing Influence the Development of Narcissism?

Every loving parent wants what’s best for their child. Whether that’s sending them to prestigious schools or making sure that the neighborhood is safe and supportive, every parent just wants their child on the best path possible. However, there is a myriad of factors that go into raising a child and that is typically what makes parenthood appear so intimidating and daunting. For many parents, deciphering the amount of praise they should give their child can be challenging. They want their children to have a high self-esteem but don’t want them to become arrogant. They want their children to feel beautiful without boasting, be smart without being snarky and be kind without feeling entitled for something in return.

Therefore, balancing the accolades becomes quite difficult. In some cases, the more praise parents give the better, but this type of upbringing can sometimes have adverse effects on a child.

In instances where a parent overvalues their child, the child can establish narcissistic traits which could possibly develop into Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). 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.” Narcissistic Personality Disorder is usually attributed to both genetic and environmental factors, with environmental factors heavily influencing the development of this disorder (Mayo Clinic, 2017). For example, environmental factors can include situations in which the child has a parent with NPD or some variation of the disorder.  

According to Dr. Elinor Greenberg, a renowned Gestalt therapy trainer with a specialization in NPD, there are 7 signs of a parent with NPD. These signs include: the need to be the center of attention, having low emotional empathy, devaluing others to get their way, maintaining selfish behavior, having an expectation for the child to be perfect, being moody and inappropriately intrusive (Greenberg, 2017)). The aforementioned list provides several scenarios that can foster an environment for a child to develop Narcissistic Personality Disorder. However, there are four common types of scenarios that enhance the likelihood of a child developing NPD. These situations typically arise in situations where the head of household has NPD.

The “Golden Child” scenario describes an environment where the parents, who have narcissistic traits, idolize their child excessively causing the child to only value themselves for being “perfect” (Greenberg, 2017). However, this scenario can cause the child to have stunted self-growth and an unhealthy fixation on their flaws (Greenberg, 2017). A study found that young adults with narcissism may be “predisposed to greater anxiety after failure, over-reliance on and false perceptions of social support, and experiences of guilt” which could result in lower self-esteem (Muratori et al., 2018). It is important to note the distinction between having a high self-esteem and narcissism. Self-esteem is the idea that you are worthy of who you are as a person while narcissism is the idea that other people are inferior to you and you are superior (Pogosyan, 2018).

The second scenario is the “Narcissistic Parental Values” scenario. This environment is described as very competitive and stressful because of external pressures. A common mentality would be the parent reprimanding the child mentioning that ”If you can’t be the best, why bother?” (Greenberg, 2017). This situation creates a highly competitive atmosphere that can cause stress and an obsession with being the absolute best (Greenberg, 2017). This type of environment doesn’t allow the child to feel adequately loved and can set in “motion a lifelong pattern of chasing success and confusing it with happiness” (Greenberg, 2017).

The “Devaluing Narcissistic Parent” is the third scenario. Quite self-explanatory, this scenario is characterized by a situation in which a parent devalues and belittles the child resulting in constant feelings of inadequacy, humiliation, and anger (Greenberg, 2017). To combat this, children may develop a “mask model”. The “mask model” is a defense mechanism whereby low self-esteem is masked by a grandiose and inflated sense of self to create an outer appearance of high, albeit fragile, self-esteem” (Derry et al., 2018). This scenario can also affect siblings where the parent may switch which sibling to praise and which to belittle, in a frequent and unpredictable manner (Greenberg, 2017).

The last scenario is the “Exhibitionists Nightmare”.  This scenario contains an exhibitionist parent that usually possesses the seven qualities discussed previously. This environment details where an exhibitionist, narcissistic parent teaches the child to serve and praise their parent while devaluing themselves (Greenberg, 2017). They are taught to not surpass their parent and as adults feel exposed and vulnerable (Greenberg, 2017). As said by Elinor Greenberg, “all their value in the family comes from acting as a support to the ego of the exhibitionist parent.”

It is important to remember that people living with Narcissistic Personality Disorder are in fact, people just living with a disorder. It’s important to not dehumanize individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. More often than not, they were caught in the cycle of these 4 types of environments, where their childhoods may have related one or more of the four scenarios. Therefore, it is important to get help so that the cycle can stop and people can achieve their full potential and personal growth.

References

Derry, K. L., Bayliss, D. M., & Ohan, J. L. (2018). Measuring Grandiose and Vulnerable Narcissism in Children and Adolescents: The Narcissism Scale for Children. Assessment. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1177/1073191118773872

Greenberg, E. (2017). How Do Children Become Narcissists? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/understanding-narcissism/201705/how-do-children-become-narcissists

Greenberg, E. (13 July 2017). Is Your Mother an Exhibitionist Narcissist? Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/understanding-narcissism/201707/is-your-mother-exhibitionist-narcissist

Mayo Clinic. Narcissistic personality disorder. (2017, November 18). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/narcissistic-personality-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20366662

Muratori, P., Milone, A., Brovedani, P., Levantini, V., Melli, G., Pisano, S., . . . Masi, G. (2018). Narcissistic traits and self-esteem in children: Results from a community and a clinical sample of patients with oppositional defiant disorder. Journal of Affective Disorders,241, 275-281. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2018.08.043

Pogosyan, M. (2018). Self-Esteem and Narcissism in Children. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/between-cultures/201809/self-esteem-and-narcissism-in-children

Categories
Personality Disorders

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

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.

References:

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

Categories
Personality Disorders

Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Fact or Fiction

We all have that friend who can’t stop taking selfies. That sibling that must look at themselves every time they pass a mirror. That co-worker that can’t stop talking about themselves. The truth of the matter is we all have traits and behaviors such as these that we indulge in once in a while. We often label these people “narcissists,” but we need to ask ourselves: are they really “narcissists?” Unfortunately, Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a Personality Disorder distorted by myths.

Like most Personality Disorders, Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) stems from an early childhood trauma that left the sufferer with an “unstable self-esteem, the inability to regulate their self-esteem without external validation, and low empathy” (Greenberg, 2017). In other words, NPD is typically classified as having an overwhelmingly inflated self-esteem, sense of entitlement, sense of perfection and ego. NPD is an exceptionally uncommon disorder, which makes every selfie-loving, mirror obsessed, self-bragging person unlikely to be a “narcissist.” According to Webber (2016), it is believed to affect only about 1% of the population, whereas disorders like depression and anxiety affect about 4.5% and 3.5% of the population, respectively.

As mentioned earlier, a grandiose sense of specialty, perfection, and entitlement are major factors that indicate NPD, however, these aren’t the only signs associated with the disorder. While these are the most well-known symptoms and signs of NPD, this is only one sub-group of it. Those grandiose feelings for themselves are considered High-Status Narcissistic Personality Disorder. There is also a Low-Status NPD where sufferers struggle with feelings of worthlessness for themselves, thinking lowly of themselves and depressed thinking. This juggling between Low Status and High-Status NPD, often, interferes with relationships.

On the contrary to many beliefs, sufferers of NPD are able to find happiness in relationships and care for others, besides themselves. However, due to their symptoms, it makes maintaining a relationship difficult. Often, sufferers require their High-Status feelings to be confirmed by the people around them, as a way to feel venerated. Since there are High and Low-Status sub-groups to NPD, sufferers typically alternate between feelings from each subgroup when they are in a relationship with someone. For example, a person struggling with NPD may find someone they adore but once they find a flaw in that person, they struggle to see past that flaw and may see them as nothing more than any other random person on the street.

It is commonly believed that when it comes to a narcissistic personality, people are a full-blown “narcissist” or they are just another “normal” person. This is actually quite the opposite. Narcissistic Personality Disorder is not a discrete, all-or-nothing category of either one or the other; it is a spectrum. According to Rebecca Webber, The Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) is a test that measures a sufferer’s level of narcissism that can lead to a professional diagnosis. NPD is an actual disorder that must be diagnosed by a professional and can have different intensities on those struggling with the disorder.

It’s understandable why Narcissistic Personality Disorder can be such a misunderstood disorder when it is such a rare one. However, it is heartbreaking to see the confusion from the false beliefs that people struggling with NPD face due to the misunderstanding of “narcissists.” It is important to educate ourselves on this disorder so that we don’t mislabel those struggling with the disorder and we then have the capacity to understand and relate to them. When we understand the disorder, we can feel empathy to help those suffering to push through the disorder. This will give us the ability to advocate for those struggling, based on our new knowledge of NPD, rather than succumbing to the many myths that accompany a diagnosis of NPD or NPD-like behavior.

References:

Greenberg, E. (August 11, 2017). The Truth About Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/understanding-narcissism/201708/the-truth-about-narcissistic-personality-disorder

Vogel, C. (January 1, 2006). A Field Guide To Narcissism. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200601/field-guide-narcissism

Webber, R. (September 5, 2016). Meet the Real Narcissists (They’re Not What You Think). Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201609/meet-the-real-narcissists-theyre-not-what-you-think

World Health Organization (2017). Depression and Other Common Mental Disorders: Global Health Estimates. World Health Organization. Retrieved from http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/254610/1/WHO-MSD-MER-2017.2-eng.pdf