Monday, November 1, 2010

Armchair Psychology

We all know certain people who could be described as self-centered, self-involved, and/or self-important. We've heard the term "narcissistic." Did you know, however, that there is actually a clinical condition called Narcissistic Personality Disorder? I guess I'm not surprised to learn that this is yet another category of diagnosable illness in this age of pathologizing just about every quirk or flaw of human behavior. Without going into that issue at length, though (except to say that it has long bothered me that there no longer seems to be just quirky, or just shy, or just high energy, or just an asshole, and that every human behavior these days seems to potentially fall under some diagnosis), I have to say that I find myself fascinated by this Narcissistic Personality Disorder. generally defines NPD as ". . . a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration."

According to, NPD symptoms may include:
  • Believing that you're better than others
  • Fantasizing about power, success and attractiveness
  • Exaggerating your achievements or talents
  • Expecting constant praise and admiration
  • Believing that you're special and acting accordingly
  • Failing to recognize other people's emotions and feelings
  • Expecting others to go along with your ideas and plans
  • Taking advantage of others
  • Expressing disdain for those you feel are inferior
  • Being jealous of others
  • Believing that others are jealous of you
  • Trouble keeping healthy relationships
  • Setting unrealistic goals
  • Being easily hurt and rejected
  • Having a fragile self-esteem
  • Appearing as tough-minded or unemotional
Its causes tend to be rooted in childhood, resulting from abusive parents, over-praise from parents, or overly critical parents.

This particular personality disorder raises an interesting question: how does one deal with a person like this? The very nature of their so-called illness outfits them with an inability (or unwillingness?) to see or acknowledge their own shortcomings, as well as a generally obnoxious demeanor to go with it. So any suggestion to them that they have "issues" which need to be addressed for their own good as well as the good of the people around them is an exercise in futility. Because it is classified as an illness, does this require one to deal compassionately and tolerantly with said repugnant behavior, or is it okay, for one's own emotional well-being to draw clear boundaries, even to the point of generally steering clear of said narcissistic person as much as possible?

1 comment:

ashamom said...

I couldn't agree with you more! In recent years, almost every behavior has it's diagnosis! Have you heard of "oppositional defiant disorder"? I guess the kid who acts like a brat has that.
A perfect example of a narcissist is Kate Gosselin, IMO. You raise a good point, how do you deal with people like that? I guess get the hell away from them or you will be victimized?