The term Narcissist is definitely overused in society today. If someone doesn’t like another person or get their way, they are quick to say, “He is such a Narcissist!” or “She is such a Narcissist!” At the same time, it does seem that the self-referential nature of our culture lends itself to more and more Narcissistic behavior, and that the number of Narcissists is increasing in society.
We all have Narcistic tendencies, but that’s different to being a Narcissist. So how do you know if someone is a certifiable Narcissist – that is someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) – or just immature, self-absorbed, or selfish?
Experts seem to agree that as many as one-third of the population are Narcissists, but it is quite rare for someone to be officially diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. The Diagnostic Manual for Mental Disorders (5th Edition) states that in order for a person to be diagnosed with NPD, that person must exhibit five or more of these nine criteria, and at least one aspect of their life must be impaired by these behaviors. The nine criteria are:
1. Exaggerates own importance
2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of success, power, beauty, intelligence or ideal romance
3. Believes he or she is special and can only be understood by other special people or institutions
4. Requires constant attention and admiration from others
5. Has unreasonable expectations of favorable treatment
6. Takes advantage of others to reach his or her own goals
7. Disregards the feelings of others, lacks empathy
8. Is often envious of others or believes other people are envious of him or her
9. Shows arrogant behaviors and attitudes
If you are being abused at the hands of a Narcissist, recovering from the abuse of a Narcissist, or someone you love is in one of these situations a great place to start is by taking inventory of the nine criteria above.
I would encourage you to do it on two levels. First, just yes or no, answer from the gut, “Does he exaggerates his own importance?” Yes or no. Don’t over think it. “Is she preoccupied with fantasies of success, power, beauty, intelligence or ideal romance?” Yes or no. Work your way through the list and see how many of the criteria your Narcissist displays. Remember, someone can be a Narcissist and not technically have NPD. So just because your Narcissist only displays three of the criteria doesn’t mean he or she is not a Narcissist.
Next, go back through the list of nine criteria and identify specific examples of where you personally witnessed that behavior and write them down. Don’t make excuses for the Narcissist in your life. It’s amazing how many excuses we make for Narcissists. Earlier I used the word abuse. How did you respond when you heard that word? It’s amazing how often people will say, “Well, it’s not really abuse.” That’s why Narcissist’s get away with all they get away with for so long, because we downplay it, pretend it isn’t serious, and make excuses for them. We say things like, “She had a really tough childhood.” So? A lot of people have tough childhoods and don’t grow up to take it out on others by abusing them verbally, emotionally, psychologically, or physically.
Narcissism is real. We all have at least one Narcissist in our lives, and it is past time that we started to understand what drives them and how they are impacting our emotional health and our lives in general.
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