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Narcissistic Personality


Explanations > Personality > Personality Disorders > Narcissistic Personality

Description | Discussion | See also



The Narcissistic Personality occurs where a person has an inflated sense of their own importance and seeks to gain recognition of this from others.

Noticeable symptoms may include:

  • Excessive self-importance.
  • Preoccupied with fantasies of power, success, beauty, intelligence, love.
  • Focus on self, with little empathy for others.
  • Behaving in an arrogant and entitled matter.
  • Manipulating others to achieve own ends.
  • Seeking constant admiration, praise and approval.
  • Envious of others and thinks others are envious.
  • One-sided relationships (it's all about them and their needs).
  • Harsh punishment of those who criticize or do not help.
  • Exaggeration of achievements and abilities.


Because the narcissistic personality has such focus on themself, they have little time for considering the needs of others. In order to be successful, they must be better than others, which may make other people the 'enemy'.

Their self-importance results in a sense of entitlement, where they arrogantly expect others to give them what they want. Their lack of real concern for others also leads them to prodding and bullying people into helping them feel good. When they find such compliant people they will make full, unfair and unkind use of them.

If others seem superior to them, they will attack in unprincipled ways in order to push the other person down the social order, making them appear inferior. Their attitude to others may hence be characterized as 'you're either with me or against me'.

Whilst they seem to be very fond of themselves, narcissists may well have a very poor self-image. This is one reason why they need the constant approval of others (which they never fully believe).

Narcissistic personalities can be successful in business, where their need for praise leads to hard work and consequent success. As they seek praise, they may initially project a very friendly and helpful image, particularly to their superiors. Their true nature emerges later when there is blame (which they cannot take) and recognition (which they crave) being handed out. They make terrible managers, stealing all the glory and blaming others for their own failures.

Narcissists are different from Psychopaths, although there can be significant overlap in their manipulation and abuse of others without feelings of empathy or guilt. A notable difference is that the psychopath values control whilst the narcissist seeks to inflate their sense of identity.

The narcissist may have been heavily criticized when they were young, damaging their sense or identity which they now constantly try to repair with the praise that they never got. Alternatively, their ego may have been excessively boosted by constant praise as a child, leading to a dysfunctional self-focus as an adult. There are particular views of narcissism and its causes within psychoanalysis.

While generally narcissists are considered to be unchangeable, Hepper et al (2014) found that instructing subjects with narcissistic tendencies to actively imagine how others feel had a moderating effect on their attitude.

The Narcissistic Personality Disorder is one of the ten DSM-IV personality disorders and may well coexist with other disorders. Talking therapies may help, although the narcissist may find it very difficult to accept their condition or to change how they behave.

See also

Narcissism, Psychopaths, Theory of Mind, Horney's Neurotic Needs


Hepper, E., Hart, C., & Sedikides, C. (2014). Moving Narcissus: Can Narcissists Be Empathic? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin DOI: 10.1177/0146167214535812


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