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Narcissistic personality disorder

Narcissistic personality disorder is a condition in which people have an excessive sense of self-importance, an extreme preoccupation with themselves, and lack of empathy for others.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Cause of this disorder is unknown. Early life experiences, such as particularly insensitive parenting, are thought to play a role in the development of this disorder.

Symptoms

A person with narcissistic personality disorder may:

  • React to criticism with rage, shame, or humiliation
  • Take advantage of other people to achieve his or her own goals
  • Have excessive feelings of self-importance
  • Exaggerate achievements and talents
  • Be preoccupied with fantasies of success, power, beauty, intelligence, or ideal love
  • Have unreasonable expectations of favorable treatment
  • Need constant attention and admiration
  • Disregard the feelings of others, and have little ability to feel empathy
  • Have obsessive self-interest
  • Pursue mainly selfish goals

Signs and tests

Narcissistic personality disorder is diagnosed based on a psychological evaluation that assesses the history and severity of the symptoms.

Treatment

Talk therapy may help the affected person relate to other people in a more positive and compassionate way.

Expectations (prognosis)

Outcome of treatment depends on the severity of the disorder.

Complications

  • Alcohol or other drug dependence
  • Relationship, work, and family problems

References

Blais MA, Smallwood P, Groves JE, Rivas-Vazquez RA. Personality and personality disorders. In: Stern TA, Rosenbaum JF, Fava M, Biederman J, Rauch SL, eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Clinical Psychiatry. 1st ed. Philadellphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2008:chap 39.

Updated: 11/10/2012

David B. Merrill, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.


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