Myths about Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) are widespread. If you think that people with NPD are vain and arrogant, there is a lot to unpack.
Narcissistic personality disorder is a type of cluster B Personality disorder characterized by an inflated sense of one’s own self. A personality disorder does not merely mean a ‘bad personality. It does not make people bad humans. It is a treatable mental health disorder. Personality disorders are long-standing patterns of thoughts and behavior that can lead to problems in daily functioning.
NPD has a heritability factor of 0.71. That means that almost 71% of factors associated with the cause of NPD are genetic. This makes the disorder more ‘inborn’ than Anxiety, Bipolarity, and Depression.
Despite being a severe mental disorder, Narcissistic personality disorder is highly stigmatized. Try typing the words – narcissism or narcissistic – on the internet. You shall quickly realize the amount of misinformation shared online. People throw around the word narcissistic for people they don’t get along with, or sometimes random strangers with no credibility.
That is why it is time for a reality check on what NPD actually is and why referring to the mental disorder as vanity is extremely harmful.
Here are five things that you probably didn’t know about Narcissistic personality disorder:
1. NPD is tough to diagnose as there are no easy tests for it, and it shares some symptoms with other disorders
Narcissistic personality disorder symptoms might appear in adolescence. However, experts generally wait until adulthood to make a proper diagnosis. This helps to clarify doubts about the individual just being self-indulgent in their early years.
There are no laboratory tests that can give an NPD diagnosis. Health experts often use interviews or questionnaires to confirm if someone is exhibiting the NPD symptoms listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V).
Making things trickier is the fact that NPD shares common symptoms with other disorders. Self-indulgence and a high sense of superiority are symptoms of Antisocial personality disorder. This creates a need for thorough diagnostic questioning.
2. NPD’s characteristic trait of high self-esteem is due to the individual’s low opinion of themselves.
Experts believe that the high level of over-confidence exhibited by people having NPD is to cover up for their lost self-esteem. They use an inflated sense of self to cover the hurt and embarrassment they feel about something else.
According to Mayo Clinic, this is why people with NPD have difficulty dealing with criticism of any sort. They are already highly critical of themselves.
3. Having narcissistic personality traits does not necessarily mean having Narcissistic personality disorder.
Narcissism as a personality trait means being selfish, obsessed with one’s own self, and self-indulgent. People have different levels of personality traits. Just like people are variably spontaneous, funny, and protective – similarly, people can also differ in how narcissistic they are.
Being narcissistic does not necessarily indicate a problem. People who don’t have any underlying disorders can exhibit narcissistic personality traits.
These traits are only considered a disorder symptom when they significantly impact a person’s life regularly.
Read more: Is Overthinking a Mental Disorder?
4. Narcissistic personality disorder is associated with a long-term inflated sense of self, lack of empathy, and other related symptoms.
As per the DSM-V manual of psychiatric evaluation, a person with NPD shows the following symptoms:
- an extremely high sense of self-importance,
- an increased need for admiration and approval,
- an obsession with fantasies,
- a sense of envy or enmity toward others,
- a grueling lack of empathy, and
- a habit of taking advantage of others.
5. The statistics regarding the prevalence of NPD among people are not completely clear.
Due to a significant lack of quality research, the exact data regarding how many people suffer from NPD is unclear. The DSM-V says the prevalence is about 0-0.62%. However, this data has several discrepancies, from inappropriate sampling to widely different research data citings. Hence, proper research is necessary before experts can pinpoint just how typical NPD is among people.
People generally confuse NPD with someone spoiled or poorly socialized. However, it is much more than that. Hopefully, as the conversation around it grows louder, people are bound to learn more. Hence, we need to keep the conversation flowing, not just around NPD but around the whole spectrum of mental health issues.
Now, to continue on the path, let’s take you to another disorder that is widely misunderstood – Somatic symptom disorder. To know more about this disorder, click here.
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