4 myths about narcissism and the NDP that need to be debunked
Separating Fact from Fiction: Here’s What You Need to Know About Narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) tends to get a bad rap. If you google it, you will be offered a definition: “A mental health problem in which people have an exaggerated sense of self-importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, difficult relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.
It is therefore not surprising that the diagnosis of personality disorders such as NPD can be considered controversial. Additionally, experts currently disagree on how best to understand personality disorders or even if we should diagnose them.
But with so much confusion and misconceptions surrounding narcissism and the NDP, what do we really need to know? And what common assumptions do we have that are just plain wrong?
Understanding the NDP
Generally, a person with narcissistic personality disorder has a distorted self-image, believes themselves to be superior to others, and often feels that their opinions, feelings, and interests are more important than those of others. They may struggle to empathize with others, exaggerate their talents and accomplishments, or even lie about them. Success and power are extremely important to them. They can come across as condescending, quickly become angry if contradicted, and show a need for admiration.
Without help and support, people with NPD may be at risk of developing depression or suicidal thoughts, and becoming dependent on substance or alcohol abuse. Building (and maintaining) healthy relationships can be difficult without help.
Common myths and misconceptions
We spoke with Counseling Directory member and advisor Peter Klein to learn more about narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder, and to get answers to some of the most commonly asked questions and misconceptions.
Myth: Narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder are the same thing
“Narcissistic personality disorder, as a definition, is clearer than narcissism,” says Peter.
“Many people with NPD are unable to connect with others on a deeper level, which means their relationships are more superficial. A person with NPD will often not be able to empathize and is therefore more likely to exploit others for their own means.
“Many will also feel a sense of emptiness, which coincides with other issues such as anxiety and depression. Therefore, NPD is primarily a much more serious issue than one that falls within the broad spectrum of what is defined as being a “narcissist”.
Myth: Not all narcissists can love
While love and relationships may be more difficult for some with NPD, they are not impossible. Peter explains, “Narcissism is on a continuum, and healthy amounts can allow people to not constantly overestimate life’s challenges and connect with people without feeling inferior. Many forms of love require an ability to connect, at least in some form.
“More extreme narcissism or those with NPD may find it much harder to be able to connect, and therefore fall in love. Connection is hindered by their problematic tendencies such as pushing people away in order to bring them down.
Myth: Psychotherapy does not work on narcissists
Asking for help for NPD is possible. Although some forms of therapy may be more or less helpful, if the person is really looking for change, it can make a difference. As Peter explains:
“Psychotherapy can work on narcissists if they are able to stop some of their harmful habits, such as turning away and believing that whatever is wrong in their life is someone else’s fault. This can be difficult to achieve, but it is necessary to introduce the most useful change.
Myth: Narcissists are always dangerous and controlling
Narcissists are always normal people, and like everyone else, no two are exactly alike.
“Some narcissists can be dangerous and controlling, while many are not. But controlling a partner can offer the narcissist the advantage of not having to feel insecure, as narcissists can quickly feel insecure about a lot of things, like when a partner wants to meet friends or even when they just have a different opinion,” says Peter.
Find help and support:
If you think you or someone you love may have narcissistic personality disorder, seeing your GP is the first step towards an assessment and potential diagnosis. Counseling (usually CBT), after psychotherapy or group therapy are often options offered to help with narcissistic personality disorder.
To find out more visit Counselling-Directory.org.uk or speak to a qualified counsellor.