Many of you who know me personally know that I try to take my negative life experiences and turn them into something positive. My work with adenomyosis sufferers is one big project that is close to my heart. I had this uterine disorder for seventeen years, went through pure hell, and finally received my diagnosis at hysterectomy. Although my struggle with adenomyosis was brutal, I decided to share my story and work to promote more research for those women who continue to suffer from it. I am in the final editing process of my second adenomyosis book, and I founded the group, “Adenomyosis Fighters”.
After thinking about this for months, I have decided to share some of my other life experiences…and yes, they are negative. However, I am determined to once again turn a negative into a positive. I have dealt with many narcissists in my lifetime, and after about five years of counseling, I (and some other close acquaintances) have come to the conclusion that several of these people I dealt with probably suffer from narcissistic personality disorder (also known as NPD).
I will be writing many future blogs on NPD. I will give actual examples (with names withheld) of statements that were made or situations that I observed. I have read many articles on NPD, and although they describe the traits of someone with NPD, I believe it would be even more helpful for the reader to have actual examples of statements and/or situations so they can more completely comprehend this personality disorder. My hope is to help others who are currently dealing with someone with NPD.
During my counseling, I not only learned about NPD, but I also learned about the characteristics of someone who becomes a victim of a narcissist. Victims of narcissists tend to have a submissive personality and try to please everyone around them. I am definitely a “people-pleaser”. In my past, I have tried to make people happy even if it is to the detriment of my own mental health. During the years that I dealt with narcissists, I started taking an antidepressant, thinking that the depression that I was feeling was just my inability to deal with stress. In fact, one of the narcissists actually put that idea into my mind, and I believed it. I became more depressed with time, and I actually had some panic attacks. During these years, I began to lose my sense of self, and to be honest, I was miserable. Counseling helped me to become much more self-aware, and I have learned the things I did wrong during those years. I will get more into this in later blogs.
To begin the discussion, I believe that it is of utmost importance to know that all of us are narcissistic to a certain degree. The term “narcissism” seems to have a very negative connotation these days. Narcissism in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing – the degree of narcissism is the determining factor if it is “healthy narcissism” or “pathological narcissism”. Pathological narcissism is the unhealthy form of narcissism that is linked to the personality disorder called NPD.
Many people today associate narcissism with someone who is loud, extremely arrogant, and who always wants to be the center of attention. Some with NPD definitely fit into this category, but some can actually be quiet and calm. One of the narcissists that I know falls into this second category. Either loud or quiet, all narcissists are quite charming and appear quite attractive. However, as you get to know them, you may notice behaviors that are quite disturbing such as control or manipulation. This initial charming appearance is what is referred to as the “false self”, and those with NPD will do anything to keep up this “false self” appearance.
The following is the DSM IV criteria that psychologists use to diagnose someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder:
Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (eg., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high status people (or institutions)
Requires excessive admiration
Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
The sad part is that those with NPD rarely get treatment because they don’t see themselves as having a problem. One narcissist that I knew began counseling after a major event in his life, but only went twice. When I asked him why he stopped going, his response was “Counseling is a waste of time. It doesn’t work”. I suspect that counseling didn’t work because he would be forced to face issues that he didn’t want to face. I also suspect that the counselor told him things he didn’t want to hear.
In my next blog, I will discuss the topic of the “false self” in greater detail.
*DSM-IV criteria for NPD obtained from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, American Psychiatric Association