“My friend only seems to care about his own wants and needs…. he must be narcissistic.”
Narcissism has become quite the common insult in today’s society – whether it’s through social media, through the grapevine or in arguments between friends, narcissism is often used as a way to say that somebody doesn’t seem to care about anybody else but themselves. Despite this, however, there’s a lot of misconception around this disorder. The way it’s been used hasn’t accurately described what really goes on with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), as it’s actually a serious mental health condition that needs to be taken seriously.
What Narcissism Means
Studies have described narcissism as being excessively interested in one’s appearance or other aspects of themselves. However, researchers have found that narcissism in and of itself isn’t bad – in fact, it’s something everyone has.
Narcissism is what guides us to want to live confidently and overcome our challenges. It influences us to want to dress nicely, to promote ourselves in interviews and to overcome the obstacles before us as a journey of personal growth. But simply, narcissism isn’t “bad” – but it is a spectrum, and it can affect people differently depending on the level of narcissism present. For example, lower levels of narcissism could mean that someone battles low self-esteem, while higher levels could indicate a personality disorder.
With healthy levels of narcissism, we’re able to achieve a lot of things:
- Succeed at job interviews
- Ask for promotions
- Dress nicely
- Converse with others
- And more
Society has gotten the idea of narcissism all wrong – but it’s truly all about the symptoms a person is experiencing and how it’s affecting their life.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)
NPD is a mental condition in which individuals have an inflated sense of self-importance; they have a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, and they often experience troubles in relationships along with difficulty empathizing with others. People diagnosed with NPD also experience other symptoms such as: feeling entitled, “playing up” their talents and achievements, being preoccupied with fantasies about success or power, believing they are better than other people, monopolizing conversations, taking advantage of others to get what they want, and more. An unexpected component of NPD, however, is that those with NPD tend to have difficulty receiving criticisms. People with NPD may become angry or frustrated when they don’t receive special treatment, struggle when stressful situations arise, feel deeply insecure or vulnerable and others which can have a significantly negative impact on their school, work and home situations.
Previous studies have shown that those with NPD are more likely to be male, to battle with a substance use disorder (SUD), and to experience high levels of aggression and hostility. Despite what many people think, NPD isn’t easily recognized. There are many people who, just as with other disorders, are “high-functioning” – and this can make it harder to diagnose and seek treatment for.
While it may seem easy to attach a label such as “narcissistic” to someone who seems to only care about themselves, it truly perpetuates the stigma of these disorders which makes it much more difficult for people to come forward and seek help. The reality is that at the base of NPD, there is a lot of deep insecurity and loneliness involved – and many people with NPD struggle with forming real connections with others in an intimate way. Because of this, these people often try to show their own sense of mastery and sense of superiority – and in many cases, this only back-fires and continues to make it challenging for them to seek the connection they truly want and need.
Previous mental health advocates have explained that placing terms like “narcissistic” on someone – who, at a glance, seems to fit the disorder – actually causes a disservice to our society because we’re placing assumptions on people without knowing the real symptoms lying underneath. In many cases, the story is much more complicated. We’re all made up of unique genetic makeup, histories, thought processes, mental health concerns, physical issues and more – and to quickly place someone in a category makes it that much harder for those who truly have the disorder to speak up.
Rather than placing labels, let’s work to recognize some of the symptoms that our loved ones may be going through, and let’s try to support them in seeking help if it’s truly needed. Let’s find a place of compassion within our hearts and dare to explore what those around us have gone through and how it’s impacted the way they treat themselves and others. Let’s practice self-care and distance ourselves from those who are no longer beneficial for our mental, physical and spiritual health, and let’s seek help for ourselves when it’s needed.
For more information on recovery and anyone seeking help with mental health challenges, addiction, and substance use problems, please call True Recovery at (844) 744-8783 or visit us online.