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Does Your Mother Have Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Fromm saw the genesis of human evil as a developmental process: we are not created evil or forced to be evil, but we become evil slowly over time through a long series of choices. - M. Scott Peck, M.D., People of the Lie, p. 82.
Dr. M. Scott Peck Quote

© by Gail Meyers
What is narcissistic personality disorder? Will my mother ever change? Where can I find support? First, the clinical diagnostic criteria for narcissistic personality disorder is presented. Secondly, no one knows for certain what causes narcissistic personality disorder, so the prevailing views are presented. Lastly, several helpful videos and resources are included.


What is Narcissism?

Dictionary dot com defines narcissism as:
  1. Inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self love; vanity.
  2. Psychoanalysis: Erotic gratification derived from admiration of one's own physical or mental attributes, being a normal condition in infantile personality development.
Narcissism is on a spectrum with narcissistic personality disorder and malignant narcissism at the high end. So you can have a mother, father, sister, brother, husband, wife, child, grandparent, boss or neighbor who is just that - narcissistic. The person may be self-centered and annoying. You may not appreciate some of things the person does. You might call him or her a narcissist. You might be right.

In general everyday terms the person may be narcissistic. However, narcissistic personality disorder is a term used by the mental health profession. It is a clinical diagnosis taken from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual used by the mental health profession to diagnose mental illness. The American Psychiatric Association just released the newest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual in May of 2013.

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual V Criteria for NPD

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) just released the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V) in May of 2013. Criteria for diagnosing narcissistic personality disorder includes:

A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

  1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
  2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
  3. 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).
  4. Requires excessive admiration.
  5. Has a sense of entitlement (i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations).
  6. Is interpersonally exploitative (i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends).
  7. Lacks empathy; is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
  8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
  9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.
Five of these nine are required for a licensed professional to make the diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder. The traits are persistent and enduring, not just an individual going through a difficult period in their life. Additionally, the diagnosis is generally not made under 18 years of age, because some of the traits are a normal part of development at certain ages. It is important to note that none of the above is due to drugs, alcoholism or brain injury. It is also possible, and not uncommon, for an individual to be diagnosed with more than one personality disorder.

The American Psychiatric Association established the criteria for diagnosis. However, the topic has been the focus of ongoing debate within the profession for many years. They actually contemplated removing narcissistic personality disorder from the DSM-V in 2013, but it remains largely due to an outcry from those in the field.


Symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder

  • Believing that they are better than others
  • Fantasizing about power, success and attractiveness
  • Exaggerating achievements or talents
  • Expecting constant praise and admiration
  • Believing that they are special and acting accordingly
  • Failing to recognize other people's emotions and feelings
  • Expecting others to go along with their ideas and plans
  • Taking advantage of others
  • Expressing disdain for those they feel are inferior
  • Being jealous of others
  • Believing that others are jealous of them
  • Trouble keeping healthy relationships
  • Setting unrealistic goals
  • Being easily hurt and rejected
  • Having a fragile self-esteem
  • Appearing as tough-minded or unemotional
*Symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder as translated by the Mayo Clinic into everyday language.


Cluster B Disorder Personality Disorders

Cluster B personality disorders include:
  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Histrionic Personality Disorder
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder


Will My NPD Mother Ever Change?

According to experts in the field, including clinical expert on narcissistic personalities, Dr. Linda Martinez-Lewi, successful treatment depends on how narcissistic your mother is. The higher the level of narcissism, the less the likelihood for recovery. For those on the highest end of the spectrum, I am unaware of anyone claiming successful treatment. Those highest on the spectrum do not change. Ever.

Some believe they are unwilling, while others maintain they are unable to change. It is suggested narcissists lack the introspection to consider the possibility something is wrong with them, instead they project unacceptable traits and behaviors onto others.

It is often the people around the narcissist who have issues with the traits of narcissism, not so much the narcissist herself. The narcissist often continues in maladaptive behaviors, which may include playing the victim while vilifying the true victims. Some of the abusive behavior is more obvious, such as scapegoating. While other abusive behavior, such as gaslighting, can be much more difficult to detect.

Finding Support

Narcissistic personality disorder is a spectrum disorder and may exist with other personality disorders. Many view narcissistic personality disorder as a serious mental health disorder. Others frame it in the context of a spiritual malady, while still others believe it is a combination of the two.

Some adult sons and daughters are put off by psychology and others are put off by faith. Regardless of how you frame pathological narcissism, there is help available and you are not alone. Take steps to protect yourself and learn everything you can about the disorder. In the meantime, surround yourself with positive support as you learn to cope.

Photo: Created by Echo Scapegoat Recovery Tactics© (copyright symbols being removed by perps around the web) - Gail Meyers and Kelly "KC3Lady" Christensen in Kansas City


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