John works the room when he enters the party. He shares his fabulous stories of accomplishment and achievement expecting to be admired. He has a strong sense of self-importance and is preoccupied with his own success. John may be unfairly categorized as being vain and arrogant by those with whom he comes in contact. His cocky attitude leads others to find him difficult to get along with and his need for constant admiration drives people to run the other way when he shows up.
In our self-obsessed, celebrity-driven culture, especially that which drives the economy and lifestyle of Southern California, it may be difficult to spot the narcissist in the room until you have come face to face with the mental health disorder known as narcissistic personality disorder.
A person dealing with narcissistic personality disorder may not even realize that patterns of arrogant thinking, self-centered behavior and need for admiration leads them down the path of dysfunction, poor relationships and power plays. They are unwilling to see how their behavior affects others because in their opinion, they are never wrong, they are too good to accept any responsibility for wrong-doing and do not accept criticism at all let alone lightly. In other words, someone else is always to blame.
While a healthy sense of self is important, it is when the grandeur of self-love tips the scales to be a love for an idealized version of self that narcissistic personality disorder rears its ugly head. Admiration, acknowledgement and appreciation fill a void where their own self-love may be lacking. According to an article in Psychology Today, NPD affects approximately 1% of the population although the term is slung around casually aimed at any person who has an inflated sense of self.
When you think of arrogance and vanity, you may first think of the famous Disney character Gaston, from The Beauty and the Beast but narcissists have been very prevalent throughout history in various forms and forums; Adolf Hitler, Madonna, O.J. Simpson, Ted Bundy and even Pablo Picasso. Certainly, you can name a few who may stand out in the public eye. Many narcissists have risen to positions of power because of their exaggerated self-importance and grandiose thinking, pushing their views of themselves onto others.
Unfortunately, the challenge in diagnosing narcissistic personality disorder is that most people with these characteristics are not what you would consider stereotypically vain or arrogant. In some people, NPD is displayed through their good works and devotion to helping others with the ultimate goal of receiving accolades through self-sacrifice and martyrdom.
Those people with narcissistic personality disorder will be the most resistant to changing their behavior if they even recognize that how their attitude and behavior may be affecting their work and personal lives. They will pass the blame onto others for their own failures and will have difficulty accepting their role in their demise. In reality, it may be too difficult to take a close look at themselves and accept that they are not as “special” as they once thought. So, how does a person who is suffering from narcissistic personality disorder overcome and learn to control their need for constant admiration and their inflated self-image?
The first step to controlling NDP like any other mental health disorder is to acknowledge that there is a problem. This may be especially difficult for a person experiencing narcissistic personality disorder since as mentioned earlier, they are never to blame and because they are so “special”, they may not consider that they could be experiencing any issue at all. This explains the very low diagnosis rate of 1% of the population.
NDP can be overcome with treatment by trained mental health professionals like those at Beachside Treatment Center. Through psychotherapy, a person with NPD can learn to control their behavior and patterns to live a more fulfilled life in which they can have better relationships and enjoy life rather than having to always be made to feel special and accomplished.
Through talk therapy, those with a narcissistic personality disorder can learn to understand the cause behind the need to feel important and the ego boost that patronization gives them. They can develop the skills to accept criticism and failure and learn to recognize when it is their own competence or potential that controls the outcome. Therapy for NPD enables the sufferer to release their desire for constant admiration and instead, learn true self-love and acceptance.
For a person with NDP to be successful in overcoming their hidden insecurities, they have to take a close look at their behaviors and the triggers that cause them to react in such a way and then take actionable steps to control them.
Michael was always touting how he came from nothing, how he was able to overcome poverty and thought that everyone should praise him for success. He was triggered when after speaking to a group, his family did not shower him with praise and pats on the back. To control these narcissistic tendencies, Michael first has to acknowledge this need to be fulfilled in this way and to make note of the triggers.
When he does not receive the words he needs to stroke his ego, Michael goes into a rage about being unappreciated. He feels as if “everyone” in the world acknowledges his good deeds but yet that his family does not. His temper flares and he behaves negatively towards his supportive family. His anger makes him say things that otherwise may not be spoken. Instead of screaming and yelling, Michael must imagine how he wants to behave and write down how he envisions the scenario to be different.
Instead of flying off the handle in a fit of rage, Michael’s energy would be better spent in delaying his response allowing his brain to process the information accordingly and appreciating his own efforts for what they are. Anger has become a habit that can be switched to a more controlled response when thought is put into it versus the gut reaction that he is so used to. He should count to 20, step away, take several deep breaths to allow the trigger to pass and the situation to calm down.
With practice, Michael can learn to suppress his need to be elevated by others and value himself for who he is and what it is that he stands for. By substituting one reaction for another, Michael can learn to love himself when triggers occur.
Michael must acknowledge his own vulnerability and failures for what they truly are and make a plan to improve in those areas. Although his reaction may typically be to blame others, by accepting responsibility, he can focus his attention inward with the expectation that he will not make those mistakes in the future guaranteeing his true success.
Michael’s narcissistic tendencies are symptoms of a deep-rooted mental health issue that if left untreated can drive away loved ones, repel co-workers and force his life in a direction that he did not expect or desire. Since those with NDP tend to thrive off of being lifted up emotionally, when they do not receive it, a narcissist’s mental health may be stressed and strained in other areas such as depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety.
If left untreated, narcissistic personality disorder may push a person to behave more erratically and as their behavior becomes more erratic and self-indulging, relationships dwindle and opportunities diminish forcing them to rely even more heavily on their own sense of superiority to keep them afloat. When they do not receive the praise that they so desperately need, their world begins to crumble around them. Every word becomes criticism and they lash out at others in a desperate attempt to hold onto the recognition that they did nothing to earn. This very dangerous mental state can devolve very rapidly leaving the person angry and in their own reality that is less than true.
Narcissistic personality disorder impacts and disrupts families and relationships. Although it is a difficult position to be in, family members and significant others can help a person who is experiencing narcissistic personal disorder. They will initially be unwilling to acknowledge that THEY are the problem and will insist that it is the other person. They will blame and push fault off so care must be taken to establish boundaries and make a plan to gently help the person understand how their behavior impacts others around them.
If you suspect that someone you love is experiencing narcissistic personality disorder, help is available. Reach out to the mental health professionals at Beachside Treatment Center in Malibu for guidance in handling the situation as well as to have your loved one evaluated for a treatment plan that is best suited for them. They can learn to control their narcissistic personality disorder and to be fulfilled and happy with who they are for the qualities that they do possess rather than the idealized ones that they want to be esteemed for.