Have you recently heard the idea that we are living in a more narcissistic society? I actually have a few times and it made me wonder if we all know what narcissism is and more importantly, did you know there are two types? Personality disorders can be plotted in a continuum. Basically what that means is that we all have some traits of most personality disorders; so we are all have a bit of paranoia, antisocial, avoidance, dependence, OCD, and of course a bit narcissism. There is nothing to worry about (other than to be aware of them) unless those traits are interfering with our normal functioning or stop us from creating meaningful and lasting relationships.
But now, the topic at hand Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). People with NPD have a grandiose perception of their own uniqueness and abilities. They are self-centred and require constant admiration and attention. They lack empathy for others and are manipulative with strong feelings of entitlement. On the surface people with NPD are loud, appear strong, over-confident, and arrogant with a remarkable sense of self-importance and limitless success, but many experts believe that all these traits hide very fragile self-esteem. They tend to be very sensitive to criticism and become defensive when their power, intelligence or capabilities are questioned. They attack and become angry when they feel rejected or fear failure.
I am sure none of the above mentioned is news to you. We have all heard or grandiose or overt narcissism; (what I have just described) but did you know that there is another form of narcissism? It is called covert narcissism.
Individuals with covert narcissism have the same sense of self-centredness and self-importance but it is geared towards their feelings of inferiority and low self-esteem. They are masters at martyrdom and will resent you if you stop paying attention to them, minimizing their pain, or try to talk about someone else other than them. They use their sadness and helplessness as a form of manipulation to get attention and are terrified of failure or making mistakes. They have grandiose feelings of affliction (“no one has it worse than I do”, “no one is so unlucky or misunderstood as I am”, “no one has ever felt so sad”, “no one hurts more than I do”, etc.)
Because these traits can also be plotted on a continuum, we know there could be mild, moderate, severe and extreme levels of covert narcissism and the degree of impairment can be seen on their level of self-destructiveness ranging from the inability to establish real long-lasting relationships to the inability to hold employment, or their tendency to engage in dangerous illegal activities.
For both forms of narcissism, there is appropriate and effective therapeutic treatment. However, it is very hard to get a grandiose narcissist to understand they have a personality disorder and even harder for them to admit they need help (due to their obvious feelings of superiority and dismissiveness of everyone else’s ideas and intelligence).
I do feel the need to mention the link between diagnosed and undiagnosed NPD and abuse. Because NPD surfaces as a coping mechanism to hide the inner feelings of inferiority and very broken self-esteem, it makes sense that people with NPD project those feelings onto those close to them. Experts call this: narcissistic abuse. Narcissistic abuse can be emotional, mental, physical, sexual and so on. Some examples include emotional blackmail, manipulation, gaslighting, competition, sabotage and much more (for more details, check out this Psychology.com article).
As always be compassionate to those suffering and talk to someone if you suspect you or someone you love is experiencing difficulties due to this disorder.