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Narcissistic personality disorder

Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental condition in which a person has:

  • An excessive sense of self-importance
  • An extreme preoccupation with themselves
  • A lack of empathy for others

Causes

Cause of this disorder is unknown. Early life experiences, such as insensitive parenting, are thought to play a role in developing this disorder.

Symptoms

A person with this disorder may:

  • React to criticism with rage, shame, or humiliation
  • Take advantage of other people to achieve his or her own goals
  • Have excessive feelings of self-importance
  • Exaggerate achievements and talents
  • Be preoccupied with fantasies of success, power, beauty, intelligence, or ideal love
  • Have unreasonable expectations of favorable treatment
  • Need constant attention and admiration
  • Disregard the feelings of others, and have little ability to feel empathy
  • Have obsessive self-interest
  • Pursue mainly selfish goals

Exams and Tests

Narcissistic personality disorder is diagnosed based on a psychological evaluation. The health care provider will consider how long and how severe the person's symptoms are.

Treatment

Talk therapy may help the person relate to other people in a more positive and compassionate way.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Outcome of treatment depends on the severity of the disorder and how willing the person is to change.

Possible Complications

Complications may include:

  • Alcohol or other drug use
  • Relationship, work, and family problems

Alternative Names

Personality disorder - borderline; Narcissism

References

American Psychiatric Association. Narcissistic personality disorder. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th ed. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing. 2013;669-672.

Blais MA, Smallwood P, Groves JE, Rivas-Vazquez RA, Hopwood CJ. Personality and personality disorders. In: Stern TA, Fava M, Wilens TE, Rosenbaum JF, eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 39.

Review Date 7/29/2016

Updated by: Fred K. Berger, MD, addiction and forensic psychiatrist, Scripps Memorial Hospital, La Jolla, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.