Seriously Unwell: Narcissism

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Some people just live for the applause (side note: this video inspires nightmares). “Narcissist” is frequently used interchangeably with phrases such as “ego-maniac” and “self-centered”. Surprisingly (at least to me), research proves that most of us (80%!) rate ourselves as more dependable, smarter, friendlier, harder-working, less prejudiced, and better in bed than others; and actually, this doesn’t make you a narcissist. The truth is that narcissism is a monster that requires constant validation in order to feel worthy. The monster is, thankfully, present in only 1 – 6% of the population. The most severe form of narcissism is classified as Narcissistic Personality Disorder and can only be identified by a mental health professional.

Narcissists need to be admired at all times, and this deep and un-fillable void takes precedence over the desire to be liked. Their extreme self-confidence can make narcissists quite desirable, and they are often surrounded by a tribe of loyal followers (often for only a short period of time, much like the changing of the guards). Narcissists truly believe they are entitled to special treatment, and they are easily offended if others don’t recognize this. It has been said that “being somewhat narcissistic is like driving a huge SUV: You’re having a great time, even while you hog the road, suck up extra resources and put other drivers at higher risk”. They truly believe that they deserve to be automatically placed at the front of the line, first choice for everything, and to be held to different standards than others. They don’t think it’s fair that the same rules apply to everyone, because they are in a class of their own. They also like to break rules, because to get away with it only deepens their belief that they can do things that others can’t.

Individuals with moderate to severe narcissism are both exceedingly defensive and needy. They tend to fly into rages, have unreasonable expectations, exhibit shocking levels of selfishness, and are unable to participate in an activity as part of a team. To a narcissist, any sign of disagreement or disapproval is deeply insulting and often results in their holding a grudge and exerting revenge in some manner. Narcissists talk about themselves in comparison to others pretty much constantly: how they contribute the most, work the most, get asked to the most social events, have the most money, and on and on ad nauseam. The aggression that they display when faced with someone who has a bigger house or a better job can be downright frightening.

These individuals can’t see anything wrong about their actions and will accept no blame whatsoever, regardless of evidence. Interestingly, narcissists know that they are arrogant and think more highly of themselves than others do. Frankly, my dear, they just don’t give a damn. Unfortunately for them, reality often catches up with a narcissist, resulting in severe depression. Up until the point of a crisis, a narcissist truly believes he is invulnerable to the problems and trials encountered by other people, because he is “above” all of that. Narcissists also have a higher-than-average risk of developing addiction: to shopping, plastic surgery, sex, etc. It all, again, stems from a lack of self-worth and an unabiding desire for validation.

I’ve seen several articles about how to be in a relationship with a narcissist. I’m certainly not a mental health expert, but I believe the sad truth is that there is no such thing as being in a relationship with a narcissist; they are only in one relationship, and it is with themselves. People do change, and in some cases narcissists do “grow out of it”, since it is most common among people in their 20s. However, it’s not a guarantee or even a likelihood, especially if someone is on the severe end of the spectrum with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Narcissus didn’t go down alone, after all – he took Echo with him.