What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)? The word narcissism gets tossed around a lot in our culture, often to describe someone who seems excessively vain or full of themselves. But in psychological terms, narcissism doesn't mean self-love, at least not a genuine sort. It's more accurate to say that narcissists are in love with an idealized, grandiose image of themselves. And they're in love with this inflated self-image precisely because it allows them to avoid deep feelings of insecurity. But propping up their delusions takes a lot of work and that is where the dysfunctional attitudes and behaviors come in.
Narcissistic personality disorder involves a pattern of self-centered, arrogant thinking and behavior, a lack of empathy and consideration for other people, and an excessive need for admiration. Others often describe people with NPD as cocky, manipulative, selfish, patronizing and demanding. This way of thinking and behaving surfaces in every area of the narcissists life: from work and friendships to family and love relationships.
People with NPD are extremely resistant to changing their behavior, even when it's causing them problems. Their tendency is to place the blame on others. What's more, they are extremely sensitive and react badly to even the slightest criticisms, disagreements, or perceived slights, which they view as personal attacks. For the people in the narcissist's life, it's often easier to just go along with their demands to avoid the coldness and rages. However, by understanding more about the disorder, you can spot the narcissists in your life, protect yourself from their power plays, and establish healthier boundaries. Ending a relationship with a narcissist is difficult and usually happens when there is finally the realization that they won't change. They can be charming and charismatic, at least at the start of the relationship. Often you will become disoriented by their manipulative behavior, caught in the need to seek their approval, or even feel "gaslighted" and doubt your own judgment. It's important to remember that no one deserves to be bullied, threatened, or verbally and emotionally abused in a relationship. Leaving them can be a huge blow to their sense of entitlement and self-importance. Their ego still needs to be fed, so they'll often continue trying to exert control over you. If charm and "love bombing" doesn't work, they may resort to threats, denigrating you to mutual friends or stalking you on social media and in person. Seeking support from family and friends is imperative as well as getting help from a therapist who specializes in understanding what a narcissist does to his victims. It is a highly complex and toxic disorder and the feelings of guilt and self-blame are challenging to break free of. Recognizing the need to rebuild your self-esteem is the only way to take your life back and is how you can then begin the process of healing.