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Narcissistic personality disorder

Definition

Narcissistic personality disorder is a condition in which people have an inflated sense of self-importance and an extreme preoccupation with themselves.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

The causes of this disorder are unknown. An overly sensitive personality and parenting problems may affect the development of this disorder.

Symptoms

A person with narcissistic personality 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

Signs and tests

Like other personality disorders, narcissistic personality disorder is diagnosed based on a psychological evaluation and the history and severity of the symptoms.

Treatment

Psychotherapy (for example, talk therapy) may help the affected person relate to other people in a more positive and compassionate way.

Expectations (prognosis)

The outcome depends on the severity of the disorder.

Complications

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

References

Blais MA, Smallwood P, Groves JE, Rivas-Vazquez RA. Personality and personality disorders. In: Stern TA, Rosenbaum JF, Fava M, Biederman J, Rauch SL, eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Clinical Psychiatry. 1st ed. Philadellphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier;2008:chap 39.


Review Date: 11/14/2010
Reviewed By: Linda Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine; and David B. Merrill, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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