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Narcissism and its Psychological Effects

Updated: Aug 26, 2020

Article by - Nitya Sharma | Edited by - Atri Das | Illustrations by - Roshmija Biswas

"They call it a selfie because narcissistic is too hard to spell!" - Unknown

The term narcissism, both literally and metaphorically begins with ‘you’ and ends with ‘you’. Vanity, self - admiration, self - adulation and self - absorption are a few words which are usually associated with narcissism.

Our own “self” plays a prime role in the process of development throughout our lives, though we are taught the chapters of self love from our early years, firm boundaries should be established. Blurring of these boundaries along with an excessive need for admiration, disregard to other’s feelings and a sense of entitlement results in narcissism. And if it multiplies to a very high level, it gives birth to a disorder - The Narcissistic Personality Disorder - falling under Cluster B of the personality disorders which includes people with tendencies to act dramatic, emotional and erratic.

According to Pincus and Lukowitsky, 2010; Ronninstam, 2005, 2009 and 2012, individuals with narcissistic personality disorder show:

  • an exaggerated sense of self-importance

  • a preoccupation with being admired and

  • a lack of empathy for the feelings of others

Exploring the root of the issue

There have been quite a number of debates regarding the origin of narcissism, post the debates it was finally concluded that biological, emotional and socio-cultural factors inter-played to give rise to this irregularity.

Looking from the biological perspective, evidences prove chemical and neurotransmitter imbalances in the brain can contribute to narcissism. There are also evidences of grandiose narcissism, in which people believe that they are superior than others stemming from parental overvaluation whereas vulnerable narcissism which is marked by introspective self absorbedness along with overindulgence of deep pride and shame seems to stem from emotional, physical and sexual abuse as well as through certain parenting styles such as intrusive, controlling, cold, etc.

There are also certain socio-cultural factors like socioeconomic classes, urban or rural setting and culture also contribute positively to this disorder. Moreover, emphasis on impulsive gratification, instant solution and pain free benefits is leading more people to develop a self-centered lifestyle.

Do you feel that you are a patient of the disorder ?

Here is a check-list given by DSM 5 for a personality to be classified as narcissistic. According to psychologists and psychiatrists, if you meet 5 or more "contexts" then you might be prone to the disorder. These contexts include -

• Having a grandiose sense of self-importance

• Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love • Believing that he/she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by/should be associated with, other special/high-status people

• Requiring excessive admiration

• Having a sense of entitlement

• Being inter-personally exploitative

• Lacking empathy

• Being often envious of others or believing that others are envious of him/ her

• Showing arrogance, haughty behavior or attitudes

A way out of the chaos -

The road which leads to the exit is highly facilitated by CBT - Cognitive Behavioural Therapy - which involves bringing positive reforms to the dysfunctional schemas and distorted thought patterns of the patient. Victim awareness can also help in reducing such behaviours and increasing empathy.

Adding to that, emphasis should also be laid on increasing self control and on anger management. This results in the improvement social skills which leads to positive social interactions which are important to increase the patient's ability to understand others' perspective and to develop feelings of empathy. This further urges the patient to think of himself or herself not just as an individual but as a responsible and active member of the society.

And lastly, self-critical thinking and Victim awareness also firmly contribute in reducing such behaviours and increasing empathy.

Delve a little deeper into interesting facts -

• Apparently, in Greek mythology, a very handsome young man named Narcissus died by drowning as he was apparently so enamoured with his refection that the jumped into the water to gaze at it. This is the reason it is named as the narcissistic personality disorder.

• According to Golomb et. al, 1995, this disorder is more frequently observed in men than in women.

• J. D. Miller in 2007 concluded that the strongest impairment associated with this disorder is the distress of 'pain and suffering' experienced not by the narcissist but by his/her significant others.

Summing up -

If you read this article just because someone in your vicinity labelled you self absorbed or self-centered, does not by any means imply that you’re a patient of this disorder. If you really feel the indications mentioned in this article do affect your intrapersonal or interpersonal relationships you might visit a psychologist or a doctor who could run a proper diagnosis. Be informed about it and make others informed too, it never hurts to be too informed.

Still unsure or have a loved one facing a similar situation? Call us or drop us a mail. We can help you.

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1 Comment

This is a fine article and gives a broad overview of the subject at hand. ✨

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