What Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder? - Traits, Symptoms & Characteristics

Instructor: Alyssa Gilston
Narcissistic personality disorder is an Axis II personality disorder listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Key features of narcissistic personality disorder include a long-standing and pervasive pattern of grandiosity, lack of empathy and need for admiration.

Narcissistic personality disorder is an Axis II Cluster B personality disorder. Individuals with Cluster B personality disorders appear dramatic, erratic and emotional. The cause of narcissistic personality disorder is not known. As with other Axis II disorders, onset could be a result of a combination of biopsychosocial factors, including hereditary and biological vulnerabilities, mental health and psychological factors, as well as social interactions with peers, parents or other caregivers.

Biopsychosocial Model


There are numerous criteria that need to be met in order to be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder. Individuals with narcissistic personality disorder have a grandiose and excessive sense of self importance. It is not at all uncommon for them to exaggerate and even inflate their own accomplishments, while often devaluing or underestimating the contribution of others. These individuals are also preoccupied with fantasies related to power, beauty, love and success. They also routinely compare themselves positively with privileged and/or famous people.

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Individuals with narcissistic personality disorder believe that they are special and superior, and they also expect others to recognize them in that very same manner. They strive to socialize with people who they view as unique, special and even perfect. They believe that their needs are very special and way beyond that of a normal person. They will actually increase their own self-esteem by associating with people that they view as superior. For example, they will insist on working only with the best of the best - the top specialist, top stylist, best dance teacher - in all areas of life.

Those with narcissistic personality disorder require excessive admiration and their self-esteem can be very fragile when they do not receive praise. They need constant attention and approval and will seek compliments from those around them.

Individuals with narcissistic personality disorder have a deep sense of entitlement. They demonstrate an unreasonable expectation to be treated favorably. They want to and expect to be favored and when they are not, they are completely confused and taken back. For example, when going out for dinner at a popular restaurant, they are shocked when they have to wait for a table like an ordinary person and may become rude and irritated when they are told to wait. They expect to be given whatever it is that they want when they want it, without any regard for others.

Those with narcissistic personality disorder have a lack of empathy for others as well. They demonstrate great difficulty in recognizing, respecting and validating the feelings of others. They are completely unaware of how their remarks may insult, hurt or upset others. For example, they could tell their former professor that they are so happy to finally have someone with a brain teaching them in their new class. They can also be exploitive and take advantage of others in order to assist themselves.

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