What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder & How to Spot It.

GoodTherapy | Narcissistic Personality DisorderTo understand Narcissistic Personality disorder and how to spot it, you must first place the disorder in the larger context of mental disorders. Narcissistic Personality Disorder can be found in the Personality DisordersSection of the Diagnostic and Statistically Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (DSM-5), which includes Paranoid Personality Disorders and Antisocial Personality Disorders as well as Borderline Personality Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder. For a more complete list, please refer to the DSM-5.

A Personality disorder is “…an enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates markedly from the expectations of the individual’s culture, is pervasive and inflexible, has an onset in adolescence or early adulthood, is stable over time, and leads to distress or impairment” (DSM-5).

Although Narcissistic Personality Disorder and even the words “narcissistic” and “narcissism” have become widely sensationalized by mainstream media, it is essential to remember that there are critical criteria to meet the official diagnosis.

What are the Diagnostic Criteria of Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

According to DSM-5, five or more of the following are required for diagnosing Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

  1. Grandiose self-importance. To make themselves seem more accomplished than others, one might exaggerate.
  2. You are obsessed with fantasies about unlimited power, brilliance and beauty, or the perfect love.. One can become hyper-focused on “long-overdue” admiration of their strength or privileges.
  3. Believes that they are “special” and “unique and can only be “understood” by those with elite social status. For example, one may describe the people in their life as “ordinary.”
  4. Requires excessive admiration. This can lead to a fragile self-esteem.
  5. Feels entitled. For example, one may become frustrated by waiting in line because “they should be allowed to skip to the front.”
  6. Is interpersonally exploitativeSometimes, friendships can be formed to help one achieve their own goals or needs.
  7. Lacks empathy.For example, one might be preoccupied by their own worries and have difficulty recognising the needs or emotions of others.
  8. Is often jealous of others and believes that others are envious.It is easy to imagine everyone looking at you or wishing they were as good as them.
  9. Arrogant behavior.One might complain about a retail worker who is clumsy or stupid because they make an error or mistake that is not obvious.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder Quick facts

  • Narcissistic personality Disorder sufferers have a hard time maintaining relationships because they are so attached to others.
  • It is estimated that between 1-6% of the population suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
  • 50-75% of Narcissistic Personality Disorder sufferers are men.
  • While traits of Narcissistic Personity Disorder may manifest in adolescence or adulthood, it does not necessarily indicate that a person is diagnosed. Given that individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder often struggle to adjust to the “aging process,” symptoms usually manifest and become clearer to identify as a person ages post-adolescence.
  • The diagnostic criteria for Narcissistic personality Disorder are similar to those of Borderline, Antisocial, or Histrionic Personality Disorders. However, the key feature that distinguishes Narcissistic from other disorders is the grandiosity characteristic. Narcissistic personality disorder is characterized by a feeling of superiority over others. Narcissistic personality disorder sufferers often have a stable selfimage, even if it’s distorted, and avoid self-destructive actions, which helps to distinguish the disorder from borderline.
  • Very little is known about the “cause” of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, however, some research suggests that biological and environmental factors play a role. Narcissistic personalities often experience neglect, abandonment, or physical abuse in their childhoods (White, 2002).
  • Narcissistic personality disorder sufferers are less likely to seek help because of their low self-esteem and high ego.

Other GoodTherapy Blogs on Narcissism

Covert Narcissism – The Quiet Counterpart of Narcissistic Personality

Codependency and Narcissism may have more in common than you think

The Arduous Work of Treating Narcissism: A Therapist’s Guide

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American Psychiatric Association. (2013). (2013).

Disorders (5th edition). https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596

White, M. A. (2021). How to spot narcissistic behaviours. From:


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