Narcissistic personality disorder

Celebrities draw attention but some crave out the spotlight a little more than others. Some showbiz personalities have made careers out of attention-seeking behaviours. Most of us admire being the center of attention. It feels good to get recognized and feel special, but the desire for attention can also become pathological.sni

Attention seeking becomes problematic when people engage in excessive or inappropriate behaviours in order to gain attention on a regular basis. Psychiatrists view that it could be due to lowered self-esteem, a lack of self-confidence, and low levels of self-worth or feeling insecure.sni

Some people seek normal attention by creating situations in which they hope to be praised, thanked or admired. This is acceptable and understandable. Some perhaps get bothered about the quality of attention they get and so they draw attention by making a scene in public, getting over-indignant about a trivial matter, causing heads to turn and drawing eyes onto them. Others seek out sympathy by always having something to complain about.sni

When analyzing, it becomes important for the psychiatrist to evaluate if someone’s actions are plainly done to get others to take notice and react.sni

Simple question then is what is motivating them? If it is a one-off, it might be a sign of tiredness or a reaction to pressures and stress. If the behavior is persistent or goes beyond what one might normally expect, it can be a sign of an underlying mental health issue.sni

Narcissistic personality disorder

Attention seeking is a tell-tale symptom of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). Not every desire to be praised is pathological and there is a continuum, a spectrum. It is important to distinguish the personality traits in normal people and between narcissistic traits.sni

Normal people will have attitude and behaviors which may be advantageous like confidence, a need to achieve the best, the need for praise in contrast to the incessant desire to be constantly admired at the pathological upper end of spectrum. Those with the personality disorders are exploitative, and likely to cause significant distress to others.sni

Signs of NPD

NPD is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of personal importance and an unhealthy craving for admiration. Narcissists lack understanding about how others feel and they are fixated with themselves and locked into their world.sni

They feel superior to others and indifferent to their feelings. They act supremely confident but are actually deeply insecure and easily crushed by the slightest criticism. Underneath their pretence confidence, many individuals with NPD feel a profound sense of shame. They embarrass others to build themselves up. When they perceive criticism or rejection, they retaliate with rage and contempt to hide their weak egos.sni

Interestingly narcissists gravitate towards professions where they can control people and elicit manipulation. They are more likely to work in politics, finance or showbiz than in shoemaking. The cause of the disorder is unknown, but genetics and early childhood experiences are thought to contribute.sni

Narcissistic behavior in relationships

Many people exhibit some narcissistic qualities, but full-blown narcissistic personality disorder afflicts about eight percent of men and about five percent of women. Difficulty is that they come glaringly into the relationship with this charming and highly seductive presentation. Complications however, arise in relationships when they are expected to show sensitivity to others. But they do not have the ability to emotionally tune in to their partner or their children. This then turns into emotional warfare.sni

Narcissists exploit and manipulate others for their own gain. Sadly when in a relationship with a narcissist, others are mostly painfully revolved around them and struggling always to please them. It is understandable to see the shock that happens for people when they find out (and if they are lucky to find out) that they got seduced into something they thought was the best thing that ever happened to them and it turns into this kind of relationship. While it is a bad luck to be married to a narcissist, it is a nightmare to divorce one.sni

Narcissists in couples counselling

I frequently see couples where one partner lacks empathy, is self-centred and has hugely inflated self-ego, and believes that he/she is never at fault in any situation. This partner may meet criteria for narcissistic personality disorder. Although narcissists usually see no reason to accept the diagnosis. Narcissists are extremely difficult to treat in couples counselling, because they resist any suggestion that they could be contributing to the current marital difficulties. They blame either their spouse for infidelity or circumstances outside their control (for example, their job, other family members) for all their conflicts within the relationship.sni

The non-narcissist partner commonly suffers from low self-esteem which then due to the rejection from the narcissist partner further spirals in a vicious cycle and throws the non-narcissist partner to the low self-esteem even more. Teaching basic empathy and validation skills can be seen as an effective way to initially get buy-in with a narcissist in couples counselling, so that more profound change can occur later.sni

By: Dr Fawad kaiser, Psychiatrist

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