What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Narcissistic personality disorder is a personality disorder in which someone has an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy. Behind this outward appearance of extreme confidence, lies low self-esteem that is vulnerable to any slight criticism. 

Narcissism causes problems in relationships, work, school and financial affairs. People with narcissistic personality disorder tend to be unhappy and disappointed when they are not given the admiration and special treatment that they believe they deserve. This can make their romantic relationships, friendships and family relationships unfulfilling. 



Signs and symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder and the severity of symptoms vary. People with the disorder can:

  • Feel entitled and require constant, excessive admiration
  • Expect to be recognized as a superior
  • Exaggerate achievements and talents
  • Preoccupy over success, power, brilliance, or beauty
  • Believe they can only associate with equally superior people
  • Belittle or look down on people who they perceive as inferior
  • Monopolize conversations
  • Expect unquestioning compliance with their expectations
  • Take advantage of others to get what they want
  • Unable or willing to recognize the needs and feelings of others
  • Envy others and believe others envy them
  • Come across as conceited, boastful and pretentious
  • Insist on needing the best of everything

What happens if they are criticized?

Someone with narcissistic personality disorder can have trouble handling anything they perceive as criticism, and they can:

  • Become angry
  • Have significant interpersonal problems
  • Feel easily slighted
  • React with rage or contempt
  • Try to belittle the other person
  • Have difficulty regulating emotions and behaviors
  • Experience major problems dealing with stress
  • Feel depressed and moody because they fall short of perfection
  • Have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humilitation 

What causes it?

There is no direct known cause of narcissistic personality disorder, but it is likely complex. It can be linked to:

  • Environment - parent-child relationships with either excessive adoration or criticism 
  • Genetics - inherited characteristics
  • Neurobiology - the connection between the brain and behavior and thinking