"You need to stop being so selfish"
" Why are you so careless?"
" I am the only one who should matter in your life?"
" I do not like your friends- they are not good enough for you"
"You know I'm smarter. You know I know more about this than you."
" I am the best you will ever have"
Does any of the above statements sound familiar? If so, you just might have had a first-hand experience with someone with a narcissistic personality disorder. A person is said to have a Narcissistic personality disorder when he (or she) has an inflated opinion of himself, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.
Narcissists do not always appear all pumped up and arrogant, on the contrary, they are the most charming set of individuals. Even though the condition is not widely understood, many people suffer from it around the world. You might be closer to one than you actually think.
Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a mental condition whose root cause is unknown, but researchers suggest that it may result from environmental, genetic or neurological factors. Here's how each of these factors contributes to NPD:
The major cause of narcissism from one's environment is the parenting style used on such a person. Some environmental factors that have been reported from various quarters to be a major contributor to this disorder include:
- Excessive pampering of children
- Neglect or childhood abuse
- Trauma caused by sexual or physical abuse
- Unrealistic expectation from parents
Environmental narcissism affects vulnerable children and sometimes it develops as a form of defense mechanism to deal with the emotional trauma the child may have gone through. A timid child that is being consistently bullied by his peer might develop a defensive approach that later leads to environmental narcissism.
A person is more likely to have narcissistic traits if there has been a medical history of NPD in the family. A few times, the narcissistic behaviour of a person can be traced to either of their parents or grandparents. It is therefore suggested that narcissism can be inherited, even though a "narcissistic gene" has not yet been found yet by scientists. Perhaps the story will change in the nearest future.
Researchers have made use of magnetic resonance imaging to scan the brains of 34 people, including 17 individuals who suffer from narcissistic personality disorder, and discovered that pathological narcissists have less gray matter in the left anterior insula which is a part of the cerebral cortex. Grey matter contains most of the brain's neurons, as such, it includes regions of the brain involved in muscle control, and sensory perception such as seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, speech, decision making, and self-control.
The word Narcissist is derived from Greek and its named after the Greek myth of Narcissus who saw a reflection of himself in a pool of water when he went to quench his thirst, he was fascinated by his beauty and eventually died of thirst as he couldn't stop admiring himself and could not bear to disturb the water in an attempt to drink. This myth in so many ways describes most self-absorbed millenials, Narcissus was arrogant also when he refused the love of many including Echo which eventually led to her death. The truth is that narcissists do not realise they have NPD, here's how to know if you may be suffering from this disorder:
- You have a huge sense of entitlement
- You believe you are better than everyone at everything and for that reason, your opinion is the only one that matters in a meeting
- You spend a lot of time admiring yourself
- You prefer to lead than to be led
- You gloat when you win a game but become abusive when the tables turn.
- There's always a reason why you were mean and people should understand that.
- You are charming and a love bomber who loves to engage in multiple relationships.
- You are self centered
If none of these traits describes your personality, then I'd say huzzah!!! It is however, important to note that not every self-centered and confident person suffers from Narcissistic personality disorder. In fact, it is healthy to think highly of oneself once in a while, the problem with narcissists is that they usually display five or more of narcissistic behaviors. So before you conclude that your boyfriend who puts his needs above yours, or the boss thinks he is never wrong is a narcissist, be sure to check all the boxes of a narcissistic trait.
Living with A Narcissist
As I have earlier mentioned, most narcissists do not know they are narcissists. Imagine telling a mentally unstable person that he/she is unstable. Although that is not the case here, because narcissists are able to adjust and seek help when necessary. In the case where you would rather live and tolerate a narcissist, here are a few tips to avoid walking on eggshells:
- If you can avoid them, do so, but do not make it obvious that you are avoiding them.
- Learn what they like, can tolerate and cannot tolerate
- Do not keep secrets from them
- In a meeting, allow them to have the final word
- Be diplomatic in speaking with them
- Be ready to accept that they are always right.
If these options do not suit you, you may advise them to seek help by talking to a therapist. Narcissists are toxic but do not forget that their toxicity could be a result of underlying low self-esteem, genetic, or other factors that have been mentioned earlier. It is therefore necessary to accept them the way they are, speak to them ( this may not be a smooth ride), and encourage them to find support when necessary.