Can narcissism be pathological?
A reflection on the relationship between this personality pattern and the concept of mental health.
Loving ourselves is key to having a healthy inner life. It protects us from the adversities of destiny that sooner or later will befall us; and it reinforces self-esteem in the face of inclemencies, failures and blunders.
Self-esteem is the affective component of self-perception, and the ideal scenario in which the interactions we have with ourselves and with others unfold.
As with many other things in life, however, excesses can cause something valuable to become detrimental. Narcissism, as an extreme position of overvaluing oneself and devaluing others, can be placed in such a line.
The question we are trying to answer in this article is: can narcissism be pathological? can narcissism be pathological? In it we will describe the lines that draw the common spaces and differences between healthy self-love and the attitude of a narcissist.
Can narcissism be pathological?
Narcissism can be understood in a popular sense and in a clinical sense.. In the former, it is a term describing an attitude of rapt attention to one's own identity, an exaggeration of one's own virtues (or not) and a tendency to overestimate oneself. In the second case, it is a stable personality pattern, included in cluster B of the DSM-5 manual (together with borderline, histrionic and antisocial), which can affect the development of life.
The first of these meanings subsumes people who are in the normal range of the attribute (do not generate harm to themselves or to others), despite being at the highest point of this range. The second of these, however, refers to an accumulation of traits that generates substantial difficulties in living and in relationships with others. In the latter case, attitudes can be observed that not only differ from the first in degree, but also qualitatively.
We proceed to describe the limits of this phenomenon, pointing out the way in which its clinical aspect is expressed: narcissistic personality disorder. A reflection will also be made on its consequences for the person himself and his environment, which are the main axis on which the distinction between the "normal" and the pathological is drawn.
1. Feelings of grandeur or omnipotence
Feelings of grandiosity are among the most characteristic symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder.. In these cases the person perceives him/herself as capable of great feats, despite not having objective reasons for it, to the point that it is frequent that there are notorious failures in the attempt to achieve what they long for in a disproportionate and incongruent way.
This feeling of omnipotence often leads to the investment of a poor effort to achieve the objectives, since the process of evaluation of demanding situations is conditioned by the illusory perception of their own capacity (which acts to the detriment of constancy or commitment). However, these ideas never reach the intensity and quality of a delirium, which are confined to severe manic episodes of a bipolar disorder type I.
Fantasies of disproportionate success
People with narcissistic personality disorder project the future in the belief that they will be project the future considering that they are going to be creditors of great successes and fortunes, and depositaries of an enormous power or social transcendence.and depositaries of an enormous power or social transcendence. Such fantasies can also be associated with the expectation of great amorous passions with idealized persons, although in this case delusions of erotomanic type (irreducible conviction that one is the object of the love of a third party without evidence to support it) are not appreciated.
This fantasy often ends up contrasting with an ordinary reality, which is a source of frustration and intimate affront. This is why they have a certain tendency to accuse others of their failures, considering that the mediocrity of others would explain the incongruence between their ideal self and their real self. It has been described that this dissonance motivates a laceration of self-esteem, which would remain hidden behind the imposture of an attitude of greatness.
3. Belief that one is special or unique
Narcissists wield the belief that they are special or unique, possessing a series of attributes that differentiate them from the rest of the individuals, who are perceived as particularly regular in their way of being and acting. This disdain can become vehement, especially when the social especially when the social environment is demanded to act in a particular way when it is in front of him or her, demanding the most extreme of the social environment.demanding the most extreme of courtesies.
To a certain extent, it is an egocentric attitude that usually appears during adolescence, in which we experience an inflammation of our own individuality and of the importance we assign ourselves as agents of the social scene (imaginary audience and personal fable). This phase, which is the result of a vital period in which one is dealing with a fast-paced development (at all levels), would be maintained in those who live with this personality disorder.
4. Excessive need for admiration
The narcissist is a person who believes he/she needs constant admiration, which is the reason why lives any confrontation as inadmissible. Their imperious need leads them to seek the opinion of others, not because they value it, but because they wish to receive flattering words. In addition, they expect a solicitous disposition in the face of any demand they may make, and they do not cope well with refusals to their will.
5. Feeling of privilege
Individuals with narcissistic personality disorder consider themselves worthy of all kinds of privileges, embracing ideas about the future that do not adhere to reality.They embrace ideas about the future that do not adhere to reality. Thus, they conceive that their expectations will be satisfied spontaneously without having invested effort commensurate with the anticipated achievement. The prosperity desired for life would not be reasonable in light of the circumstances of the present or the actions undertaken to improve them.
This fact is the result of a particular way of processing information that is based on a state of expansiveness of one's own worth, which even extends beyond the limits of the immediate. The same phenomenon, but in the opposite direction, can be observed in people suffering from major depressive disorder (gloominess of the future and pessimistic attitude towards uncertain situations).
6. Exploitation of personal relationships
People with narcissistic personality disorder have great difficulty in maintaining horizontal relationships, always looking for a position that provides benefits (even if it seriously harms others). In any case, they prioritize themselves in all contexts, even in cases where the incentive is tiny in contrast to the harm to others involved.
Narcissists take advantage of others to achieve their goals, adopting a utilitarian position in their social relationships. In this sense, it is a trait similar to that observed in antisocial personality disorder, which would translate into disruptive behavior that can end up leading to isolation or rejection from the environment. In this sense, from narcissism it is very difficult to forge lasting bonds inspired by mutual trust.
7. Empathic deficit
People with narcissistic personality disorder often do not put themselves in the shoes of others. tend not to put themselves in the shoes of others, which means severe problems connecting emotionally with those around them.. They are very insensitive to the Pain and discomfort of others, so they rarely make an effort to alleviate it, although they have the possibility to do so at their fingertips. This way of acting is at the basis of other symptoms described in the article (such as exploitative relationships, for example).
As a consequence of its poor empathic capacity, narcissism has been aligned from the beginning of its clinical conceptualization with psychopathy, as related phenomena. While it is true that most psychopaths have characteristics of narcissism (such as overestimation of self-worth, to cite one example), not all narcissists are psychopaths in their essence.
8. Feelings of envy
People with narcissistic disorder experience envy in a particularly intense way, and in two possible directions. On the one hand, they tend to experience this feeling when a close person achieves success in any area of life, especially when they perceive that he or she has surpassed their achievements or merits.On the one hand, they tend to experience this feeling when a close person achieves success in any area of life, especially when they perceive that they have surpassed their achievements or merits. This conflict tends to be resolved through direct contempt and devaluation of the other's achievements, and never as an incentive to increase individual effort.
On the other hand, narcissistic persons tend to believe that they are the object of envy of others.This implies the belief that they are imitated in the way they act, dress or live. Likewise, they often use envy as the argument through which to explain any criticism of their attitude, in order to hide any responsibility for how they treat their social circle.
9. Arrogant behavior
Arrogance is the inevitable result of the confluence of the symptoms described in this article. The feeling of superiority and poor empathy, two dimensions anchored in the subjective, are behaviorally expressed through arrogance and inordinate pride. Arrogance translates as arrogance and haughtiness, as well as the inability to recognize one's own mistakes and the habit of underlining one's and the habit of highlighting the shortcomings of others.
Therefore, interactions with these individuals can severely deteriorate self-esteem and become an aversive stimulus that the environment will try to avoid.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)