I’ve been asked this question many times, so here are some things you need to know about NPD.
The most important thing for you to understand if you’ve been involved with a ‘narc’, is that (NPD) is one of 10 personality disorders listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. You're dealing with a Mental Disorder and this person is anything but 'normal'. It fits in with the Cluster B disorders. That means that you are dealing with a person who has a mental illness, albeit they are generally very high-functioning, intelligent and very capable. So, just to clarify that, the official definition by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is this:
NPD is defined as comprising a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), a constant need for admiration, and a lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by the presence of at least 5 of the following 9 criteria:
· A grandiose sense of self-importance
· A preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
· A belief that he or she is special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions
· A need for excessive admiration
· A sense of entitlement
· Interpersonally exploitive behavior
· A lack of empathy
· Envy of others or a belief that others are envious of him or her
· A demonstration of arrogant and haughty behaviors or attitudes
An NPD diagnosis requires only 5 of those 9 criteria to be present. And even if they only had 4, you could still be dealing with a narcissist.
But All of those traits are nasty. Narcissists have no conscience, empathy, or feelings for anyone but themselves, and their main goal is to destroy their ‘target’, because it’s their life-blood - getting their narcissistic supply or fuel is ALL that matters to them. Of course, NPD is a huge spectrum and there are different types of NPDs, overts, coverts, malignant coverts, cerebrals, somatics… but all of them have these traits in varying degrees, and at the centre of all of them only one thing matters to them, and that’s themselves and their narcissistic supply. Studies suggest they a addicted to dopamine. It’s like heroin to an addict. They also make you addicted to them – which is known as Trauma Bonding. Do check out my video on that!
But is Narcissistic Personality Disorder a MENTAL Disorder?
There is sometimes confusion about whether NPD is a Mental Disorder or a 'Personality Disorder', so I just want to clarify my understanding here so that you know exactly where I'm coming from when I refer to it as a Mental Disorder:
NPD is an extreme form of pathological narcissism. 'Pathological' by definition is 'involving or caused by a mental illness', and NPD made its first appearance as a 'Mental Health Diagnosis' in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association) in 1980.
So technically, it's classed under the broader umbrella of Mental Disorders. However, it is sub-categorised under the 'Cluster B' Personality Disorders. In addition to that, there is some evidence in Brain Science/Neuroscience that Narcissists' Brains are different from 'normal' peoples' brains.
This is an extract from a blog about one such study:*
"People who suffer from narcissistic personality disorder, which is characterized by extreme arrogance and self-absorption, have structural abnormalities in a region of the brain that has been linked to empathy, a new study finds.
Researchers used magnetic resonance imaging to scan the brains of 34 people, including 17 individuals who suffer from narcissistic personality disorder, and found that pathological narcissists have less gray matter in a part of the cerebral cortex called the left anterior insula. Gray matter is primarily composed of neuron cell bodies and non-neuron brain cells that provide nutrients and energy to neurons, rather than sending and receiving information.
Individuals with narcissistic personality disorder suffer from low self-esteem and feelings of inferiority, while also projecting displays of arrogance and vanity, according to the American Psychiatric Association.
One of the key traits of pathological narcissists is their clear lack of empathy, said Stefan Röpke, a professor in the department of psychiatry at the Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin in Germany. Generally, these patients are able to recognize what others feel and think, but outwardly exhibit little compassion"
So, in a nutshell, it's both a Mental Disorder (it can't be cured either!), AND of course, a Personality Disorder. Sociopaths are at the extreme end of the scale, capable of violence, even murder (think 'Dirty John), and further along, if you reach extreme psychopathy, or 'full blown' psychopathy, you're moving into serial killer territory – not always, but often.
*I had posted the original link but somehow it was broken last time I checked so I have removed it.