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10 Things to Know About the Psychology of Narcissism

A narcissist is a person who has an overly exaggerated sense of self importance. The name itself was inspired by Greek mythology. Narcissus, a hunter, was so incredibly handsome that he became entranced by his own reflection in a pool of water. His fixation made him forget everything else and he ultimately died staring at himself. Dramatic…we know. But it makes perfect sense that this story helped name narcissism disorder. 

We’ve all met a narcissist, or know one, or maybe we even are one. But how did they become this way? Why are they this way? How different are their day-to-day lives? Is this curable? Let’s dive on in and uncover the psychology of narcissism. Here are 10 things to know a out the psychology of narcissism.

Narcissism is a personality disorder.


Narcissism is a personality disorder that affects around 0.5% of the U.S. population. Because it is a personality disorder, it pretty much completely revolves around psychology. The term narcissism tends to get tossed around lightly as a way to describe someone who is vain or self absorbed. However, the disorder was not named to describe someone full of self love. The disorder is meant to actually describe someone who is in love with an unrealistic version of themselves, This version of themselves has an inflated sense of self and is typically relied on in order to avoid some serious insecurities. 

The symptoms are all psychological.


People who are diagnosed with narcissism all have specific psychological symptoms. The severity of these symptoms may vary. For the most part, narcissists tend to think they’re better than anyone around them and expect constant adoration. Along with these symptoms, narcissists may also show these signs:

-Unrealistically large ego
-Live in a fantasy world to support their high ego
-Entitlement
-Cannot handle criticism
-Exploit others without guilt
-Bully and intimidate others 

While dealing with narcissists isn’t a walk in the park, they have a sweet side too. They are also charming, persuasive, and typically attractive. This may make it more difficult to quickly identify someone as a narcissist. 

Narcissism may be passed down.

It is common for a personality disorder to be formed by our genetic makeup. Our genetics may pass down psychological traits that aid in narcissism. However, they may also pass down physical traits that do the same. While there is no specific gene that is responsible for narcissism, studies have shown that it is a physical trait. This may be because narcissism is fueled by someone’s physical appearance and the physical traits that they carry. For example, good looks, strength, athleticism, attractive movements, etc.

Narcissism may also be environmental. 

Many disorders are caused by a combination of nature and nurture. While some people may be more or less likely to become a narcissist, there are environmental factors that can tip this one way or the other. There are environmental factors that can greatly impact a child’s chance of developing narcissistic personality traits. These factors essentially revolve around a child’s needs not being met. For example, parents who are insensitive, overly demanding, non-contributing, etc. 

Narcissism is more commonly found in men


As we mentioned, narcissism affects 0.5% of the U.S. population. Within this, it is estimated that 75% of narcissistic people are men. We’ve all seen the guy who can control every conversation, makes more comments about himself than others, and makes an effort to bring you down. But why is it more likely for men to show these signs and symptoms of narcissism?

Well, studies have shown that narcissism is a sign that something is severely wrong with someone’s self-image and self-worth. Someone is not simply struggling with a big ego, they are over compensating for something far more severe and intense. This points to a troubled relationship with the world and people around them. Dating back to the beginning of society, men have struggled with how they are raised and socialized. Many boys are told not to cry, to not share their feelings, and to not be vulnerable. Because of this, men struggle with disorders such as this one. 

Narcissism usually isn’t diagnosed until adulthood.


Personality disorders such as narcissism are diagnosed by trained medical health professionals. This may be a psychologist or a psychiatrist. This is because there are no lab, blood, or genetics tests done to diagnose personality disorders. It is rare for someone with narcissism to seek help or treatment. However, if they do, they are typically an adult. Many signs of narcissism are not clear or visible until someone is an adult and out of the environment that may have shaped them to be this way. 

What are the personal struggles of a narcissist?

As we mentioned, there is a psychological disconnect that has made narcissists the way they are. Because of this disorder, there are some struggles that they face that many of us never experience. These may include:

-No friends
-Separation from family members
-Struggle finding life partners
-Loneliness
-Financial and career troubles
-Tarnished reputation
-Strong fear of rejection 

Therapy treatment is typically talk therapy.

There is no cure for narcissism, but therapy is known to help. Talk therapy is the primary method used by psychologists and psychiatrists. It is intended to raise the patient’s self esteem levels, help them have more realistic expectations for the people around them, and possibly heal any wounds they have caused. 

Unfortunately, most narcissists do not seek out therapy. If they do seek help it is usually because they have hit rock bottom with either relationships, their career, or both. 

What kinds of jobs do narcissists usually have?


Narcissists are capable of using their inflated ego and self worth to climb the totem poll. While narcissists can wear us down, they are also attractive, convincing, smooth talkers. This greatly benefits them in the professional world. Research shows that narcissists seek careers with guaranteed abundance. They also seek careers that allow them to be authority figures. Finding a career that suits these needs lets narcissists continue to be in power, adored, respected. Ultimately it lets them avoid criticism and judgement. For narcissist, being the boss is the goal. 

There are ways to handle life with a narcissist.


Whether you work with a narcissist, or they’re a friend or relative, there are healthy ways to continue to make space for people like this in your life. Just as being a narcissist is tied to psychology in so many ways, so is being around one. Setting a boundary for ourselves is perhaps the most important. Healthy boundaries will allow us to be present but also put ourselves first. Along with this boundary comes not taking things too personally. Narcissists can be bullies. They put others down to feel better about themselves. If we are going to be around a narcissist, it is important to not take things personally. Another important tip is understanding the pain underneath it all. Narcissists talk a big game but they are fragile underneath their hard exterior. 


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