Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is named for Narcissus from Greek mythology, the same guy who gave us the words narcissism and narcissist. A person with this personality disorder has extreme feelings of self-love and superiority, and believes that they are deserving of special attention and consideration from others. A narcissistic person often also has serious difficulties with self-esteem, jealousy, and depression. This is a Cluster B personality disorder.

A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

  • Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
  • Believes 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).
  • Requires excessive admiration.
  • Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.
  • Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends.
  • Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
  • Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
  • Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.
  • --From the DSM-IV-TR.

To count as a personality disorder, the narcissism must not only meet at least five of the criteria listed above, but must also interfere with a person's ability to function in everyday life.

The DSM is used in America, but if you live in Europe, or much of the rest of the world, your psychologist is more likely to refer to the ICD-10 (ICD-10 Classification of Mental and Behavioural Disorders, put out by the World Health Organization). The ICD doesn't recognize NPD as a full-fledged personality disorder. Instead it lists it as a possible diagnoses for a personality disorder that does not match the 'rubric' (list of symptoms) for any of the seven personality disorders that it does have full listings for.

NPD occurs in about 1% of the population, although it is hard to get good information on this, as those with NPD are unlikely to seek out help. Also keep in mind that somewhat narcissistic attitudes are not unusual in teenagers -- this is probably why the DSM states that NPD begins in early adulthood. NPD is not just the possession of the traits listed above, it is the lack of getting past these traits while you are still young, and developing your personality.

There is much debate over just what is the best method to treat NPD; check with your therapist for recommendations.