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Narcissism Signs and Symptoms in Relationships, at Work, and at School

Narcissism signs and symptoms are characterized with the all-purpose grandiose belief about oneself.

Individuals with a higher tendency toward narcissism signs or symptoms will lack empathy and have a tendency to be manipulative.  They will also have an exaggerated sense of self-importance, with a sense of entitlement.

A narcissist generally has an inflamed view of self-worth.narcissism signs and symptoms

Narcissism Signs and Symptoms

Narcissism signs and symptoms can be viewed as the wicked twin of high self-esteem. This behavior starts with how people truly see themselves — added with the accomplishments they achieve.

Patricia Watson, MD, interim head of the Department of Humanities in Medicine at the Texas A&M College of Medicine elaborates.

“It’s important to know that narcissism is both a trait and part of a personality disorder.  People have narcissism as a trait, some more than others, but a smaller group of people have Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or NPD.”

Dr. Watson adds.

“Narcissism [signs or symptoms] exists on a spectrum.  You have people who have low to moderate amounts of narcissism, where it’s still apparent, but not really a disorder. Then you have the high end where it’s a full personality disorder.”

In Love with His Own Reflection

Webster’s Dictionary defines a narcissist as someone who is egocentric or egotistical. When we say someone is a narcissist, we’re implying that this person has a high opinion of themselves.

The word is derived by the name, Narcissus — having its beginning in Ancient Greece. In Greek Mythology, Narcissus was a man who was in love with his own reflection. Today’s narcissists are directly related to the story. The story of Narcissus is a great way to explain the trait and the personality disorder that shares its name.  There are several versions of the Ancient Greek Mythology of Narcissus.

Narcissus was a young hunter — especially known for his beautiful appearance.  One day while hunting, a nymph named Echo was captivated and fell in love with Narcissus.  Echo followed Narcissus and wanted to let him know she loved him.

When Narcissus sensed that someone was following him, he asked, “Who’s there?” Echo revealed herself to him and explained who she was and that she had fallen in love with him.  Rather than return her affections, Narcissus told her to leave him alone. Brokenhearted, Echo died.  The only thing that remained was the “echo” of her voice.

Nemesis, the Greek goddess of revenge, learned what had happened and decided to punish Narcissus for his rude behavior. She led Narcissus to a pool where he saw his reflection and immediately fell in love with himself. Ultimately, after starring at the image of himself in the pool — he later died.

Narcissism Personality Disorder (NPD)

There are studies suggesting that determining whether a person is a narcissist requires one or two questions.  One question is, “Are you a narcissist?”  In most cases, a narcissist is apt to respond by saying, “Yes.”

Another possible question that will reveal a narcissist is, “Do you believe you deserve special treatment?”

Dr. Watson explains.

“Narcissists believe that they are always entitled to special treatment.  Although someone without NPD may think that they deserve special consideration at a given moment, based on the circumstances, narcissists believe that they will always deserve the best.”

The causes for NPD are not entirely clear.  Upbringing and home life may play a role.  Additionally, some genetic factors may determine where an individual stands within the narcissism spectrum.

In addition, if developing narcissism is a learned trait, then normal social activity at daycare or school can help change the attitude that may be normal early on.

Dr. Watson clarifies.

“We are all born with a type of learned narcissism.  From birth, the world revolves around us. We cry, and food appears or we are held, but then we grow out of that mindset and start learning that it won’t always be the case.”

Narcissistic Behavior at Work or School

Studies have often shown that narcissists are more likely to make their way into positions of power. They may be viewed as very skillful and confident individuals. This makes them a most favorable candidate for a leader in the classroom or a promotion at work.

However, a narcissist may use some dirty tactics to achieve his or her goals. Some people may view a narcissist’s behavior as arrogant, whereas they view themselves as confident.  Additionally, a narcissist may demean and degrade someone if they think his or her views and actions are being threatened.

On the other hand, a leader with very low levels of narcissism signs or symptoms can be poor leaders, as well.  In the workplace, bosses with low levels of narcissism can be viewed as unsure or insecure — while individuals with high levels can be viewed as authoritarian or aggressive.

Relationships and Narcissists

While narcissists have an inflated view of self-worth, they also benefit from surrounding themselves with people who can confirm their belief.

Dr. Watson simplifies.

“Narcissists have the ability to cultivate relationships. They can be very charming and positive, but they’re just looking for people to feed into their narcissistic supply and help build their ego.”

Narcissists can also be very controlling, whether it’s blatant or done passively. They do this as a way to stay in control and keep asserting their beliefs. “If you thwart a narcissist, they may react with anger or a fit of rage.”

Ways to Handle a Narcissist

Researchers have determined narcissism signs and symptoms of two types of narcissists:  “vulnerable” and “grandiose”

A grandiose narcissist truly believes in his or her own greatness.  In addition, they may even be almost as good as they think they are. They tend to be happier, more emotionally stable, and more extroverted.

On the other hand, a vulnerable narcissist’s outward shell of self-absorption and self-centeredness camouflages a weak inner core.  They are less emotionally stable and less agreeable.

Ways of managing your own emotions when you’re dealing with narcissists:

  • Determine which type of narcissist you’re dealing with. In general, vulnerable narcissists don’t feel particularly good about themselves. Then again, in dealing with a grandiose narcissist, he or she is less “out there” with their emotions. Therefore, you might not realize when they’re getting in your way or they’re undercutting you. Note, that if you’re trying to help your family or coworkers reach a goal, the grandiose narcissist might be your best collaborator.  But keep in mind, the grandiose narcissist must be on board with your group’s goals.
  • Maintain a positive outlook. If you are dealing with narcissists who get pleasure from watching others suffer, then seeing the pain they cause will only egg them on to more counter-behavior that is aggressive. Don’t let on that you’re irritated — even if you’re feeling annoyed. Eventually that behavior will lessen in frequency.
  • Acknowledge your annoyance. Narcissists can be antagonistic and get under your skin. If you’re trying to get something done, and there’s one person who is always interrupting or trying to shine the spotlight on himself or herself, recognize where your frustration is coming from. Recognition can help give you the strength you need to put a stop to it.
  • Evaluate the context. Narcissism is not an all-or-nothing personality trait. Some situations may draw out a person’s insecurities more than others may. For example, let’s say a woman was turned down for a promotion she wanted very much, and now she must continue to work with the person who got the job. Her insecurity will likely worsen over the course of time. This may lead her to become defensively spiteful, vindictive, and possibly, narcissistic. If you know a person like this it’s important to remember that the situation helped create the narcissistic person with whom you must now interact.
  • Don’t let yourself get off course. It’s easy to lose your own sense of purpose or goals when a narcissist tries to take the limelight. No matter how much he or she clamors for your attention, you don’t need to attend to everything this person does or says. Find the balance between moving ahead in the direction you want to pursue and ease the vulnerable narcissist’s insecurities and anxieties. If it’s a grandiose type of narcissist, you may want to acknowledge his or her feelings but then move on anyhow.
  • Keep your sense of humor. Calling a narcissist’s bluff may mean that you ignore the person, but it might also mean that you laugh occasionally. Without being cruel about it, you can point to the inappropriateness of the person’s egocentric behavior with a joke or a smile. This would be most appropriate for the grandiose type of narcissist, who will probably find it entertaining and possibly informative.

Keeping some of these tips in mind may help ease the situations so things can actually improve.

Treating Narcissism

If someone exhibits high amounts of narcissism signs or symptoms, or if a person has NPD, receiving the right treatment can possibly help improve their lives and the lives of the people around them.

However, people with NPD characteristically will not seek help for their condition.  And doing so wouldn’t sit well with their self-image of perfection.  Nevertheless, they may seek therapy if a loved one brings them in, or if they are depressed.

A brief thought by Dr. Watson.

“People with narcissism may be protecting very fragile egos.  If they are criticized or rejected, they can take that very harshly and become depressed.”

Receiving therapy from a therapist may not always work for someone showing narcissism signs or symptoms, or NPD.  Nonetheless, it can help an individual set realistic boundaries and guide the way to a more rewarding and enjoyable life.

About the author: George Zapo is certified in Public Health Promotion and Education (Kent State University). George provides informative articles promoting healthy behavior and lifestyles.

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