What Is Narcissism?

What Is Narcissism?

Narcissists have a prominent place in the popular imagination, and the label "narcissist" is widely deployed to refer to people who appear too full of themselves. There's also a growing sense that narcissism is on the rise around the world, especially among young people, but psychological research does not support that notion.

Narcissism, like many other traits, is properly viewed on a spectrum. The trait is normally distributed in the population, with most people scoring near the middle, and a few scoring at either extreme. Pathological narcissism, in the form of narcissistic personality disorder, has always been rare and remains so: It affects an estimated 1 percent of the population, a prevalence that hasn't changed since clinicians started measuring it.

The disorder can be diagnosed only by a mental health professional and is suspected when a person's narcissistic traits impair their daily functioning. That dysfunction typically causes friction in relationships due to the pathological narcissist's lack of empathy. It may also manifest as antagonism, fueled by grandiosity and attention-seeking. In seeing themselves as superior, the pathological narcissist naturally views everyone else as inferior and may be intolerant of disagreement or questioning.

The Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI), developed by Robert Raskin and Calvin S. Hall in 1979, is the most commonly used measure of the trait. Scores range from 0 to 40, with the average tending to fall in the low to mid-teens. Healthy individuals who score somewhat higher on the trait may be perceived as exceedingly charming, especially on the first encounter, but eventually, come across as vain. Such individuals may have awkward or stressful personal encounters but still, have a fundamentally healthy personality.

What Are the Traits of a Narcissist?

It’s easy to slap the “narcissist” label on someone who spends a bit too much time talking about her career or who never seems to doubt himself, but narcissism is more complicated than it may seem: It’s not a surplus of self-esteem, but more accurately encompasses a hunger for appreciation or admiration, a sense of specialness and a desire to be the center of attention, and an expectation of special treatment reflecting perceived higher status.

These and other traits can prove damaging in relationships, whether romantic, familial, or professional. Interestingly, in addition to thinking they are better and more deserving than others, research suggests, highly narcissistic people often admit to an awareness that they are more self-centered, too.

source: psychologytoday.com

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