What do we know about Narcissists?

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S6000346_2What do we know about narcissists?

I’ve posted elsewhere about people, particularly leaders, who are narcissistic but they are not all suffering from a clinically defined Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).

Although the incidence of those who are suffering from NPD in the UK general population is thought to be less than 1%, with between 2 and 16% amongst psychiatric patients, it’s been estimated that in the USA, UK and Australia narcissists and psychopaths may make up as much as 10% of the leadership population. The proportion amongst young people in their 20s in the USA may be even as high as 25% and whatever the true figures narcissism is believed to be on the increase.

At a clinical level narcissistic personality disorder is a mental illness defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual DSM-IV-TR 301.81 as follows: 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 others are envious of him or her
Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

It is one of a cluster of dramatic personality disorders which also includes anti-social (psychopathic) behaviours.

People are believed to develop this for a variety of reasons including:

An oversensitive temperament at birth
Severe emotional abuse as a child
Being praised for perceived exceptional looks or abilities by adults
Excessive admiration that is never balanced with realistic feedback – The Golden Boy syndrome
Excessive praise or criticism for behaviors in childhood
Overindulgence by parents – e.g. Little Princesses
Poor unreliable parenting
Valued and used by parents as a means to boost their own self-esteem – think of those children’s beauty pageants.

So if you want to know if you, or someone you know, suffers from NPD read the above checklist again and see how many of those descriptions apply.

First posted on EI4u

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2 thoughts on “What do we know about Narcissists?

    […] my view. Some of these ‘bad boy bankers’ at the top of companies are sociopaths and narcissists and praising them will only feed their belief that they are always […]

    […] Organizational psychologist Kathy Schnure‘s research, presented at the 25th annual conference of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, and reported in Management Issues, compared ratings of leadership potential for those who have high levels of narcissism to those who show low-to-average levels on the ‘narcissism scale‘. […]

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