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Narcissism - The Big Ego Show

Narcissists suffer and make suffer

When people hardly feel empathy, devalue others and feel grandiose superior, psychiatrists speak of a narcissistic personality disorder (NPS). This disorder is associated with high levels of suffering.

Because behind the ego facade that needs to be validated there is a vulnerable core, narcissists suffer from low self-esteem. They are all the more dependent on applause and the attention of others.

Narcissists not only suffer themselves, they also cause distress in those around them. A happy relationship with them is hardly possible. They revolve exclusively around themselves, show little compassion and exploit others.

They are extremely sensitive to criticism and rejection. They also look envious and full of anger at the successes of others. Therefore, they often devalue their fellow human beings in order to exalt themselves.

Vulnerable or grandiose narcissism

In addition to the loud self-promoters - the so-called grandiose narcissists - there is also a reserved, covert type. These narcissists are called vulnerable. They also secretly feel as something special, they too have high expectations.

But they tend to suffer secretly and quietly from the fact that no one notices their uniqueness. Because vulnerable narcissists are not loudmouths who are hungry for effects, but rather introverted, fearful and inhibited.

This type is more common in women. Female narcissism seems to express itself differently and is accordingly more difficult to debunk. In general, men are diagnosed as "narcissistic" more often than women, but this could also be related to the expectations of therapists. Paradoxically, vulnerable narcissists are more likely to seek therapeutic help - but the diagnosis of "narcissistic personality disorder" is more often given to grandiose narcissists, among whom there are more men.

For a long time, vulnerable and grandiose narcissists were viewed as different types. However, recent research suggests that narcissists carry both varieties. However, in different ways.

According to US studies, around six in 100 people there will have a narcissistic personality disorder at some point in their lives. This disorder only shows itself reliably after puberty, in early adulthood.

Donald Trump is seen by many as a prototype

In everyday life, the term "narcissist" is often used to brand an unsympathetic egomaniac. Hardly anyone has made the term narcissist as popular as the 45th President of the United States of America. Donald Trump is considered the blueprint of the grandiose narcissist: cocky, addicted to applause, in love with himself.

However, using psychiatric clinical pictures to characterize people is problematic: "One must not ennoble or even excuse immoral and unrestrained behavior with a diagnosis", demands the psychiatrist and theologian Dr. Manfred Lütz. "Narcissism is a mental disorder, not a dirty word."

The American Psychiatric Association saw it that way as early as 1964. At that time, too, a Republican presidential candidate was publicly referred to as a narcissist, some also considered him psychotic or schizophrenic: Barry Goldwater caused a stir in the 1964 election campaign with his presumptuous statements.

The American Psychiatric Association distanced itself from such remote diagnoses and established the Goldwater Rule, which states that it is unethical to attach a diagnosis to people without prior psychiatric examination. Finally, the person concerned could behave differently in public in order to achieve a political effect.

Causes of Narcissism

Narcissism arises from an interplay between genes and environmental influences. But how children become pathological narcissists in the course of their lives - the doctrinal points differ.

Theory one assumes that children become narcissists when they are idolized by their parents. Accordingly, parents who consider their offspring to be great, exceptionally gifted exceptional phenomena fuel the narcissistic excesses in the little ones.

Theory two assumes the opposite and says that children develop narcissistic traits because they have received too little warmth and attention from their parents. That is why these children have to stand on a pedestal themselves later to make up for the deficiency. So they inflate themselves to cover up their low self-esteem.

Study results suggest that parental exaltation and idolatry can actually turn children into narcissists. It is about an overestimation of the child's achievements - not about love and care. Because these are essential for children to develop a healthy self-esteem.

Self-expression has never been easier than it is today. Post, like, share on social media: Narcissism is often described as a side effect of our time. Indeed, social media is a perfect playground for narcissists. Likes and positive comments satisfy their need for attention, applause, and recognition.

Whether the reverse is also true, that Facebook, Instagram and Co. produce pathological narcissists has not yet been conclusively clarified.

Only the others have problems

A narcissist's problem: he doesn't have one. Difficulties are only ever faced by the others who cannot cope with its grandiose uniqueness. Accordingly, people with narcissistic personality disorder rarely seek therapeutic help. The diagnosis alone would be an insult.

More often, narcissists start therapy for a completely different set of problems. They tend to have comorbidities - this means that in addition to their narcissistic personality disorder, they also have other clinical pictures, such as depression or an addiction or anxiety disorder. Sometimes they come because of problems others have with them. A narcissist's desperation can be enormous, so the suicide rates are high compared to other personality disorders.

The good news: people with narcissistic personality disorder can be helped. But humans will not change from the ground up. "A narcissist's abnormalities can be softened to such an extent that he can no longer be described as mentally disturbed," says psychiatrist Dr. Manfred Lütz. "But maybe at the next birthday party he will try to snatch the microphone out of the hand of the solo entertainer."