You’ve probably heard of the term ‘narcissism’ or ‘narcissist person’ a lot in recent times —especially on social media. It has gained a lot of attention simply because of the devastating impact it can have on the people around them. But what is narcissism?
The term narcissism is typically used to describe anyone who is self-absorbed. But in reality, it is much more complicated than that. Typically, narcissism is associated with a range of behavioural patterns such as gaslighting, victimhood, rage, lying, and lack of empathy.
But chances are, like most people, you have engaged in similar patterns at some point or another. However, it does not mean that you are a narcissist. So what does it mean?
People are not diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder simply because they have engaged in undesirable behaviours. Although NDP exists on a spectrum, it is only formally diagnosed if someone experiences serious difficulties in everyday life or develops symptoms that require formal help.
In fact, most people have some narcissistic traits. A small degree of narcissism is considered healthy even. So how do you know if it’s a healthy degree of narcissism or if you need to seek a formal diagnosis?
There is no specific test for NDP. No matter how many quizzes you take online, the results will not provide an accurate answer. A formal diagnosis should only be received by a professional after they undergo a rigorous process with you.
For example, your doctor may carry out physical examinations to ensure no physical illness is causing the symptoms. They may also discuss your life, your upbringing, and your current situation to get a better picture of what’s going on.
A diagnosis of narcissism requires that the behavioural patterns are continuous over time, consistent in various situations, not based on drastic changes in the present, and not the result of medication changes or substance use.
Therefore, you cannot self-diagnose. Checking off boxes on a list of criteria will only give you a false answer, leading to potentially detrimental outcomes. That is why, in order to get a diagnosis, you need to speak to a professional.
The short answer is yes. Although many people with NDP generally do not seek help because they do not believe they have a problem, there are options available.
The main choice of treatment is psychotherapy. Working with a professional to set up an individual therapy plan is definitely the ideal starting point. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, a therapist will come up with the right course of action.
For example, a therapist might use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Although CBT is a common therapy practice used for various mental health issues, for NDP it’s beneficial because it helps identify negative beliefs and behaviours and finds solutions to replace them with positive ones.
The first step is to speak to a doctor or mental health professional. They will discuss the best course of action for you. They may start by going over your physical and mental health history to rule out other possibilities. Then they might go through the DSM-5 to figure out if you have NDP.
After an in-depth process, they will determine if you have Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
If you are diagnosed with NDP, you will work closely with a supportive mental health professional to determine an individualized treatment plan. Your therapist will be very supportive and caring in helping you process the diagnosis before starting treatment.
It’s important to work with someone who you connect well with as trust is a major contributing factor in healing. Therefore, take the time to speak to a few different therapists before settling on one. You will find the one right!
What if you aren’t diagnosed with NPD but a loved one is? What should you do in that case? There is no doubt that navigating a relationship with someone on the Narcissistic Personality Disorder Spectrum can be challenging and distressing.
Therefore, it’s important to take care of yourself and get the necessary support you need. Many people supporting those diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder seek therapy for themselves. After all, they have a major impact on your well-being. So speaking to a professional about what’s happening and getting the support you need is just as important as getting them help.
They will help you process the diagnosis, everything you’ve been through, establish and maintain healthy boundaries, and anything else that comes up in the process. Other times, in the course of therapy, you may decide that space or distance is the best course of action.
The main thing to remember is, that you do not need to manage on your own. Your therapist will be there for you while you work through difficult decisions and provide the necessary support.