Do I Really Have Narcissistic Personality Disorder? Accepting and Coping With NPD
People with narcissistic personality disorders are often considered bad people, and often think ill of themselves for it. But if you’ve asked yourself, “Do I really have narcissistic personality disorder?” know that NPD is not the fault of the person—rather, it is a genuine personality disorder. Understanding the signs of NPD is a way to learn if you are at risk, while residential treatment can help you gain the tools you need to cope with narcissistic personality disorder and manage your symptoms.
One of the biggest challenges of having mental illnesses is that, for the most part, there is no outward physical tell. That leads people to think that a disorder is merely a personality flaw, and the person suffering is judged and even scorned for a condition beyond their control. Too often, that leads the sufferer into a spiral of self-criticism and self-blame.
This is especially true when the disorder leads to personality issues that are widely considered unwholesome and unwelcome. Of these, perhaps the biggest is narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).
As a society, we tend to view the narcissist as an inherently bad person, someone who is arrogant or selfish and cares only for themselves. We think of it as a choice. But while someone can choose to disregard the feelings or concerns of others in order to benefit themselves, that isn’t the case for someone with NPD. This is actual narcissism, not the colloquial shorthand, and it can have devastating emotional and even physical outcomes.
It is hard to recognize if you have a narcissistic personality. Indeed, the symptoms of this disorder almost definitionally preclude self-awareness. But people have the power to ask themselves “Do I have narcissistic personality disorder?” And if you recognize the signs, you can accept it, cope with it, get treated for it, and live with it and with other people.
It isn’t your fault you have NPD. But luckily, it is in your power to do something about it.
NPD is a Disorder, Not a Flaw
There isn’t a single person alive who has never been selfish or put themselves before others at some point in their lives. It’s normal human behavior—we are the protagonists of our own stories, after all. A narcissist, however, is someone who always puts themselves first. They have an image of themselves that is out of line with reality. They aren’t just the protagonist of their own story; they see themselves as the hero in a one-person epic. Everyone else is a side character.
This can make it extremely difficult to interact with people on a normal human basis. And it can likewise make it difficult for them to interact with you. Rudeness, disdain, dishonesty, a lack of concern for social norms, and an inability to pick up on social cues are all unfortunate outcomes of narcissistic personality disorder.
What does that mean in practice? Few friends. Few real relationships. Interactions with other humans that are essentially transactional. It can be hard to get or maintain a job, hard to maintain a healthy social life, and hard to participate in society.
These circumstances carry the risk of leading to co-occurring conditions, including drug and alcohol abuse. Isolation and scorn can be a harbinger of depression and other mental conditions. At the extreme, narcissistic personality disorder and its outcomes can lead to suicidal thoughts and behavior. This isn’t a contradiction. People with NPD have difficulty seeing past themselves. Suicide can be an extension of that absorption.
It’s vital to remember that narcissistic personality disorder is just that—a disorder, not a flaw. A person without the disorder can be called out on their selfish behavior and brought back into the norms that keep society together. Scolding or shunning someone with untreated NPD often has the opposite effect, driving them further into themselves.
The first step in getting help is understanding, and recognizing, the signs of narcissistic personality disorder in yourself.
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Understanding the Signs of Narcissistic Personality Disorder
The most difficult part of self-diagnosis is that one of the effects of narcissistic personality disorder is how it automatically justifies bad behavior. Indeed, that’s the very heart of the problem: the ability to assume that any behavior which helps you out has to be good. If you have been told you might have NPD, or if you suspect someone you love might be living with it, please consider these potential signs:
- Inflated sense of self. The narcissist believes they are better than everyone else, even if they haven’t done anything to feel that way. They believe that much is owed to them by simple virtue of their own existence.
- Entitlement. Someone with NPD genuinely believes that they are entitled to money, to power, to respect, and to adulation. It is their due in life, and they will feel angered when they don’t get it.
- Transactional relationships. Judging someone and valuing someone only for how they might benefit you is a classic sign of NPD. Real relationships are based on mutual respect, not a desire for one-sided gain.
- Lack of empathy. It is easy for a narcissist to throw someone under the bus when they are no longer useful. After all, if they are no longer useful, they cease to exist. Someone with NPD has trouble seeing a person as an autonomous being with hopes and dreams.
- Bullying and intimidation. A narcissist will bully the weak because they can and try to intimidate the strong because they are envious (uncontrollable envy is another sign). They’ll belittle people will a skill or accomplishment they don’t have, in order to cut them down. This is especially true if the accomplishment is genuine, earned respect.
But that the person with NPD can recognize the genuine respect and accomplishments of others shows that they aren’t trapped. You do have the ability to understand normal human interactions. The condition makes it hard to do so, but it isn’t impossible.
And if you recognize that you might have NPD, know that there are ways to cope with it and manage it over the long term.
The Benefits of Residential Treatment
Accepting NPD is one of the hardest things for the person with NPD to do: after all, it renders them “unimportant,” a mental mindset against which the condition militates. But no one is unimportant. What a person with narcissistic personality disorder can learn is that their worth can be intrinsic and valuable on its own, and not compared to others. They don’t have to cut other people down or try to rise above them.
One of the best ways to do that is through comprehensive residential treatment. This kind of treatment takes the time and space to truly analyze behavior and understand it. It is a safe and welcoming space, one with experts who truly understand NPD, and who know how to help you recognize it, accept it, and cope with it.
Coping with it can mean medication, especially anti-anxiety medications. These, in conjunction with therapy, can help you handle the disorder. There is no cure, but there are ways to be a full member of society. Remember that your NPD isn’t your fault. You can get help. You can live your life. And, in doing so, you can become the true hero in your story.
Bridges to Recovery offers comprehensive treatment for mental health disorders as well as process addictions and phase of life issues. Contact us to learn more about our renowned Los Angeles and San Diego-based programs and how we can help you or your loved one start on the path to healing.