Does Narcissistic Personality Disorder Treatment Work?
Narcissistic personality disorder is notoriously treatment-resistant, but there is hope. Accurately identifying the presence of NPD is step one to overcoming barriers to treatment. In a residential setting, you or your loved one can discover effective methods for addressing and coping with NPD and begin following the long, but ultimately rewarding, road to recovery.
Confidence and a sense of self-worth are often healthy and positive personality traits. Even narcissism, defined as selfishness, egotism, and a need for praise, can be relatively harmless in small doses. However, individuals who’ve been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, also known as NPD, exhibit beliefs and behaviors that risk negatively impacting their own lives, as well as the lives of their friends and family.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) recognizes narcissistic personality disorder as a form of mental illness, characterized by an extreme sense of inflated self-importance; symptoms include arrogance, a need for constant admiration, a lack of empathy, and an expectation of special treatment.
Despite their overwhelming outward confidence, people suffering from NPD are often secretly insecure, leading them to seek constant affirmation from others. Though NPD is commonly thought to be resistant to treatment, long-term professional care can be highly effective at helping those diagnosed with the disorder recover from its damaging effects.
Identifying Narcissistic Personality Disorder
While the exact causes of narcissistic personality disorder are unknown, it likely stems from a combination of genetic and environmental factors, which may include childhood abuse or exposure to parenting methods that are either overly strict or overly indulgent during a child’s formative years. Narcissistic personality disorder affects an estimated one in every sixteen adults, with over sixty percent of those diagnosed being male.
Before treatment for NPD can begin, a mental health professional will make a diagnosis by determining whether an individual fulfills specific criteria laid out in the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). These criteria include pathological antagonism, characterized by feelings of entitlement and excessive attempts to seek attention and admiration, along with personality impairments that impact both the individual’s independent functioning and interpersonal functioning. These impairments:
- Are stable and consistent over time and across different situations,
- Can’t be explained by environmental factors or the affected individual’s developmental stage, and
- Aren’t caused by drug use, medication, or another medical condition.
If a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder is made, treatment is necessary to mitigate its life-disrupting effects. If left untreated, individuals with NPD are likely to experience personal and professional difficulties and may feel constantly disappointed and frustrated with their lives.
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Overcoming Barriers to Treatment for NPD
A significant obstacle in the path to receiving appropriate professional treatment for narcissistic personality disorder comes from the nature of the disorder itself, in that those afflicted with it are often unwilling—or even unable—to recognize the existence of the problem. Denial is a characteristic of the disease: People with NPD frequently refuse to acknowledge that any problems in their lives may be caused by their disorder. When compounded with a lack of empathy for others, this can lead to an inability to see—or care—how their behavior damages their personal and professional relationships.
There’s good news: Help is available, and effective treatment is possible, though the client must be willing to accept it. An important first step toward encouraging someone with NPD to undergo treatment is convincing them of the need to address the problem. Individuals with narcissistic personality disorder are more likely to seek treatment if they see it as a way of mending damaged relationships with family members or friends affected by their behavior.
Bear in mind that it may be difficult to circumvent the defense mechanisms of someone with NPD and convince them of the necessity of treatment. It’s helpful to approach the condition without judgment or blame and to recognize that recovery is likely to be a lengthy and ongoing process.
Effective Methods for Treating NPD
While narcissistic personality disorder can’t be cured, it can be treated and managed through therapy. Medications are not often used to directly treat NPD, but they may be used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan to treat co-occurring conditions, such as addictions or mood or anxiety disorders. Various forms of psychotherapy have been shown to be effective at treating NPD, including:
- Group therapy, in which clients can connect with others who struggle with similar
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
In CBT, clients learn how to replace unhelpful or damaging thoughts and behaviors with more realistic ones. DBT, meanwhile, is a specialized branch of CBT with an added emphasis on a client’s social and emotional relationships. Through psychotherapy, a client can learn better methods of communicating with others, which can help them improve and mend personal relationships damaged by their condition. Psychotherapy can also help clients understand the root causes of their emotions, gain more control over their feelings, and accept responsibility for their actions.
Because a client’s family members are often greatly affected by this condition, family therapy is frequently included as a part of treatment. Family therapy can increase awareness of the damaging effects of NPD and help rebuild relationships weakened or destroyed by this disorder.
To receive the best treatment for narcissistic personality disorder, an inpatient recovery program at a residential mental health treatment facility is strongly recommended. Inpatient programs provide a distraction-free environment in which the focus is solely on healing and recovery; qualified mental health professionals provide high-level support and encouragement customized to the needs of each client. While enrolled in an inpatient program, individuals can receive fully integrated treatment for any co-occurring conditions, such as drug or alcohol dependency, that might otherwise impair recovery. By removing clients from environments that might contribute to or aggravate their condition, residential treatment centers give them the best chance for healing.
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Recovery from Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Personality disorders, NPD included, are notoriously resistant to treatment. However, recovery is possible, as long as the client is receptive to change and receives qualified and professional care. It may be a difficult process, requiring both patience and strength, but with the support and guidance of experienced mental health professionals, individuals afflicted with narcissistic personality disorder can overcome damaging thoughts and patterns of behavior and focus on living a better, stronger life.
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.