Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder Treatable? Exploring Treatment Options
The nature of narcissistic personality disorder often plays a role in keeping people from seeking appropriate care for this condition. Treatment options include multiple types of psychotherapy to improve personal relationships and learn better patterns of behavior. If someone you love has narcissistic personality disorder, encourage them to undergo professional treatment.
Andre had always been a confident man, but his behavior at work and at home had become increasingly marked by an inflated sense of his own importance and an unwarranted expectation of special treatment, and it was beginning to affect his life in unexpected, and unhappy, ways. He lost his job after flying into a rage when he was passed over for a promotion. Confused and frustrated by his behavior, his girlfriend Mina tried to encourage him to seek professional help, but Andre refused, insisting there was nothing wrong with him. Only when Andre realized his relationship with Mina was in serious jeopardy did he agree, albeit reluctantly, to accompany her to couples therapy.
As a result of therapy, Andre discovered he had narcissistic personality disorder. This condition, which can be devastating to personal relationships, has a reputation for being difficult to treat, particularly because those with the disorder often refuse to admit they have a problem. While narcissistic personality disorder, sometimes known as NPD, is treatable, recovery requires patience and time. If a loved one suffers from this condition, encouraging them to seek professional treatment is the most effective way to help them begin to overcome its damaging effects.
The Nature of Narcissistic Personality Disorder
In Greek mythology, the young hunter Narcissus became so enraptured with his own beauty that he stared at his reflection in a pond, mesmerized, until he withered away and died. We take the term narcissism, meaning self-absorption and self-admiration, from him. While narcissism can be relatively harmless, untreated narcissistic personality disorder can be disruptive and damaging, both to the individual with the condition and to those closest to them.
The precise causes of narcissistic personality disorder are unknown, though it’s likely to have both a genetic and an environmental link. The condition is possibly formed in childhood through inconsistent or inadequate parenting; someone with parents who were either too indulgent or too critical during their formative years may be likelier to develop this disorder. Characteristics of narcissistic personality disorder include the following:
- Low levels of empathy
- High levels of insecurity
- An inflated sense of self-importance
- A sense of entitlement
- A tendency to exaggerate
- Arrogance and boastfulness
- Prone to belittling others
- An expectation of special treatment, followed by an angry reaction if it’s not received
If you’re close to someone with this disorder, their self-obsessed behavior, and particularly their inability to empathize with your feelings, may work to drive you away. Treatment is necessary to prevent or repair interpersonal relationships damaged by this condition.
Treatment Options for Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Narcissistic personality disorder is not curable, but it is treatable. The foundation of treatment will be psychotherapy—often a mixture of individual, group, and family therapies—to help an individual understand the causes of their beliefs and behavior and learn ways of relating to others. Research suggests empathy can be learned, which is promising; understanding the importance of considering the perspectives and experiences of other people is crucial to overcoming the effects of narcissistic personality disorder.
Through therapy, someone with NPD can grow to accept responsibility for their actions and learn how to develop realistic goals and a better sense of proportion. Learning how to develop and maintain healthy personal relationships is also a key aim of therapy for this disorder.
Medication is generally not thought to be effective in the treatment of narcissistic personality disorder, though medications may be used to manage conditions such as depression or anxiety that often accompany this disorder.
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If Someone You Love Has Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Residential Treatment Is the Key to Recovery
As mentioned above, a major stumbling block in the path to recovery comes from the inherent nature of the condition. Simply put, those with narcissistic personality disorder are unwilling to acknowledge any perceived weakness and, thus, rarely seek treatment on their own.
If you suspect a loved one is suffering from this disorder, your challenge lies in helping them recognize the existence of their problem and encouraging them to seek professional treatment. This requires time and effort, as it’s likely they won’t agree to treatment unless they view it as the only available option. Be patient and encouraging. Let your loved one know how much harm their behavior is causing, but take care not to turn the conversation into a confrontation. Pushing too hard or too harshly may only serve to further discourage them from treatment.
Treatment will take time, as recovering from narcissistic personality disorder requires undergoing a fundamental shift in personality. A residential mental health treatment facility is the best place to undergo treatment. It places an individual in a distraction-free environment, away from all the stresses of everyday life, and surrounds them with supportive and nonjudgmental care customized to their needs. While at an inpatient facility, a client may also receive simultaneous treatment for any conditions that co-occur with the disorder, such as depression or substance or alcohol use disorders. The sustained intensity and comprehensive nature of inpatient programs make them ideal for treating difficult conditions such as narcissistic personality disorder.
When someone you love has NPD, the situation can seem hopeless. Have faith in yourself. It may be difficult, but you have the power to make them see the necessity of treatment. Once they’re receiving professional care, encourage them to stick with it. Your support can be vital to their recovery.
Bridges to Recovery offers comprehensive treatment for people struggling with mental health disorders as well as process addictions. 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.