What does narcissism mean and how to identify a narcissist?

Published: 13 April 2022


The term "narcissism"refers to the Greek myth of Narcissus, who refused the love of the nymph Echo and, as a punishment, was destined to fall love with his own image reflected in the water. 

Just like Narcissus, narcissists love their own image reflected in the other's eyes. 

Meaning of narcissist

The most common use of the term "narcissist"identifies a person who loves themselves more than anyone else and is exclusively interested in their own intellectual and physical qualities. In other words, narcissists admire themselves, are only pleased with and exclusively appreciate anything that personally concerns them. Instead, they are indifferent to others and ignore or despise other people's qualities and doings. 

What is a Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Apparently, these are the typical traits of a strong, self-confident person. Actually, however, that is not always the truth. 

When does narcissism become pathological?

When 'healthy' narcissism - a positive sense of self-esteem and self-confidence - transforms into pathological narcissism, it leads to a more complex disorder called Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). This means that a person with an NPD is, therefore, a pathological narcissist. 

In Psychology, this disorder refers to the mental condition of an individual who tends to overestimate their own importance, has an excessive need of attention, is unable to show empathy and struggles to have healthy relationships, both personally and professionally. 

What are the underlying causes of Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

The origins of Narcissistic Personality Disorder are uncertain. Several studies, however, have shown that specific factors may have a role in its development:  

  • Environmental factorsThey are associated to the parent-child relationship and, in particular, to the quality of parental care. 
  • Genetic factorsThey refer to biologically inherited traits. 

There is a direct correlation between pathological narcissists and their parents. As a matter of fact, the latter often did not pay much attention to their children's needs or emotional experiences and just demanded 'the best' of them, so as to be the parents of exceptional children. 

In other cases, narcissists had completely self-absorbed parents, who neglected their children's emotional needs. That resulted in an intergenerational transmission of narcissism.  

Narcissistic personality: how to identify it?  

Narcissists often have one of the most fascinating and intelligent personalities, but this magnetic mask of extreme self-confidence actually hides a deep sense of emptiness. Behind that mask, there is a weak and vulnerable person desperately seeking approval, so much that they have no idea what they feel and long for.  

Some of the most influential experts in the field of narcissism research are going to virtually gather on May 6th and 7th, 2022, at the online Congress hosted by ISC and moderated by Wendy Behary, international narcissism expert and best-selling author of Disarming the Narcissist.

The Congress (providing CPD and CE credits) includes various live talks given by internationally well-known clinical experts, researchers and documentarists who will provide valuable insight into this topic and discuss Narcissistic Personality Disorder in detail

Click here to discover more about the Congress

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