Who is a Narcissist?
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By: Dr. Sam Vaknin
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Isn't your definition of malignant narcissism too wide? Having read it, I think that it fits my neighbours, friends, and family to a "t". Everyone seems to be a narcissist to me now!
Yours is an understandable reaction. All of us have narcissistic TRAITS. Some of us even develop a narcissistic PERSONALITY, or a narcissistic STYLE. Moreover, narcissism is a SPECTRUM of behaviors - from the healthy to the utterly pathological (a condition known as the Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or NPD).
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) IV-TR uses this language to describe the malignant narcissist:
"An all-pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration or adulation and lack of empathy, usually beginning by early adulthood and present in various contexts."
So, what matters is that these characteristics, often found in healthy people, appear jointly and not separately or intermittently and that they are all-pervasive (invade, penetrate, and mould every aspect, nook, and cranny of the personality):
1. That grandiose fantasies are abundantly discernible;
2. That grandiose (often ridiculous) behaviors are present;
3. That there is an over-riding need for admiration and adulation or attention ("narcissistic supply");
4. That the person lacks empathy (regards other people as two dimensional cartoon figures and abstractions, unable to "stand in their shoes");
5. That these traits and behaviors begin, at the latest, in early adolescence;
6. That the narcissistic behaviors pervade all the social and emotional interactions of the narcissist.
The DSM specifies nine diagnostic criteria. For NPD to be diagnosed, five (or more) of these criteria must be met.
(In the text below, I have proposed modifications to the language of these criteria to incorporate current knowledge about this disorder. My modifications appear in bold italics.)
(My amendments do not constitute a part of the text of the DSM-IV-TR, nor is the American Psychiatric Association (APA) associated with them in any way.)
This article appears in my book, "Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited"
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Proposed Amended Criteria for the Narcissistic Personality Disorder
The language in the criteria above is based on or summarized from:
American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, fourth edition (DSM IV-TR). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
Sam Vaknin. (1999-2015). Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited, tenth, revised printing Prague and Skopje: Narcissus Publications.
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