Who is a Narcissist?

Pathological narcissism is a spectrum of traits, personality styles, and, at the extreme end, Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)

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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!


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, from lesser to greater to greatest (a condition known as Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or NPD) to the ultimate (malignant or psychopathic narcissism).

Healthy narcissism develops in infancy and is the indispensable foundation of one's sense of self-worth (self-esteem and self-confidence). It is a form of private language with a narrative aimed at an internal audience of one.

Healthy narcissism is, therefore, an organizational and hermeneutic (interpretative) principle of the personality.

Pathological narcissism is a private religion with the False Self as the godhead and the True Self as the sacrificial lamb. The single worshipper in this faith is the narcissist.

The audience is external and its feedback is used to regulate the narcissist's sense of self-worth and fulfil his ego functions.

Both forms of narcissism require creative acts and creativity in both maintenance and exegesis.

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.)

Click here to download a bibliography of the studies and research regarding the Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) on which I based my proposed revisions.

(continued below)

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, eighth, revised printing Prague and Skopje: Narcissus Publication. ("Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited" https://samvak.tripod.com/faq1.html)

Also Read

NPD At a Glance

Narcissism at a Glance

A Primer on Narcissism

Narcissist vs. Psychopath

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) with other Mental Health Problems (Comorbidity)

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