By Callie Wight

Nothing in this article is meant to be medical advice. Please consult your own healthcare provider. 

Some info below taken from: disorders

In common speech, we often use the term narcissism as a label; a way to disparage another’s character or behavior. Frequently, we are reacting to someone whom we experience as being much too interested in themselves — having an over-inflated ego. We find the narcissist to be someone who talks only about themselves and can’t seem to sustain interest in another’s story. We use narcissism as a synonym for egotistical, selfish or self-absorbed.

But let’s explore what mental-health professionals have to say.

Not all narcissism is seen as unhealthy, pathological or problematic. Synonyms for normal, healthy narcissism are “good self-esteem,” “self-assurance,” traits recognized as necessary for psychosocial success. People with these traits are likely to be empathic, sensitive and caring about the feelings/needs of others. They have no need to belittle or feel “better than” others when there is disagreement, but can listen and work collaboratively to find mutually beneficial solutions, accepting difference as normal and non-threatening. These personalities grow and develop over time, their healthy narcissism benefitting others around them.

On the other hand, there are the extreme traits of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  Like all personality disorders by definition, NPD is unchanging over time, develops by adolescence and causes problems in functioning.

Hallmarks of NPD are grandiosity, an unrealistic, over-blown sense of one’s importance, talents and contributions. This trait can swing from overestimating to underestimating oneself, with mood and behavior following the swings to “high” or “low.” This is accompanied by an exaggerated dependence on the approval of others.

Excessive use of attention- and admiration-seeking

behaviors is common in NPD. Persons with NPD believe themselves to be entitled to special considerations and feel they are uniquely better than others while also being quite emotionally vulnerable to criticism from others and, at times, consumed by envy of other’s traits and accomplishments.

NPD is characterized by lack of empathy, being unable to internally register the needs of others or to be genuinely interested in others except when they are actively feeding one’s ego and satisfying that ever-present need for attention. When others fail in this gratification of the needs of the person with NPD, the latter becomes irritable and enraged, and may actually feel empty inside.

Descriptions of a more extreme style of NPD called “malignant narcissism” adds the following to the above list: a deep sense of mistrust; preoccupation with conspiracy theories; a desire for revenge; pathological lying.

The business world (Wikipedia url above) is examining “narcissistic corporate leadership” styles. Included, among other characteristics, are: desire for power, wealth; pursuing power at all costs and lacking normal inhibitions in its pursuit; devaluing and exploiting others without remorse; being easily bored; often changing course; having a childhood undercutting a true sense of self-esteem and/or learning that he/she doesn’t need to be considerate of others. Narcissistic leaders claim loyalty but sacrifice everything to their own interests. Corporate narcissists are considered destructive.

Callie Wight is a California state-licensed registered nurse with a Master of Arts in psychology.