3 Characteristics of a Narcissist
They have no idea they have a problem, and why would they? The sense of superiority can blind a narcissist to the truth.
Personality disorders like narcissistic personality disorder consist of “impairments in personality (self and interpersonal) functioning and the presence of pathological personality traits.”
In order to be considered a personality disorder, these criteria need to be stable over time and “consistent across situations.” They cannot be explained by stage of life or cultural situation, and they cannot be “solely due to the direct psychological affects of a substance” or a medical condition such as head trauma.
Personality disorders are divided into three clusters: Clusters A, B, and C. Narcissistic personality disorder is in Cluster B, which contains disorders “characterized by dramatic, overly emotional or unpredictable thinking or behavior.”
Characteristics of a Narcissist
The DSM-V, the fifth edition of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, specifies 3 specific criteria for a person to be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder.
A narcissist’s impaired self functioning has to do with his or her identity and/or self-direction.
A narcissist’s self-esteem is unstable. Although most people look to others for their sense of identity and self-esteem, narcissists do so in excess. This makes their self-esteem fluctuate drastically depending on how others view them.
In order to boost this self-esteem, the narcissist focuses his or her goals on “gaining approval from others.” This means that his or her actions are focused on gaining affirmation, whether he or she realizes it or not. Also, the narcissist’s personal standards are unrealistic, whether they are too high “in order to see oneself as exceptional” or too low due to “a sense of entitlement.”
Impaired empathic abilities and/or lack of intimacy impair the narcissist’s interpersonal functioning.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, empathy is “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” Narcissists often have difficulty feeling empathy and cannot “recognize and identify with the feelings and needs of others.”
The reactions of others, however, interest them, as long as the reactions are “perceived as relevant to self.” Further, the narcissist tends to “over- or underestimate” the effect that he or she has on others.
Narcissists have a hard time developing real intimacy with others since they are not interested in others’ experiences. Instead, their relationships mainly “exist to serve self-esteem regulation” and feed the “need for personal gain.” This makes the relationships superficial and one-sided.
The pathological personality trait associated with narcissism is antagonism, which manifests itself in two ways.
Grandiosity is the defining trait of narcissism. Essentially, grandiosity is “the belief that one is better than others.” It is fueled by “feelings of entitlement,” whether those feelings are clear or hidden. It manifests itself in self-centeredness and condescension.
Due to unstable self-esteem, a narcissist must be the center of attention at all times and will use excessive measures to attract that attention.
Gaston from Beauty and the Beast is a good example of a narcissist. He could not understand how Belle would refuse him because of his exceedingly high opinion of himself. His closest companion, LeFou, gave him the constant stream of admiration and affirmation he required.
It is easy to despise people like Gaston for their selfishness, but we must remember that narcissists rarely operate with the intent to hurt others. They are afflicted with a mental illness that causes them to act in ways that unintentionally harm themselves and others.
Despite their failings, narcissists are still people, and we should love them as such.