Narcissism – An Inflated Self-Image

Finding yourself drawn to grand ideas and unrealistic promises? You might be dealing with a Narcissist. Self-absorbing behaviour, vociferously exaggeration of personal identity, counterattacking and demeaning others’ thoughts, not being approachable or compassionate to others’ need are few of many traits that describes a narcissist person. Addicted to their own fantasy, they have a delusional sense of self-worth and deep need for attention and admiration. They are apathetic and fails to engage in trusted relationships. They possess an intense drive to be in a group of people who admire them.

The word Narcissism finds its origin from a mythological figure Narcissus, who fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water. Categorized as a mental disorder, Narcissism was identified by British essayist and physician Havelock Ellis in 1898. 

Signs of Narcissism

According to American Psychological Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental disorders, narcissistic personality disorder is defined in terms of personality traits clinically diagnosed based on following criterions. Individuals meeting any five out of nine criterions are considered as narcissistic.

  1. Pervasive pattern of grandiosity, with sense of self-importance often characterized in terms of exaggerated achievements and recognition of oneself as superior.
  2. Occupied with delusion of unlimited power, success, brilliance and beauty.
  3. Self-believe that they are “special” and unique, and cannot be understood by many.
  4. Need for excessive admiration.
  5. Unreasonable expectations of favourable treatment and sense of entitlement.
  6. Interpersonal exploitative behaviour often taking advantage of others’ vulnerability to achieve their ends.
  7. Unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
  8. Often jealous of others and believe that other are jealous of them.
  9. Showing arrogant and superior behaviour to turn down other views and consider them unworthy.

Nature of a Narcissist

People with narcissistic traits, at a first glance may seem most charming, showering unconditional sympathy, delusional favours and care. But as the time passes, they try to separate others from their supportive environment and start to control them to satisfy their ego and their sense of self-worth. They try to exploit anyone who conflicts their orbit. 

Narcissistic individuals are arrogant having feigned superiority and aggressiveness. Though few narcissists with overweening ambition and confidence may lead to achievement, but performance may be disrupted because of intolerance to criticism or defeat. Narcissists with intense drive for power and attention may benefit in campaigns for industrial or political leadership. And once in power, they may focus more on self-promotion and suppress opposition rather than advancing their goals. Excessive need of admiration makes narcissistic individuals highly vulnerable to disapproval and disregard. When unable to achieve the required commendation, they feel humiliation and dishonour. This can provoke them to engage in rage, become furious, boil the situation to turn things in one’s favour or call for vehement counterattack. 

Individuals with narcissistic personality disorder have a tendency to social withdrawal and shows humility only to mask and protect their delusional grandiosity. They are also associated with a hypo-manic mood, persistent depressive disorder or histrionic and antisocial personality disorders. With tendency to have obsessive and compulsive traits narcissist profess a commitment to perfectionism and believe that others cannot do things as well. 

Cause of Narcissistic Traits

The Psychopathological cause behind an adult narcissistic can be innate oversensitive temperament, excessive admiration by parents, lack of realistic feedback from parents, unreliable caregiving and/or emotional abuse during childhood. Austrian psychoanalyst Heinz Kohut asserted that narcissism can be an outcome of parental lack of empathy during critical times of a child’s development which can result into the child’s inability to regulate his self-esteem. This can create disturbance in the sense of having close contacts and mismanaged Interpersonal relations. Another psychoanalyst Otto Kernberg proposes that narcissism is a kind of defence mechanism resulting from the child’s reaction to coldness and lack of empathy on parents’ part. A Child’s emotional hunger and rage to parents’ neglect, can make the child attempt to refuge in self-admiration.

Wake-up Call

A narcissistic individual can make life extremely stressful, leading to depression and anxiety. The longer a narcissist dominates your life, negative effects can multiply many folds. As when others try to distance oneself from a narcissist, they are likely to a put lot of energy in manipulation. They become forceful and exert their opinion in the most charming manner, lie or exaggerate the truth to score their goals and feel self-important.

Overcoming a narcissist can be difficult. But by not allowing them to get under your skin and refusing to feed admiration to the beast can unsettle narcissism. Respecting one’s integrity and honour, one can refuse to follow their instructions, fact-check their every sugar-coated statement, set clear boundaries to disengage their involvement in your every action. Try to speak up, put forward your concerns with facts, be specific and consistent. Narcissist often try to manipulate you into feeling that they are right, and you are being unreasonable and controlling. They might also play a sympathy card. But stand affirm on your ground, take the situation in your hand rather than giving control to them.


Psychologists as mental health care providers plays a major role in understanding biological, behavioural and social factors that influences mental health and physical wellbeing. Dr. (Prof) R K Suri, Senior Clinical Psychologist at Psychowellness Center ( ), is a trained professional clinical psychologist, having more than 36 years of experience in all kinds of mental health issues and related therapeutic interventions. 

Furthermore, TalkToAngel ( ) online mental health services under him put your needs first. They can help you with flexible appointments, personalized and customized intervention plans all at the tip of your fingers.