How Narcissists Make You Feel

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Image of person with narcissistic personality disorder in New York City being treated with schema therapy.

How Narcissists Make You Feel

Table of Contents

Understanding the Emotional Impact of Narcissists on Relationships in NYC

In recent years, the term ‘narcissism’ has catapulted into the limelight, much like ‘yuppie’ did in the 80s and ‘slacker’ in the 90s, to describe a pervasive trait in today’s society. This is partly due to the prevalence of narcissistic personality traits observed in various spheres of life, from the corporate ladder to our intimate relationships. What is a key aspect of relationships that occurs for those people who surround narcissists? I answer the key question of how narcissists make us feel in New York.

Image of narcissistic man in New York City.

The Rise of Narcissism in the Modern Era

The concept of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), as outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), has long been studied by mental health professionals. However, it’s the societal changes brought about by technology that have brought narcissistic behavior to the fore. With the advent of social media, an inflated sense of self-importance can be broadcasted and reinforced 24/7, contributing to a culture of self-absorption and a lack of healthy boundaries.

Despite this, not everyone who enjoys attention online exhibits narcissistic personality disorder. It’s crucial to distinguish between occasional self-centered behavior and the persistent, pathological narcissism that characterizes NPD.

Narcissism Beyond the Screen

The surge in interest regarding narcissism isn’t just about our online lives. It’s also about recognizing people with narcissistic traits in all areas of social interactions, from the business sector to our political landscape. This heightened awareness has increased discussions around mental health conditions and personality disorders, leading to a better understanding of how these traits impact personal and professional relationships.

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How Narcissists Affect Mental Health and Self-Esteem

Engaging with a narcissist can be detrimental to one’s mental health. People with NPD often have an inflated sense of self-importance, a need for excessive admiration, and a lack of empathy, which can lead to a significant impact on the self-esteem of those around them. These interactions can result in feelings of being undervalued and misunderstood.

  1. You Feel Diminished

A grandiose sense of self-importance characterizes narcissistic personality disorder. This trait often manifests in narcissistic behavior that seeks to place the narcissist above others, affecting the self-esteem of those in their vicinity. For example, a boss with narcissistic traits may consistently undermine your hard work, making you feel as though you are not enough.

  1. The Unattainable Approval

People with narcissistic personality disorder may exhibit interpersonally exploitative behavior, which is part of the diagnostic criteria in the DSM. They may promise positive ways to build relationships, only to manipulate those connections for their gain. This leaves their partners or colleagues in a perpetual state of striving for approval that is always out of reach, further affecting their self-esteem.

  1. The Confusion and Gaslighting

Narcissistic traits include a distorted sense of reality that serves their needs for admiration and envy. When involved with a narcissist, you may start to question your sanity as they manipulate situations to maintain their fragile self-esteem.

  1. Feeling Misunderstood and Overlooked

The lack of empathy inherent in narcissistic personality disorder means that the narcissist is often preoccupied with their success and power, leaving little room for the needs and achievements of others. This can leave you feeling not just misunderstood but invisible.

  1. Bearing the Emotional Burden

Narcissistic behavior often involves shifting responsibility for the narcissist’s negative emotions onto those around them. This can be particularly damaging, as it forces others to bear the emotional weight of the narcissist’s fragile self-esteem.

The Toll on Psychological Health

The constant stress of dealing with narcissistic tendencies can lead to a decline in psychological health. Being subject to narcissistic behavior, such as too much criticism or an inflated self-image, can cause chronic stress, a known factor in a range of mental health conditions.

Seeking Help for Personality Disorders and Establishing Boundaries

For those dealing with narcissistic personality disorder—whether it’s within themselves or someone close to them—seeking treatment from a mental health provider is a crucial step. Mental health professionals can offer diagnostic and clinical challenges specific to narcissistic personality disorder and suggest the right treatment options. Additionally, learning to establish healthy boundaries is essential in mitigating the impact of narcissistic behavior.

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The Challenges of Treating Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Treating Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) requires a nuanced understanding of a range of psychological factors, including ingrained personality traits, potential inherited characteristics, and the overall psychological health of the individual. Mental health providers face diagnostic and clinical challenges when it comes to NPD, as the disorder often presents a complex interplay of grandiose narcissism and vulnerable narcissism, along with other mental health conditions that can co-occur.

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Understanding NPD and How Narcissists Make You Feel

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is characterized by a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, a constant need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. People with NPD often have an inflated sense of self-importance and a deep need for excessive admiration. They believe they are superior and expect special treatment, yet they can also have a fragile self-esteem, vulnerable to the slightest criticism.

Clinical psychologists employ the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) as a guide to diagnose and understand the complex nature of NPD. According to the DSM, at least five of nine criteria are required for a diagnosis. These include traits like a grandiose sense of self-importance, a preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success and power, and a belief that one is special and unique and can only be understood by other high-status people.

The Role of Mental Health Providers

Mental health providers, including clinical psychologists, are tasked with the difficult job of navigating narcissistic personality traits to provide the right treatment. Therapy for NPD is challenging because patients often seek treatment not for the disorder itself but for other mental health conditions or life problems that arise as a result of their narcissistic behavior.

The goals of treatment often focus on helping individuals build genuine self-esteem, as opposed to the fragile and inflated self-image they currently hold. This involves learning to maintain self-esteem without relying on admiration from others, recognizing and respecting healthy boundaries, and developing empathy.

The Impact of NPD on Self-Esteem and Self-Importance

Individuals with NPD often struggle with self-esteem issues, though it may appear otherwise from their haughty behaviors and arrogant attitudes. Beneath the surface, their self-worth is usually quite low, a condition that may be termed low self-esteem in the context of NPD. This is where the paradox of narcissism becomes evident, where either too much adoration or too much criticism can affect their mental health condition profoundly.

Narcissistic Traits and Relationships

Narcissistic traits severely impact social interactions and the ability to build relationships. For those in a relationship with someone displaying these traits, the feeling that one is always falling short of the narcissist’s expectations is common. The narcissist’s grandiose sense of self-importance and entitlement to favorable treatment can create an environment where partners or family members feel they must walk on eggshells, unable to express their own needs or establish healthy boundaries.

Pathological Narcissism and Other Mental Health Conditions

Pathological narcissism can often occur alongside other mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression. The excessive need for admiration and grandiose sense of self that characterize narcissistic personality can lead to significant distress when the individual’s expectations are not met. To offer comprehensive care, a mental health provider must be attuned to these co-occurring conditions.

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The Role of Self in NPD

The sense of self in individuals with NPD is often distorted. Their reflection in the mirror is not just a physical appearance but an inflated self-image that demands constant validation. The sense of self-importance is at the core of their personality disorder, and it dictates their interactions with the world.

Narcissistic Supply and Maintaining Self-Esteem

For someone with NPD, maintaining self-esteem involves an excessive need for what’s known as a ‘narcissistic supply.’ This refers to the attention, admiration, and sometimes even fear or submission that others provide. Without this supply, their self-esteem may crumble, revealing the fragile self-esteem beneath the surface bravado.

Identifying Schemas and Modes Relevant to Narcissists

Schema therapy is particularly well-suited to treat NPD because it identifies and addresses specific maladaptive schemas, also known as early maladaptive schemas, and coping modes that are deeply ingrained and often arise from unmet emotional needs in childhood. These schemas and modes can perpetuate the narcissistic behavior and mindset seen in individuals with NPD.

Relevant Schemas in NPD

The following schemas are often most relevant in the context of NPD:

  1. Entitlement/Grandiosity Schema: This involves believing that one is superior to others and deserves special treatment and privileges without necessarily earning them. It’s closely aligned with the grandiose sense of self-importance seen in NPD.
  2. Defectiveness/Shame Schema: This schema can underlie the vulnerable aspect of narcissism, where individuals feel defective and fear that their flaws will be exposed. It often coexists with a facade of grandiosity as a compensatory mechanism.
  3. Approval-Seeking/Recognition-Seeking Schema: This reflects an excessive emphasis on gaining approval and recognition from others, which is tied to self-esteem and self-worth and can drive the excessive need for admiration seen in NPD.
  4. Self-Sacrifice Schema: In some cases, narcissists may present with a self-sacrifice schema, where they put others’ needs above their own to gain approval or maintain a sense of connection, though this is often manipulative and aimed at feeding their self-esteem.
  5. Unrelenting Standards/Hypercriticalness Schema: This schema involves the belief that one must meet extremely high internalized standards of behavior and performance, often to avoid criticism. This can lead to perfectionism, pressure, and a critical stance toward self and others.

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Modes Relevant to NPD and How Narcissists Make You Feel

In schema therapy, modes are the moment-to-moment emotional states and coping responses that everyone experiences. The following modes are particularly relevant to individuals with NPD:

  1. Self-Aggrandizer Mode: This mode is synonymous with narcissistic grandiosity, where individuals present as superior, brag about achievements, and seek to dominate others.
  2. Detached Protector Mode: This coping mode involves emotional withdrawal to avoid feelings of defectiveness or vulnerability, often resulting in a lack of empathy and disregard for others’ feelings.
  3. Bully and Attack Mode: When feeling threatened or when their grandiosity is challenged, individuals with NPD can enter this mode, criticizing and demeaning others to protect their fragile self-esteem.
  4. Demanding Parent Mode: This reflects the internalized voice of a demanding or critical parent that reinforces unrelenting standards and the pressure to achieve, often leading to self-criticism and the criticism of others.

By identifying and working through these schemas and modes in therapy, individuals with NPD can begin to understand the origins of their maladaptive coping mechanisms and start developing healthier ways of relating to themselves and others.

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Schema Therapy’s Role in Addressing NPD

Schema therapy offers a structured and comprehensive approach to treating NPD by focusing on the specific schemas and modes that perpetuate narcissistic behaviors. Through this therapeutic process, individuals with NPD can learn to recognize and alter these maladaptive patterns, paving the way for improved mental health and more functional relationships. As such, schema therapy holds significant promise as an effective intervention for those struggling with the complexities of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Societal Impacts of Narcissism

The prevalence of narcissistic behavior in social psychology has illuminated how certain personality traits, when present to an extreme, can disrupt social norms and interactions. The self-centered nature of those with NPD often leads them to seek special treatment and view themselves as deserving of privileges, which can strain social and professional environments. Social psychology also examines how individual differences, including parenting style and inherited characteristics, may contribute to the development of narcissistic tendencies.

Narcissistic Personality and Mental Health

Narcissistic personality disorder is a serious mental health condition that can lead to a range of problems. It is vital to consider narcissistic personality within the broader context of mental health conditions. Clinical psychologists are increasingly aware of the need to treat NPD alongside other mental health conditions that may be present, such as anxiety or depression, to ensure a holistic approach to treatment.

Challenges in Treating NPD

Treating NPD is often about addressing narcissistic personality traits that can be detrimental to the individual’s well-being and relationships. The process of treating NPD involves helping the patient understand the impact of their narcissistic behavior, develop empathy, and learn to value others’ contributions. Psychotherapy can offer strategies to manage symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder, though it’s a complex path that requires commitment from both the patient and the mental health provider.

The Role of Self in NPD

A sense of self-importance and self-love are central to NPD. The inflated sense of self and grandiosity are not merely symptoms of narcissistic personality; they are the axis around which the disorder revolves. People with NPD often have a distorted self-image that fluctuates between high self-esteem and vulnerable narcissism, leading to a constant search for validation.

Narcissistic Supply and Self-Esteem

The narcissist’s self-esteem is frequently dependent on receiving an excessive amount of attention and admiration from others. This need for a narcissistic supply can lead to exploitative behaviors, as the person with NPD seeks to maintain their inflated self-image and fragile self-esteem.

Psychological Health and Narcissism

Their narcissistic tendencies often compromise the psychological health of individuals with NPD. The constant need for approval and fear of too much criticism can lead to psychological distress. Mental health providers must consider the overall psychological health of the patient when formulating a treatment plan for narcissistic personality disorder.

Recovery and Managing Relationships with Narcissists

For those in close contact with individuals who exhibit narcissistic behavior, learning to set healthy boundaries is crucial. Psychology Today often highlights the importance of understanding the warning signs of NPD and establishing limits to protect one’s well-being. Recognizing the need for favorable treatment and the excessive need for admiration can help in managing relationships with narcissists effectively.

Parenting Style and NPD

The parenting style one experiences can sometimes contribute to the development of NPD. A lack of healthy boundaries and either too much adoration or criticism can influence a child’s sense of self and self-esteem, potentially leading to narcissistic personality traits in adulthood.

Physical Appearance and Narcissism

Individuals with NPD often place a great deal of importance on physical appearance, viewing it as an extension of their self-worth and a tool to gain admiration. However, focusing excessively on appearance can be a manifestation of the underlying issues of self-esteem and self-importance that characterize narcissistic personality disorder.

The Need for Comprehensive Treatment

Finding the right treatment for someone with NPD is about more than addressing narcissistic personality traits; it’s about considering their entire mental health condition. Mental health providers must be equipped to offer a comprehensive approach that may include therapy for co-occurring mental health conditions and strategies to manage narcissistic tendencies.

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Conclusion: How Narcissists Make You Feel

Narcissistic Personality Disorder presents significant challenges both to those who live with the disorder and to the mental health providers who treat it. Understanding the narcissistic personality and its implications for self-esteem and relationships is crucial. While the journey toward recovery or management of NPD is complex, with the right support and treatment, individuals can work towards a healthier sense of self and more constructive relationships with others. It’s essential to seek treatment from a mental health provider who is experienced in handling NPD and its associated psychological challenges.

Image of woman in New York City getting help in schema therapy for narcissistic personality disorder.

Frequently Asked Questions About Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Schema Therapy

Q1: Can narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) be effectively treated?

A1: Yes, while NPD is a complex mental health condition, it can be treated. Mental health providers often use specialized treatments like schema therapy to address the underlying schemas and coping modes that contribute to the disorder. However, it’s important to understand that treating personality disorders typically requires a long-term commitment to therapy.

Q2: What are some common narcissistic traits seen in individuals with NPD?

A2: Common narcissistic traits include a grandiose sense of self-importance, a need for excessive admiration, a lack of empathy, and often envious behaviors or beliefs that others are envious of them. These traits are rooted in deep-seated personality traits and can significantly impact an individual’s social psychology and interactions.

Q3: How does schema therapy work to treat NPD?

A3: Schema therapy works by identifying and modifying maladaptive schemas—deep-rooted patterns of thinking and feeling—and maladaptive coping modes. It helps individuals with NPD to break free from patterns of grandiose narcissism or vulnerable narcissism and develop healthier ways to maintain self-esteem and build relationships.

Q4: Are there other mental health conditions often associated with NPD?

A4: Yes, individuals with NPD may also struggle with other mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, or other personality disorders. This can complicate the clinical psychologist’s approach to treatment, as they must address these co-occurring conditions alongside NPD.

Q5: What is the difference between grandiose narcissism and vulnerable narcissism?

A5: Grandiose narcissism is characterized by overt expressions of feelings of superiority and entitlement, while vulnerable narcissism involves hypersensitivity and defensiveness that may mask feelings of inadequacy. Both forms of narcissism involve challenges with self-worth and self-esteem but manifest differently.

Q6: What is the role of a mental health provider in treating NPD?

A6: A mental health provider’s role is to diagnose the condition using the diagnostic criteria from the DSM and develop a treatment plan. This may include individual therapy, group therapy, and sometimes medication management if there are co-occurring mental health conditions.

Q7: Can people with NPD recognize their need for treatment?

A7: Recognizing the need for treatment can be challenging for individuals with NPD due to their inflated sense of self and often low insight into their condition. However, they can develop the self-awareness necessary to seek treatment with the right therapeutic approach and encouragement.

Q8: How does having a parent with narcissistic traits affect children?

A8: Children of parents with narcissistic traits may experience a range of emotional challenges. They might struggle with issues related to self-esteem and trust in relationships and may develop certain personality traits that can be problematic in adulthood. Mental health providers can offer support and therapy to individuals who have been affected by a parent’s narcissistic behavior.

Q9: Is there a connection between NPD and antisocial behavior?

A9: While NPD and antisocial personality disorder are distinct conditions, there can be some overlap in traits, such as a lack of empathy and manipulation. However, not everyone with NPD exhibits antisocial behavior.

Q10: What are the warning signs that may suggest someone has NPD?

A10: Warning signs of NPD include a pattern of grandiosity, a constant need for praise, exploiting relationships for personal gain, and reacting negatively to criticism or perceived slights. These behaviors often point to an underlying personality disorder that may require assessment by a mental health provider.

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Psychotherapist Tiffany Goldberg from Loving at Your Best Marriage and Couples Counseling, smiling confidently and radiating warmth. Tiffany's expertise in helping couples overcome the blame game in their marriages leads to stronger, healthier relationships.


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