teen narcissismEvery one of us has moments when we feel proud of ourselves and what we’ve accomplished in our lives. That’s hardly a bad thing. Pride and love for ourselves are signs of good self-esteem and good mental health, but it is possible to love yourself so much that it can cause serious problems in many aspects of your life. This is known as narcissistic personality disorder.

Narcissistic personality disorder or narcissism is a mental disorder characterized by inflated feelings of self-importance, a lack of empathy for others, and an excessive need for admiration and recognition. Those who live with this disorder are often referred to as narcissists, and their facade of self-importance often hides a fragile self-esteem that is vulnerable to even the slightest negative criticism.

Just about everyone has narcissistic moments at some point in their lives. As we said before, it’s normal and even healthy to be proud of yourself and want recognition for your accomplishments. However, these feelings are taken to an unhealthy degree in those who live with narcissism and can cause problems with relationships, work, school, and practically every other aspect of their lives.

Symptoms

In order for someone to be diagnosed with narcissism, a patient needs to exhibit at least five of the following symptoms:

  • An inflated sense of self-importance, to the point where the patient expects to be recognized as superior even if they haven’t accomplished anything to warrant it.
  • A preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, beauty, or ideal love.
  • A belief that one is more “special” than others.
  • A requirement of excessive admiration and recognition.
  • A very strong and unreasonable sense of entitlement.
  • A tendency to take advantage of others to achieve their own ends.
  • A lack of empathy.
  • Jealousy of others, or a belief that others are jealous of them.
  • Arrogant or haughty behaviors.

It should be noted that narcissism is not the same as having confidence in oneself. Narcissists go so far beyond having high self-esteem that they perceive themselves as having more value than others. Many fail to seek treatment for some time simply because they don’t like to think that anything could be wrong with them; that belief goes against their self-image of perfection. What often convinces someone to seek treatment for narcissism are feelings of depression that are often brought on by perceived criticisms and a lack of the admiration that they feel they deserve.

Causes

It isn’t known what causes narcissism in teenagers or adults, although some experts have theories. One theory is that the condition is caused by a mismatch in a parent-child relationship. A child who is pampered and constantly told that they are special could start to believe that they are more important than everyone else, while excessive criticism from a parent could cause a child to become overly sensitive to negative feedback. It is also possible that there is a genetic factor much like other mental disorders. In any case, narcissism is relatively rare and affects approximately six percent of people in the United States. It also seems to affect more males than females.

Complications

If narcissism is left untreated, it can give rise to several severe complications such as:

  • Relationship difficulties
  • Problems at work or school
  • Depression
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Substance abuse

When to Seek Treatment

Diagnosing someone with narcissism is difficult mostly because it shares the same symptoms with other mental disorders, particularly depression. Many children and young adults also go through stages of either perceived self-importance or incredibly low self-esteem, both of which are normal. It is when a child starts to have suicidal thoughts or exhibit self-destructive behaviors that they should seek treatment. In most cases, those who seek treatment for narcissism have shown at least some symptoms for about one year.

If you believe you or a loved one is struggling with narcissism, there is treatment available. Most treatment for narcissism focuses on talk therapy, although inpatient treatment may be necessary if the patient has a problem with substance abuse or suicidal thoughts.

No matter how bad things may seem, know that nobody is expected to handle the problem by themselves. If you would like to learn more about our inpatient treatment program or about how narcissism can affect one’s life, contact the Hillcrest Adolescent Treatment Center today.