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Narcissistic personality disorder — one of several types of personality disorders — is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.

A narcissistic personality disorder causes problems in many areas of life, such as relationships, work, school or financial affairs. People with narcissistic personality disorder may be generally unhappy and disappointed when they’re not given the special favors or admiration they believe they deserve. They may find their relationships unfulfilling, and others may not enjoy being around them.

Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder and the severity of symptoms vary. People with the disorder can:

  • Have an exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • Have a sense of entitlement and require constant, excessive admiration
  • Expect to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
  • Exaggerate achievements and talents
  • Be preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
  • Believe they are superior and can only associate with equally special people
  • Monopolize conversations and belittle or look down on people they perceive as inferior
  • Expect special favors and unquestioning compliance with their expectations
  • Take advantage of others to get what they want
  • Have an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
  • Be envious of others and believe others envy them
  • Behave in an arrogant or haughty manner, coming across as conceited, boastful and pretentious
  • Insist on having the best of everything — for instance, the best car or office

At the same time, people with narcissistic personality disorder have trouble handling anything they perceive as criticism, and they can:

  • Become impatient or angry when they don’t receive special treatment
  • Have significant interpersonal problems and easily feel slighted
  • React with rage or contempt and try to belittle the other person to make themselves appear superior
  • Have difficulty regulating emotions and behavior
  • Experience major problems dealing with stress and adapting to change
  • Feel depressed and moody because they fall short of perfection
  • Have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation

CAN YOU HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH A NARCISSIST?

Narcissists expect a lot in a relationship and often the partner feels that they do not measure up to the narcissist’s standards. The narcissist can put pressure on their partner to be perfect or do things their way. The relationship with the narcissist becomes about meeting their expectations in order to satisfy them.

They will expect their partner to mirror how perfect they are by admiring them, or do the things they want of them. So their partner often feels pressure to live up to their expectations to make them feel special. Otherwise the narcissist feels empty or inadequate when others do not prioritise them.

Many individuals feel it is like walking on egg shells, fearful to say anything that ruptures them, because the narcissist is fragile underneath. Many feel they have to be perfectly attuned to their needs and feelings all the time, otherwise the narcissist will devalue or stonewall.

It seems the only way to have a relationship with a narcissist is to meet their expectations, be on the same page as them, perfect oneself,  and not disagree or have a separate opinion. 

Those in a toxic relationship with a narcissist tend to accommodate their every need. Many end up losing themselves in the relationship with a narcissist, or giving a lot, in order to meet their needs, to fill the empty void of the narcissist.

Directly raising issues in a relationship with a narcissist goes nowhere. Any attempt to bring up their behavior can cause the narcissist to turn it around and blame you for the problem, so its easy back down and give up your own mind. So you’ll go along with them and keep the peace, giving up your sense of self.

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