What Does Narcissism Really Mean?

The word “narcissist” is frequently misused in the media as well as in discourse both online and out in the world, leading to confusion about the term narcissism and what it really means. What is narcissism, and when did the term first emerge? What does it mean to have a narcissistic personality disorder or NPD? Today, we will answer those questions and talk about how to find support in the form of a counselor or therapist. 


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Where Did The Word “Narcissism” Come From?

The term “narcissism” was coined and identified as a mental health condition by a physician named Henry Havelock Ellis. It dates back to the year 1898. That said, narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) was first recognized in the third edition of the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM). The currently used and most recent version of the DSM, which is used to diagnose and classify mental disorders, is the DSM-5. Like with many other mental health conditions and concerns, clinical knowledge about NPD has expanded over time and will likely continue to increase moving forward. 

About Narcissistic Personality Disorder 

Narcissistic personality disorder or NPD is characterized by ongoing, persistent patterns of a need for admiration and a lack of empathy for other people. It is one of four Cluster B personality disorders listed in the most recent version of the DSM. Roughly 0.5% to 5% of the United States population is said to live with a narcissistic personality disorder. 

Symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder include but aren’t limited to:

  • A constant or persistent need for admiration, validation, and praise. 
  • High sensitivity to criticism.
  • The exploitation of others for personal motive or gain.
  • A preoccupation with a status of success or power.
  • A sense of entitlement.
  • A lack of empathy for other people.
  • Impulsive behavior.
  • Grandiosity. 
Also Read:  Dissociative Disorders In The DSM-5 

It’s important to note that narcissistic personality disorder can manifest in different ways. Narcissistic personality disorder can be covert, in which case it may be called “vulnerable narcissism” or “covert narcissism.” Someone who has NPD that presents in this way will show a lack of self-esteem, and often, an increase in hypersensitivity. It can also be overt, which may be called “overt narcissism” or “grandiose narcissism.” Someone who has NPD that presents in this way is more likely to show high levels of grandiosity, a pervasive need for attention and self-entitlement, aggression, and high levels of exploitation for others with no remorse. Someone who fits the latter presentation may have additional trouble reaching out for mental health support.


angry woman, female narcissist


Diagnosis And Treatment

A formal diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder can only be provided by a licensed healthcare professional who is qualified to diagnose mental disorders, such as a psychiatrist. There are potential risk factors and ideas surrounding who develops narcissistic personality disorder and why, but a singular direct cause is unknown. Due to symptoms of the disorder, not everyone with narcissistic personality disorder reaches out for help, but if they do, treatment is available and can be highly beneficial. One of the most common forms of treatment for narcissistic personality disorder is talk therapy from a mental health counselor or therapist. If you are struggling with mental health concerns of any kind, or if you believe that you might have a mental health condition or disorder, it is crucial to reach out to a medical or mental health professional who can help. 

Also Read:  Dissociative Disorders In The DSM-5 

Find A Therapist 

People seek therapy for many different reasons. Whether you’re coping with challenges related to a mental health condition, interpersonal relationships, family dynamics, grief and loss, life stressors, or anything else that’s on your mind, a counselor therapist can help. There are a diversity of ways to find a therapist. You can search the web, ask your doctor for a referral, contact your insurance company to see who they cover, or use a website like Mind Diagnostics that can help you find the right fit. All you have to do is type in your zip code, and you’ll see a range of providers licensed to practice in your area with various specialties. Regardless of how you find a therapist or counselor, you deserve to get the support that you need, so don’t hesitate to take the first step and start your search today. 

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