Narcissism is a mental health disorder which stems from environmental/cultural influences, early life experiences, and biology/genetics. There is also evidence that the development of narcissism has evolutionary factors.
NPD is both a mental health condition and a personality disorder. It generally starts showing in adolescence or early adulthood. It will likely never change if the narcissist does not seek treatment for their illness. Luckily, psychotherapy is an effective treatment for people with narcissistic personality disorder.
Narcissists are prone to behavior that is dramatic, intense, and unpredictable. Individuals with NPD will exaggerate anything positive about themselves, such as achievements or special skills. They will have powerful emotions causing emotional outbursts. Narcissists are also impulsive and exhibit erratic behaviors, often seeking instant gratification and not caring about the consequences.
Let’s go further into why narcissism exists at all…
Why does narcissism exist at all? Is it Real?
Narcissism does indeed exist. It is a mental health condition and personality disorder affecting people’s thought patterns and behaviors. Characterized by dramatic, emotional, and erratic behaviours, narcissism profoundly impacts the narcissist’s daily life and relationships.
Narcissistic personality disorder is linked to environmental factors and experiences. Early childhood experiences, familial relationships, and societal influences play a role in NPD. Although debated, biological and evolutionary factors are also involved in developing narcissism.
In their paper, psychologists Nicholas Holtzman and M. Brent Donnellan say that the development of narcissism is a result of both biology and environment.
Environmental factors such as culture, parental relationships, and trauma significantly contribute to the development of narcissism. There is evidence that societies that value individualism, competition and materialism tend to have higher rates of narcissism.
Early childhood experiences such as inconsistent parenting and childhood trauma are contributing factors to the development of NPD.
Interactions with peers and social environments can also shape the development of narcissism. For example, individuals who receive excessive admiration or are consistently surrounded by others who enable and reinforce narcissistic behaviors may be more likely to develop and maintain narcissistic traits.
Biological and genetic factors
Biology and genetics both contribute to the emergence of narcissism. Studies have explored the role of brain structures and neurotransmitters in the development of narcissism. For instance, abnormalities were found in the part of the brain associated with self-regulation and emotional processing.
Additionally, it has been discovered that genetics contribute to the emergence of narcissism. According to a study involving pairs of twins, some personality traits associated with NPD can be passed down genetically. These characteristics increase the possibility of narcissism emerging.
There is also evidence of evolutionary factors playing a part in developing a narcissistic personality disorder. Individuals with narcissism have traits that provide both survival and reproductive advantages. These advantages helped them survive long enough, eventually passing genes to future generations.
Environmental influences, such as culture and early life experiences, shape an individual’s self-perception and ability to have relationships with others. Genetics and biology may predispose a person to certain personality traits.
Additionally, evolutionary factors suggest that narcissistic traits may have provided advantages such as short-term mating and dominance in ancestral environments. While these factors provide some insights into the existence of narcissism, further research is needed to understand its complexities fully.
Let’s explore the links between evolution and narcissism further…
What is the evolutionary reason for narcissism?
Multiple theories state that evolutionary factors are involved in developing narcissism because it provides survival and reproductive advantages. Narcissism may contribute to short-term mating and dominance. These are huge advantages when it comes to survival and reproduction.
In their study, Holzman and Donnellan have three explanations for why narcissism may be the result of evolution:
Throughout evolution, narcissistic qualities such as being attractive or sexually coercive made it easier for people to mate and reproduce. Since they could mate more quickly, they had a higher chance of passing narcissistic traits to future generations.
Dominance is an essential factor in social status. Dominant people are more likely to achieve higher social status than their peers. Dominance allows them to attain more resources for survival, such as food, material goods, and shelter.
Both short-term mating and dominance
Short-term mating allowed narcissistic traits to be passed on. Dominance provided a survival advantage increasing the chances that these traits are passed down. Essentially, the narcissist could get the resources needed to survive and reproduce more efficiently, which led to the narcissistic traits sticking around.
Although much of the talk in the psychology community says that narcissism is the result of cultural and environmental factors, there is evidence to support that biological and evolutionary factors may have also contributed to the development of narcissism.
Is narcissism a genetic or a learned behavior?
There is evidence that narcissism is both a genetic behavior and a learned behavior. It could be the result of both nature and nurture. People genetically predisposed to narcissism and raised in inappropriate environments are likelier to become narcissistic.
The Mayo Clinic claims that the causes of narcissism are incredibly complex and that it is impossible to pinpoint the exact reasons. However, we can find out what narcissism is linked to.
Most studies agree that narcissism is linked to both environmental factors and genetics. The narcissist may inherit characteristics of a narcissist, like certain personality traits. These characteristics may be pronounced by environmental factors such as the parent-child relationship, like a child with a parent constantly criticizing them for random things.
To summarize, we cannot find the direct cause of narcissism, but we can find links between narcissism and other factors. Studies show that narcissism is linked to both nature and nurture.
Can narcissism be treated?
Yes, narcissism can be treated with psychotherapy. Although no medicines specifically treat narcissism, the medicine may be helpful in some situations. Since narcissism increases the chances of anxiety and depression, anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications may be used.
Psychotherapy can help people with narcissistic personality disorder by helping them learn to relate better with others. This increases the quality of their interpersonal relationships.
It can also help narcissists understand their emotions better, such as why they distrust others, always have to compete, and need constant validation.
Psychotherapy can also help the narcissist in the following ways:
- Maintenance of relationships
- The acceptance and tolerance of criticism
- Management and understanding of feelings
- Handling self-esteem-related issues
- Setting realistic goals
Therapy can be a short-term intervention during a crisis or long-term ongoing therapy. It can help the narcissist form relationships with others, tolerate negative attention, understand their feelings, increase self-esteem and achieve goals. Often it can be helpful to include family members in therapy.
Can a narcissist change?
Everybody is capable of change. This holds for the narcissist as well. In a 2019 study, researchers found that narcissistic tendencies and personality traits naturally decrease with age. Therapy is a tool to help increase the timeline for these changes to occur.
Narcissists can only change if they are willing to start treating people like human beings with emotions and feelings, not just as resources to fulfill their needs. Once willing to improve their behavior and self-reflect, they can work with a therapist to begin the change process.
It is also common for narcissists to go to treatment for other mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. They may also get help for their narcissistic personality disorder when they seek therapy.
Therapy for narcissism typically involves identifying defense mechanisms, exploring coping methods, learning and practicing new behaviors, exploring the consequences of their behaviors, and examining their treatment of others.
For this change to have a lasting effect, the narcissist must understand how positive change can benefit them. They must learn to examine their defense mechanisms without judgement and learn self-forgiveness and self-compassion.
The traits of narcissistic personality disorder can improve with the help of a trained therapist. If the narcissist is invested in changing and has the right tools, they may make small incremental improvements over time.
How is narcissism diagnosed?
A mental health professional will review the patient’s medical history and speak with them to diagnose narcissism. NPD is difficult to diagnose, and only a mental health specialist can do so. The DSM-5 method is the primary method in diagnosing narcissism.
The DSM-5 model is the most widely used method for diagnosing narcissistic personality disorder. When using the DSM-5 method, the mental health practitioner will observe and measure individual personality traits, how the patient functions in the real world, their self-perception, their self-esteem, and whether or not they are capable of empathy.
A diagnosis will be made if the mental health professional can identify five or more symptoms of NPD.
Narcissistic personality disorder is a complex mental health disorder influenced by various factors. While environmental influences, such as culture, early life experiences, and trauma, play a significant role in the development of narcissism, genetics and biology also contribute to the disorder.
Evolutionary theories suggest that narcissistic behaviors may have provided certain evolutionary advantages. However, further research is needed to fully understand the intricate mechanisms behind narcissism.
Narcissism is a mental health condition that profoundly affects individuals and their relationships. Treatment options, such as psychotherapy, can help individuals with narcissistic personality disorder gain insight, develop healthier behaviors, and improve their overall well-being.
With the willingness to change and appropriate support, individuals with narcissistic personality disorder can work towards personal growth and positive transformations.
A resilient writer who has emerged from addiction, depression, and anxiety with a renewed sense of purpose and a powerful voice. His journey has shaped his writing, allowing him to explore the complexities of the human condition intimately. Also blogging about mental health at www.medium.com/@Patrickmeowler