Coping with narcissistic personality disorder: The importance of self-awareness

narcissistic personality

Coping with narcissistic personality disorder: The importance of self-awareness

Coping with narcissistic personality disorder: The importance of self-awareness 1920 1280 Paterakis Michalis
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

In this article we will explore the factors that cause narcissistic personality disorder, emphasizing the important role of self-awareness in its effective management.

Through a deep dive into psychotherapy and changes in daily habits, we’ll offer insights to promote healthier relationships and improve overall well-being.

Understanding Narcissistic Personality Disorder

A significant number of people worldwide suffer from narcissistic personality disorder, a condition characterized by an inflated sense of self-confidence and a deep need for excessive attention and admiration. This disorder often leads to significant problems in personal relationships, professional environment and can even lead to severe depression.

Understanding it begins with recognizing the basic symptoms. These often include a high sense of self-confidence, fantasies of unlimited success or power, the belief that one is unique and can only be understood or associated with special people, a demand for excessive admiration, and a lack of empathy.

Despite these disturbing symptoms, people with narcissistic personality disorder often have fragile self-esteem, vulnerable to the slightest criticism. This disorder is more common in men and is thought to begin in early adulthood. While the exact causes remain unknown, a complex mix of factors, including genetic, neurobiological, environmental, and psychosocial factors, contribute to the development of this disorder.

Treatment for this disorder mainly involves psychotherapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy, family therapy, and group therapy are often effective.

Understanding this disorder is the first step to seeking appropriate help, whether for yourself or a loved one struggling with this disorder.

Differentiating normal narcissism from the disorder

It is important to distinguish normal narcissism from the disorder, as the latter presents a more severe and chronic form of self-centeredness that can be detrimental to personal relationships and overall well-being.

Normal narcissism, a trait necessary for a healthy sense of self-esteem and ambition, differs from narcissistic personality disorder primarily in its intensity, persistence, and level of distress or harm it causes.

Characterized by occasional outbursts of ego, inflated self-esteem, and a need for attention or admiration. This is a temporary and manageable condition, often resolved with increased self-awareness. People with normal narcissism can introspect, feel, and are capable of maintaining healthy relationships.

On the other hand, narcissistic personality disorder is a persistent, pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy that significantly hinders the individual’s personal, social, and professional functioning. Individuals with this disorder exhibit an excessive preoccupation with personal adequacy, power, prestige, and vanity. They often fail to recognize their harmful behaviors, making treatment a difficult endeavor.

Differentiating between normal narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder is crucial not only for accurate diagnosis and treatment but also for reducing the stigma attached to the disorder.

Causes of narcissistic personality disorder

Understanding the underlying causes of narcissistic personality disorder is paramount to effective treatment and management. The development of this disorder can be attributed to a complex interplay of genetic, biological, and environmental factors, although the exact mechanisms are not fully understood.

Genetic predisposition is an important factor. People with a close relative diagnosed with this disorder are more likely to develop it themselves, which suggests a hereditary component. However, genetics alone cannot explain the occurrence of this disorder. Biological factors, such as neurobiology and brain function, are also thought to play a role.

Environmental influences, especially those occurring during early childhood, are crucial. Cases of abuse, neglect, or trauma can greatly increase the risk of developing this disorder. Similarly, excessive nurturing or unrealistic expectations from parents can also foster narcissism in children.

Parental inconsistency, where parents vacillate between excessive praise and harsh criticism, can also contribute to this disorder. This discontinuous feedback can lead to an inflated sense of self-confidence and a deep-seated insecurity in the child.

In addition, social and cultural factors also play a role. Living in a culture that encourages individualism, self-promotion, and competitiveness can promote narcissistic traits.

Childhood effects on narcissism

The environment in which a child grows up significantly affects his psychological development. When such an environment is characterized by neglect, abuse, or excessive admiration, it can lead to the emergence of narcissistic traits.

Neglect and abuse, whether emotional, physical, or sexual, can result in a child developing an inflated sense of self as a defense mechanism. The child, in an attempt to protect himself, may construct a grandiose self-image, which is a hallmark of narcissism. This perceived superiority can mask underlying feelings of inadequacy and vulnerability.

Conversely, excessive admiration can also lead to narcissism. If a child is constantly praised undeservedly or if he is never held accountable for his actions, he may develop an inflated sense of self-worth and entitlement. He may end up believing that he is separate and superior to others, leading to the development of narcissistic traits.

The effects of these childhood experiences persist into adulthood, affecting a person’s self-esteem, relationships, and overall mental health. Understanding the role childhood plays in the development of narcissistic traits can help individuals recognize their patterns and work to change them. This realization is essential for those seeking to break free from the confines of narcissistic tendencies and foster healthier, more balanced relationships.

However, it is important to remember that overcoming deeply ingrained behaviors is a process that takes time, patience, and often professional help.

Treatments for narcissistic disorder

Treatment mainly involves psychotherapy, with the goal of helping the person recognize their problematic behaviors and thought patterns. The goal is to instigate a journey of self-awareness and self-improvement and thereby promote healthier relationships and coping mechanisms.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy can be particularly effective in this because it helps people identify negative, unhelpful beliefs and behaviors, replacing them with healthier and more positive ones. This process can promote an improved self-image and better interpersonal relationships.

Another important part of treatment involves addressing any co-existing mental health problems, such as depression or anxiety. Often, medications can be used to manage these conditions, in conjunction with therapy.

Treatment, however, is not a quick fix and requires commitment. It requires the individual to confront deeply ingrained patterns of thought and behavior, which can be challenging. However, with persistence and the right therapeutic support, progress is entirely possible.

In conjunction with treatment, lifestyle changes can be beneficial. Regular physical activity, adequate sleep and a healthy diet can contribute to overall mental well-being. Coping strategies such as stress management and relaxation techniques can also offer support.

Improving relationships through therapy

Therapy aims to facilitate the development of healthier relationships, promote empathy and improve communication skills.

Therapeutic interventions focus on helping individuals identify and modify their behavior patterns. Techniques such as cognitive-behavioral therapy can help individuals understand the impact of their actions on others, promoting empathy and respect for others’ feelings. This can lead to healthier, more mutual relationships.

Another effective treatment approach is dialectical behavior therapy, which focuses on improving emotional regulation, interpersonal efficacy, and distress tolerance. This helps people with narcissistic personality disorder better manage their emotions, reducing the potential for conflict in relationships.

In addition, therapy can also work to boost self-esteem, which is often compromised in people with this disorder. This can lead to more secure bonds and healthier interactions with others.

Family or group therapy can also be beneficial, providing a safe environment for individuals to practice new behaviors and receive feedback. This allows them to see the effects of their actions on others, promoting a more empathetic understanding of others’ feelings.

Daily Habits for Managing Narcissism

How can daily habits help manage narcissistic tendencies and enhance self-awareness?

For those struggling with narcissism, establishing a series of daily habits can be a critical part of their journey toward self-awareness and improved interpersonal relationships.

First, practicing mindfulness can be extremely beneficial. Mindfulness encourages living in the present moment, acknowledging emotions without judgment and promotes empathy. This can allow people with narcissism to better understand their actions and their impact on others. Daily mindfulness exercises, such as meditation, can help cultivate this habit.

Second, journaling can help with self-criticism, a key aspect of self-awareness. Recording daily experiences, feelings and reactions can provide insight into patterns of narcissistic behavior and identify triggers. This can help them recognize when they are behaving narcissistically and take steps to change their behavior.

Exercise is another beneficial habit. Regular physical activity has been shown to improve mood, reduce stress and boost overall mental health. This can be especially helpful in managing the emotional instability often associated with narcissism.

The long process of psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is a journey of growth and self-awareness that guides individuals toward a healthier mindset and improved interpersonal relationships.

Psychotherapy mainly focuses on equipping people with communication skills to improve their relationships and the ability to manage their emotions effectively. This is a process that requires commitment and determination, as deeply ingrained personality traits are persistent and difficult to change.

For people with narcissistic personality disorder, the journey often begins with accepting and acknowledging their disorder. This step is vital as it allows them to understand their feelings, thoughts and behaviors and how these can affect their relationships. It also helps identify the harmful patterns of self-centeredness, inflated self-image, and lack of empathy that are the hallmarks of this disorder.

The therapeutic process also involves setting realistic goals and striving to achieve them. This practice instills a sense of responsibility and control, reducing reliance on external validation and admiration. It also promotes self-awareness and self-acceptance, reducing the need to maintain a grandiose facade.

Psychotherapy also provides coping strategies for self-esteem issues. This is important, as people with this disorder often cover up their insecurities with a superior outward appearance. By addressing these insecurities, they can gradually build their self-esteem.

*Republication of the article without the written permission of the author is prohibited.

The process of psychotherapy requires commitment, dedication and is only for those who are serious about changing their lives. If you are considering embarking on this journey, call me at 211 71 51 801 to make an appointment and let’s see together how I can help you.

Michael Paterakis

Psychologist Psychotherapist

37 Karneadou Street, Kolonaki

I accept By appointment

Tel: 211 7151 801


    Πατεράκης Μιχάλης
    Ψυχολόγος Αθήνα


      Psychologist Athens