In a first-time encounter, it is not easy to view someone as a problem-person, when his / her interactions turn out to be impressive. People suffering from narcissistic personality disorder appear to be confident, successful and impressive, initially. Alas, ask their family members to speak out honestly - they will come out with stories of major family distresses, often involving the behaviour of the narcissist member they have in their family and they usually do not know that the person concerned is suffering from a mental disorder.
The usage "narcissism" came from the Greek mythology about Narcissus who fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. Narcissists are in love with themselves, extremely selfish and self-centered and overly grandiose about their personal abilities. They can be identified by all or many of the behaviours as under:
- They hardly listen to and have respect for other people’s opinions and ideas and do not hesitate in trivialising the viewpoints of interacting people.
- They will overtly or covertly convey that they themselves know more and are better than others.
- While they expect others to follow rules, they tend to feel that they have an unquestionable right to break rules which they can easily justify.
- They take others’ genuine concerns involving their own actions as missiles of criticisms directed against them and will overly react even to mild expressions of such concerns.
- They stick to ‘I am right-you are wrong’ positions in most matters which are significantly damaging in fine human relationships.
- They may admit that they are short-tempered at times but would attribute the reason for such temper-tantrums to the actions of others.
- It will be difficult for them to sustain close and intimate human relationships.
- They will hardly have any ability to empathise and sympathise genuinely.
- They will react sharply in any situation that they perceive as insulting and will react arrogantly.
- They usually do not carry any sense of guilt or shame.
- They will fall easy prey to flattery by others and will hate those who do not admire them.
- They can end up using vulnerable people to meet their own needs without considering the consequences.
- They carry an inflated sense of self-importance and would brag about the same whenever they get an opportunity.
- They will claim to be possessing extraordinary or magical abilities to solve problems of others.
- They will brag about their connections and contacts, even as they may be imaginary or illusionary.
- They will carry disproportionate degrees of envy and jealousy towards others’ achievements.
- They will expect special rights, privileges and entitlements from others.
- They may find it difficult to stick to any job or activity for long.
Life with a narcissist as spouse, partner or family member is tough. In a family setting with a narcissist as its member, the whole family will suffer emotional traumas, uncertainties, persecutions, violence etc.Moments of joy as a family will disappear most abruptly because of an action or reaction from the narcissist. Younger family members like children fall victim to such a family environment and end up developing personality disorders of many kinds, themselves. Divorces are common with narcissists. Quarrels and violence too are frequent in their families. In organisations, narcissists often try to take up leadership roles but the subordinates suffer heavily under them.
Dealing with narcissists requires great understanding of their behaviour as emanating from a personality disorder. Expecting people to have such an understanding is asking for too much in our existing social scenario. As usual with situations resulting out of personality and psychological disorders, most Indians are unaware of mental ailments and refrain from seeking professional mental health support. They prefer astrologers, baba black-sheeps, god-men etc. to find solace from mental health-related problems.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder has grave consequences for the closely connected others and the best option to tackle them is to seek professional help from psychiatrists and psychologists. Medication and counselling can do a good job in handling the problem. Dealing with narcissists requires awareness of the problem as an illness. But that kind of awareness is not present even in trickles in our society today. Let us yet be hopeful, -because things are changing, though slowly.