Narcissistic Personality Disorder - Recognizing the Problem

Recognizing the fact that you have been living with a partner who is affected by NPD, is surely the first step of dealing with the issue.

However, before someone might be classified as being narcissistic, it is important to keep in mind that, like every psychological disorder, narcissistic personality disorder too comes in various degrees. Going to the extreme, we might argue that each of us has somewhere a narcissist in her/himself. It even could be said that a narcissistic tendency is important for survival. However, in the same context it must be emphasized that, while a narcissistic tendency is constructive, a fully elaborated or developed symptomatic of NPD is nothing but destructive.

Psychologically there are several criteria which have been applied to this personality disorder. These are:

So the question is whether the man or the woman you are living with are so strongly affected by this disorder that you will have to seriously confront the issue or whether the condition is mild and maybe after some adaptations it is possible to agree on a harmonious life together. However, this page will focus on the first scenario where the disorder poses a serious threat to the relationship as well as to your existence.

There is much one can read about the symptoms of NPD and yet exactly this can be more than confusing, and you might find yourself going through a checklist of symptoms in order to arrive at some conclusion. However, the list above should give you some idea. Still, there is another element which is just as important and this quite possibly the most important item for you to look at:

Look at yourself and ask yourself how you feel and whether you are the person you once were and knew. If you live with a narcissist, you will develop a cluster of negative feelings centered around the emotion of fear and an image of inadequacy. This self image of being inadequate then will be due to a change in self perception. This is, it is a cognitive concept that you are not familiar with and which is in contrast to how you used to see yourself. Clearly, such a negative self image will have serious effects on the way you feel and behave. The dominant feeling is, as alluded to, fear. Fear of doing things wrong and fear of being punished. And thus, the way you behave too will become modified whereby you will watch your every move and where your actions become unnatural to yourself.

The issue is - in a sense - more complicated. Because, all of us have negative feelings and concepts about ourselves even if we never encountered a narcissist. So in this sense, what the narcissist does is to build on the already existing negative self images and enlarge them to a maximum. The situation is even worse because we are aware of short comings in ourselves. This is where the narcissist is most successful. The narcissist will endeavour to increase these short comings. I may give a personal example: once, I gave up smoking, the narcissist exercised so much pressure on me until I started again (I still smoke sometimes). The narcissist would really like to see you in the gutter.

However, if you see that you have substantially changed for the worse you can be sure that you are living with a narcissist, and a check list is not necessary any longer.

Still, there is a healing aspect to sharing what actions you suffered and what injustice and cruelty you have been exposed to, and hence sharing experiences and finding reassurance through others can be very important. This is the more the case as, while you are still living with the narcissist or are still in contact with the narcissist, the negative self image gets constantly reinforced.

If you feel that the self check and the characteristics of the narcissist as given above are not sufficient you might want to check your relationship for symptoms of the following kind as given by the check list below. Still, while you are comparing your own experiences with the check list provided here, it is important to remember that maybe only some of these symptoms apply to you or that symptoms which apply to you are not listed. The final criterion will always remain the way you feel about yourself and your self image. Here now a list of possible symptoms a narcissist might display:

  • Dis-allowance of contacts with friends and families
  • Extreme jealousy
  • Belittling
  • Verbal and physical violence
  • Punishments
  • Sudden withdrawal
  • Inability to admit wrong doings
  • Control over your time
  • Self-mutilation
  • Threats and intimations
  • Destruction of your things - physical and non-physical
  • Claiming to know your feelings and motivations
  • Accusations of infidelity and of behavior you yourself despise

  • Dr. Ludger Hofmann-Engl


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