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Narcissism in teens is a serious and dangerous mental health issue. More than simply having a flawed personality, a narcissistic person is much more likely to put their needs above others and actively manipulate, harm, and endanger those around them, including the people that should matter to them the most, like their closest friends and family.

Narcissists are not just “bad people.” Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is one of ten well-documented personality disorders listed in the DSM-V. It is a mental disorder that causes disordered thinking and maladaptive behavior, destroys relationships, affects career outcomes, and massively inhibits the patient’s quality of life. There are diagnostic criteria and treatment plans for people with NPD. And they are not simply selfish. What sets a narcissist apart from a selfish person? And how can narcissism be identified in teens and young adults?

Defining Narcissistic Personality Disorder

A narcissistic personality disorder is characterized by thinking and behavior centered around a false sense of grandeur and massive self-importance, alongside a lack of concern for others. While we have plenty of data on the prevalence of narcissism and its high comorbidity with other mental health conditions, as well as its associations with psychosocial disability and functional impairment, there isn’t much research on the state, and there are many clinical and diagnostic questions still left unanswered in the psychiatric community.

Many difficulties surrounding narcissistic personality disorder are that the condition applies to various contradictory symptoms with varying intensity, all sharing the same inner reasoning. A narcissist can be massively self-aggrandizing or incredibly self-loathing. They can be socially isolated or very extraverted. They can subtly manipulate others and become figureheads in society but struggle to maintain employment and become antisocial.

Despite ironic differences in the way narcissistic personality disorder might be recognized, its central character is a pathological form of self-interest and grandiosity, both positive and negative, to the point of appearing indifferent to others (lack of empathy), all while demanding admiration regularly. It isn’t enough for narcissists to be the center of their universe – they must be the focal point of everyone they surround themselves with. However, just because narcissism comes in many different shapes and forms, it is less valid or concerning than any other personality disorder or mental disorder. It does mean that it can be a bit harder to spot without prior research.

The DSM-V & Narcissism

While the DSM-V applies a broad definition to narcissism, multiple subtypes and core define psychological features identified by the psychiatric community. In general, narcissism comes in five different flavors:

1. Overt Narcissism

Overt narcissism is characterized by grandiose personality traits, arrogance, entitlement, overbearing actions, low anxiety, and exploitative, competitive, and extroverted behavior.

2. Covert Narcissism

Covert narcissism is characterized by introversion, insecurity, high anxiety, extreme defensiveness, avoidance, anger, and victim-playing.

3. Antagonistic Narcissism 

Antagonistic narcissism can be overly jealous and competitive, more likely to agitate, high irritability, and very disagreeable (must always be right).

4. Communal Narcissism

Communal narcissism is defined as a form of narcissism where the individual focuses on fairness and social good. Still, it does so to position themselves for social power and reap the self-importance of being more agreeable. They may be much more likely to trigger a moral panic, posture through ethics without putting them into practice, and describe themselves as humble, generous, and empathic.

5. Malignant Narcissism

Malignant narcissism is considered the most severe form of narcissism and is characterized by vindictive or vengeful behavior, sadism (taking pleasure in the pain of others), excessive aggression, and paranoia. A malignant narcissist may be more likely to be diagnosed with a second personality disorder, especially antisocial personality disorder.

Adapative Narcissism or Maladaptive Narcissism

Furthermore, individual features or symptoms of narcissism can be categorized as either adaptive narcissism or maladaptive narcissism.

Adaptive narcissism defines “positive” features: self-reliance and independence, confidence, and social aptitude. Maladaptive narcissism describes destructive features of narcissism, such as grandiosity, aggression, jealousy, entitlement, manipulative behavior, and self-destructive tendencies.

Narcissism In Teens

Narcissism in teens can develop early in life, but its typical onset is around adolescence. Recognizing narcissism in teens can be difficult because there is a difference between entitlement and disordered, selfish thinking. 

If you are worried that your teen is exhibiting signs of narcissism, ask yourself: 

  • Is their behavior persistently manipulative and hurtful towards others? 
  • Do they show clear signs of disregard for the well-being of others? 
  • Do they place their self-satisfaction or pride above the feelings and well-being of others? 
  • Have they alienated friends or lost friends due to lies and manipulation?
  • Have you caught them in a lie multiple times, and have they continued to manipulate you?
  • Do they often (and successfully) play the victim? 
  • Have they threatened self-harm or suicide various times to get their way? 
  • Do they lie about their accomplishments and achievements and react aggressively or defensively if confronted? 
  • Do they believe that they are superior to their peers and you? 

If several of these questions are yes, it may be a good idea to see a professional and ask them about your teen. Consider visiting a professional before bringing it up with your teen. 

If they struggle with narcissistic personality disorder, they are much less likely to consider getting help and not agree that they need it

Can Narcissistic Personality Disorder Be Treated?

One of the great difficulties with a narcissistic personality disorder is that there is little research surrounding the efficacy of different treatment plans. So far, the primary course of action when dealing with narcissism is to address concurrent or comorbid conditions and utilize therapy to tackle narcissistic thoughts and behavior

Teens are taught to understand the value of empathy and healthy personal relationships and build those relationships through communication and trust. It can take years for a teen with narcissistic tendencies to overcome these feelings, come to terms with their self-esteem, and make meaningful progress in their day-to-day life. 

While challenging, support through family members is essential, and family therapy is one of the more effective ways of tackling narcissistic behavior by incorporating the family and helping them understand what they can do to assist their loved one.

For more information, contact Visions Treatment Centers. We will be glad to speak with you.