What Is The Meaning Of Narcissist?

The dictionary meaning of narcissist is:

  • a person who is overly self centered, vain or selfish
  • someone in love with themselves
  • a person who derives pleasure from contemplation or admiration of their own body or self
  • one who suffers from narcissism, who derives erotic gratification from admiring their own body or mental abilities.

However, narcissist is often the shorthand for narcissistic personality disorder and while anyone can can be a bit narcissistic every now and then, narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a very particular condition with profound implications.

If you are looking for the meaning of narcissist because you are in a relationship with someone you think is a narcissist, or you are dealing with a narcissist in the workplace, then the chances are that you are dealing with someone with narcissistic personality disorder, so let's have a look at that.


What is the meaning of narcissist personality disorder?

This personality disorder is characterized by significant impairment in how the person relates to both themselves and others as well as pathological personality traits.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association describes how a person with this disorder may have excessive reference to others for self definition or their own self appraisal may be exaggerated. Their goal setting may be organized around getting praise from others. Their personal standards are such that they see themselves as exceptional and/or they have a huge sense of entitlement.

They also lack empathy, an inability to recognize or identify with the emotions of others. They typically only consider the reactions of others in relation to themselves. Relationships with others are superficial with little interest in the other person apart from personal gain.

The second aspect is the pathological personality traits. where they are typically antagonistic because of their grandiosity and attention seeking. The grandiosity shows up as their feeling that they are better than everyone else and so they are entitled to whatever they want. The attention seeking is where they want to be the center of attention and expect to hear praise and compliments from those around them.

When we consider the idea of a personality disorder we see that the dictionary meaning of narcissist we have above is somewhat incomplete and doesn't indicate the depth of the problem.


The implications

So, a narcissist meaning someone who has NPD, has little or no empathy, a huge sense of entitlement and thinks that they are superior beings. These things give rise to the constellation of traits and characteristics we see in these people.

  • They take advantage of others in all sorts of ways without feeling the least remorse or guilt about the damage they may do.
  • They expect to be treated as special and unique.
  • They have to be the center of attention. If the conversation is not about them, they will often bring it around to their favorite topic, themselves.
  • They project an image of themselves as succeeding and excelling in every area of their lives. They always have better stories than anyone else about whatever topic you care to mention. They have stories about how good they are physically, mentally, romantically, materially, professionally etc, etc. Mostly these stories are exaggerations or outright lies.
  • When the narcissist meets new people they present themselves as charming, intelligent, witty, caring and so on. It's only when you really get to know the narcissist that you see the anger, the abusive and humiliating behavior and the total self centeredness.
  • They will not be challenged or criticized. This is not acceptable at all and they will fight back, often viciously, if you don't agree with them or you take them on. At the same time they have no trouble criticizing, belittling or judging others.
  • They will instantly take credit for anything that goes well within 30 metres of them, but when things go wrong, it's always someone else's fault. It's incredible the lengths they will go to in order to maintain this facade.


The meaning of narcissist - a spectrum

While the DSM differentiates antisocial personality disorder (psychopathy or sociopathy) from narcissistic personality disorder, and does not include malignant narcissism, some experts talk about a spectrum of narcissism.

At one end there is narcissism, then malignant narcissism with psychopathy at the most destructive end of the spectrum. Malignant narcissism is considered to be NPD with aggression, sadism, paranoia and antisocial behavior. While narcissists may have times when they feel upset at what they do to others, malignant narcissists do not and actually seek out ways of hurting others.

There are lots of different ideas about how to define these various terms and it's not worth getting lost in whether your abuser is a malignant narcissist or NPD or whatever. The important thing is that you recognize that you are in a relationship with a narcissist and understand that they are taking advantage of you and you need to do something about it.

Narcissists may also be classified as somatic or cerebral, the somatic narcissist meaning that the person is obsessed with their body and how beautiful it is and the cerebral with their mental capabilities.


The effect on you

Living with a narcissist means that you will be profoundly affected by them, whether it's in an intimate relationship or in a workplace setting or in a family situation. They will control and dominate your life to the point that they effectively become the purpose of your life.

They typically are using mind control techniques against you to mold you into the kind of person that they want you to be. So basically you are changed into someone who waits on them hand and foot, putting their wants and needs ahead of your own.

You will be criticized, humiliated, shouted at, belittled, judged, scoffed at, treated with contempt, controlled and dominated by someone that you think loves you and that you may actually love.

You will not be allowed to have your own opinions or ideas and you will typically have to ask for permission to do many things. It may seem to you that you are making your own decisions but this is the trick of these manipulators. They have programmed you to do the things that suit them, at whatever cost to you.

Your self-esteem will typically be low, especially around them. You may feel dependent on them or you may consider that you couldn't imagine a life without them. This makes it very difficult to leave the situation, but leaving is usually the best option available to you.

You may have to learn more about narcissists, about the rage, the abuse and how they control you in order to realize the damage they are doing so that you make the decision to leave, or you may simple need to just run and sort yourself out later.

So you can see that the meaning of narcissist that you choose, whether it is someone who is a bit selfish, or whether it's someone who has full blown NPD, has important consequences for you so it's important that you get it right.

You can read more about divorcing a narcissist or about how to recover from a narcissistic relationship here...

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