What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

The following traits are representative of Grandiose Narcissistic Personality Disorder. An individual would need 5 of the following traits for a diagnosis of NPD.

There are variations of NPD known as Closet or Vulnerable NPD and Malignant NPD.

  • Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  • Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
  • Requires excessive admiration
  • Has a very strong sense of entitlement, e.g., unreasonable expectations of especially favourable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
  • Is exploitative of others, e.g., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
  • Lacks empathy, e.g., is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
  • Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
  • Regularly shows arrogant, haughty behaviours or attitudes
These criteria are from the Diagnostic Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders 5 published by the American Psychiatric Association.

Types of Narcissistic Personality Disorder

There are 3 types of NPD. These are grandiose/exhibitionist, closet/covert and malignant/toxic narcissists. The behavioural traits are very similar with slight differences. Grandiose narcissists are unashamedly attention seeking and may often seek careers in acting, social media influencing, or reality television. A closet or covert (also known as vulnerable) narcissist is someone who is not so obviously narcissistic and they can appear to be self deprecating and even humble at times. They tend to be more secretive about their feelings of grandiosity. Narcissists may do things for others but these acts are usually rooted in the desire to get approval/admiration or so that the receiver is indebted to the narcissist. Malignant narcissists veer towards sociopathic behaviours and also have a sadistic streak and are often paranoid. All 3 types of narcissists are manipulative and self-centred. They are lacking in (or have cut themselves off from feeling) empathy and therefore have no regrets or remorse for people they hurt. They have no interest in the views or lives of others as they are only concerned with themselves and getting their needs met which is known as ‘narcissistic supply’. 

Narcissistic Supply

Narcissistic supply is the name for the driving force behind the behaviours of a narcissist. This driving force is their shaky, unstable self-esteem of which they are largely consciously unaware. This is because it is well defended against by their ego/consciousness and suppressed into their subconscious.

The narcissist has an inflated false self. This can be compared to a leaky balloon which needs to be constantly inflated with ‘narcissistic supply’. This supply consists of others admiring the narcissist or mirroring back to them the false self which they present.

Narcissists like to feel powerful over others, have control over others, get attention, praise and admiration, and elicit negative or positive emotional energy.

Supplies are activities and relationships which fuel and reinforce the grandiosity of the narcissist.

It is all based on a fantasy and the purpose is to reinforce grandiosity in order not to feel depressed. The false self of the narcissist views itself as perfect and therefore is entitled to whatever it wants without having to work or struggle.

If mirroring from the environment is inadequate the false grandiose self will feel frustrated and then the underlying anger and depression will start to emerge.

The successful narcissist is one whose defences remain intact and they never need to question their importance. They must be creative and imaginative to create a lifestyle which supports their grandiose view of themselves and fuels their narcissistic needs. They deny weakness in themselves. Other people exist in a narcissist’s life to reinforce their image of themselves.

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Sarah Graham

I am a Counsellor, based in Bournemouth in the UK, with specialist knowledge of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I am trained in treating Complex Trauma. I work online and am insured to work in most places in the world.
Unfortunately, I can't work with people in the USA or Canada due to licensing requirements.

Link To My Website - Children of Narcissists