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Narcissism is the culprit for so much pain and suffering in our world. While I focus primarily on how the narcissistic man creates misery for his partner (most people exhibiting narcissism are men, by the way), a narcissist can certainly claim many other victims. Thus, while in the home, women and children are emotionally wounded by the abusive ways of narcissists, others may experience their abusiveness in the workplace.

Well, they behave in ways that can create damage at national and international levels. For example, I personally believe that the recent financial collapse, which had both national and international impact, was essentially created by a bunch of narcissists. However, as is typical of narcissists, they don’t accept the blame. Nor, for that matter, are they concerned about the repercussions of their actions on most others--because they see them merely as objects to be used for their own selfish purposes. They are only concerned with others of their own ilk.

Yes indeed, all that matters is that they come out just find. And really, isn’t that what has happened for so many who orchestrated what happened? Furthermore, it appears they have not changed their ways. But that should not surprise us, really. Narcissists rarely do.

So, because the narcissist is only too happy to use you for his own selfish ends, don’t you agree it might be important to know how to recognize this individual? Otherwise, you might be taken in by his carefully crafted image and charming ways--and likely, while he’s secretly orchestrating if m not your demise, how you can become a pawn in his game. It might be that you become the recipient for the blame—with regard to something he schemed up that went haywire, for instance.

Ah, when you are interacting with a narcissist, you are walking on shaky ground. When will be come to the conclusion that you are no longer of use to him? After all, at that point you’ll be discarded like a piece of garbage. Trust me, he does not care what becomes of you. It is all about him and his needs. Are you getting the picture?

Success—Measured by Power and Money

Narcissistic people like positions of power. Thus, they often run major corporations or organizations. Plus, a number of them are in influential and powerful government positions at any given time. Of course, this isn’t to say that all Chief Executive Officers of major corporations, for example, or all people in key government positions from President on down, will suffer from either Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) or even display a milder form of narcissism. But you can correctly assume that a number of them will—because again, narcissistic people are especially drawn to these positions.

Yes, they are into power and success. Furthermore, they measure success through money or wealth. And of course, more power affords the opportunity to make more money, which affords the opportunity to gain more power, which affords the opportunity to make more money, which affords the opportunity to fain more power.

Are you quickly getting this picture, too? Since I suspect you are, I won’t continue on with this. Instead, let me shift gears slightly. Let’s look at narcissism and the narcissistic from a mental health perspective—which is in the process of being changed, by the way.

Narcissism from a Mental Health Perspective

My old Random House concise edition dictionary defines narcissism as “inordinate absorption in oneself.” But if we rely merely on that dictionary definition, we overlook the mental health disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, as well as a less extreme manifestation of this mental disorder. I’ll refer to it as narcissism or being narcissistic. Well, I might also say the person is a narcissist.

While the dictionary presents a simple definition of narcissism, it isn’t that easy to define Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). See, for a mental health professional to diagnose someone as having this personality disorder, the individual must meet a certain number of diagnostic criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders that the American Psychiatric Association publishes. (The current edition used by mental health professionals is the revised edition of the DSM-IV). These diagnostic criteria have been designated based on the thinking that each personality disorder, with Narcissistic Personality Disorder being one of these, represents a distinct clinical syndrome.

A mental health professional must rule out that the behaviors or traits that the person is exhibiting at the time of diagnosis are not due to something else. For example, the individual might exhibit a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, an indicator of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. But if the man abuses alcohol, could the grandiosity be due to his alcoholism instead? If his grandiosity, however, existed prior to the development of the addiction to alcohol, then the mental health professional is more comfortable stating that his grandiosity might suggest a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Still, there are other things to consider as well before this diagnosis of NPD is applied. After all, according to the DSM, a person can exhibit features indicative of another, or even multiple, personality disorders. If that’s the case, the person would be diagnosed as having Narcissistic Personality Disorder, for example, as well as the other personality disorder for which he matched diagnostic criteria--such as Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder.

The complexity of diagnosis is also impacted by the fact that some personality disorders share common features. Nevertheless, each also has a distinguishing feature. In the case of Narcissistic Personality disorder, grandiosity is that distinguishing feature. But with Antisocial Personality Disorder, a personality disorder with which Narcissistic Personality Disorder might be confused, the distinguishing feature is callousness. (Please be aware that the person with Antisocial Personality Disorder would formerly have been called a sociopath. Also, before that term was in vogue, the label psychopath was used. Of course, you will still hear some people use all of these—as if each is somehow different, too.)

The person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, as well as the individual with Antisocial Personality Disorder, might share a tendency to be tough-minded, glib, superficial, and exploitative. Both will lack empathy. However, the person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder will probably not display impulsivity, aggression, and deceit as the individual with Antisocial Personality Disorder typically does. Also, he person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder has the need for admiration and envy whereas the man diagnosed with Antisocial Personality Disorder typically does not. Unlike the individual with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, the person with Antisocial Personality Disorder will probably have a childhood history of conduct disorder as well as an adult criminal history. The narcissist may have been a stellar performer—although there are narcissists out there who have merely always been legends in their own minds; others never perceived them as exceptional or deserving of the kind of deference they likely sought.

What are some of the other characteristics we’d expect to see in a person who displays either full-blown Narcissist Personality Disorder or a less serious form of this mental health disorder? Well, as we’ve already discussed, the person will exhibit grandiosity in either his behavior or his fantasies, he’ll have an excessive need for admiration, and he’ll lack empathy or be unwilling to recognize and identify with the feelings and needs of others. But other things apt to be present are include: a grandiose sense of self-importance; preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited brilliance, power, and success (probably measured through the accumulation of money or net worth); a sense of being special and therefore, the person will have the desire to associate only with other high status people or institutions; a sense of entitlement which includes both the expectation of favorable treatment as well as other’s complying with his expectations; being personally exploitive or taking advantage of others to meet personal needs or ends; envy of others and the belief that others are envious of him; and arrogant or haughty behaviors and attitudes.

Now that I have told you all this, the psychiatrists plan to do away with the diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder in their next edition of the DSM—which should be published in 2013. Does this mean that they believe narcissism doesn’t exist? No, it most certainly does not. Rather, it seems that there is a realization that people who couldn’t be diagnosed as having this personality disorder were nonetheless having difficulties--or creating difficulties for others--due to their narcissistic traits. Anyway, in the future, people, will still be evaluated for narcissism, but it will be seen as existing on a continuum. So, while someone can not be a little bit pregnant, when it comes to narcissism, a person could be considered a little bit narcissistic—or a lot so!

Since we don’t yet know exactly how those rewriting this section of the DSM are going to decide where someone falls along this continuum, let’s conclude this particular discussion at this point. Just be aware that the psychiatrists working on the new edition of the DSM realize that narcissism may not appear to be a problem for the person who displays it—but can nevertheless be a big problem for those who have to live with that narcissist, work for that narcissist, or perhaps even live under that narcissist’s rule.

More on Why Narcissists Make Others' Lives Miserable

So, narcissists can easily create nightmares for others. This may be because they basically accept no blame for anything that goes wrong. Yes indeed, they invariably point their fingers at others. And it doesn’t help that they are essentially out of touch with their own behavior and its impact on both events and others. But because of this lack of self-awareness, narcissists can easily believe that they’re nice guys while, at the same time, they have left bodies lying all around them. As a result, it is best to stay out of their way as much as you possibly can. You may want to accept the job offer in Singapore while you narcissistic boss remains in New York, in other words. Well, unless you’re a masochist and like being wrongly accused—or always made out to be wrong while the narcissist is right.

Oh, and don’t fall for the narcissist’s carefully crafted image, either. The narcissist may believe that it represents who he really is, but that is not the case. It is not his true self. He is out of touch with his true self and, because he is, he will project all his bad feelings onto you. Since he feels worthless at an unconscious level, for instance, he’ll profess that you are worthless. And of course, since you are, you are deserving of his contempt and bad treatment.

Is this anyway to live? I don’t think so—and so I left my narcissistic husband. After that learning experience, when I saw narcissistic people in the workplace, I ram the other way. The choice is yours, certainly, as to what you do about any narcissists in your life. However, I would suggest that you run, too. You will forever be at the mercy or whims of the narcissist otherwise. Now, that’s a recipe for anxiety and depression.

Yes, sadly enough, narcissism and the narcissistic invariably win. They have to do so—they’re narcissists. So, learn to spot them and move on—quickly!

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