Levels of Narcissistic Behavior

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Individuals with narcissistic personality disorder are often obsessed with self-image.
Individuals with narcissistic personality disorder are often obsessed with self-image. (Image: Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Guiri R. Reyes)

Narcissism is classified by the the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association as a personality disorder. Like all personality disorders, narcissism is deep-rooted and challenging to change. However, levels of narcissistic behavior run on a continuum from mild to severe.

The Center of Attention

Individuals with narcissistic traits often seek to be the center of attention. On the surface, they may seem to have solid self-esteem, but they are easily thrown off balance and are highly sensitive to the slightest criticism.

Lack of Empathy

Another trait of the narcissist is a lack of concern for others' feelings, leading them to take advantage of even close family members. This may be the most damaging aspect of this personality disorder because relationships with these individuals tend to be shallow, and partners of narcissists tend to feel marginalized.

Fixation on Physical Appearance and External Praise

A classic trait of individuals in the narcissistic spectrum is the hyper-concern with physical appearance. Narcissistic people have a weak internal sense of self. Hungry for external praise, they may seek it out at all costs.

Envy

Narcissists are envious of others and feel the need to out-do others' accomplishments, even accomplishments of close family members.

Sense of Entitlement

Narcissists often engage in morally questionable behavior and, on the far end of the spectrum, even break the law.

The Shattered Mirror

Underneath the perfect exterior of the narcissist is a sense of self-loathing. Narcissism is a defense mechanism that works until the narcissist starts loosing close relationships or his reputation suffers. When this happens, the narcissist might consider seeking help from a therapist. Narcissistic personality disorder can be a hard disorder to treat because the process of therapy requires self-examination, something that narcissists by definition tend to avoid. Narcissists tend to resort to therapy only when their carefully crafted image begins to disintegrate.

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