One of the less common teen personality disorders, but one that is nevertheless growing, is narcissistic personality disorder. This is the only learned personality disorder, and usually begins in the teen years. Teenagers with low self-esteems begin to develop fantasies and grandiose views of themselves when they have narcissistic personality disorders. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, about one percent of the population (and one percent of teenagers) suffers from narcissistic personality disorder. Most narcissists (between an estimated 50 and 75 percent) are male.
The history of narcissistic personality disorder
The name for narcissistic personality disorder comes from Greek mythology. In the tale, a young man, Narcissus, spurned those who sought his love. He was very good-looking, and quite full of himself. In fact, he was so good-looking that he thought himself as beautiful as the gods. No woman or man could please him. Then, one day, he fell in love with the reflection of himself in a pond. He stared at the reflection, reveling in its beauty, until he wasted away. Other stories end with him falling into the pond and drowning as he moves closer to get a better look. Like Narcissus, teens with narcissistic personality disorder have an exaggerated sense of self-importance, and rarely consider others’ feelings, preferring to seek the attention that confirms their own grandiose ideas.
Difference between teen narcissism and teen narcissistic personality disorder
A certain degree of selfishness, self-importance and narcissism is to be expected during the teenage years. Indeed, when one has a personality style considered narcissistic, he or she is usually a general healthy person in a psychological regard. However, such people, although arrogant and proud at times, do not rely on others to help them maintain a healthy self-esteem, and they do not cherish unrealistic images of their skills and abilities.
On the other hand, teen narcissistic personality disorder takes a different form. Teenagers with this personality disorder are unable to establish a stable self-image that includes an accurate assessment of skills. They feel entitled to special treatment, and when they receive perceived slights to their grandiose perception of their own skills and importance, they may become angry and sometimes violent.
Some signs of pathological narcissism – teen narcissistic personality disorder
- Fantasies about having exceptional success, attractiveness or power
- Expectations of special treatment
- Over-emphasis on achievements and exaggeration of one’s skills
- Exploits other people
- Need for constant praise and validation
- Does not consider others’ feelings
- Belief that others envy the person
- Arrogant and haughty behavior
Developmental factors that contribute to teen narcissistic personality disorder
- Excessive admiration that does not receive a balance of realistic feedback
- Overindulgence from parents
- Parents over-praise and value as a way to increase their own self-esteem
- Severe childhood emotional abuse
- Oversensitive temperament from birth
- Unreliable or unpredictable care giving from parents
- Learned manipulative behaviors from other sources
Treating teen narcissistic personality disorder
It is very difficult to treat teenage narcissistic personality disorder because a teen is usually already in such a fragile mental state. Often, treatment is met with contempt, as the teenager perceives the therapist-client relationship as one that does not properly affirm the teen’s perception of self. The goal is teach the teenager to value him or herself on a more realistic level and to adjust one’s thinking about others’ value in relation to his or her own. Exercises to help the teen develop empathy for others is part of the treatment of this personality disorder. Medication is usually not used, except sparingly in cases where depression and anxiety come out as symptoms while the teen struggles to cope with a new reality.
Teen Narcissistic Personality Disorder Sources:
- “Narcissistic personality disorder,” Mayo Clinic. [Online.]