We live in a world full of self-centered, egotistical individuals, and will often use the word ‘narcissist’ to describe them, but perhaps we should begin to differentiate between overconfidence and grandiosity. There is no doubt that ‘narcissistic’ people have detrimental effects on our lives, and it may be difficult to avoid them, however their damaging behaviours may be caused by something much deeper; maybe ‘narcissism’ should be considered equal to other mental health disorders, rather than using it to place blame on people who have little knowledge of or control over what they are doing.

The term ‘narcissist’ is often used as an insult, rather than in its correct context, which would be as a medical term to describe someone with narcissistic personality disorder. According to the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM), ‘the essential feature of narcissistic personality disorder is a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy that begins by early adulthood and is present in a variety of contexts’. These may sound like things a person can control, and to an extent they are, however they originate from intense feelings of shame and inadequacy. The only way for narcissists to avoid these feelings is to bury them deep inside, causing them to believe they are better than everyone else, and to present themselves to the world as of extreme importance. 

This may be how they appear on the outside, as if they only care about themselves, however on the inside they are trying to heal from wounds they have suffered from since childhood. They display these behaviours because they don’t know how else to cope with their extreme self-hatred. This leaves them inwardly vulnerable to criticisms, which is why you may have experienced someone’s ‘narcissistic rage’ when suggesting they were any less than perfect. This happened because you saw through their facade and the narcissist felt threatened, so they lashed out at you. It is no different than other coping mechanisms experienced in any other mental disorder.

In the case of relationships with narcissists, they can be extremely difficult once you begin to see through their persona. ‘In the case of the narcissistic mother-child relationship, emotional abuse will be disguised as bonds of love, taking its form as a whole range of behaviours designed to control you, keep you close, and have you on hand to reflect back to her what she needs to see to bolster her fragile ego.’ (psychology.com). 

This is just one of the many examples of how a narcissistic relationship can damage a person’s mental health. Although we have to be understanding of these individuals, it is important to notice when you are involved in a relationship like this. It is easy to be dragged down by a narcissist, but remember that it is their fragile sense of self and their lack of confidence that is causing them to act like that, and they often have no other way to cope with such intense feelings.