3. Is My Mother a Narcissist?

Caption below
Fromm saw the genesis of human evil as a developmental process. We are not created evil or forced to be evil, 
but we become evil slowly over time 
through a long series of choices. 

People of the Lie

© by Gail Meyers
While some may present their beliefs as fact rather than hypothesis, no one really knows what causes narcissistic personality disorder.  Some believe the enduring, persistent traits of narcissistic personality disorder are purely psychological, with roots possibly tracing back to parenting in childhood.

Others believe narcissism is wholly a spiritual malady, one in which humankind has been dealing with since the dawn of man. Then there are those who believe it is a combination of a mental health condition and a spiritual condition. While others believe there is a physical or biological basis.

Additionally, mental health professionals do not agree as to whether the behavior is conscious and offensive or the older view that it is unconscious and defensive. Rather than allowing conflicting views to cause confusion, I encourage you to educate yourself in order to reach your own conclusions. The more you read the clearer things become.

What is Narcissism?

In the most basic sense narcissism is to worship oneself.  It is often discussed as being on a spectrum with narcissistic personality disorder and malignant narcissism at the highest end. While many claim we all have some level of narcissism, others claim there is no healthy level of narcissism.[1]

So you can have a mother, father, brother, sister, husband, wife, child, grandparent, boss or neighbor who is just that – narcissistic. The person may be self-centered and annoying. You may not appreciate some of the things the person does. You might call him or her narcissistic. You may be right. In general everyday terms the person may be narcissistic. However, narcissistic personality disorder is a term used by the mental health profession to diagnose mental illness that meets the criteria that follows.


Cluster B Personality Disorders

Narcissistic personality disorder is an Axis II disorder within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual V, which therapists use for diagnosis criteria. Axis I issues are generally considered treatable, but Axis II disorders are sometimes referred to as the untreatables.

Personality disorders are grouped by cluster in the DSM-V. Cluster B is called the dramatic, emotional, and erratic cluster. Cluster B personality disorders include: 
  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Histrionic Personality Disorder
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder


Diagnostic and Statistical Manual V Criteria for NPD

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) just released the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V) in May of 2013. Criteria for diagnosing narcissistic personality disorder includes:

A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

  1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
  2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
  3. 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).
  4. Requires excessive admiration.
  5. Has a sense of entitlement (i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations).
  6. Is interpersonally exploitative (i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends).
  7. Lacks empathy; is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
  8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
  9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.

The traits are persistent and enduring, not just an individual going through a difficult period in their life. Additionally, the diagnosis is generally not made prior to 18 years of age because some of the traits are a normal part of development at certain ages. It is also important to note that none of the above are due to drugs, alcoholism or brain injury. It is also not uncommon for an individual to be diagnosed with more than one personality disorder.

A licensed professional should make the diagnosis, but as a practical matter the initial priority is to protect yourself and your loved ones if there is someone in your life abusing and manipulating you.  Then, at a safer distance and with the help of a qualified professional, you can concern yourself with a precise diagnosis.

The APA established the criteria for the diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder, but the topic is the focus of ongoing debate within the profession, and has been for many years. They actually contemplated removing narcissistic personality disorder from the DSM-V in 2013, but it remains largely due to the outcry from those in the profession.


  1. Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts.


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