Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a relatively uncommon disorder, but it can be challenging to treat. Individuals with NPD may also have other disorders like substance use, mania, and depression. Pretty much every week, the idea of narcissism will come up in a session. It’s a popular topic in the psychology world and one could argue that it’s the the spouses, children, parents, and friends of those who display narcissistic behaviors who often seek out therapy.
Cluster B: Personality Disorders
The current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5-TR) indicates personality disorders as a “Cluster B” diagnoses. There are four Cluster B personality disorders including NPD, as well as Antisocial, Borderline, and Histrionic Personality Disorders.
Personality disorders can be difficult to treat because they involve deeply ingrained patterns of behavior and thought that have likely developed over a long period of time. In many cases, these patterns are rooted in past traumas that have shaped an individual’s sense of self and their relationship to others. This can make it challenging to address the underlying issues that contribute to the disorder.
What Does NPD Look Like?
People with NPD may exhibit a variety of characteristics, including a need for constant attention and admiration, a lack of empathy for others, and exaggerated feelings of self-importance. Individuals with this disorder often have difficulty recognizing their own behavior as problematic. They may have a sense of entitlement that leads them to resist authority or rules, making it difficult for them to comply with treatment recommendations.
The nature of NPD can make it challenging for individuals to seek treatment or even acknowledge that they have a problem. Because symptoms of NPD can change over the course of an individual’s life, treatment may need to adjust over time to remain effective.
To receive a diagnosis of NPD, an individual must meet at least five of the nine criteria outlined in the DSM-5. The rest of this post will go through the nine criteria and include examples of behavior from the celebrity, sport, and political arenas. In case you were wondering, the people used in the examples are not my clients. Therefore, I have not officially diagnosed these individuals with anything. The following examples represent behaviors that were in the news that suggest symptoms of NPD.
1. Grandiose Sense of Self-Importance
Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and it’s okay to recognize and celebrate your strengths while working on areas of growth. However, sometimes individuals with NPD may have an exaggerated sense of their own importance or value compared to others.
Someone with a grandiose sense of self-importance may interrupt others frequently in conversation, believing that their own thoughts and opinions are more important than anyone else’s. They may also become defensive or angry when you challenge their ideas, unable to tolerate anyone questioning their expertise or authority on a topic.
I’ve watched a couple of the documentaries about Lance Armstrong. He put on a great show to the public (I drank the kool-aid at the time) all while showing multiple criteria for NPD.
One real-life example of a highly regarded person whose career was affected by NPD symptoms is Lance Armstrong, a former professional cyclist. His behavior on and off the bike was affected. He often exhibited grandiose behavior, such as insisting that he could beat cancer because he was Lance Armstrong. He also had a need for admiration and had a tendency to belittle others.
Armstrong’s NPD led him to engage in unethical behavior that ultimately led to the downfall of his career. He was accused of using performance-enhancing drugs, and he vehemently denied the allegations despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Armstrong’s grandiose sense of self-importance and need for admiration made it difficult for him to admit that he had done something wrong.
In the end, Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, and his reputation was severely damaged. His NPD behavior made it difficult for him to maintain relationships with his teammates and cycling officials, and it ultimately led to his downfall.
2. Preoccupation with Fantasies of Unlimited Success in One or More Areas
While it’s okay to have goals and aspirations, it’s not uncommon for individuals with narcissistic personality disorder to have REALLY big goals and aspirations. Sometimes, this mindset can lead to excessive focus on the idea of achieving unlimited success in one or more areas.
They may spend a lot of time researching successful business people and comparing themselves to them, feeling inadequate if they don’t measure up. They may also be unwilling to take on lower-level roles or work their way up in a company, feeling like they deserve immediate success and recognition.
I’m not really of the generation where Kanye West was relevant, but my kids made me listen to Taylor Swift (Okay, I wasn’t complaining). When he yanked the award away from her at that award show, it was obvious he was not playing by the same rules as the rest of us.
3. Belief That One is Special and Can Only Be Understood By Others Who Are Also Special.
4. Requires excessive admiration.
Teal Swan, a self-help author, motivational speaker, and spiritual teacher, has been accused of exhibiting traits of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). One of the ways in which she demonstrates this is by requiring excessive admiration from her followers.
For instance, Teal Swan requires her followers to make videos testimonials about her, which they must then publicly share on social media. This not only shows that she craves admiration but also that she wants others to see it. She wants to perceive her as larger than life and as someone who has a significant impact on her followers. This behavior is typical of individuals with NPD, who often seek admiration and validation from others.
Overall, Teal Swan’s excessive need for admiration is a clear indication of her NPD. She is a prime example of how individuals with NPD can use their charm and charisma to manipulate and control others to satisfy their own needs.
5. Possesses a Sense of Entitlement.
People with narcissistic personality disorder may feel that they deserve special treatment and may be confusing or upsetting when others don’t do things for them.
They may feel entitled to more than they’re given and may struggle to understand why others don’t see things the same way.
It seemed like the O.J. Simpson trial dominated the news cycle for years. I knew O.J. as the incredible football player (The Juice) and his “Naked Gun” character Nordberg. It was hard to believe this apparently likable guy had so much darkness going on in the background.
O.J. Simpsons a former American football player and actor who was famously acquitted of the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman in 1995. However, Simpson’s sense of entitlement, which may be from NPD, has caused him difficulties in other areas of his life.
For example, in 2007, Simpson was arrested and charged with armed robbery and kidnapping after he and several accomplices attempted to steal sports memorabilia that Simpson claimed to have owned. Simpson was ultimately convicted and sentenced to 33 years in prison, with a minimum of 9 years before parole eligibility.
During his trial, Simpson’s sense of entitlement was on full display. He refused to take responsibility for his actions and instead blamed others for his situation. His behavior ultimately led to his conviction and imprisonment.
6. Is Interpersonally Exploitative
People with narcissistic personality disorder may form relationships based on how they can benefit from them, rather than on mutual respect and kindness. They may be attracted to people who boost their self-esteem, and may not consider the other person’s needs or feelings.
This can lead to a pattern of taking advantage of others for their own gain, which can be hurtful and damaging to the relationship.
When I consider Putin, I can’t help but remember the video of him publicly reprimanding members of his staff. His coldness and the look of fear on his staff spoke volumes.
Reports have suggested that Vladimir Putin exhibits interpersonal exploitative behavior, which is a common trait among those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). One of the examples of such behavior is the case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a Russian businessman who was once the richest man in Russia and a political rival of Putin. In 2003, Khodorkovsky was arrested and charged with fraud and tax evasion, which many have argued were politically motivated charges.
During Khodorkovsky’s trial, Putin made several public comments suggesting that Khodorkovsky was guilty. Putin’s comments were widely seen as an attempt to influence the outcome of the trial and to discredit Khodorkovsky. This is just one example of how Putin’s interpersonal exploitative behavior, a trait commonly associated with NPD, has caused difficulties for those around him.
Another example of Putin’s exploitative behavior is his treatment of political opponents. Critics of Putin have been imprisoned, exiled, or even killed. One prominent example is the case of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian spy who was poisoned with polonium in 2006. Litvinenko had accused Putin of ordering the assassination of another critic of the Russian government, and many believe that Litvinenko’s own assassination was ordered by Putin in retaliation for his criticism.
7. Lacks Empathy for Others
People with certain personality traits may have difficulty empathizing with others. While they may understand empathy at an intellectual level, it can be challenging for them to identify with the feelings or experiences of others.
This can lead to difficulty building and maintaining meaningful relationships with others, as well as a lack of understanding or consideration for the needs and feelings of those around them.
The name Kim Jong-Un brings fear to much of the world. It’s not his physical size or even the size of his country, but rather it’s his blatant disregard for life.
The North Korean regime, under Kim Jong-un’s leadership, has been accused of committing numerous human rights abuses.
One real-life example of Kim Jong-un’s lack of empathy for others is his treatment of political prisoners. According to Amnesty International, the North Korean government has imprisoned an estimated 200,000 people in political prison camps, where they face inhumane conditions, including torture, forced labor, and starvation. In some cases, entire families are imprisoned, including children and elderly relatives. Kim Jong-un has shown no concern for the suffering of these prisoners, who are often held without trial and subjected to brutal treatment.
Another example is the assassination of Kim Jong-nam, Kim Jong-un’s half-brother, in 2017. Kim Jong-nam was killed by two women who smeared his face with a deadly nerve agent while he was in a crowded airport terminal in Malaysia. The assassination was linked to Kim Jong-un’s desire to eliminate potential rivals to his leadership. Despite the fact that this assassination endangered countless innocent bystanders, Kim Jong-un showed no remorse for the harm caused.
Overall, Kim Jong-un’s lack of empathy for others is a significant problem that has led to widespread suffering in North Korea and beyond. His willingness to use violence to maintain power and disregard for the well-being of others are hallmarks of narcissistic personality disorder, and have had devastating consequences for countless individuals.
8. Is Often Envious of Others and Believes Others are Envious of Them.
People with certain personality traits may exhibit symptoms of envy towards others and may believe that others are envious of them.
This can lead to a pattern of devaluing the successes of others and overvaluing their own accomplishments.
Paris Hilton has definitely changed the narrative around her “party-girl” and “tone-deaf” personas when she started speaking out against the “troubled-teen” industry back in 2020. It is a great example to show how narcissistic characteristics can often be a cover for a deeper wound.
Paris Hilton has been very open about her struggles with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). In a 2011 interview with Piers Morgan, Hilton revealed that her NPD had caused her significant difficulties, including difficulty forming genuine relationships, trust issues, and feelings of loneliness and isolation.
One of the most challenging aspects of her NPD was her belief that others were envious of her. She had developed a deep-seated belief that she was superior to others and that they were jealous of her and her lifestyle. This belief caused her to become envious of others, leading to a vicious cycle of envy and loneliness. She would become envious of people who had something she did not, such as a happy relationship or successful career. This jealousy would then lead her to feel even more isolated and alone, fueling her NPD.
In addition, Paris Hilton admitted that her NPD had caused her to become overly defensive and to lash out at others who she perceived as being critical of her or not giving her the attention she felt she deserved. She would often respond aggressively to perceived slights, leading to damaged relationships with friends and family.
Paris Hilton’s struggles with NPD highlight the difficulties that people with this disorder face. Despite her wealth and privilege, her NPD made it challenging for her to form healthy relationships and lead a fulfilling life.
9. Shows Arrogance and Haughty Behaviors or Attitudes.
People with certain personality traits may come across as snobbish, disdainful, or patronizing. They may believe that they are better than others and may act in ways that make others feel inferior or unworthy.
It’s important to remember that everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, and that it’s okay to celebrate your accomplishments while treating others with kindness and respect.
Charlie Sheen almost felt like a cartoon character with some of his quotes and behaviors. It was in such a contrast to his work from the past. I loved Wall Street and Major League and it was hard to believe he is the same guy.
Charlie Sheen is a well-known actor who has publicly struggled with addiction, legal troubles, and erratic behavior. He has also exhibited symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, which may have contributed to some of his difficulties.
Sheen’s behavior has been characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance, a need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. He has made grandiose statements about his own abilities and accomplishments, and has been known to belittle and ridicule others who disagree with him.
In 2011, Sheen was fired from the television show “Two and a Half Men” after a series of public outbursts directed at the show’s creator, Chuck Lorre. Sheen made derogatory and insulting comments about Lorre’s appearance and personal life, and refused to take responsibility for his own behavior. This behavior may have been driven in part by his NPD behaviors, which can make it difficult for individuals to accept criticism or admit fault.
Overall, Sheen’s struggles with addiction and behavior have been well-documented, and his NPD may have been a contributing factor to some of his difficulties.