A malignant narcissist is a term applied to the most severe form of narcissistic personality disorder. This person feels an absolute need for full power. Couple that compulsive need to control others with a demand to be the center of attention. The combination makes this person intolerable to those around him or her.
The Meaning Behind the Term “Narcissism”
For those who are curious about where the term narcissism comes from, it is derived from Greek mythology. Furthermore, it is an interpolation of the name Narkissos, a young Greek man who was quite enamored with himself.
According to the mythical tale, Narkissos was the object of affection for Echo, a nymph who repeatedly professed her love. He rejected her adorations. Narkissos was so taken with himself that he would often spend hours and even days admiring his handsome reflection in various lakes. He believed that nobody, including Echo, was worthy of him.
While this is a fascinating story in Greek mythology, narcissism is, in fact, a real personality disorder. More than that, it is one that can quickly spiral out of control if an individual doesn’t seek treatment from a licensed mental health professional.
What Is a Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
Now that we have a little more background relative to where the term narcissism came from let’s take a moment to learn more about what it means to have a narcissistic personality disorder. First and foremost, narcissism is classified as a cluster B personality disorder.
Individuals with this disorder often seek admiration from others but will seldom offer it in return. Further, they tend to prioritize self-importance above the needs and wants of others, including their friends and family.
Another hallmark of those with this particular disorder is a lack of empathy. Something else to note when it comes to narcissistic personality disorders is that they are surprisingly common in America, according to a study published by the National Institutes of Health, a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The same study published by the National Institutes of Health also revealed that narcissistic personality disorders account for 20.2 percent of all mental health disorders in America.
The Primary Signs of Narcissistic Personality Disorder
That said, it is abundantly clear that there is a significant difference between having high self-esteem and equally high self-confidence and having a narcissistic personality disorder. Along with a preoccupation with one’s self and a constant need for admiration and validation, individuals with a narcissistic personality disorder will also exhibit behaviors that are in line with the diagnostic criteria 301.81 per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). These behaviors often include the following:
- A tendency to exaggerate one’s talents, achievements, or both
- Remaining in a perpetual state of fantasy in terms of achieving or maintaining success and power
- A tendency to be interpersonally exploitative
Indeed, narcissism, as a mental health disorder, can quickly push away friends and family while turning an individual’s life on its head. Fortunately, it is possible to prevent these things from happening if one can recognize the signs of the disorder and also seek treatment from a licensed therapist.
Studies show that there are three subtypes when it comes to narcissistic personality disorders. And they include overt, covert, and exhibitionist. To better understand how each of these subtypes can impact an individual’s life, it helps to take a look at each of them individually:
The Overt or Malignant Narcissist
Also known as a “malignant narcissist,” this type of narcissistic personality disorder is one that often coexists with other psychological comorbidities, such as avoidant, dependent, and obsessive-compulsive disorders.
It is important to note that overt narcissistic personality disorders are also quite common among those who engage in substance abuse. While there are many others, constant feelings of anger and hostility are two of the more notable signs that an individual might be struggling with an overt narcissistic personality disorder.
You may also hear this described as “grandiose” narcissism.
Individuals with an overt narcissistic personality disorder are also struggling with comorbidities that make matters worse, some of which include anxiety and depression. Further, many also have low self-esteem. And to combat these feelings of depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem, they are often very critical of others. In essence, they build themselves up while subtly berating and tearing others down.
An exhibitionist narcissistic personality disorder is generally not accompanied by psychological comorbidities.
However, there is one exception. In times of crisis, such as a failed relationship or losing a job, for example, individuals with an exhibitionist narcissistic personality disorder may display signs of entitlement issues. It is also not uncommon for them to become self-centered and less empathetic toward others as they go through these crises.
What Is the Worst Type of Narcissism?
Any variation of a narcissistic personality disorder can have a profound impact on one’s life. The NPD diagnosis also impacts to mention the lives of those around them. Some are worse than others. And this is especially the case when it comes to malignant narcissists in that they are very anti-social and extremely paranoid.
What’s more, they derive a perverse pleasure in acting out aggressively and engaging in acts of sadism, especially when it comes to sexual gratification, according to a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, one of the oldest monthly peer-reviewed medical journals. That said, most psychologists and psychiatrists will agree that malignant narcissists are not only a danger to themselves but also to other people in their life.
How to Tell If You’re Dealing With a Malignant Narcissist
Having established that malignant narcissism is the worst out of the three narcissistic personality disorders, let’s take a moment to recap the five signs that could reveal someone you know might have such a disorder:
1. Extreme Anti-Social Behavior
Although anti-social behavior is often associated with shyness, malignant narcissists are known to take things a step further. Their behavior is a peculiar mix of anti-social and narcissistic traits.
They will often isolate themselves because they believe that others are not worthy of their time, friendship, or attention. And in those rare instances when they do allow others into their life, they will try to manipulate or exploit them for their own gratification, according to Dr. Daniel Fox, a licensed psychologist, international speaker, and author located in Texas.