It’s only human to have your own best interests at heart, or else you wouldn’t survive. However, some people take self-interest and egotism to the extreme and are narcissists. Recovering from narcissism isn’t an easy task, but it can be done.
Everybody has their moments of selfishness and putting themselves first. While some might casually call that narcissistic behavior, it isn’t a full-blown case. True narcissism is a mental disorder that must be diagnosed and treated by a mental health provider.
Origins of The Term Narcissism
As with many medical terms, especially in mental health, we have the Greeks to thank for the origin of our word narcissism. The Metamorphosis Project published by Cornell University explains Ovid’s iconic myth of Narcissus and Echo, both a blend of human and divine.
As fate would have it, the spirit of Echo was doomed to repeat the last words of anyone calling through the woods or caves. This reverberating sound effect still bears the tragedienne’s name. Ovid didn’t leave much good news for Narcissus’ fate, either.
Narcissist knelt to drink water from a pool of water and saw his reflection for the first time. He was so enthralled with his beauty that he fell in love with his reflection. The youth refused to leave the pool and obsessed over his reflection day and night until he finally died.
Narcissism as a Mental Disorder
If you are recovering from narcissism, your diagnosis is nothing new to the mental health scene. An article published by the National Library of Medicine claims that Freud was one of the first psychiatrists to write about the disorder in 1914.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder is listed in the DSM-5, a handbook for professional mental health diagnoses. According to an article published by the American Family Physician Journal, narcissistic personality disorder, or NPD, is characterized by having an inflated sense of self-worth, attention-seeking, and a lack of empathy. It’s among the DSM-5 classification of 10 personality disorders in Cluster B.
The article also states that the condition is only present in about one percent of the population.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder
People who are recovering from narcissism have a broad range of symptoms to overcome. If you are struggling with NPD, you may have all or some of these traits to a varying degree. The symptoms may include:
•Being obsessed about how people perceive you and basing your self-esteem on their admiration
•A highly inflated sense of self. You may experience low self-esteem if you think people aren’t admiring and praising you enough.
•Being so involved in yourself that you can’t have empathy with other people’s feelings
•You put your needs above others and disregard their needs
•You have a skewed sense of entitlement and believe you “deserve” the best all the time.
•You’re obsessed with power, fame, and material goods.
•You chronically display attention-seeking behavior so that people will admire you more.
•Extreme jealousy of other people’s things and achievements
•You believe that you are uniquely “above” the average person.
•You set unrealistic goals, trying to achieve your sense of grandeur.
•You’ve no problems with exploiting other people to get what you want.
•Since you have these behaviors, maintaining healthy relationships is difficult, if
•You can’t tolerate criticism, even if it’s for your own good.
•Instead of owning up to your mistakes and shortcomings, you pass the blame to others.
If you are recovering from narcissism, you’ve probably experienced some of the backlashes the disorder causes. The broken relationships and other consequences may have a long-lasting effect on your life. Here are some expected outcomes that people with NPD face:
•Estrangement from family and friends
•Few if any healthy relationships left
•Divorce or chronic break-ups with significant others
•Missed opportunities both personally and professionally
•Damaged or ruined reputation both personally and professionally
•Financial and career problems resulting from careless decisions
•A long line of broken relationships that left people feeling manipulated and demeaned by your actions.
With some or all of these consequences, it’s no wonder why people with NPD develop co-existing mental illnesses like anxiety and depression. It can turn into a whirlpool that you can’t control. Just realize that NPD is a mental illness, and these aren’t things you’re experiencing on purpose.
How Does a Doctor Diagnose NPD?
Since the signs and symptoms of NPD may overlap with other mental health disorders, diagnosis may not be straightforward. An article published in the Medical Journal Assessment explains that a professional diagnosis depends on a self-reporting questionnaire (Personality Diagnostic Questionnaire-4) and the clinician’s observations. The sum of all the data can lead to the right NPD diagnosis.
Reaching Beyond Yourself: Recovering from Narcissism
Your first step toward recovery and healing begins with acknowledging you have a problem. Unfortunately, many people with undiagnosed NPD don’t seek help because they refuse to accept that they’re less than perfect. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with NPD, there is hope.
According to an article published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, treating patients diagnosed with NPD can be difficult. For one, NPD patients will usually deny anything wrong with them and resent the implication. On the other hand, other mental conditions may exist that exacerbate the problem.
However, states the article, it can be done. If you have co-existing mental conditions, your mental healthcare provider may prescribe a medication to ease those symptoms. The article mentions that therapists usually rely on psychotherapy and other mentalization-based therapies when treating the NPD itself.
Perhaps you or your loved one came to this point of recovery by an intervention. However, it’s up to the patients to decide whether they will cooperate with treatment. It’s a long road that’s better traveled with lots of support.
If you have been diagnosed with NPD, recovery often comes in steps. The more honest you are with yourself and your therapist, the more apt you will be to cope with your disorder. Here are three steps to consider when you are recovering from narcissism:
Three Steps for Recovering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Here are the first steps to begin the long road to recovery from NPD.
1. Gain a Better Understanding of Who You Are
One of the fascinating things about being human is that you’re still one among billions of other individuals, although you are an individual. When you have NPD, you may have a skewed sense of superiority without even understanding your personality. As a step toward healing, it’s time to see yourself for all your positives and negatives.
Who are you, and what are your goals in life? Can you see any exaggeration in your self-perception? Sometimes, keeping a journal of your thoughts and events of the day can be quite revealing when you review them later. NPD can often camouflage low self-esteem, so work with your therapist to build self-esteem without crushing others’ esteem.
2. Try to Make Amends
If you are familiar with the 12-step program, you know that it involves recovery from various addictions, a mental illness branch itself. While NPD is not an addiction, you can still benefit from some of the steps, like making amends and taking inventory of your life.
People with an NPD diagnosis do not struggle alone. If you are recovering from narcissism, you could probably make a long, troubled list of people who you hurt through your actions. One of the hallmarks of narcissism is to put yourself above others and use whomever you can for your benefit.
Have the symptoms of your NPD hurt people in your personal and professional life? As you continue into therapy, consider listing these people and try your best to apologize and make amends. Although some of the past offenses may be too grievous to heal the relationships, at least you’ve owned up to your faults.
Asking for forgiveness is much more than saying you’re sorry. It tells the people that you’ve offended that not only are you confessing your wrongs, but you’re working not to repeat them. Then, the ball is in their court.
3. Learn to Be Considerate of Others
The more you practice empathy, the easier it will come to you. Learn to respect other people’s boundaries and treat them how you want them to reciprocate–and even better. Be considerate of your friends’ and family’s feelings and support them and listen to what they are saying.
When you realize that you’re not the only person in the universe, you open a new world of joy and healing. A narcissistic personality disorder is a mental health disorder that can usually be treated with support from the therapist and cooperation from you, the patient. It takes working on yourself every day, and others may see your true inner beauty shining.