Defining Bipolar And Narcissistic Personality Traits

By BetterHelp Editorial Team|Updated April 26, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Kimberly L Brownridge , LPC, NCC, BCPC Counsel The Mind, LLC

Being diagnosed with bipolar disorder or having a loved one with bipolar disorder / manic behavior can come with hardships, but having the support of others can help. However if it is impacting your life or personality, a therapist can help you understand the risk factors and find ways to cope with any difficulties that come with bipolar disorder. Through therapy you can also work to improve all aspects of your life, from relationships, to anxiety, to sleep.

If you or someone you know has been affected by a mood disorder or a personality disorder, it can feel overwhelming. Learning to identify symptoms and when to seek help is important.

Although mental health disorders are independent diagnoses, which means a person may have only one disorder, some people experience more than one diagnosis. Two mental health disorders that may occur together are bipolar disorder and narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).

What’s the Difference Between Bipolar Disorder and NPD?

Although bipolar disorder and narcissistic personality disorder are two separate diagnoses, if a person is diagnosed with both, it is often referred to as bipolar narcissism.

What Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a condition characterized by an individual having chronic patterns of extreme emotions relating to self-importance, a lack of empathy for others, and an intense need for appreciation.

People with narcissistic personality disorder appear to have no conscience. They tend to want things their way and are willing to do whatever it takes to make certain situations work in their favor.

Narcissists generally see nothing wrong with exploiting others. For example, they may borrow money with promises to repay but never follow through. They usually feel no remorse and often act shocked if someone gets upset with them. Their inability to feel guilt or regret for poor decisions or behaviors is often evident by disruptions in personal and professional relationships.

People with NPD have what many describe as an odd preoccupation with fantasies of brilliance, beauty, and power. The narcissist may have delusions of grandeur that cause them to believe they are admired by someone famous or that they can perform with some type of superpower. They are known to have haughty and arrogant attitudes toward others, as they believe that they are indeed superior to other people.

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a lifelong mental condition. It is a mood disorder that causes severe shifts in a person’s mood from highs (mania or hypomania) to lows (depression). Unlike general shifts in mood that happen for everyone from time to time, the mood shifts experienced by people with bipolar disorders are usually severe enough to interfere with their quality of life as well as their ability to carry out everyday tasks. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 2.6 percent of the adult population in the United States has some form of bipolar disorder.

The shifts in mood that occur with bipolar disorder can happen at any time and may last for long periods. These shifts in mood are called episodes. A bipolar episode involves alternating mood patterns that shift between episodes of mania and depression.

The stages of mania are characterized by periods of being very talkative and energetic, having increased restlessness, and experiencing periods of euphoria. During a manic episode, a person with bipolar disorder may participate in risky behavior, such as the use of alcohol or illicit drugs and may become sexually promiscuous.

Depressive episodes usually last for approximately two weeks. They involve several features associated with a general depression diagnosis, such as irritability, changes in eating or sleeping patterns, difficulty concentrating, and extreme fatigue. These episodes can cause interference with relationships and work or school.

The Link Between Narcissistic Personality and Bipolar Disorders

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is a publication by the American Psychiatric Association that outlines criteria for diagnosing different types of mental health disorders. The DSM does not list narcissism as a symptom of bipolar disorder. However, because symptoms overlap, the conditions can sometimes be confused.

For example, episodes of mania associated with bipolar disorder may involve narcissistic behaviors like increased elevated energy levels, confidence levels, grandiose self-perceptions, and feelings of self-importance. Additionally, during periods of depression, a person with bipolar disorder may also exhibit symptoms associated with narcissism such as avoiding social contact or appearing insensitive to others.

Although symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder and bipolar disorder have some similarities, there are some significant differences.

Generally, people with narcissistic personality disorder typically exhibit at least five of the following characteristic traits:

  • Lack of empathy for others
  • A sense of entitlement
  • Arrogant behavior
  • Grandiose self-perception
  • Delusions associated with power
  • An exaggerated sense of self-worth
  • Manipulative behavior
  • Exploits others
  • Extreme jealousy of others or believing that others are jealous of them
  • The need for constant admiration

People with bipolar disorders, on the other hand, experience intense mood swings. The episodes of mood swings vary in length from person to person. Manic episodes usually last for 7 days or less, while depressive episodes may last for up to two weeks. The symptoms of bipolar disorder occur absent of any life circumstances that may have triggered a shift in mood. For instance, a person experiencing a manic episode may laugh or be in an extremely elevated mood in the presence of a tragic or sad circumstance.

Protecting Yourself

If you have someone in your life exhibiting symptoms of a mood disorder or personality disorder, it can feel quite overwhelming. When two disorders, such as bipolar and narcissistic personality disorder occur together, you may feel confused about how you can help the affected person and how to protect yourself.

It’s important to note that although bipolar disorder requires lifelong treatment of symptoms, symptoms can be managed with proper help. Still, protecting yourself both physically and emotionally is essential.

When bipolar episodes occur, they can feel unsettling for friends and loved ones. Remember, this is a mood disorder and it is no one’s fault. The emotional weight that comes with caring for someone who has bipolar disorder can be disheartening at times. To help reduce the effect that a loved one’s bipolar disorder diagnosis may have on you, take time to step back and care for yourself.

Look for triggers that may indicate a shift in mood and mentally prepare yourself for that shift. If you need a break, take one. Sometimes a walk or a day out will give you time to clear your mind. so you are able to handle the bipolar mood swings better. Also, build a support system for yourself. If you care for someone who has bipolar disorder, there may be days when you feel like you are carrying all the weight. It’s normal to feel helpless when mood swings occur. Talk to a friend or join a support group for family and friends of people who have bipolar disorder. Seeking the guidance of a mental health professional may also be helpful.

Unlike people with bipolar disorder, people with narcissistic personality disorder may be less likely to seek help. The sense of superiority and entitlement feelings associated with NPD often leads the affected person to deny that there may be a mental health issue that needs to be addressed.

No matter how much you care about someone with narcissistic personality disorder, you have to protect your safety and well-being. Because people with NPD are very self-centered, it is often difficult to make them realize the effect their behavior has on others. Identifying true narcissistic character traits and recognizing how those behaviors affect you will help you decide if you need to remain close to the narcissist or if cutting ties and moving on is best.

If a narcissistic person becomes emotionally, physically, or verbally abusive, it is vital to protect yourself. If they insult you, threaten you, patronize or humiliate you, this behavior is unacceptable. When a person with NPD monitors your activities, attempts to isolate you from others, or always blames you for their behavior or shortcomings, these are signs of narcissistic abuse and you should take measures to protect yourself.

Getting Help

Both bipolar disorder and narcissistic personality disorder can make you feel overwhelmed. When a person exhibits symptoms of both disorders, it can feel especially difficult to handle. Talking to friends or loved ones who are not involved in the situation may help you get a different perspective on the situation. There might be times though when you need to seek a professional. This is especially true if you have experienced abuse or have difficulty dealing with the other person’s behavior. Online therapy can help and in some cases, have more positive results than traditional face-to-face therapy.

No matter what you decide, remember that whatever the person with bipolar disorder or narcissistic personality disorder tells you, your safety and well-being are important. It’s okay to seek help and learn ways to cope with the way the disorder(s) affect you personally. If you feel overwhelmed and need help to protect yourself, there are several options.

How BetterHelp Can Support You

Most communities have a local mental health clinic where services are available without a referral. For some, the thought of meeting someone face-to-face can feel frightening or even unsafe. If you need to talk to someone but aren’t comfortable meeting with a counselor or therapist in-person, online counseling is a great alternative. One example of online counseling services is provided by BetterHelp. At BetterHelp, licensed, trained, and experienced mental health care providers will work with you to develop a plan tailored to your needs to protect yourself from the effects of bipolar narcissism. You can connect with BetterHelp from home or anywhere else where you feel safe and comfortable.

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Conclusion: Narcissistic Personality And Bipolar Disorder

When people in your life have these disorders, it’s important to remember to take care of yourself and keep yourself safe. It’s also important to remember that you are not alone. Help is always available. Take the first step today.

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