What Does Narcissist Mean In Psychology?

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated September 14, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Having a healthy sense of self-esteem is a common goal for many people, but what happens when your view of yourself becomes grandiose or begins to hurt you or others? Narcissistic personality disorder can bring about many challenges in daily life, whether you are experiencing it yourself or interacting with someone who lives with the condition.

Here is a look at what a “narcissist” is, what that means in relation to psychology, and other information and resources you may want to review. Keep reading for all the details regarding this personality type.

Do You Or A Loved One Experience Symptoms Of Narcissism?

What Does “Narcissist” Mean?

A narcissistic person – often called a “narcissist” colloquially – can be anyone who exhibits symptoms of the psychological condition narcissism. This condition usually involves considering yourself incredibly important, often even more important than others. While narcissistic tendencies do not always cause issues, they can become a problem when they interfere with healthy relationships and interactions with others it definitely does not have to meet the diagnostic criteria for NPD to produce problems/issues). Not everyone with narcissistic traits meet the diagnostic criteria for narcissistic personality disorder. But such traits can still cause problems for the person experiencing such tendencies.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) usually consists of considering oneself to be important and in need of or deserving special attention and favors. When they do not get these things, a person with NPD might take their frustrations out on other people.

There is a major difference between someone having a healthy self-esteem and a person who has symptoms of this disorder. Here is a look at some of the symptoms associated with this disorder.

  • Inflated sense of self-importance. People with this personality disorder may believe they are always the most important person in the room. They may talk about all the things they have accomplished, even if it isn’t true.
  • A need to be recognized. They may also expect to be praised or rewarded, even when the situation does not really call for it. This can include being praised in their professional life.
  • Strong sense of entitlement. Some people with this condition perceive that they must be treated a certain way and that their opinions are the only ones that are important. They may not consider the feelings of others to be important.
  • They may walk over people to get what they want. This means they might use people to get the things they desire. 
  • May have powerful feelings of envy. If someone has a special item or has done something that they desire to do, they may be very envious of them. At the same time, they likely think everyone else is jealous of them.
  • Air of arrogance. Even if they are being sincere, the things they say may end up sounding as if they are arrogant, dismissive, and condescending.
  • Need for expensive things or status symbols. They may believe they need and deserve the best of everything. This can mean anything from cars to clothes to a certain job.
  • Inability to take criticism. Those with NPD might not seem able to handle being criticized in any way. They may also be ill-equipped to handle even the smallest problems or amounts of stress. They can expect themselves to be perfect and that others should agree with this. When they do not, this can cause strife.
  • Issues with communication. They might be unable to communicate with others in a way that is beneficial to both people. This may be due to the fact that they don’t often feel guilt or other common emotions. They might also show a lack of empathy.
  • Harboring secret insecurity or discontent. Some people with this disorder might be harboring feelings of envy and shame, and possibly have insecure feelings that have not been addressed.

Causes Of NPD

No one knows exactly what causes this disorder, but it is thought to be brought out by one of the following three reasons.

  1. There is a chance that some may have this disorder because it has been inherited from someone in their family or from their genetics.
  2. Another explanation is that a person may have been treated a certain way when he was a child or while they were growing up. They might have been treated as if they did no wrong, or always did wrong, either of which can contribute to narcissistic feelings and tendencies. There are times in a child’s life when he or she may exhibit some of these types of behavior, but there is usually no reason to be concerned. Most kids will grow out of this.
  3. There may be problems neurologically, where the genes that govern certain areas of the brain responsible for behavior could be damaged.

What NPD Can Cause

If someone has Narcissistic Personality Disorder, it can affect all aspects of their lives. For example, it can lead to the misuse of substances, like illicit drugs or alcohol; they could perceive that they have no problem or believe that they can do as much of something as they want without negative consequences.

They may also have issues getting along with others at home, at school, and in the office. This can cause problems within all types of relationships and lead to issues that open the door for other possible mental conditions.

For example, sometimes those with a narcissistic personality disorder may also develop depression or some other type of mental health issue over time. These should be addressed as soon as possible, especially if they include feelings of violence or suicide.

If you or a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts, please get in touch with the National Suicide Prevention Hotline by dialing 988. They are available to help 24/7.

How To Get Treated For Narcissistic Personality Disorder

If you think you may have this disorder, it can be important to seek treatment for it. You can sign up for talk therapy, where you can talk to a therapist and see if you can determine what may be leading to your thoughts and feelings, as well as how to more healthfully address them. Once you can understand your thought processes, you may be able to improve your mental health.

Do You Or A Loved One Experience Symptoms Of Narcissism?

Online Treatment

The most common treatment for this disorder is psychotherapy. This involves talking to a professional about your problems and learning how to work through things. You may be able to address some of the feelings that are plaguing you, such as a possible lack of empathy. One place to turn for online therapy is BetterHelp. You may use BetterHelp from the comfort of your own home.

In some cases, a whole family may need to go to therapy for narcissism-related issues. It is a discussion you can have with them and your health care professional, to determine what is right for your needs.

Prescriptions are also necessary at times, but this is usually only when this disorder is mixed with other things, like depression, which sometimes needs to be handled swiftly. You may want to ask your primary care provider about your treatment options for any decision regarding medications. 

Studies have shown that digital cognitive behavioral therapy is effective in reducing the symptoms of various mental health conditions. Online therapy may also be more cost-effective than traditional therapy, especially when you take into account the money saved on transportation costs, childcare, and time off work.


If you suspect that you may have narcissistic tendencies, it can be important to address them as soon as possible. This is also true if you think you are raising a child with narcissistic personality disorder. Some of the feelings of people who have this disorder include a lack of empathy and a sense of entitlement, which can lead to a problem if those behaviors are reinforced (e.g., not being able to collaborate with co-workers). This is why it can be so important to notice these signs and do something about them.

Some may be unable to notice these tendencies in themselves, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, if you are having depressed feelings or thoughts of potential harm towards yourself or others, it is a good idea to talk to someone about this. They can help you figure out healthier ways to process your emotions and more productive ways to cope with the things going on around you. Keep these principles in mind and be aware of how you treat others when you can.

The prognosis is generally good when it comes to this condition, even if it is paired with depression or something else. With therapy, you can learn how to think differently and some symptoms can be lessened or resolved completely over time. This can allow you to have better relationships with others. This issue is relatively rare in the population, but if you feel like you may have it and want to change your life, there are options out there for you. Go ahead and seek out help. It can help you become happier and more able to react healthily to various situations in life.

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