Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states
Judging from email questions I have received, many readers are somewhat confused about the differences between people who are narcissistic versus those who have a narcissistic personality disorder. There is a large difference between the two. Let’s explore those differences:
Narcissistic Personality Disorder:
According to the Mayo Clinic “Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration. Those with narcissistic personality disorder believe that they’re superior to others and have little regard for other people’s feelings. But behind this mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem, vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”
This personality disorder causes people to misunderstand what is really going on with the individual. For example, some one like this will seem to be arrogant and filled with self-confidence. However, just beneath this shallow surface lies a person who feels a deep sense of shame and humiliation and low self-esteen. That is why they are so easily hurt in the face of criticism.
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These are people who do not function well. They alienate friends and family and come to feel socially isolated and depressed. This is very difficult for them because they do not want to think anything is wrong. Narcissistic Personality Disordered people are caught between thinking they are superior and feeling miserable, all at the same time.
There are people who are narcissistic but who do not have a mental illness. These people are experienced as obnoxious because they feel superior to others and see nothing wrong with that. They have little or no empathy with the feelings, conditions, situations or plight of others. These are people who feel entitled to the best of everything while looking down on those who show admiration for them. They also have no difficult exploiting others in order to get what they want. It’s important to understand that they have no awareness and no insight into what they do. As a result, they feel no shame or remorse.
It is said that, both in the present and historically, there have been leaders who were narcissists. Narcissists have a knack for getting into positions of power and have no difficulty exercising that power. Some of them exemplify evil in the world. Among these are Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot and others. There are some who are successful in business because they have friends who help guide them. One example is Bill Gates, Larry Ellison and more.
It’s important to remember that the major distinction between the narcissist and the narcissistic personality disorder is that the narcissistic is not mentally ill, does not have a personality disorder and is most interested in gaining power, money and prestige. Too many narcissists succeed in their pursuits. There is no need to worry about the self-esteem of the narcissist, they have an over-abundance of it.
Your comments are welcome.
Allan N. Schwartz, PhD
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