How do we identify various types of mental disorders?
Professionals in the medical field adhere to certain categories in order to differentiate among the various kinds of personality disorders. Currently, physicians and psychiatrists recognize three different “clusters” of these disorders, meaning that each cluster of illnesses has some similarities in symptoms and treatment outcomes.
A personality disorder is indicated by repetitive patterns of unhealthy thinking and behavior that impedes an individual’s daily ability to function.
Narcissism is classified as a “Cluster B” disorder, along with other disorders such as antisocial personality disorder and histrionic personality disorder. Moreover, narcissism is further divided into different subtypes. In general, these Cluster B conditions are marked by overly dramatic and often unpredictable behavior.
Read on for a deeper understanding of how personality disorders are defined, what causes them, and how they are typically treated.
Categories of Personality Disorders
As stated above, there are currently three particular categories of personality disorders: Cluster A, Cluster B, and Cluster C. Each cluster represents a group of similar disorders that may overlap in terms of symptoms. It isn’t uncommon for an individual to have more than one personality disorder.
Cluster A includes paranoid personality disorder and schizophrenia (which is further broken down into schizoid personality disorder and schizotypal personality disorder). These mental conditions are characterized by eccentric, even debilitating, behavior and manifestly odd thinking patterns.
Cluster C includes obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, avoidant personality disorder, and dependent personality disorder. These conditions are characterized by extreme anxiety and fear-based behaviors.
Cluster B is where we find narcissism, of course, along with antisocial personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, and borderline personality disorder. These conditions are characterized by overwrought emotions and dramatic, frequently unpredictable, behaviors.
There is lots of overlap in the symptoms of Cluster B disorders, as both narcissism and antisocial disorder are marked by an indifference to others’ feelings and lack of empathy. Likewise, narcissism and histrionic personality disorder share some similar symptoms, such as attention-seeking behavior and outward displays of vanity (which likely mask insecurities).
What Identifies Cluster B Narcissism?
What sets narcissism apart from the other Cluster B disorders is the extreme arrogance associated with narcissism. Narcissists frequently fantasize about power, success, and fame, while they also exaggerate their importance to others, professionally and personally.
Narcissists may be insecure, a common symptom among Cluster B disorders, but they are able to bury that under a tide of ego-centered boasting and over-confident attitude.
They are so good at this, in fact, that they frequently don’t even know they have a problem. They can be suspicious of others, as in antisocial disorder, but usually their suspicions are concerned with jealousy. They are envious of others’ achievements, or they think that others envy them.
Narcissism also shares some traits with certain Cluster C disorders, like dependent personality disorder, which is marked by a disproportionate dependence on others. With narcissism, however, that manifests itself in needing “narcissistic supply,” the constant attention and excessive praise from others.
Causes, Risks, and Complications
Disorders of the personality—as versus illnesses of the physical body—are complex and often confounding. Our personalities are unique to each one of us, consisting of our emotional expressions, our patterns of thinking, and our standard behaviors. Thus, personality is not a single trait that can be easily identified, likewise with disorders of personality.
The causes of personality disorders are varied and many, and most physicians and psychologists would be hesitant to draw a straight line between one potential factor and the disorder. Because personality disorders are likely created by a combination of factors, it is difficult to trace them back to one source.
However, most experts agree that there are two main influences in causing narcissism and other disorders: genes and environment. That is, individuals who suffer with narcissism likely have a genetic disposition for developing the disorder (such as a smaller empathy region in the brain).
Combine that with an environment that contributes to disordered thinking, such as neglectful parents or narcissistic influences or familial codependency.
Finally, there is some debate regarding the diagnosing of personality disorders. I myself recognize the importance of diagnosing and treating narcissism and other issues; however, it’s also important for us to note that atypical ways of thinking and behaving are not always “disorders.”
Normality is a subjective term. Still, if a personality disorder impacts your quality of life, then it is most certainly something for which you should seek treatment.
While diagnosing a trait as complex as narcissism requires extensive professional interaction, there is a way you can identify if someone might be a narcissist with just three simple questions, but once you know, is there a treatment?
Some Typical Treatments
There are nearly as many varieties of treatments as there are varieties of personality disorders. What works for one person may not work for another. If you or someone you love is suffering from narcissism or any other disorder, it’s crucial to work with a physician or other professional to find a treatment that works best for the individual.
The outcome of any type of therapy largely depends on how willing the narcissist is to accept they have a problem and work to overcome it, but some types of counseling can help.
Some common treatments for Cluster B disorders are basic talk therapy, wherein you simply discuss your issues with a psychologist or psychiatrist who can offer some advice without judgment. Cognitive behavioral therapy, an offshoot of traditional therapy, helps people to focus on their behaviors (rather than past events and deep feelings) in order to correct them.
There are other behavioral therapies, as well, designed to make specific life changes and to learn new skills for personal interaction. Some therapists might prescribe medication if the situation seems to warrant it, though there isn’t a specific medication, as of yet, approved for narcissistic personality disorder. Some antidepressants are thought to help.
Last, you should also be aware that many people who suffer from personality disorders find that some basic lifestyle changes will help their condition improve. Simple things such as getting regular exercise, sleeping enough, eating healthy, and practicing meditation or mindfulness can alleviate some of the more serious symptoms.
Cluster B personality disorders are distinguished by overwrought emotions and some irrational behavior. Narcissism falls into this category because of their egocentric perspectives, lack of empathy, and unpredictable behavior.
Likely caused by the combination of genetic propensity and environmental triggers, there is no single treatment for narcissistic personality disorder. However, there are a range of options for you, or your loved one, to explore.
This post can help you learn more about what exactly triggers narcissistic rage, and understanding is the first step toward healing.
If you want more tips for dealing with narcissists, setting boundaries, and managing emotional triggers, make sure you subscribe to my youtube channel