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The term ‘Narcissistic Personality Disorder’ was first coined by Heinz Kohut in 1971 and describes people who have a grandiose sense of self-importance, a thirst for admiration and a lack of empathy.

People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder often make themselves appear “larger than life” and exaggerate their accomplishments. However, they also have a very fragile self-esteem and believe that they are flawed in some way, which they feel makes them unacceptable to others. It has been stated that “Psychologists commonly believe that narcissism results from an impairment in the quality of the person’s relationship with their primary caregivers, usually their parents, in that the parents were unable to form a healthy, empathic attachment to them. This results in the child conceiving of themselves as unimportant and unconnected to others. The child typically comes to believe that he or she has some defect of personality which makes them unvalued and unwanted” .

A narcissistic person’s job performance may also be affected by the disorder. Despite the fact they are ambitious, they are unable to tolerate setbacks or criticism which can make it difficult for them to work with others.

There has been very little research of this disorder carried out, but it is estimated that it affects less than 1% of the general population and affects more men than women.

In order for Narcissistic Personality Disorder to be diagnosed, the client needs to meet at least five of the following criteria:

  • Has a grandiose sense of self-importance
  • Preoccupied with fantasies of brilliance, power, unlimited success or beauty
  • Believes they are unique or “special” and can only be understood by those of a high status
  • Needs excessive admiration
  • Possesses a sense of entitlement
  • Tries to achieve personal goals through the exploitation of others
  • Lacks empathy
  • Is frequently envious of others or believes that others envy them
  • Haughtiness or arrogance in attitude or behaviour