Narcissistic personality disorder

Narcissistic personality disorder is a condition characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance and an extreme preoccupation with one’s self.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors 

The cause of this disorder is unknown. Personality disorders are long-lasting patterns of behavior that cause problems with relationships and work. Narcissistic personality disorder usually begins by early adulthood and is marked by disregard for the feelings of others, grandiosity, obsessive self-interest, and the pursuit of primarily selfish goals.

A person with narcissistic personality disorder:

  • Reacts to criticism with feelings or rage, shame, or humiliation  
  • Takes advantage of others to achieve own goals  
  • Feelings of self-importance  
  • Exaggerates achievements and talents  
  • Preoccupation with fantasies of success, power, beauty, intelligence, or ideal love  
  • Unreasonable expectations of favorable treatment  
  • Requires constant attention and admiration  
  • Lacks empathy

Signs and tests 

Personality disorders are diagnosed based on a psychological evaluation and the history and severity of the symptoms.


Psychotherapy may help the affected person relate to others in a more positive and compassionate manner.

Expectations (prognosis) 

The outcome varies with the severity of the disorder.


  • Relationship and family problems  
  • Alcohol or other drug dependence


Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 2, 2012
by Arthur A. Poghosian, M.D.

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