Can Narcissists Change: Here’s What To Expect
At some point, we have all interacted with someone we are sure was a narcissist. We have all met that person whose personality and behavior rub everyone around them the wrong way. But while narcissism is a word used frequently to describe people with specific personality characteristics, not everyone understands what narcissism is and whether those who have narcissistic tendencies can ever change.
A narcissistic personality is best described as that individual who exhibits particular character traits that often rub others the wrong way. Common characteristics of many narcissistic people include an elevated opinion of themselves, the desire to be the center of attention, the need to be admired, and other similar traits. For many who are on the receiving end of these behaviors, it can be frustrating and emotionally draining. But what many people do not realize is that narcissism, although an unpleasant personality trait, is also a diagnosable mental health condition. Listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM as a narcissistic personality disorder, NPD is a complex yet treatable condition if individuals who struggle with it reach out for help at a treatment center like The Meadowglade.
What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
Although narcissistic personality disorder is not one of the most common types of personality disorders, it is likely more common than many realize. Unfortunately, the exact prevalence rates of narcissistic personality disorder are unknown. There are many reasons why it could be challenging to determine how many people struggle with NPD each year. One primary reason is that someone who struggles with narcissistic personality disorder and the characteristics and symptoms that accompany it is unlikely to view anything about their behaviors as “wrong.” Therefore, without significant encouragement from friends or loved ones or an epiphany of sorts that helps them understand that their behaviors are painful and hurtful to others, they are unlikely to seek treatment for their condition.
It is believed that narcissistic personality disorder may affect as much as 6.2% of the US population. However, statistics regarding narcissistic personality disorder indicate ranges of anywhere from 1% two 6.2%. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders lists a range of diagnostic criteria designed to help mental health providers diagnose the condition in those who seek help. In addition to a range of others, these include troubles with relationships, lack of empathy and compassion for others, an overwhelming need for admiration and attention (whether the attention is positive or negative), and a heightened sense of self-importance and self-worth.
It is vital to note, however, that the inflated sense of “self” that many people with narcissistic personality disorder exhibit is often for outward appearances only. The majority of individuals with NPD also struggle with a range of deeply entrenched emotional difficulties. Many who have NPD also experience difficulties with self-esteem and are highly vulnerable to negative comments or criticisms directed at them. Therefore, they present with a robust and self-empowered front to ensure that others do not damage their somewhat fragile egos.
Narcissistic personality disorder will eventually have a significant impact on the individuals’ relationship with those around them. Their ability to foster healthy and lasting relationships with friends and loved ones will suffer based on narcissistic tendencies. Narcissistic individuals will consistently belittle or look down upon those they communicate with, even if those individuals are significant others, parents, or other loved ones. Additionally, because the narcissistic person has a powerful desire to be and feel “superior,” they will do whatever is necessary to ensure that others feel inferior to them. They will often require that friends or loved ones (including coworkers) acknowledge their significance. They are typically incapable of addressing the needs of others and generally strive to acquire the best of everything, including jobs, clothes, houses, and cars.
NPD: Causes and Risk Factors
Unfortunately, research has yet to point to a specific cause or risk factor for narcissistic personality disorder. As with many other mental health disorders, it is likely that the root causes of narcissistic personality disorder are varied and that many factors contribute to increased risk for its development. Depending on the individual, NPD may be linked to a variety of potential causes, including genetics, biology, and parent-child relationships. Statistics do show, however, that narcissistic personality disorder is more common in males than females. Additionally, symptoms often present as early as one’s teens or early adulthood.
Can a Narcissist Change?
Although narcissistic personality disorder is a unique illness, the symptoms one experiences often fall on the spectrum. In other words, there are varying degrees of narcissism, and where someone falls on the scale plays a significant role in whether or not they are capable of change. Anyone can exhibit narcissistic traits from time to time. However, few people exhibit narcissism to the degree necessary to meet the criteria for narcissistic personality disorder listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders. For those that do, however, the road to recovery is often complex and challenging.
Because the first step in recovering from any behavioral or emotional disorder is acknowledgment, many narcissists struggle to get past the first step. This is because someone with narcissism does not necessarily see anything wrong with their behaviors or actions. Therefore, as noted above, they don’t see any reason to seek help or treatment. If there is nothing wrong with their behaviors, there is no reason to seek help to alter them. Unfortunately, for treatment to be successful, it must be the narcissist’s idea to seek help. Although friends and family can encourage them, they must desire to change before success is possible.
Some narcissists will, in time, seek help, acknowledge the need to change, and get highly involved in their therapy. It is important that someone when narcissistic tendencies are highly engaged in their therapy planning. If they feel they are part of the planning and treatment process and are actively participating in their recovery journey, it provides the necessary “level of power” many narcissists need to be willing to try and make an active change. It is vital to remember that most narcissists are not willing to try without a reason to alter their behaviors or seek change.
One of the most common reasons someone with a narcissistic personality disorder will accept or seek help is because they fear failure. The knowledge that they could be exposed to friends, loved ones, coworkers, or other members of their social circle as a narcissist is often sufficient enough to spur the desire to improve their behaviors. Reaching this particular low (acknowledging that they are not superior) is a difficult and sometimes emotionally breaking step for someone with a narcissistic personality disorder. However, in many cases, it can be the catalyst that they need to finally pursue help at a treatment center like The Meadowglade to achieve positive change.
Can You Treat Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
The most effective treatment models for a narcissistic personality disorder are forms of psychotherapy. Otherwise known as talk therapy, psychotherapeutic treatment models are designed to help someone with NPD examine and better understand how their thoughts and actions affect their relationships with others. As the name suggests, talk therapy encourages talking through emotions and behaviors. The goal of therapy sessions is to help the narcissist learn and practice healthier and positive ways of communicating and relating to others. These changes to how they communicate and relate to friends and family also help improve their personal and social relationships. Additionally, it allows those who formerly struggled to be in the presence of the narcissist (such as family, spouses, even children) to feel a sense of improvement, joy, and even pleasure in their relationships.
Talk therapy is also designed to help the narcissist learn about why they exhibit narcissistic tendencies. During therapy, a skilled treatment professional at The Meadowglade will work to help the narcissist learn more about what drives their opinions of others. In other words, through therapy, they will learn what makes them distrustful and competitive towards loved ones and peers. Talk therapy can also help someone who struggles with narcissism manage their feelings, recognize strengths, and learn to manage criticism positively.
One of the most significant challenges for a narcissist looking to make effective change is the time it takes for therapy to “feel” effective. Narcissistic behaviors often begin early in adolescence or early adulthood. Because of this, the behaviors and actions of someone with narcissistic personality disorder are deeply ingrained in their attitudes and actions. As a result, it can take weeks, months, or sometimes years for treatment to begin working. Because of this, it is common for people to give up on treatment because they do not feel change has occurred. It is crucial to attend all therapy sessions and can to ensure you maintain treatment progress. Completing a therapy program at The Meadowglade can not only help you achieve lasting results but provide the tools necessary to manage narcissistic behaviors in the future.
Someone who struggles with a narcissistic personality disorder may not understand the benefits of seeking treatment. For these individuals to find the desire to change and achieve success at overcoming narcissistic traits will depend on various factors. Some of these include the severity of their symptoms and their personal willingness to seek help in overcoming narcissistic personality struggles. For individuals who are ready and willing to seek help from a treatment center like The Meadowglade, healing is possible. With time and adequate treatment, narcissistic symptoms and personality traits will begin to fade. If you or a loved one would like to learn more about how therapy can help you manage narcissistic personality disorder, contact the admissions team at The Meadowglade. Our caring, compassionate staff will work with you to create a treatment plan designed specifically for your unique needs and goals. Let us help you begin the journey to overcoming narcissistic personality disorder today.