Is narcissistic personality disorder a mental illness? Get answers and learn more about treatment for narcissistic personality disorder.

Yes. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is one of several personality disorders and is defined as a mental illness that is associated with a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration and lack of empathy. People may associate NPD with being arrogant, cocky and manipulative and while these are symptoms of NPD, not everyone with those characteristics have NPD.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder can cause problems for people with the disorder in all areas of their life, including in relationships, at work and school. People living with NPD may become upset and discouraged when they don’t receive the attention or admiration they feel they deserve in these facets of their life. If they aren’t receiving constant attention in their relationships, they may become unhappy and if they aren’t being awarded accolades at their job they may become bitter or want to leave their current position.

NPD makes life challenging because someone living with the disorder is continuously on the defensive. People with NPD typically feel insulted or criticized when no one is intentionally doing so and they lack empathy. They expect people to offer sympathy for them, but they do not feel that way toward others. For this reason, relationships can be difficult for people with NPD.

The Difference Between Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Healthy Narcissism

It’s important not to confuse self-confidence or self-love with narcissistic personality disorder. Having high self-esteem isn’t the same thing as being diagnosed with a mental condition. There is such a thing as a healthy narcissism, as long as someone realizes that their high regard for themselves is a result of their hard work and is based on real achievements. Healthy narcissism allows people to care about themselves, develop self-respect and self-worth. Narcissism becomes clinical when someone thinks they should gain praise and rewards for merely existing and when they don’t get the attention they think they deserve, they become defensive or blame others for their shortcomings. People with NPD typically don’t take any criticism well.

Most people will demonstrate some traits of narcissism at a point in their life, but being diagnosed with NPD is rare. According to the DSM-V, between 0.5 and 1 percent of the population are diagnosed with NPD. The term narcissist gets thrown around loosely, but it’s important to remember that there is a difference between a narcissist and narcissistic personality disorder, NPD is mental illness while narcissism is an adjective to describe someone who exhibits egotistical and selfish behavior.

Related Topic: Narcissistic personality disorder treatment success rate


Ambardar, Sheenie, MD. “Narcissistic Personality Disorder.” Medscape, May 16, 2018. Accessed February 20, 2019.

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The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.