Many psychologists believe that narcissism is a spectrum, and narcissistic traits are often a part of other disorders. In other cases, narcissism is so extreme that it interferes with normal healthy functions. This is known as narcissistic personality disorder or NPD.
Narcissistic personality disorder exhibits some interesting trends in the population, which can be seen through facts and statistics about narcissistic personality disorder. This information can help people learn the difference between the disorder and regular narcissistic traits, discern if someone they know has NPD, and learn how to manage symptoms of the condition.
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All people have narcissistic traits to some degree. In healthy individuals, a normal amount of narcissism helps them take pride in their accomplishments and find joy in their personal life. Even a high degree of narcissism is sometimes a normal occurrence. Most teenagers display narcissistic qualities as a normal and healthy part of their development and personal growth.
Narcissistic personality disorder, on the other hand, is much less common. Approximately 0.5% of the United States population, or one 1 in 200 people, has the disorder. There are significant gender differences when it comes to the prevalence of the disorder; about 75% of people with narcissistic personality disorder are men.
The prevalence of narcissistic personality disorder is higher in certain demographics, including:
- 2–6% of those seeking help from mental health clinics
- 6% of forensic analysts
- 20% of people in the military
- 17% of first-year medical students
Usually, narcissistic personality disorder first appears in early adulthood. It is not more common in any ethnicities than others.
Diagnosing Narcissistic Personality Disorder
As the name implies, mental health professionals characterize narcissistic personality disorder as a type of personality disorder. The characteristics of people with narcissistic personality disorder are fairly diverse. However, there is a core set of features common to most people with this condition. The American Psychological Association has a set of guidelines on how to diagnose narcissistic personality disorder that psychologists refer to when they interview a patient. These symptoms are listed in their official book Diagnosis and Statistics of Mental Disorders (DSM 5):
- A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (making themselves appear impressive)
- Need for admiration
- Fantasies about power, success, beauty or an idealized vision of love
- Sense of entitlement
- Belief of being special, unique or high-status
- Lack of empathy for others
- Tendency to exploit others
- Arrogant behavior
People with narcissistic personality disorder spend a significant amount of time comparing themselves to others. They often have fantasies about being exceptionally successful in their careers. Some individuals with this condition consider themselves to be superior to others, while others are overly critical of their own flaws. People with NPD may be highly resistant to criticism or highly sensitive to perceived slights.
Rates of Narcissism and Co-Occurring Conditions
Like other types of personality disorders, pathological narcissism frequently occurs along with other mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, bipolar disorder and substance use disorder.
- Depression and Anxiety. Subtypes of patients who are vulnerable to criticism from themselves or others have a higher risk of having symptoms of depression or anxiety. About 15% of people with narcissistic personality disorder also have depression, 13.5% have anxiety and around 17% have another mood disorder.
- Bipolar Disorder. Bipolar disorder is also fairly common among people with narcissistic personality disorder. About 17% of people with pathological narcissism also have either bipolar I or bipolar II.
- Eating Disorders. In some cases, people with narcissistic personality disorder obsess over their appearance. These individuals have a higher risk of developing an eating disorder because of their obsession with staying thin and meeting idealized beauty standards.
- Other Personality Disorders. Different personality disorders commonly co-occur with narcissistic personality disorder. People with the condition, especially those who have a grandiose persona, may also have paranoid personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder. Histrionic, borderline and schizotypal personality disorders also sometimes co-occur with NPD.
- Substance Use Disorders. People with narcissistic personality disorder frequently have a substance use disorder as well. They may use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate and cope with the frustration and anxiety that comes with the condition. About 14% of people with narcissistic personality disorder also have an alcohol use disorder, while 24% misuse other types of drugs.
Statistics on Narcissistic Personality Disorder Treatment
Treating narcissistic personality disorder can be challenging because people with the condition often don’t think that they have a problem. Prognosis is often poor as a result, and there currently is not a standard protocol for treatment. However, treatment usually consists of counseling or psychotherapy. Little research has been done on narcissistic personality disorder treatment, so its treatment success rate is not known yet.
Medscape. “Narcissistic Personality Disorder.” May 16, 2018. Accessed April 20, 2019. American Psychiatric Association. “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.” May 2013. Accessed April 20, 2019. Caligor E, Levy KN, Yeomans FE. “Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Diagnostic and Clinical Challenges.” American Journal of Psychiatry, May 2015. Accessed April 20, 2019. Stinson FS, Dawson DA, Goldstein RB, Chou P, Huang B, Smith SM, Ruan WJ, Pulay AJ, Saha TD, Pickering RP, Grant BF. “Prevalence, Correlates, Disability, and Comorbidity of DSM-IV Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Results From the Wave 2 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions.” Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 2008. Accessed April 20, 2019.
Medscape. “Narcissistic Personality Disorder.” May 16, 2018. Accessed April 20, 2019.
American Psychiatric Association. “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.” May 2013. Accessed April 20, 2019.
Caligor E, Levy KN, Yeomans FE. “Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Diagnostic and Clinical Challenges.” American Journal of Psychiatry, May 2015. Accessed April 20, 2019.
Stinson FS, Dawson DA, Goldstein RB, Chou P, Huang B, Smith SM, Ruan WJ, Pulay AJ, Saha TD, Pickering RP, Grant BF. “Prevalence, Correlates, Disability, and Comorbidity of DSM-IV Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Results From the Wave 2 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions.” Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 2008. Accessed April 20, 2019.