Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a complex psychological condition characterized by a consistent pattern of an extremely elevated sense of self, a high need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. While there are many potential causes of NPD, including genetic, biological, and environmental factors, emotional and psychological causes can also play a significant role in the development of this disorder. The psychological and emotional causes of narcissism are as follows:
To be seen is a fundamental need for every child; it contributes towards building a healthy sense of self. It also helps them feel safe and like they belong in their environment. When children receive acknowledgement from their parents, they feel accepted. However, when the parent is neglectful, the child feels rejected. When children are not seen for who they are, they might create a false sense of self to protect themselves from overwhelming feelings of rejection. This may lead to the development of narcissistic traits.
There is some evidence in research to suggest that narcissistic traits can be learned from primary caregivers. When a parent is narcissistic, they fail to model healthy behaviors for their children, causing their children to adopt similar traits. It can also be learned from other influential family members.
Rejection from Caregivers
The relationship between attachment and narcissism is complex, according to researchers, but it is believed that narcissism likely emerges when a child shares an insecure attachment with its caregivers.
Insecure Attachment Styles
When parents are inconsistent in providing the child with acknowledgement and emotional support, it can be a confusing experience. This unpredictability can result in a compulsive need for attention and approval. This might cause children to develop a false sense of self to cope with the unpredictability.
When a parent is overprotective, it limits the child’s ability to learn from their experiences. This may also limit the child’s ability to regulate their emotions. The inability to cope with and take responsibility for emotions can be an indicator of narcissism. Overprotection from parents may also give rise to feelings of entitlement, making them susceptible to narcissistic traits. This theory is supported by a 2020 study. Overprotection from either parent was found to be associated with elevated narcissism in the study.
Overvaluation occurs when a parent believes that their child is unique or superior to others. When a child grows up in such an environment, he or she is more likely to develop an elevated sense of self, which may contribute to narcissism. The previously mentioned 2020 study validates this. The study discovered that parental overvaluation was strongly linked to narcissism.
When a parent is overly lenient or permissive, the child has a great deal of freedom. It may limit the child’s ability to understand boundaries and engage in discipline, contributing to a sense of entitlement and disregard for other people’s rules and boundaries.
Research indicates that instances of abuse and traumatic experiences, especially during a child’s formative years, can contribute to the development of narcissistic personality disorder. Negative early life experiences such as abuse, abandonment, and maltreatment can also serve as potential risk factors.
Inconsistent Parental Behavior
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is one of the rare personality disorders that can be hard to deal with for both sufferers and family members. If you know someone who is going through NPD, it is advisable to seek help at the earliest. NPD can also affect the mental health of family and friends of the suffering individual. Seeking help can help them cope with the experience in better ways.
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- sharrak. (2023, May 18). What Causes Narcissistic Personality Disorder? How To Kill A Narcissist. https://howtokillanarcissist.com/narcissistic-personality-disorder/
- van Schie, C. C., Jarman, H. L., Huxley, E., & Grenyer, B. F. S. (2020). Narcissistic traits in young people: Understanding the role of parenting and maltreatment. Borderline Personality Disorder and Emotion Dysregulation, 7, 10. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40479-020-00125-7
- What Causes Narcissistic Personality Disorder? (2021, March 29). Psych Central. https://psychcentral.com/disorders/what-causes-narcissistic-personality-disorder
- What Is Narcissism? 22 Signs, Causes, Types And How To Cope. (n.d.). Retrieved October 19, 2023, from https://mind.help/topic/narcissism/