A secret life, lying effortlessly, the perfect public image, a sense of self-importance that requires admiration from others. As I write this blog, I asked myself, am I describing a Hollywood action movie character like James Bond?
This question took me to realizations that were followed by an analysis of how we as a society perceive the behaviors and traits of someone who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
This blog will explain the overuse of the term Narcissist, the overuse of the diagnosis, and the difference between an abusive perpetrator, a difficult person, and a toxic person. This blog will also provide the latest diagnostic criteria, as stated in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-5-TR), released in 2022.
I realize doing a quick Google and my memory searches that the term “narcissistic” is used and thrown around quite often to describe intimate partner abuse, toxic partners, toxic relationships, or to joke about someone perceived as overconfident. Here are some examples of what I commonly hear in clinical practice, socially, educationally, and personally:
- She is in a relationship with a narcissist.
- He is such a narcissist.
- She is dealing with a narcissist.
- She is in a toxic relationship with a narcissist.
- Her boyfriend is a narcissist.
I noticed a few other themes right away. The term is often used to describe a male who behaves negatively, typically inter relationally. Another theme is using the term narcissist to conceptualize that all abuse is narcissistic in nature, and dealing with a narcissist is the worst relationship experience you could have.
While the latter may be true, not everyone who is abusive, mean, difficult, uncaring, conflicted, emotionally unavailable, disrespectful, jealous, threatening, liar, angry, argumentative, substance user, cheater, critical, defensive, self-absorbed, and/or disconnected is a narcissist or has F60.81 (the DSM-5-TR diagnostic code for Narcissist Personality Disorder).
Please allow me to explain, the following people who do NOT have Narcissist Personality Disorder, therefore are not a narcissist, can be equally abusive and become the nightmare partner:
- People without a mental health disorder of any kind.
- Please, who have never been diagnosed with a personality disorder.
- People who do not have a personality disorder.
- People who do not use substances.
- People who believe in God.
- People who attend church.
- People who are hard workers.
- People who say “I love you” or “I care about you” or “I promise never to hurt you.”
- People with nice family backgrounds.
- People who are educated.
- People who are accomplished.
- People who promise to protect you.
You don't have to meet the criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder to behave poorly
To conceptualize, you don’t have to meet the criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder to behave poorly, unhealthy, and abusive in relationships. As my analysis of this modern-day attention to the term expanded, it became more and more important to me to educate the readers of this blog on the difference between a perpetrator of any kind of abuse, a toxic person, a difficult person, and a narcissist. I wanted to answer the following questions:
Are all people diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder perpetrators of intimate partner abuse?
Does an abusive partner always have Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
What is the difference between a toxic person, an abuse perpetrator, a difficult person, and a narcissist?
I want to start with defining and understanding Narcissistic Personality Disorder because out of a narcissist, an abuser, a difficult, or toxic person; a narcissist is the only one with an objective and evidenced-based psychological disorder.
Facts about F60.81 Narcissistic Personality Disorder:
- Western American cultures may call out this disorder in conversation but struggle to give Clinical attention to it.
- This disorder begins in early adulthood.
- Among adults 18 and older, 50%-75% are men.
- Men with this Disorder and under stress display a compromised ability to empathize, whereas women with this disorder may withdraw from others and be more self-focused when stressed.
- Perfectionism is associated with Narcissistic Personality Disorder; therefore, exposure to imperfectionism, failure, and overwhelming emotions can evoke suicidal ideation.
- The grandiosity characteristics distinguish Narcissistic Personality Disorder from other personality disorders such as avoidant, borderline, histrionic, and antisocial.
- Individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder are more sensitive to criticism or defeat because of vulnerabilities in their self-esteem.
- About 6.2 percent of US citizens have Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
- Individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder may act with disdain, rage, or defiant counterattack but may be feeling ashamed, humiliated, degraded, hollow, and empty.
Symptomatic Features of F60.81 Narcissistic Personality Disorder:
- Need for admiration
- Lack of empathy
- Grandiose sense of self-importance
- Unrealistic sense of superiority, value, capacity
- Overestimation of their abilities
- Amplify their accomplishments
- Devalue the contributions of others
- Preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
- Ruminate about long-overdue admiration and privilege
- Believe they are special and unique
- Think they have special needs that are beyond the ken of ordinary people
- Require excessive admiration
- Preoccupied with how others regard them
- Expect their arrival to be met with fanfare
- Will look for compliments
- Sense of entitlement
- Unreasonable expectations about a favorable treatment
- Get upset when not catered to
- Lack of understanding or sensitivity to others
What do perpetrators of abuse have in common?
Psychological, sexual, and physical abuse all stem from an individual who wants to exercise power and control.
All perpetrators of abuse have this in common. The abusive partner will hit, scream, curse, intimidate, manipulate, name call, humiliate, punch walls, etc., to have the highest level of power, which puts them in a position where they take control over you or the situation. NOT all perpetrators of intimate partner abuse have Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
However, because of the symptoms and tendencies of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, there is a high chance of abusive behaviors in relationships.
In addition, a narcissistic partner can also seem very difficult. Still, please know that a difficult partner can have any other personality disorder (avoidant, borderline, antisocial, or histrionic) or simply be going through a difficult period.
A difficult partner can also be someone with whom you are not compatible, which can be challenging.NOT every partner who seems difficult is a perpetrator of abuse, a narcissist, or a toxic person.
Toxicity is the byproduct of any relationship interaction that consistently keeps you on what feels like a roller-coaster, makes you afraid, cheats, saddens you, lies, manipulates, controls, and places its values and agendas on you.
In conclusion, all partners who have Narcissistic Personality Disorder perpetrate intimate partner abuse somehow, are consistently difficult (not temporarily), and, therefore, are toxic.
Dr. Yaro Garcia
Hello, I am Dr. Garcia, please call me Yaro. My degrees are in clinical psychology and I am a licensed mental health counselor. My approach is caring, warm, safe, non-judgmental, and straight forward. It is a difficult decision to seek therapy, I take time to build a trusting therapeutic relationship with you…