Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Unlike traditional psychiatry, which rarely looks at the brain, Amen Clinics uses brain imaging technology to identify brain patterns associated with narcissistic personality disorder and related conditions.

What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is considered a type of personality disorder and is characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance, an excessive need for admiration, and a lack of empathy. Narcissists tend to have grandiose ideas and feel like they superior beings or that they deserve special treatment. Due to their lack of empathy, they can also be manipulative, demanding, and arrogant. The narcissist’s self-centered attitude, sense of entitlement, and inability to understand other people’s feelings leads to trouble at work, at school, and in relationships.

Who Has NPD?

It is estimated that narcissistic personality disorder affects up to 6.2% of the population, and experts suggest the number of narcissists is rising. Approximately 50-75% of those with the disorder are male, and symptoms and signs often emerge during a person’s teens or in young adulthood.

What are the Core Symptoms?

Narcissists may appear to have ample amounts of confidence and high self-esteem, but inside, they may feel insecure or inadequate. In spite of their extreme outward confidence, individuals with NPD often have trouble handling anything perceived as criticism or failure. Narcissistic personality disorder is associated with a wide variety of signs and symptoms, including:

  • An exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • A need for excessive and constant admiration
  • A lack of empathy
  • Being preoccupied with grandiose fantasies of unlimited success, money, or power
  • A need to be recognized as superior or special
  • A sense of entitlement to special treatment
  • A tendency to exaggerate talents
  • Manipulation or exploitation of others
  • A belief that others are envious of them, while deep down being envious of others
  • An arrogant, haughty, or demanding attitude

What Causes It?

Narcissistic personality disorder is actually a brain disorder. Brain imaging completely changes the way we think about personality. It is easy to label people as arrogant, demanding, manipulative, or uncaring. And diagnosing someone with a personality disorder, such as NPD, suggests their personality or character is a problem. But what is the organ of personality? It’s the brain. If someone has an unstable personality, their brain may be the cause.

People with NPD frequently have co-existing mental health disorders, such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Abusive behaviors
  • Substance abuse
  • Attention deficit disorder
  • Suicidal thoughts and behavior

Why Choose Amen Clinics for Treating Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

People with narcissistic personality disorder consider themselves to be superior individuals and because they have trouble handling criticism, it’s hard for them to acknowledge that they need help. This makes it a challenge for them to seek a diagnosis and treatment. Once people with NPD begin treatment, however, it can help them relate to family, friends, and coworkers in a healthier, more positive way. Since 1989, Amen Clinics has helped many people manage symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder with targeted solutions. We believe in taking a unique brain-body approach to treatment that involves the least toxic, most effective strategies. This may include the use of natural supplements, nutrition, exercise, helpful forms of psychotherapy, and medication (sometimes prescribed to treat symptoms of co-occurring disorders)—all personalized for your needs.

NPD Brains Work Differently

According to research, people with NPD have reduced gray matter volume in areas of the brain related to empathy and heightened activity during rest in brain regions associated with self-directed and self-absorbed thinking. Functional neuroimaging studies have also shown lower activity in these areas in people with NPD.

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Narcissistic Personality Disorder and the Brain

Our brain imaging work has taught us that many environmental factors can impact brain function and lead to symptoms of mental illness. We have seen how environmental toxins (such as toxic mold), infections like Lyme disease, extremely low thyroid, anemia, anoxia (a lack of oxygen), carbon monoxide poisoning, and even chemotherapy can alter brain function and contribute to changes in your personality. Because so many factors may be at play, it is critical to seek a mental health practitioner who performs a comprehensive evaluation that includes brain imaging, lab testing, and more.

Factors that may be involved in the development of narcissistic personality disorder include:

  • Genetics: Having a close relative, such as a parent or sibling, with NPD may heighten the risk of developing the condition.
  • Emotional trauma: Exposure to traumatic events or experiencing abuse, neglect, or abandonment as a child appears to be common among people who are narcissists.

People with narcissistic personality disorder frequently have co-existing mental health disorders, such as:

  • Substance abuse—over 40% of people with narcissistic personality disorder use drugs or alcohol
  • Anxiety—40% of true narcissists have an anxiety disorder
  • Mood disorders—nearly 29% of those with NPD have a mood disorder, such as depression or bipolar disorder

Some research suggests that narcissists are also at increased risk of suicidal behavior, and they have a higher incidence of dying by suicide compared with other personality disorders. Life stressors—such as getting fired from a job or experiencing problems with finances, relationships, or physical health—may precipitate a suicide attempt.

In terms of physical health, people with NPD are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease and gastrointestinal distress. And from a behavioral standpoint, they are more likely to have a criminal record, a history of violence, and to have inflicted pain or suffering on others.


“With A Better Brain Comes A Better Life”

– Daniel G. Amen, M.D.


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