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 characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance, an excessive need for admiration, and a lack of empathy. People with this condition have grandiose beliefs about themselves and their accomplishments. They think they are superior to others and deserve special treatment. Because they are less concerned about the way their behavior affects others, they can be manipulative, demanding, and arrogant. In NPD, the 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 as much as 6.2% of the U.S. population has narcissistic personality disorder, and experts suggest the number is rising. Approximately 50-75% of those with NPD are male; symptoms and signs of the disorder usually emerge during early adulthood.

What are the Core Symptoms?

Narcissistic personality disorder is associated with a wide variety of dysfunctional and persistent symptoms, including:

  • Preoccupation with fantasies of personal attractiveness, intelligence, unlimited success, money, or power
  • An exaggerated sense of self-importance and talents
  • A sense of entitlement to special treatment
  • A deep need for excessive and constant admiration
  • A lack of empathy for others
  • A need to be recognized as superior or special
  • Manipulation or exploitation of others
  • An arrogant, haughty, callous, or demanding attitude
  • A belief that others are envious of them, but inside they feel envious of others
  • Believes only those of high status can understand their special and unique qualities
  • Difficulty recognizing and validating the feelings, needs, and experiences of others

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

Despite their boastfulness and outward appearance of confidence, people with narcissistic personality disorder have fragile egos and are very insecure. Consequently, they struggle with feelings of shame and are easily humiliated. They have difficulty handling anything they perceive as criticism or failure and often respond outwardly to it with anger, disdain, or revenge.

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.

Why Choose Amen Clinics for Treating Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Because people with narcissistic personality disorder consider themselves to be superior and 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. However, once people with NPD begin treatment, it can help them relate to family, friends, and coworkers in healthier and more positive ways. Since 1989, Amen Clinics has used targeted solutions to help many people manage the symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder. 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.

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NPD Brains Work Differently

According to research, people with narcissistic personality disorder have reduced gray matter volume in areas of the brain related to empathy and increased activity on baseline images in brain regions associated with self-directed and self-absorbed thinking. Functional neuroimaging studies of NPD have also shown abnormal activity in these areas.

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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 someone’s 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:

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

People with narcissistic personality disorder frequently have co-existing mental health conditions, including:

  • Substance abuse—more than 40% use drugs or alcohol
  • Anxiety—40% have an anxiety disorder too
  • Mood disorders—nearly 29% also have a mood disorder, such as depression or bipolar II disorder

Some research suggests that people with narcissistic personality disorder are also at an increased risk for suicidal behavior and 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. Furthermore, some research has suggested that due to the problems in brain areas associated with narcissistic personality disorder, people with this condition may have an increased risk for developing dementia as they get older.


“With A Better Brain Comes A Better Life”

– Daniel G. Amen, M.D.


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