Myths of Narcissistic Personality Disorder
It all started so well. You were captivated by his attention, enamored with his charm, engulfed in his persistence to have a relationship with you. But the thorns began to show fairly quickly on the rose. Blue skies became cloudy. With every concern of yours came excuses from him, rationalizations and the ever-popular blame-shifting. Now you are confused and wondering what hit you.
You wonder about leaving the relationship, but have mixed feelings. You care about him. His good traits are still good. You have invested time, energy and love, and things are not as simple as some might imagine. No one simply walks away when the going gets rough.
The problem now isn’t just that you have mixed feelings. Everyone has mixed feelings about nearly everything. You can deal with that. The situation is far more serious. You push away when he does his blame-shifting, only to be told you’re doing something wrong. You complain when he rationalizes his childish behavior, only to be told you’re the one who’s behaving badly. Life has gotten far more confusing.
Just as quickly as you complain to him, he complains to you! In fact, he offers a myriad of criticisms of you, causing you to wonder what is going on.
“You don’t love me the way I need to be loved.”
“You care more about others than you care about me.”
“You are selfish and stingy with your love.”
“I give and give to you and get nothing in return.”
He says he loves you, but………He is never satisfied, and you’re left with your head spinning.
What are you to do with a relationship where when it’s good, it’s so very good, and when it’s bad, it’s so very bad?
What about a relationship where you are treated like a queen one day and his arch-enemy the next? How do you make sense out of something that simply does not make sense?
Not so easy to make quick decisions here. Not so easy to simply walk away, though others in your world may give quick, easy advice that is not so easy to take.
As you try to sort out your confusion, it is best to strip away fact from fiction. I offer three myths of Narcissistic Personality Disorder that I would like you to consider.
MYTH: Some Narcissistic traits means Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).
FACT: Narcissistic Personality Disorder is really on a spectrum, from mild symptoms to more severe symptoms. Many men (and some women) are self-centered, lack empathy, demand attention and can charm the socks off anyone. This does not equate to Narcissistic Personality Disorder. In fact, someone meeting the necessary criteria to be given the diagnosis of NPD is rare. What is much more common is someone who displays some of the traits of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
For example, it is common for many men to lack empathy. They struggle when it comes to labeling their feelings, let alone sit with the feelings of their mate. They have developed many ‘thinking errors’ that create chaos in a relationship, and these demand attention if you want to have a healthy relationship with them.
It is common for many men to have other character issues, such as self-centeredness that, while hurtful and damaging to the relationship, does not equate to Narcissistic Personality Disorder. A diagnosis of NPD is a rare phenomenon, while someone who lacks empathy, is self-centered, manipulative and demands attention while attempting to control others is a common occurrence.
MYTH: Narcissistic Personality Disorder is EVERYWHERE!
FACT: Someone meeting the criteria of NPD is quite rare. Again, there are many men (and women) who meet some of the criteria, such as seeking admiration, lacking empathy and having angry outbursts. There is no doubt that these men need significant therapy, but they do not meet the criteria to be labeled NPD. You do not need to be afraid, but rather wise and informed.
MYTH: Finally, Narcissistic Personality Disorder is untreatable and you should run.
FACT: If your man/woman meets all of the criteria of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, this is serious. Most, however, fall on a spectrum of mild to moderate symptoms and can be successfully treated. I have successfully counseled over 2000 men with Narcissistic Personality Disorder traits, primarily in intense couples counseling. In good, but intensive, couples counseling, many of these men learn how to listen effectively, attune to the needs of their mate and develop empathy. They learn to see the view of their mate and can develop effectively problem-solving skills.
In summary, having NPD traits does not equal Narcissistic Personality Disorder! There is certainly hope that the relationship can change for the better! And, if you are willing to walk through the hard work of intensive couples counseling, you will open the door for significant change. He needs you more than you know, and you have more influence (and power) than you may realize. Insist upon relationship change and growth and you may be surprised.