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Narcissistic Personality Disorder: 5 Tips on How to Cope

Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental condition wherein the affected aggrandizes their self-importance in exaggerated and often destructive ways.  It is largely believed to be the product of certain parenting styles coupled with sensitive personalities and is often combatted with talk-therapy.   NPD makes for a particularly destructive personality disorder when paired with alcoholism, drug abuse, or physical abuse- most especially when the person suffering from NPD is the one with these further problems, although coping with others in their lives suffering from these issues can be nearly equal in their negative effect.

NPD is generally characterized in two distinct mindsets.  The first is a sort of inflated self-worth wherein the sufferer tends to see themselves in an unrealistically positive light.  These people tend to have wildly unrealistic expectations in relationships and have difficulty acting with humility and respect towards others.  The second is the exact opposite wherein the sufferer feels constantly pressured to perform at above average standards and that failure will be met with extreme consequences.  In both cases, the sufferer’s impact on the outside world is exponentially magnified in their own perception and they find immense difficulty in empathizing with others.  They can act selfishly and appear cold and sometimes even arrogant; NPD has also exhibited advanced egocentrism in some sufferers.  Irrational outbursts are common with both personalities, often times it is feelings of hopelessness and anger that are the most prominent, and these can appear in great force at seemingly small triggers.  It is also common for sufferers to exhibit both of these mental states, wherein they operate with an inflated ego and seemingly solid confidence and yet are extremely vulnerable to criticism.

Living with a parent suffering from NPD can be especially confusing and difficult, as children look to their parents to provide stability and rational, objective responses to both good and bad behavior.  As an adult, I have come to terms with my dad and his lifelong suffering via NPD.  I did not understand him very well as I grew up and it wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I started to realize the answer to his irrational thinking and inability to empathize with his own family.  He exhibits many classical symptoms of NPD- irrational, inappropriately forceful outbursts of anger and frustration, the inability to empathize emotionally with anybody, even close family members, feeling that the entirety of our homelife rested solely and totally on his shoulders, and the consistent deflection of expressions of concerns or frustration on the family’s part, often exacerbated by defensiveness, further irrational anger and egocentrism.  Any talks that my dad should seek professional help were usually met with an angry, sarcastic retort or, on better days, deflected by humor.  Anything resembling a confrontation about his destructive attitude was usually met with fierce resistance and he usually did everything he could to turn the situation into a ‘me versus them’ or attribute any problems to our own sensitivities.

As with most mental and social disorders, most therapy is intended for the sufferer themselves while family members and friends must find their own methods.  Coping with a friend or family member who has NPD is a challenge and sometimes and worse still it is a challenge that you have very little control over.  Here is a short and certainly not complete list of things to keep in mind when coping:

  1.  Know what you’re dealing with – Understand what NPD is and how it affects self-perception.  Being knowledgeable about NPD will help you expect and cope better with outbursts, feelings of frustration or self-loathing, and other emotional overflow from the sufferer.  Understand that these feelings aren’t always rational and that you won’t be able to simply explain them away or expect words of comfort- no matter how eloquent or well intentioned- to fix the problem.  Learning about the disorder might also help you anticipate trigger terms or situations in your loved one, which can help you avoid them altogether or approach them with some preparation.  Above all, use this knowledge empathetically.
  2. Rationale isn’t always rational – It is important to understand that the person suffering from NPD may see a logical path of reaction in their outburst while bystanders are completely flabbergasted.  It is important to keep in mind that someone with NPD has a very skewed view of the outside world.  Things may make sense in their internal monologue but egocentrism might inhibit the outsider from seeing the full problem.  Being aware of this skewed world view can help diffuse outbursts or avoid them altogether.
  3. Familiarize yourself with symptoms – Coping with a loved one who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder is an immense challenge, and one that can be hurtful.  Someone with NPD can believe themselves better than others, even their own family, and will belittle and explode at them just as they would anyone else.  This makes it vitally important that you are aware of the characteristic symptoms of NPD, so that you can better cope with outbursts or inappropriate comments.  The most common symptoms of NPD are: inflated ego, expectation of constant praise/admiration, belief that they are special/better, willingness to take advantage of others, disdain for others, jealousy, oversensitive to criticism, inability to recognize other’s feelings or accomplishments, manipulative behavior, unrealistic goals/dreams, outbursts of rage/contempt with little provocation, sense of entitlement.
  4. Consider treatment but expect resistance – Treating NPD is made nearly impossible thanks to the disorder itself.  Explaining to someone with NPD that they should seek counseling will rarely be met with an open mind.  Generally, the person will become defensive and possibly belligerent, perhaps even going so far as to blame family members, friends, or deflect concerns entirely.  The hardest thing about NPD, is getting the sufferer to seek treatment.  And this brings me to my final tip…
  5. Understand that this is out of your control–  You cannot force the sufferer to go to therapy and you cannot force them to consider others’ opinions.  NPD is a personality disorder and will not respond to well-intentioned attempts at reasoning.  You need to understand and accept that expecting someone with NPD to empathize with you or others is going to lead to frustration and disappointment.  You cannot control the way someone thinks, even if it is frustrating and destructive and hurtful.  You can, however, realize that they are struggling and suffering in their own right.  You may need, if the severity of the case demands it, to stop expecting appropriate emotional investment or empathetic responses entirely.  If your loved one will not seek counseling, it may be wise to seek it yourself.  Cognitive therapy or counseling may provide you with new insight to coping with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  Always remember that you cannot control others, but you can control yourself and the way you react to a given situation.

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A writer of nothing particularly useful or constructive. Likes tattoos, video games, traveling, good food, office supplies, and coffee. Weak against fire.

29 Comments on “Narcissistic Personality Disorder: 5 Tips on How to Cope”

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks for this, Sam. I am struggling with my ex who exhibits much of the afore-mentioned behavior. And accuses me of same; it’s tedious at best. I’m heartened to read articles such as yours to help me in my dealings with him and also to know I’m not alone.


    • Debbie says:

      Wow, this article confirms what I’ve discovered about my husband of 26 years. He has all the symptoms you mention. I am at a cross road in my life at the age of 55 years old, stay or leave. Living with a spouse this long with NPD has been a horor/nightmare! I’ve spent so many years thinking I could do something different better, to appease him. It’s all about him. He is ruthless, cold hearted and detachted not only from me but from his children and anyone else that tries to get close to him. People on sthe outside sees him as a family man and provider, but don’t know the pain and horor he inflicts on his family. I am getting counseling and have been on and off throughout my marriage. My advice it not to waist time like I did! The only way they will change is to get counseling and to find God! I stayed too long, am of retirement age now and really don’t want to start over, so much time invested. However, the other side is do I want to spend the rest of my years left on this earh living in misery!

      • Debra says:

        It’s sounds exactly like my situation of 18 years .
        Oh to the outside world he is wonderful, but the pain he has inflicted on not only me but 3 children has been horrendous. Now I see him doing such to our granddaughter !!! Who walks in a room and can ignore a 18 month old because their parent said a few home truths ???
        Even hi abandoning us all…having a affair …was somehow MY fault and I actually thought what he had said to be the truth..I had pushed him . Omg what was I thinking.
        I took him back because as per now I understand npd traits…as soon as I stopped crying over the way he disregarded all of us for 6 months and started to loose weight regain my confidence , friends came back into my life Ect Ect….he was sorry !!!!! Made a huge mistake blah blah……if only I knew then what I was married to 🙁
        I too am at a crossroad . It’s so hard when your self esteem self worth has been abused so much to think your worthy and get out .

        • Maree says:

          After years on and off going to councillors, psychiatrists and now a psychologist for the past 16 months, I have finally learnt its not me with the problems. My wonderful psychologist has pointed out that my difficult husband of 27 yrs is a narcissist and my doctor has been telling me for years that my marriage problems are the cause of my mental and physical illnesses. So after a few light bolb moments I decided enough was enough. Years of emotional black mail, not caring about any body, animal cruelty and accusing me of belittling him constantly when I am only asking a question. I am glad to say we have been separated now for 3 months, although he is still living in the spare room, proceedings have begun with the solicitor, although with a new set of challenges. I look forward to a new life eventually. I’m learning to smile again. great article thanks.

  2. Sam says:

    Wow SAM! You really got me excited with this info. You brought to my awares, something that i have been needing to hear for SOOOOOO long. May you be blessed! P.S. If you have any additional articles on the signs, symptoms and helpful tips of Narcissism, it would be IMMENSELY appriciated if you would email them to me. Yours, Samuel

  3. cazwix says:

    i to have a ex with this seems to be in men more that women but how do we help them ive been traped with this he wont let me go you have made some good points and think this illness should be brought forward more like adhd and dispraxia thanks same for shareing

  4. Brian says:

    Sam, this is an excellent article. It was very helpful. Thank you, Brian

  5. Michel says:

    Thank you for this belated birthdaygift

  6. Guy says:

    Hi Sam, thanks for your article. I was especially interested in the symptoms. I’m pretty sure my business partner has this disorder because he didn’t shed a tear when his parents died, he puts down people who are overweight even though he’s overweight himself, and has a callous attitude towards anyone who doesn’t act in his favor. He’s had me running in circles for many years, and the moment I stopped his language became highly manipulative and bullying. When I didn’t comply he put me down and called me “toxic” several times. Fortunately I’m a strong person and realized that this isn’t normal behavior, which is what bought me to your blog. Thanks again!

  7. Debbie says:

    Thanks for the article. I have been enlightened some. I live with a NPD boyfriend and reaching the point of being so sad and wanting to pull my hair out. I am ready to leave him AGAIN. I think if I am to stay, that I need the therapy on how to deal. But I am not sure I want to anymore. You can’t even get a NPD person to see how bad they make you feel, or how much they hurt you! That in itself is so frustrating!

    • Shakira says:

      I am in the same situation… I thought it was just me. It doesn’t matter how hurt you are they only care about themselves.

  8. Another Debbie says:

    A very interesting article Sam which has made me re-think my thoughts of my husband of 4 years suffering from Bipolar disorder. I have never met anybody quite like him and it is clear that his childhood, being sent away to a public school at the age of 8 and clearly both parents (both only children from, shall we say, well off families), suffering from disorders of some form or another has led him to this. Unfortunately along with many of the symptoms you have posted as possible signs of this illness, I also have to deal with part of his delusions taking the form of needing contact in some form or another, with other women. I am getting closer to the realization that he will never change and the questions I have in my head & heart with regards to whether I wish at the age of 52 to carry on battling with one thing after another, is coming closer to what may be a sad but inevitable conclusion!

  9. Elie says:

    I am so thrilled that I have found this blog. I have been married now for 23 years. It has been a rough road by times but I am determined and committed to making it happen and obviously so is he. I have often felt that my husband is thoughtless and unfeeling, he treats me like another person he might meet on the street or at work. I could never understand that but this article gives me a new light on so much of this . He has these explosions of power and control that come at the most unusual times and when I try and talk to him rationally he doesn’t hear and really I think he can’t hear he feels attacked when that is not the case at all. He tells me that I am trying to make him “wrong”.
    I would love more articles on how to deal with this disorder as a spouse.

  10. Crazy Bones says:

    Thanks for the tips. I lived with a family member who had this disorder. I turned a blind eye to it, but his behavior towards me and others just got worse. I read a few psychology books, including Scott Peck’s “People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil” and Susan Forward’s “Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You.” They helped me see the situation more clearly and validate my feelings. I began playing with his head and heart. I became a demon. Weeks later, he snapped and physically threatened me. I called 9-11, the police came, listened to a recording I’d made of the incident, and arrested him. Some would say my methods were reprehensible and dangerous, but I haven’t seen the narcissist since.

    • pete says:

      I am very interested to know how did you do your play. Unfortunately it seems that I have a similar situation in my life, and it seems that this kind of triggering of a significant illness induced response (potentially an aggressive behavior) is the only way to get to the point where psychiatric diagnosis can be made. Please email me if you can.

  11. helen says:

    Thanks a lot i came across on your article while i am eagerly searching for answers on why my husband’s attitude towards me and my profession and the things i do and all my acquisitions is very negative and as if every time i say something, he knows already and as if he does not need me anymore, to the extent of wanting to seek annulment and that he does not want to be with me by the time he gets older. I have not heard him saying thank u or sorry or appreciates my achievements, etc. Now with your article, at least i have now the idea on how to cope with his NPD, but i still want to help him more. If you have a book to recommend that deals extensively about NPD and how to help people with NPD, kindly email me to my friend’s email address. Sir, thanks a lot.

  12. amy says:

    Thank you, so much for your knowledge of narcisstic personality disorder.It describes the person I reside with to the tee,however w/all my good intentions didn’t fair well w/this man,he’s constantly putting me down, never encouraging,no humility, compassion,/respect for other peoples feelings,I’m @the end of my rope I know deep down inside that I can’t save this man from his own demons!Considering,that he has severe substance abuse problem,as well as being a chronic alcoholic,who chooses,not to change his course in life before it’s too late for him!Been praying for him,I wish him no ill,why can’t this man encourage others instead of being so condescending?Anyone,have any input for me it would be gratefully appreciated!

  13. steve says:

    Hi, I’ve been reading stuff on narcissism for about two hours now and I identify with many of these behaviours and patterns. My case is by no means severe but it does often affect my ability to connect with people. Does anyone have any thoughts on what I might do to treat it?

  14. Joan says:

    I’m so relieved to read this explanation on NPD. I work on a voluntary basis with another volunteer who obviously has this condition. We use our skills in embroidery and design and used to work very well together. Lately he has become impossible to work with to the point of making me ill. He was bullied and ‘downed’ by his father, and when he died, another person in authority seemed to carry it on. I have always felt sorry for him but recently his behaviour has become much more critical and demanding. His workmanship is shoddy but he won’t take any form of criticism no matter how gently put. He shouts at me and puts me down in front of others. I considered leaving but love what I do and object to being put in this position. Now I can understand what is happening with this person and it will hopefully help me to cope. Thank you for such a clear explanation of this condition.

  15. I relish, cause I discovered exactly what I used to be
    having a look for. You have ended my four day lengthy hunt!
    God Bless you man. Have a great day. Bye

  16. Upset daughter says:

    Thank you for your article, I am very glad I found it. I have been tortured by my father for most of my life with this. I have been trying for years to use CBT to cope with him, but this past week, he has been so dreadful that I simply cannot deal with it any more.

    He refuses to acknowledge that I have the permanent effects of treatment for cancer and has been belittling me for “being negative” when I am too tired or in pain, etc. so I can’t “hop to it” for him, and I am by no means a complainer. My friends get on me for doing too much as it is, because I don’t want to give in to the physical problems. All this after not visiting or helping me or my disabled husband during my year of treatment. Not even a card or phone call to see how we were. Then I was the one neglecting him. Sound familiar?

    I need to find a way to heal myself and to expunge the hurt and anger in a healthy way. I dislike feeling angry and have no interest in being bitter. Any tips beyond CBT?

    Thanks for your consideration. I appreciate any feedback.

  17. Aurora says:

    Thank you for this article. I have been dealing with my mom who clearly has this and is extremely controlling. Due to the extreme nature of her behavior, I have lost a lot of friends and opportunities in my life. And yet, even as I type this, it’s always about her. I need to take the steps to gain my life back. Thank you for this article.

  18. Rainer says:

    I work with someone who fits all the symptoms described.
    It is a toxic environment and difficult to work in. I do not think it is fair for others at a workplace to suffer along with this Person who obviously is affecting his Colleagues. How would one cope or deal with such a person at work? There are many days i wish not to be at work near this person. It is tressing and affects my mental health too.
    I can not seek other employment because there just is not much about. Famned if you do and damned if you don’t situation remains.

  19. erna nell says:

    Wow. what an eye opener. I’ve been the victim of my sister in law for six years. So much so that I had a breakdown 4 months ago and had to be admitted to Denmar (psychiatric facility).Your article explained it perfectly and now I know that I’m capable, with the help of books and expertiece, to pick up myself and deal with her illness.

    • CNG says:

      You know I have just discovered that my parents and my mom in law are serious Narcissists. My whole life has been figuring out what’s wrong with me!! Why can’t I ever make and keep them happy?? I can’t and now I’m happy to stop trying.

    • CNG says:

      Have you noticed that the more sick you got you thought someone would take notice but the family is very affected by a narcissist. Afraid to speak up and support you. Or to tell the sis in law to back off of you. In my family of marriage everyone bows to the Narcissist. I realize now they are like wolves in sheeps clothing. Everyone think it’s normal for the narcissist to act the way they do as long as it’s not directed at them. They won’t have your back. I finally get its not me its them and I’m just the nice generous caring person that fell prey to them for most of my adult life!

  20. anonymous says:

    Ive been married for 28 years to an alcoholic bipolar narcissist. Its been an insane hell most days but also really nice some moments. After two years of therapy i have finally realized i cant fix it. I thought i could mentor teach coach and pep talk him into being happy and then his behavior would change and we’d be happy. How foolish was i. Im 53 and am leaving. Im excited and relieved but still grieve so many wasted years. And im also sad because i see the good parts of him and i will miss that.

    • CNG says:

      My dad is a serious but non abusing narcissist. He saw his own dad be abusive so he has not been. I was raised helping entertaining and cheering him up. It worked to keep peace in the family but I was devastated when my parents divorced and basically left me to fend for myself at 13. I thought I meant so much to them. No I found out dating and scoring that next marriage was all they cared about. Devastating not to have any kind of family life much less meals. Anyway that same dad who did not remove me from several dangerous situations at Moms house because it cramped his dating life got cancer, divorced his wife of 26 years and dropped himself in my life to take care of. He loved the attention while going through cancer treatment cause my husband and I are very altruistic. After the treatments he became the true person I have never known. I have no doubt why he’s been married 3 times as he started to treat me like a wife. He’d throw things on the floor just so I’d have to pick them up etc. I stood there n said I don’t care how sick you are I’m not getting that off the floor for you. He found a way to pick it up after I left. He barks out orders and says get out of my way! When I’m trying to help him. I feel no guilt neglecting him as long as he’s safe and his needs are taken care of him. I feel so sick when I’m with him. I help a lot with my mother in laws needs so I told my Hubbie that I’m not going to see my dad without him. He agreed!! It’s been weeks and I’ve yet to have the guts to see him because he’ll play nice then lure me back in to manipulate me again bye seems to need to control someone to feel like someone. I’m freeing myself from the bondage of this relationship. Yeah!!!

  21. Joan says:

    Sam, this article has really opened my eyes. I read it a few months ago and realised a person I was working with was a sufferer of NPD. It has helped me to cope with him and to be able to make him realise some of the errors of his thinking. Recently my husband and I have had a real blow up with our daughter. She has always been a problem, she was never wrong, life had to revolve round her, she could never apologise etc etc. She has just had a baby and it’s sad that she won’t contact us even though we’ve tried contacting her. My husband suggested she may have NPD and on reading your article again I realised he was right and she has. I hope she doesn’t cause problems with her daughter as she has caused us. Hopefully, now I know what is wrong with her, I can move forward without getting as upset as I have been doing. Her partner will just have to get on with her as he seems to although I really hope there will be no problems there as the baby is only 4 weeks old.

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