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The Science Survey

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The Science Survey

We've got the news down to a science!

The Science Survey

The Reality of Narcissism

Society sees narcissism through a black and white lens. However, the disorder is much more than what meets the eye. Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a serious concern and should be treated as such.
Narcissism is usually defined by society as those who are full of themselves. This causes immense feelings of insecurity within the individual and pushes them away from getting help. The denial causes those diagnosed to worsen their disorder and eventually fit the stereotypes they are so often put into. (Photo Credit: Михаил Секацкий / Unsplash)

The definition of narcissism, according to a licensed psychologist, is narcissistic personality disorder is a pattern of grandiosity, a need for admiration, and a lack of empathy. But the media and society have a different definition, demoting the disorder to simply an inflated sense of self-importance. 

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a mental disorder that primarily affects men. According to Cleveland Clinic, “According to research data, between 0.5% and 5% of people in the U.S. may have it. Between 50% and 75% of cases affect men and people assigned male at birth (AMAB).” The common trends regarding symptoms are compromised empathy, arrogance, exploitation of others in situations they feel can benefit themselves, and an excessive need for admiration. 

Although the symptoms are incredibly damaging to one’s mental health, reputation amongst others, and self-image, the reality of living with NPD is much more complex than what most people make it out to be, with an indelible impact on the lives of those who live with the disorder. 

There are countless instances when these people are unable to maintain and keep important relationships with friends and family. 

Having a magnified sense of self-importance in inappropriate situations leads to overwhelming disappointment when individuals with NPD are not being given special treatment that they feel entitled to. Oftentimes, loved ones of narcissists tend to keep their distance because they are aware of the insensitive environment that exists when they come into contact with them. 

Life as a narcissist is not easy; misinformation and a lack of flexibility in perspective towards their condition does not make it any easier for them as well. 

The simple yet deeply complex truth of narcissism is those with NPD are not aware of how their actions may be wrong. To them, their every action warrants no question, completely right in their eyes. 

It is important to understand that not all narcissists are bad people, with many simply being individuals with mental disorders trying to function in their day-to-day lives.

While certain actions of a narcissist should not be excused, there are explicit explanations behind them and it is important to take that into account when judging someone with NPD. 

“That’s what personally annoys me. I’m not excusing the actions of narcissists, of people with malignant narcissistic tendencies…but a lot of narcissists are looked at in a way that makes me reluctant to be honest about the fact that I am diagnosed with NPD,” said Katie Heaney, a professional writer with an abundance of knowledge on this topic.

There is also an ever-persisting issue surrounding self-diagnosing oneself and the harm it poses to actual patients of NPD. An individual who experiences symptoms remotely similar to an illness that they have researched or know of, tend to self-diagnose in an effort to understand what they are experiencing.

“The word narcissism gets tossed around a lot in our selfie-obsessed, celebrity-driven culture, often to describe someone who seems excessively vain or full of themselves. But in psychological terms, narcissism doesn’t mean self-love — at least not of a genuine sort.” said Melinda Smith, M.A. and Lawrence Robinson, two experienced and educated writers on various topics surrounding mental health issues.

Self-diagnoses are especially harmful because they skew the symptoms and overall illness that many individuals experience. With all these voices saying that they all suffer from the same illnesses, some are shut down, often being those who require the most help.

“And teens don’t look up information based on science, in general. They look up influencers who talk about their own mental health symptoms and what treatments they are doing. They will look up quizzes and symptom checklists to see if they meet the criteria for whatever they think they have. And it’s not always reliable because kids, and even adults, can be manipulated to put answers that they think the quiz or checklist wants them to say,” noted an article in the University of Utah Health.

Social media is a vehicle to self diagnoses, allowing for those that do not have NPD or other various mental disorders to believe that they do. 

Social media plays an important role in the ostracization and isolation of those with NPD. Social media is like a tornado of misinformation, allowing harmful lies to seep through and reach a wide audience, including impressionable children.  If our youth are taught that those with narcissistic personality disorder are untrustworthy and dangerous, then they will hold onto these beliefs as they age, continuing the chain of persisting prejudice. 

Oftentimes, a misconception that many may derive is that narcissism is associated with psychopathy. 

“Growing up, I hadn’t heard many people talk about narcissism or what being a narcissistic person was. But in my teenage years, all I heard was in a negative context. Those that spoke of others being ‘full of themselves’ were instantly labeled narcissists and for a long time, I believed that’s what a narcissist truly was,” said Chanel Vasconez ’26.

There are times when those in the media provoke others with various mental illnesses and villainize them immediately for any form of retaliation. This is extremely harmful and unfair to those with any mental illness or disorders, not just NPD. Despite them reacting as anyone else would have done in that particular situation, individuals with mental illnesses are perceived to be “unstable” or “deceitful,” terms thrown around carelessly. 

Using words like these continues a cycle of misinformation, shunning individuals who suffer from NPD. When those around you do not accept your illness and instead shame you for it, the journey to heal and live with your disorder becomes much rockier. 

Many aspects of narcissism such as  are often brushed aside, covered up by the broad idea of confidence and arrogance. The surrounding ideas of narcissism in the media also contribute to the misconception that anyone who feels a sense of self-importance is automatically labeled as selfish. 

Furthermore, there is a commonly accepted prejudice against those with narcissistic personality disorder, that people who have NPD are not capable of being good people. But, this is simply untrue. There are countless individuals in the world who are actively taking steps to live their lives healthily without hurting those around them with unkind words. The number of diagnosed narcissists currently present in the U.S. is estimated to be around 0.5% of the population. Amongst those 0.5% of people 2-16% seek mental help such as therapy from a licensed professional

Narcissism is a spectrum and there is no way to accurately categorize narcissists as “bad people” without taking into account the some narcissists that are self-aware and working to better themselves. 

On the other hand, it is possible that those diagnosed with NPD can be self-aware and not take steps to become the best person that they can be. 

Narcissists are ostracized by their peers in their everyday lives. Due to their symptoms, many people choose to stay away from them entirely, fearing their friendship, instead of making an effort to know the type of person they are at first. 

Even in my research about narcissistic personality disorder, most, if not all results include “why narcissists cannot be good people” or even “why narcissists are manipulative.” The articles often use wording such as manipulation, harm, and overall promote unpleasant ideals onto narcissists. 

Any information on rehabilitation and therapy for narcissists is scarce and hard to find online, pushing narcissists further away from trying to receive help. 

Although the blatant disregard for narcissistic people’s feelings seems insignificant, drastic effects are left on NPD patients and even those healing. Whether the prejudice is covert or blatant, the effects remain the same. 

Narcissism is not untreatable, as there are various solutions that help day-to-day life with this disorder. Whether it is through seeking licensed, professional help from therapists, reaching out to friends and family, or journaling, there is always help available no matter your situation; it is not helpless. Any progress is good progress.

It is important to understand that not all narcissists are bad people, with many simply being individuals with mental disorders trying to function in their day-to-day lives.

About the Contributor
Angeline Rivera, Staff Reporter
Angeline Rivera is a Staff Reporter for ‘The Science Survey.’ As a journalist, she loves to captivate the readers and share her knowledge and passion with other people through her writing. To her, journalism is educating others on her interests in a thoughtful and carefully put-together way, making sure to hold the attention of those reading. She believes that journalistic writing allows for the truth without bias to be stated and read, leaving an everlasting impact on people’s lives. Journalistic photography is a way for her to show others the little details of what is currently happening, even when most people don’t realize it. Much of her free time outside of school is spent making art, baking, and reading, all hobbies to which she is completely devoted. Although her future career trajectory is not completely decided, Angeline has a passion for medicine and hopes to one day become a travel nurse. Regardless of her future career, journalistic writing will have a lasting impact upon her life and continue to be one of her life-long passions.