The Painful Life of a Narcissist

Dawn Stergin
4 min readJul 15, 2021

A Better Understanding

Photo by Drew Hays on Unsplash

The term ‘narcissist’ gets tossed around these days as an insult used against anyone who takes a lot of selfies or talks about himself too much. Thankfully, due to this new popularity, this pathology is being studied now much more than ever before. New understandings and treatment options are being discovered. The term originated from Greek mythology where a handsome young man (named Narcissist) falls in love with his reflection in a pool of water. It was first used to identify a mental health disorder in 1898 to describe someone who excessively masturbates and becomes his or her own sex object.

Today, the DSM V recognizes Narcissistic Personality Disorder in psychological terms. Most people have narcissistic traits. With healthy development, we learn to curb these tendencies so we can relate well to others. Narcissism, therefore, exists in people on a scale that varies from a healthy trait involving self-care to pathology. What is important to understand is that, as with most mental health issues, someone exhibiting narcissism suffers. Though some traits are inherited, people are not typically born with this disorder. It is a result of childhood trauma in which a child suffers such intense pain and anxiety he dissociates from himself and forms another, cosmetic personality. It is likely a complex combination of environment, genetics, and neurobiology in response to this trauma.

There are dozens of books and articles written about recovering from a narcissist’s abuse, how to tell if your partner is a narcissist, and general anger and animosity towards someone deemed to be a “narcissist”. It’s understandable since someone with NPD does not relate well to others and can emotionally and sometimes physically cause harm in their interpersonal relationships.

There are two types of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD): Grandiose Narcissism and Vulnerable Narcissism. The first is much easier to recognize as we have all seen people, perhaps most often public figures, who exaggerate their importance, achievements, brilliance, capabilities, etc. They have a clear sense of entitlement and look down on others. Vulnerable Narcissism is the quieter, low self-esteem version. They do not spout their greatness but do believe they are special and deserving of special treatment. They…

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Dawn Stergin

Former addictions counselor, empty-nester, activist, animal lover, writer and lover of what it means to be human.