Narcissism vs Narcissistic Personality Disorder (5 Key Differences)

Hey Optimist Minds!

Narcissism is a popular topic of discussion on the internet as many people suffer from the effects of narcissistic abuse. Moreover, since this kind of mistreatment doesn’t offer much opportunity for closure, unlike physical and sexual abuse that the law recognises, people enduring narcissism turn to the internet to find helpful resources.

However, the content available online may not always distinguish between narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder, otherwise known as NPD. The two terms are different, and this video will explain how.

We’d like to tell our viewers that both of these are clinical terms, so they must educate themselves on using them appropriately.

Here are five key differences between narcissism and NPD.

Number One

Narcissism is a description, but NPD is a diagnosis.

The word “narcissist” represents a self-centred person, who is entitled, manipulative, and lacking empathy. It is a clinical description of this set of behaviour patterns.

On the other hand, NPD is a psychological disorder included in the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual. It has specific criteria outlined that need to be met for a legitimate diagnosis.

Only a licensed mental health professional is qualified to diagnose NPD, whereas anyone can use “narcissism” to describe behaviour.

Number Two

Narcissism is a continuum, but NPD is chronic.

You may have come across people who do display narcissistic tendencies but not persistently. Maybe this side of them only shows up when they are in a position of power. Otherwise, they don’t behave in these arrogant and controlling ways.

The fact is that narcissism is a spectrum, and people vary in the degree of their self-centredness. In contrast, if someone has NPD, their condition is a lot more severe. For them, these problematic behaviours are pervasive in all aspects of life.

Number Three

NPD requires the individual to feel impaired.

Before anyone can be diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, they need to first feel like there is a problem. If their narcissistic behaviours are not getting in their way or if they’re in denial, no one can ethically diagnose them.

It takes significant impairment in social, occupational, and personal spheres of life for a person’s condition to qualify as NPD. This can happen if the narcissist loses their job as well as their partner due to their deceptive ways.

Number Four

Narcissism has many subtypes.

While NPD is a specific set of symptoms, the construct of narcissism includes many different types. The type with most in common with NPD is grandiose narcissism, which focuses on showing to the world how great the narcissist is.

Malignant narcissism is a more vicious kind, where the narcissist charms people with their charisma only to take advantage of them. 

Vulnerable narcissists are less confident than the other types. Also known as covert narcissists, these individuals see themselves as victims and are highly sensitive to criticism. 

Communal narcissists spend a lot of their time doing charity and community service. But, at the same time, they’re extremely unkind to the people in their personal lives.

Benign narcissists don’t really harm anyone, but they do seem superficial and self-absorbed.

Number Five

Not every narcissist has NPD.

In many of the subtypes just described, the underlying mental disorder causing the narcissism isn’t Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Other personality disorders too play a role in producing these behaviour patterns.

For example, covert or vulnerable narcissism is typically associated with borderline personality disorder and histrionic personality disorder. Similarly, malignant narcissism shows overlaps with antisocial personality disorder.

Do the differences between the two terms now seem more apparent to you? Let us know in the comments if you found this video helpful.

A link for further reading and the studies & references used in the making of this video are mentioned in the description below.

Thanks for visiting optimist minds, take care. Until next time.