Sunday, November 11, 2007

Living with a true narcissist is difficult

True narcissists behave as if the
world revolves around them.
Among their traits, they believe
they are special and superior to
others. They can be physically
or emotionally abusive to others
and do not understand how their
negative behaviors bother others.

Coping Techniques may help

Imagine living with a person who is controlling of all aspects of your life and who does not take responsibility for mistakes. Holding a person emotionally hostage or physically controlling a situation are hallmarks of a narcissist.

One person who lived with a narcissist described being pinned between two cars while the driver revved the engine. If his foot had slipped off the brake, she would have been crushed. The narcissist did not cause any harm - so he didn't see the problem. This feeling that nothing bad can ever happen to him, that he is in complete control and that he is special are also common with a narcissist.

Personality disorders can affect the person who has the disorder as well as those who live with that person. Although most people have aspects of their personality that can be frustrating and hard to live with, a person who usually has the personality traits described above is said to have narcissistic personality disorder.

Different from a psychosis, a personality disorder is a way of thinking and behaving, said Charles Michels, M.S.W., a clinical social worker at the Counseling Center of Marshfield Clinic Lakeland Center. "This is a pattern that develops over time," he explained. "It's a way of thinking or behaving that deviates from the what's normal for a person's culture."

People with narcissistic personality disorder tend to be grandiose and believe they are special, Michels said. "They want to be around people who they deem as special as they are," he explained. Those with narcissistic personality disorder also tend to have little empathy and they can't understand how their actions bother others, he continued.

About 1 percent of the population is believed to have narcissistic personality disorder - most often men, but some women are affected. Although people with narcissistic personality disorder rarely seek treatment for their problems, those who live with or love them often do. "These people with narcissistic personality disorder are high maintenance," Michels said. "They tend to take advantage of people."

Many narcissists are abusive, either physically or emotionally, Michels said. "It's very tough to live with a true narcissist. But a lot of people have narcissistic tendencies. There are some ways to cope with that. If a person is not abusive, it is possible to cope with the narcissist, although it can be a struggle."

One way to help the non-narcissist is assertiveness training, Michels said. "Feeling confident about where you are at would help," he explained. "Being able to hold your ground in a discussion and not have a war. If the narcissistic partner is willing to change, to try new things, that can be beneficial."

Narcissists do seek therapy during crises in their lives, Michels said. But because the results are slow and they may feel nothing is "wrong" with them, they do not tend to stick with it long enough to make significant change. "There is either a crises event in their lives, or their partner drags them to therapy," Michels said.

Because they believe they are "special" narcissists tend to believe nothing bad will happen to them, Michels said. "They exhibit many traits of young children, around whom the world revolves, or teenagers, who think they are immortal. Most of the time, adults realize bad things can happen. We take precautions; we drive carefully, for example. Narcissists never come to that realization. They take risks because they don't see the outcome as being a question."