There is a wonderful NPD research paper available at: http://ps.psychiatryonline.org/data/Journals/AJP/3874/08aj1473.PDF
It is my personal opinion that this is the most scientifically accurate description of NPD and its subtypes.
My NPD falls under the ‘fragile’ category.
According to their Q-factor analysis, the following traits are typical of the fragile narcissist experience. In order to add the actual viewpoint of a fragile narc, I am including the ranked list of traits and how they manifest in my life.
Please note that it is difficult for me to separate my current sense of awareness from my history. I may use past and present text in some places, but my general intent here is to describe what my life has felt like for the past 35 years.
Maybe it can be useful to help self identify if you think this is what you have! Just be sure to confirm with a trained and licensed therapist before you try to start doing the work…
While I am trying to stay away from statements that feed my delusion, I DO want to share an important point here… and explain why I am doing this.
I’ve lived with this in my head since the age of 7 or 8. As an adult, I ALWAYS had this ‘sense’ that something was wrong with me – I just couldn’t ever figure out what.
My bookshelves include all kinds of books on human interaction, psychology, self-help topics, etc. I WANTED to find an answer – but I was just chasing symptoms. I was even treated for perfectionism for a short while.
When I started to really look hard at NPD – and then FORCED myself to look in the mirror, MY ENTIRE WORLD MADE SENSE TO ME FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME EVER!!!
KNOWING instead of guessing has given me the opportunity to address the underlying root. Something that I am PROFOUNDLY thankful for.
As you read my own personal accounts, you will see pretty quickly that my internal world was/is a nightmare – no matter how I presented myself on the outside. It was an overwhelming sense of internal emotional AGONY that finally pushed me to do something different THIS time.
And please – I am WELL AWARE that the portrait I am about to paint is that of a truly inhuman being. No one needs to remind me of that – see QF 1.81 below! This is why I am so ABSOLUTELY COMMITTED to turning my life around!!! I DO NOT WANT TO BE THE MONSTER!!!
Also – If it sounds like I’m being flippant or not giving the right weight to my actions in my writing here – it’s actually because I’ve been doing a lot of acknowledgement and acceptance work. I just happen to use humor sometimes when I’m nervous. This one is a bit challenging for me to write. It’s NOT to be a dick! I’m just trying to be COMPLETELY HONEST!
Note: These are presented in the order of their prevalence as symptoms per the study linked above. I’d rank them differently in my world… But the order isn’t important because it’s ALL happening inside simultaneously!
(QF 2.88) Tends to feel unhappy, depressed, or despondent.
For me this is more about living with all of the other symptoms on a day to day basis rather than being a direct symptom of the disease itself. I was generally unhappy pretty much all the time, but I didn’t fully understand why. The depression was there though – and it would come and go. The best way to express this is that my general default state was one of detachment and disinterest, with an overall sense of unhappiness and disquiet that just IS. If I encountered trouble or a sense of loss, I would then become depressed. The bigger the issue – or the more I thought it would impact the perception others had about me, the darker the depressed state.
(QF 2.28) Tends to be critical of others
Well – yeah! I am GREAT at pointing out other peoples flaws and mistakes, but almost NEVER capable of offering real praise to others. Even if I don’t tell someone they are dumb, or did something wrong, I’m still thinking it. I even WATCH for people to make mistakes so I can call them out on it. However, this also serves as a tool within the delusion. The ability to quickly identify and measure the degree of errors and flaws also helped identify targets and size them up. If I could make someone’s reputation suffer, it also laid the groundwork for blamecasting at a later time – as a backup plan if I were called out on an error of my own. This one is actually way more insidious than it sounds in the study! And this is one that I’m still carrying a lot of shame around for…
(QF 2.18) Has an exaggerated sense of self-importance (e.g., feels special, superior, grand, or envied)
This one is actually the worst one of the bunch for me. I am a natural storyteller who lets my narratives spin out of control. All of my stories are based on truth, but like Hollywood, certain liberties have been taken. My biggest has to do with how I presented my military background. I REALLY WAS assigned to a special operations command during my last duty assignment; however, I spin that yarn out from being a guy doing communications and computer systems support for specops to being a combat-comm operator inserted with the army rangers. My mask is a war torn combat vet with all kinds of physical problems from too many HALO jumps with too much gear (my lower extremities DO cause me pain, but this isn’t why), half my hearing is gone in one ear (I have really bad tinnitus and my right ear does bother me a bit, but I didn’t lose my hearing in combat), I have PTSD (because again, I’ve always KNOWN something was wrong with me in my head – I just didn’t know what. I used this to include a cover for any unexplainable behavior I might exhibit). Anyway – you get the idea. After 35 years of living in fantasyland, this natural state of grandiosity is actually a way of life for me now – and I am still finding myself embellishing almost everything. Thankfully I’ve created space in my relationships with those who know my secret in order to stop and course correct as I speak. I can also do this in my writing. THIS ONE IS REALLY TOUGH FOR ME TO BREAK THOUGH!!! And it is NOT the same thing as pathological lying! A pathological liar might make up the ENTIRE story – there is no nugget of truth, just the lie. Frame this as someone who worked at McDonalds and has NO military background spinning something like my war-torn vet story. As for the self-importance and all of the rest of the stuff on this line, yeah – I carry around all of that crap with me to! AND IT SUCKS!!!
(QF 2.13) Tends to be angry or hostile (whether consciously or unconsciously)
I have my own theories on the source of my anger and rage, but I’ll leave those out. My general reaction to ANY perceived sleight, ANY perceived inconvenience, or ANYTHING ELSE that ruptured my delusional bubble is RAGE! Now – I don’t get violent or anything. I may not even react in an outwardly visible manner. But inside, I feel like I’m caught in a panic attack that just seethes with anger! I also tend to snap REALLY easily at things that just don’t matter. And – I’m TERRIBLE when I’m driving! EVERYONE is an idiot and an asshole! I also throw tantrums. There’s no other word to own it with. If I don’t get my way, you get my anger… You may not SEE my anger, but you are likely to become the target of it if there’s some way for me to seek retribution. Again – this one is NASTY! The rage eats at me inside quite often and it rises up SOOO quickly – and it becomes ALL ENCOMPASSING!
(QF 2.11) Tends to feel anxious
This is almost a constant state for me. It also includes panic attacks accompanied by anger (and humiliation) at myself for getting them! I also become EXTREMELY anxious when I’m not in perceived control of something, or if I am going somewhere new or doing something new for the very first time. The DEPTH of my anxiety locks me in place! Because I am so anxious, I just avoid new things altogether!!! Or I approach them with GREAT caution – and may turn and run at the first sign of trouble. This severe sense of anxiety can be crippling and has limited my life for several years now.
(QF 2.07) Tends to feel envious
I’ll give a specific example for this one. Years ago I connected with a colleague on the job. We did some work together and then he took over on one of my projects. Years later when I was a manager, I hired him to come in as my right hand man. After I blew up my job there – he took over in my role. Eventually he quit, went back to school, landed a REALLY NICE position, and has been doing extremely well for himself professionally. Here my envy manifests in several ways. For one – that should be my life! Why does HE get all the breaks and I never get ANY! And dammit! He’s a nice guy to – lots of professional relationships, etc. On one hand, I REALLY ADMIRE his skills – but then I grow envious and angry at him when I think about him! I’m in this state now just because I wrote about him here! Here’s the worst part though – and another add to the shame box I carry around… I tell myself internally (and have said externally) that I ‘trained’ him. So naturally – he’s still a part of me, and now his success is also mine! And yes, this ALL happens in an instant and is constant! The admiration to envy switch is an easy one to trigger…
(QF 2.06) Is prone to painful feelings of emptiness (e.g., may feel lost, bereft, abjectly alone even in the presence of others, etc.)
See QF 2.88, 2.03, 1.84, – etc. The biggest challenge here is my general sense of ‘disconnect’ with others. It’s a result of the narc empathy issue in my opinion. Feeling disconnected from others ALL THE TIME and unable to connect? OF COURSE I FEEL ALONE! And, because I am so ‘unique’ with my beliefs and interests, no one else in the WORLD could possibly get me! Anyway – yeah – empathy and connectedness are center stage as problem areas for me…
(QF 2.03) Tends to fear he or she will be rejected or abandoned
So for this one – IT’S TIED TO THE UNDERLYING INJURY THAT CAUSED THE BREAK! Now this is just my opinion based on my own experience and research… In my case, I erected my narc wall and started wearing masks at the age of 7 or 8 AS THE RESULT OF perceived abandonment by both parental figures. It is my personal belief that this lies at the very heart of NPD and is the real ROOT of the disease – at least for the fragile type!!! Or rather – at least in my specific case… It also becomes a symptom later on in life though, which is how it ended up here I’d guess. For more details, read my article on Healing the Oldest Wound. It contains my entire story and some of my person theories on this topic.
(QF 1.96) Tends to be competitive with others (whether consciously or unconsciously
Very very much so – and at tiny inconsequential things! AND, many times the other ‘players’ don’t even know there’s a competition occurring. I also go out of my way to appear better than any perceived competitor unless there really IS someone in the room better than I am at the said activity or event. If I don’t win – I usually get pissy and may even throw a mini tantrum. I also blame away anything that looks like losing. Ohhh – and IT DOES NOT MATTER if my opponents are adults, children, living, or dead, I MUST STILL WIN – and I CAN’T just lose! AND if I DO lose – I’ll often make it APPEAR as if I lost on purpose – or manipulate the person into thinking it. Yeah – this one is pretty shitty to!
(QF 1.90) Tends to have extreme reactions to perceived slights or criticism (e.g., may react with rage, humiliation, etc.)
All I can say here is HOLY SHIT – do NOT ever try to tell me that I’m wrong about something, or try to offer me advice, or critique something I’ve done. You better come in wearing armor! And for a REAL instance of criticism – my entire world may explode as a result! I’ve often quit jobs and stormed out for this kind of thing – making a GRAND exit and blamecasting the whole way out the door. It’s usually rage that occurs – but if challenged in a public setting or with an audience, I am overwhelmed by a COMPLETE sense of humiliation FOLLOWED BY anger and rage! In these situations I usually just slink off somewhere and cry – and then I enter into a DEEP depressive period! The humiliation one has only hit me a handful of times that I can remember though – it’s usually the rage that is released in response to anything that tries to prick my delusional sense of perfection!
(QF 1.85) Tends to feel misunderstood, mistreated, or victimized
Well – the blame has to land somewhere and it sure as hell isn’t going to land at MY feet! And when I say blame here, I mean blaming the world for all of my problems – it CANT be MY fault! It’s very much a SCREW YOU WORLD kind of attitude and I really do spend a LOT of time putting everything else off on others instead of taking responsibility! Nobody loves me, or gets me, or wants to be around me… I get left out of everything, etc.
(QF 1.84) Lacks close friendships and relationships
At one time I DID have friends. However, over the years I’ve disappointed so many people that I just started to give up on the idea of friendships. Eventually I did give up! Other than my SO, I have NO ONE else in my life. This has changed now as I’ve begun to address my issues – but only with a very small handful of very very close confidants. The loneliness in 2.06 is VERY MUCH based on this. So really – this is a RESULT of the disease and not an actual symptom per se. At least for me.
(QF 1.81) Tends to ruminate; may dwell on problems, replay conversations in his or her mind, become preoccupied with thoughts about what could have been, etc.
Personally, I tie this one to shame! In my case, I’ll think about an event or a discussion with another person that may have taken place YEARS ago – where I may have made a perceived mistake or handled something poorly when interacting with individuals or groups. I RELIVE the experience in my head and it elicits shame and anger as if it JUST happened! Sometimes it may even manifest as a mini temper tantrum – FOR SOMETHING INCONSEQUENTIAL THAT HAPPENED A LIFETIME AGO! This happens to me a LOT – several times a week!
(QF 1.74) Is articulate; can express self well in words
You can make your own decisions about whether or not my writing style fits this mold – but it does. I can also be quite effective in person IF all of the right circumstances are in play (i.e. I get out of my own way). My communications skills are one of my TRUE GIFTS! True in terms of ‘I acknowledge that I am a capable writer and speaker with above average abilities…’ not a gifted one (although sometimes I think I am; okay – yes, I think I’m a gifted communicator most of the time). I’m actually PROUD of this one! I’m curious WHY this is a part of it though… Now I REALLY want to go and research this more! My first guess is that because we NEED words in order to spin our narratives, the more we know about words, the stronger our narratives… So we learn to love language as a tool in our narc toolkit… But that’s just a wild ass guess! It could just be that we often like to read A LOT!
(QF 1.68) Tends to feel like an outcast or outsider
Again, not as a direct result of the disease, but as a result of the LIFE this disease creates for the person with it.
(QF 1.67) Appears to feel privileged and entitled; expects preferential treatment
This is a core character trait for me! And I throw tantrums when people don’t agree!
(QF 1.65) Tends to feel he or she is inadequate, inferior, or a failure
Another way of expressing how shame feels within this framework and the effect that it and EVERYTHING ELSE has on me! Plus – I KNOW I’m enormously selfish and lazy! That I only put in the minimum amount in terms of pretty much EVERY aspect of my life. In many ways I don’t care, but at the same time – KNOWING that I’m barely cutting it sets me up to FEEL like I’m failing AND ALSO CREATES A SENSE OF FEAR OF BEING DISCOVERED! This is one of the two big internal torment things I deal with (this and loneliness).
(QF 1.64) Is self-critical; sets unrealistically high standards for self and is intolerant of own human defects
My inner dialogue is EXTREMELY negative and self-destructive. I am ABSOLUTELY my own worst critic! Not that I’d ever say so out loud. In fact – this is very much tied to the reactivity to criticism… I KNOW that I’m not perfect and that it’s all a façade, but your perceived sleight burst my bubble and just confirmed my own inner critic. I get REALLY MAD because people are telling me things I already know, but don’t want to own! Also – remember the intro here? I said at one point I’d been diagnosed with perfectionism?
Both other ‘types’ include things that I do as well:
On the Grandiose/ Malignant side:
- Tends to blame own failures or shortcomings on other people or circumstances; attributes his or her difficulties to external factors rather than accepting responsibility for own conduct or choices
- Tends to get into power struggles
- Takes advantage of others; has little investment in moral values (e.g., puts own needs first, uses or exploits people with little regard for their feelings or welfare, etc.)
- Tends to be dismissive, haughty, or arrogant
- Is prone to intense anger, out of proportion to the situation at hand (e.g., has rage episodes)
On the High-functioning/Exhibitionist side:
- Seeks to be the center of attention
- Seems to treat others primarily as an audience to witness own importance, brilliance, beauty, etc.
- Tends to seek power or influence over others (whether in beneficial or destructive ways)
- Tends to be controlling
- Has fantasies of unlimited success, power, beauty, talent, brilliance, etc.
There are a few other things that I deal with that are NOT in the study – like my all or nothing, black and white thinking – which is usually characteristics of someone with BPD, but has also been shown to be present in some NPD patients as well.
There’s more, but I think you get the idea.
IF THIS FEELS LIKE YOUR WORLD! PLEASE GET HELP!
You really don’t need to suffer… Yeah – healing is gonna SUCK!!! But you just can’t imagine the freedom that comes with each new realization and each new step! YOUR LIFE CAN BE BETTER! Call a professional and start the work – NO MATTER HOW HARD IT FEELS!!! The feeling – and the sense of absolute terror WILL pass… JUST DO IT!
If it helps, use your sense of self-importance to help force yourself to take the first step!!! If you are currently operating at 50% (you only do about half of what you KNOW you should probably be doing) and you are STILL managing to kick some serious ass in the world, IMAGINE WHAT YOU COULD ACHIEVE WITHOUT YOUR DYSFUNCTION!!! If nothing else will get you into a therapists chair – USE YOUR MIND AGAINST YOUR DEMON and trick it into sitting in the chair!!! Do whatever it takes to get in that chair!!!
Good luck in your own healing journey…