The term narcissism is derived from the Greek myth of Narcissus, a handsome youth who became obsessed with himself, falling in love with his own reflection.
Some degree of narcissism is considered normal; however, when narcissistic traits are so predominant that they significantly impair an individual’s social functioning, this merits a psychological diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Yet, the spectrum of narcissistic behavior can extend far beyond NPD to include even more serious forms of self-obsession including malignant narcissism and psychopathy.
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What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
NPD is a type of psychological personality disorder characterized by grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy. Narcissism occurs in a spectrum of severity, but the pathologically narcissistic tend primarily be men (75%) who are extremely self-absorbed, intolerant of others’ perspectives, insensitive to others’ needs and indifferent to the effect of their own egocentric behavior.
How Is Malignant Narcissism Different from NPD?
Otto Kernberg MD, a legendary thought leader in the study of personality disorders, originated the term “malignant narcissism” to describe a syndrome of narcissism that went beyond Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Malignant narcissism is like NPD on pathological steroids, manifesting additional antisocial features, paranoid traits, and ego-syntonic aggression. Kernberg believed that malignant narcissism was part of a spectrum of narcissistic behavior; ranging from NPD, at the low end, to malignant narcissism, and with psychopathy representing the high end of narcissistic severity.