The narcissistic spectrum according to Lucky Otter

Man looking at reflection in mirror

A friend and I were talking about where exactly different levels of narcissism would fall on the N-spectrum. Of course narcissism (or any psychological topic) isn’t an exact science so giving the different levels numerical values seems a little silly, but in my mind this is how I view the different levels on the spectrum, starting with a Baseline of O (on most narcissism spectrums, “healthy” narcissism is at baseline) and the transition to NPD at around 5, which is smack dab in the middle. Narcissism becomes pathological (causing the person or others problems) at around 4.
Please note these are just my own subjective ideas.  I’m a geek who likes to classify things.

The Narcissistic Spectrum according to Lucky Otter

9-10:
Sociopathy:
A person at this level is almost indistinguishable from someone with ASPD (antisocial personality disorder), but an NPD sociopath is more concerned about image or obtaining supply than a pure ASPDer. Most cult leaders fall here. (Psychopathy appears similar to sociopathy in behaviors, but describes a condition that a person is born with instead of one that was acquired; many psychopaths were never abused and were always like that, but sociopaths were made).

8-9:
Malignant Narcissism:
A person at this level has severe NPD with antisocial traits. A person at this level will show more emotion (usually rage) than a narcissistic sociopath. Usually fits all the DSM criteria or most of them.

7-8:
Severe NPD:
Not malignant because there is no sadism present, but person is still highly dangerous and manipulative. Fits most or all of the 9 criteria and symptoms are severe.

narcissist-bird

6-7:
Moderate NPD:
A person at this level may be barely tolerable, if contact with them is casual or seldom. Fits more than 5 of the 9 criteria.

5-6:
Mild NPD:
A person at this level fits 5 of the 9 DSM criteria for NPD but symptoms are not too severe and they may have moments of acting like a decent human being. NPDers at this level may occasionally respond well to therapy or seek it out.

—Pathological—

4-5:
Narcissistic Personality (Destructive Narcissistic Pattern disorder or DNP):
  A person here fits fewer than 5 of the 9 NPD criteria in the DSM but has at least three.  Symptoms may not be that severe and the person at this level is more in touch with their true self and may seek therapy.  They usually have the capacity to feel empathy but it’s limited.

3-4:
Non-Pathological Narcissistic Personality:
Your garden variety self-centered jerk but may genuinely care about those they love.  Not particularly dangerous. Has moments of insight into themselves or empathy for others, especially their loved ones.

0-3:
“Healthy” narcissism.
Most normal people can be found here.

O (Baseline) and lower:
People down in the negative digits might as well be wearing a “KICK ME” sign. They are almost always victims of narcissists and sometimes even normal people give them a hard time or take advantage of them.

npd_spectrum
The simplified spectrum. Psychopathy does not belong here at all.

Covert (“fragile”) narcissists may be found anywhere on the spectrum, but because their narcissism is more hidden and arrogance and grandiosity may be absent, a covert narcissist at any level is harder to identify. They may appear to have BPD, Avoidant PD, or Aspergers Syndrome instead (these are the three disorders most often confused with Covert Narcissism).

High-functioning (successful) narcissists are more likely to be found high on the spectrum, and sociopaths are often extremely high-functioning. There are many sociopaths (and psychopaths, who were generally born with a different brain structure and may not have been abused) in politics, religion, and heading huge corporations. Sociopathic traits and most NPD traits are generally sought after in the higher echelons of business, politics and entertainment. A person with just the “right” combination of antisocial behavior and arrogance, entitlement, grandiosity, and fake confidence can be a devastating adversary or competitor, and they will have no scruples about crushing you into the ground to achieve their goals.

Most high-functioning narcissists tend to be the Grandiose (classic, or overt) type that best fits the DSM criteria.

Covert and overt narcissists all have the same disorder, but for most, one form or the other is dominant. That said, they can and do switch back and forth in the same person. I think temperament is partly to do with whether someone is overt or covert (the more timid or fearful types leaning toward covert narcissism), but I also think circumstances (such as a sudden loss or gain of supply) can cause a switch from overt to covert or vice versa.

Low-functioning narcissists are much more likely to be covert.  They tend to receive less supply than overt narcissists, so their false self is weaker (the “deflated” false self, according to Masterson). Because of their discontent with their lives and general lack of success, covert narcissists are more likely than overt ones to seek help. If a covert narcissist suddenly begins to receive a lot of supply, they can become much more overt-acting (grandiose, entitled and arrogant). If an overt/grandiose narcissist suffers a huge loss of supply, they can sink into depression and become covert (at which point they are more likely to seek help).

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What exactly is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

For those of you who follow this blog, this question probably seems like a no-brainer, but this is one of the most informative and readable articles I’ve ever read on the subject, and I even learned a few new things I didn’t know, so I wanted to share it.

What Exactly Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
By Christine Louis deCanonville, author of The Three Faces of Evil: Unmasking the Full Spectrum of Narcissistic Abuse

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Narcissus and Echo by Esstera, Deviantart

Explaining the Many Facets of Narcissism!

Narcissistic Personality Disorder, what exactly is it? Trying to explain exactly what narcissistic personality is takes some doing, the reason being that there are so many facets of behaviour involved. However, Narcissism, roughly translated means “love of oneself”. The term itself refers to a set of character traits that involve self-admiration, self-centeredness, and self-regard; to the point where the narcissistic person becomes very grandiose, arrogant, aggressive, lacking in empathy for others, superior to everybody else, and sporting a sense of entitlement that leaves them in constant need for attention and admiration in all their relationships. The term was coined by Sigmund Freud who picked the myth of Narcissus as a symbol of a self-absorbed person whose libido is invested in the ego itself, rather than in other people. There are several versions of the myth, but roughly translated Narcissus, in Greek mythology, was a beautiful Greek boy who found himself to be so attractive, that he falls in love with his own reflection. The term narcissistic personality disorder, also taken from the myth, describes a self-loving character with grandiose feelings of uniqueness.

The Spectrum of Narcissism is on a Continuum.

Narcissism is a spectrum of behaviour that is prevalent in the human condition universally. What this means is that we are all narcissistic to a degree, and the narcissistic traits can range on a continuum from 1 – 10, from what we call Healthy Narcissism (being a 1), all the way to a pathological form, called Narcissistic Personality Disorder or NPD (being a 10), with varying degrees in between. When narcissism reaches a stage called “Malignant Narcissism” the person consistently manifests at least 5 of the 9 criteria necessary to put it into the category of being a mental disorder.

To the casual observer, telling the difference between a normal range narcissistic personality and a narcissistically disordered personality may not be very evident to begin with, because the difference is the difference between the individuals “intentions”. The healthy narcissistic personality operates from a place of good will towards another person, while the unhealthy malignant disordered personality operates from a place of ill will towards another person, which naturally enough puts a chasm between them.

Healthy Narcissism Style vs. Unhealthy Narcissism:

Every human being craves approval. This need for approval is driven by the ego in order to make us feel loved, important, powerful and in control, and perhaps even more importantly, to steer us away from any criticism, which can lead to feelings of inferiority. Adler (psychologist) believed that it was the pain of inferiority that motivated all human action to strive for a sense of superiority and perfection. This is natural, and is healthy narcissism in action, a normal defense that is essential for psychological health. It is this action that protects us from painful disappointments, failures, and keeps us away from feelings of helplessness. This boosting of our morale (Healthy Narcissism) is what motivates us to do better with our lives.

Read the rest of Christine’s article here.

22 Signs of Online Destructive Narcissists in Forums and Blogging Communities.

honore_daumier
Honore Daumier

If we’re blogging about pathology, at some point we’ll face a critic, an accuser. This can be a bewildering mess if we assume s/he will listen to reason. If we defend ourselves, the ante will be upped. If we over-explain ourselves, s/he declares victory, becoming increasingly strident with the reward of attention and sympathy. — CZBZ of The Narcissistic Continuum.

I just read a fabulous article about how narcissism works in online forums and blogs. I think it just may be the best article about this particular cyber-dynamic I’ve ever read. I liked it so much, I got permission from its author, CZBZ (owner and author of The Narcissistic Continuum), to reblog it here.

There are 22 “red flags” that the forum or blog you are on is run by a narcissist (or narcissists). I can attest from personal experience that every single one of these red flags is spot on. That goes for forums and blogs about ANY topic, all over the web universe–and blogs and forums about narcissistic abuse are not exceptions to this rule. You can’t get away from it.

Obviously some topics will attract more narcs than others–for example, a psychology or self-help blog or forum is probably going to attract (and be run by) fewer narcs than say, a cosmetic surgery (somatic narcissism) or political (cerebral narcissism) blog. A blog about improving relationships is going to have fewer narcs lurking about than, say, a celebrity-bashing one (like The Justin Bieber Hate Blog, as just one example) or even a blog that hates on the fans of a celebrity–yes, they do exist. But you never know where one will turn up. They could even be lurking on a charitable blog about helping the homeless.
Don’t forget that the serial killer and sexual sadist Ted Bundy spent time working in a rape crisis center!

Every forum manager or blogger necessarily has some narcissistic traits–otherwise they wouldn’t be running a forum or a blog! While not every blogger is a narcissist, there’s a narcissist in every blogger–if that makes sense. There is definitely a “me, me, look at me!” aspect to running a kind of online kingdom, even if it’s not the admin’s or manager’s primary motivation for writing the blog (or running the forum).

I’ll be the first to admit there’s some of that for me too. But I think for most of us, it’s healthy narcissism. Yes, there is a such thing. Without it, we’d all be walking around dragging our foreheads along the ground, leaving a trail of blood in the dirt, while wearing a sign that says, “KICK ME.” A little narcissism helps us survive. Without just a smidgen, we’d probably be dead. Almost anything, when there’s too much of it, turns bad. Narcissism stops being a vitamin and becomes a poison at very low doses. Think of those heavy metals in your blood–like iron or magnesium. In tiny doses they’re necessary for physical survival; but raise the levels of those metals infinitesimally, and you’re dead meat.

But I digress. I think CZBZ makes some very astute observations here about what to look for in blogs and forums to tell if you might be being taken for a ride by a narc in shining armor–or if the admin or forum manager’s intentions are honest.

I’ll also add one of my own here (although I think CZ mentions it too): Snark. The mean-spirited kind of snark. You know, the “I’m so cool/mighty/right and you’re a worthless idiot/lunatic/minion of Satan” condescending wittiness that makes you feel like the most lowly piece of pond scum in the lake–as you find yourself wondering whether the jokesters are really joking (and you’re just being too sensitive) or are just plain mean. Well, they’re actually both.

22 Signs of Online Destructive Narcissists in Forums & Blogging Communities

HonoreDaumier_MeetingOf35HeadsOfExpression_zps0853d8ba
Honore Daumier — “Meeting of 35 Heads of Expression”

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed finding new bloggers through the Slayer Award and reading their stories and personal insights. Ursula, the author of An Upturned Soul, posted an excellent article asking her readers an intriguing question: Online Narcissists–Does the blog you follow belong to a narcissist?

She asks:

“What if you are following the blog of a Narcissist? Does it matter? Does it affect you? Do you even notice? After all, bloggers are supposed to write about themselves, about their lives, and share their thoughts and feelings, and do so in a way which is creative and perhaps even exaggerated for effect and entertainment purposes…I think if you’ve never been in a relationship with someone who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder, then Following the blog of a Narcissist, won’t make any difference to you. It’ll inspire and entertain and that’s that. But what if you’re recovering from a relationship with a Narcissist and you follow a blog which is powered by Narcissistic Personality Disorder?” ~An Upturned Soul

There’s a distinction between trait narcissism as measured in social network studies and the “destructive narcissism” we discuss on blogs about pathology (clinical disorders). How normal narcissists affect readers and society is fascinating, too; but for today, my focus is on the impact destructive-to-pathological narcissists have on others and how we might inform ourselves before we’re harmed. So my answer to Ursula’s question is that yes, it can be dangerous if vulnerable people are “following” someone with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

My short answer is this: narcissist’s unstable self-esteem and grandiosity is hyper-sensitive to ego threats. Narcissists are more willing to use aggression than non-narcissists. (Bushman) Narcissists are particularly likely to displace their aggression on innocent bystanders. (Buffardi) Good people serve as scapegoats because they limit the degree of harm they’re willing to inflict on others. Their private emails may be posted publicly, private pictures may be circulated on the net, hate blogs may be written—all in the narcissist’s attempt to regulate self-esteem by destroying others. If you have befriended an online narcissist, you will eventually say something perceived to be an insult and you may be treated more cruelly than you were by the narcissist propelling you to the Internet.

And my long answer is the following. Pack a lunch. This is complicated.

Read the rest of the article here: http://n-continuum.blogspot.com/2014/01/21-signs-of-online-destructive.html

Also Read Part 2 of Online Narcissists: A Case Study Called Puppygate.
http://n-continuum.blogspot.com/2014/02/online-narcissists-case-study-called.html

#23 – The Borderline-Narcissistic Continuum: A Different Way of Understanding “Diagnosis”

This is more the sort of thing I want to blog more about. Here’s a somewhat scholarly but interesting and thought provoking article about BPD (borderline personality disorder) being on a continuum that ranges from psychosis (being totally out of touch from reality) to normal (neurotic) behavior (the idea being that everyone is neurotic to some degree, which is what makes us human).

Borderline Personality Disorder was originally given that name because mental health experts studying this disorder in the early years believed that borderlines straddled the line between psychotic and neurotic in their thinking and behaving patterns. For a borderline undergoing healing, NPD (actually functional narcissism, which includes developing self esteem) is the first step toward mental health.

According to the experts mentioned in this article and many mental health professionals, BPD is a less functional and more ego-dystonic form of NPD.

BPD Transformation

For the purpose of understanding psychiatric problems in a more nuanced and optimistic way, here is a diagram from Donald Rinsley’s book Treatment of the Severely Disturbed Adolescent:

CAM00157Update

Please click on the picture to see it larger. Each row corresponds vertically to the rows above and below in describing degrees of emotional development, and each row describes emotional growth over time from left to right. The majority of the text in brown is Rinsley’s own diagram; the bottom additions in white are mine.

Donald Rinsley was among the most respected authorities on borderline and narcissistic conditions in the second half of the 20th century. He was a psychodynamic therapist who ran a psychiatric hospital for severely troubled adolescents in Topeka, Kansas in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. He later worked extensively with personality-disordered and psychotic adults in an outpatient psychotherapy practice.

I believe that much can be learned from studying Rinsley’s…

View original post 1,937 more words

Not every narcissist has NPD.

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As has been done with autism spectrum disorders, it’s becoming increasingly common to think of NPD as falling on a spectrum of narcissism, ranging from normal or healthy narcissism (which most of us have to some degree) all the way to psychopathy/sociopathy (variations of Antisocial Personality Disorder or ASPD) at the top. What we call malignant narcissism is actually NPD shading into ASPD.

Narcissism is a normal trait that helps us survive, but it becomes pathological when there is too much of it. On the narcissism spectrum, just below NPD and above healthy narcissism is a disorder called The Destructive Narcissistic Pattern, or DNP. It’s not included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), but Dr. Nina Brown has written books about the disorder, which I haven’t read yet (I never even heard of DNP until a few days ago), but here is a description of DNP:

The destructive narcissistic pattern (DNP) is a term used to describe a constellation of characteristics generally associated with pathological narcissism, but which are fewer and less severe. Nonetheless, these characteristics negatively impact relationships. The destructive narcisist’s typical interaction produces negative reactions in others. For example, the individual devalues others, lacks empathy, has a sense of entitlement, and is emotionally shallow. He may function very well and be successful economically, but is unable to form and maintain stable relationships, as evidenced by numerous partners or marriages. The DNP, Brown asserts, is often unrecognized. Although others may find him frustrating and difficult, the individual with DNP can be charming when charm is perceived to be to his benefit.

Dr. Brown’s book “The Destructive Narcissistic Pattern” can be purchased on Amazon.

The blogger CZBZ has also written about DNP on her blog, “The Narcissistic Continuum” and has devised a detailed graph that shows the placement of disorders on the narcissistic spectrum: http://n-continuum.blogspot.com/2013/11/narcissism-key-from-healthy-to.html

DNP is probably much more common than full-blown NPD. These people can be very difficult to deal with but because their symptoms are less severe they would be more likely to respond to (and seek) therapy and may not be completely without empathy and have a stunted or limited conscience instead of an absent one.

The only problem I have with this continuum is that almost everyone would be on the narcissism spectrum, since most people (except for those whose self esteem has been all but obliterated) have some degree of healthy narcissism.