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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I think age of NPD onset correlates with malignancy and curability.

kids_different_ages

Because of a recent conversation I was having on Psychforums about age of onset and prognosis for a cure for different levels of narcissism, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this.

I do think how old a narcissist was when Ground Zero occurred–that would be the primary traumatic event that forced the child to create a False Self–determines the difficulty/ease of healing, and also how low or high the narcissist falls on the spectrum.

Here’s what I came up with.

Age of onset of Trauma/stage of child development (Piaget, Freud):

0-2 (Piaget’s Sensorimotor stage; establishing boundaries, physical and comfort needs met; Freudian Oral/Anal stage):

toddler_bear

High spectrum, malignant narcissism and/or psychopathy/sociopathy (if as an infant)– not curable except under extreme circumstances in very rare cases. May be self aware but has no incentive to change.

3-6 (Piaget’s Concrete Operations; Freudian Anal–Oedipal/Electra stage )

childabuse

Mid-high spectrum narcissist who may or may not be malignant. May become self aware but will be resistant to a cure. In unusual circumstances (total loss of supply or primary supply), a narcissist this high on the spectrum might seek therapy. They are unlikely to be willing to do all the work required for healing due to its difficulty for someone this high, but there might be a few exceptions.

7-11 (Piaget’s Formal Operational stage; abstract learning, competence; Freudian “latency” period)

sad_girl2

Mid-spectrum narcissist. Could become self aware and if so, there’s a good chance of them seeking therapy or treatment. They’re more likely to be cured, but it’s not a guarantee.
Therapy would be difficult at the higher end (onset before 8-9), moderately easy at lower end (onset between 9-11).

12-21 (adolescence)

sadness

sadness

Low-mid spectrum narcissist. Likely to become self aware and good chance of being cured.
Low spectrum at the higher ages (onset after 15/16), mid spectrum at the lower ages (younger than 15).
Good prognosis for a cure and self awareness. If very low, may be able to heal him or herself without outside help

21 +

How's my hair?

How’s my hair?

A person cannot become a true narcissist after age 21 or so. They may instead have a lot of narcissistic traits, have DNP (Destructive Narcissistic Pattern disorder–just below NPD on the spectrum), or in rare cases they could develop “acquired narcissism” (this is something a lot of celebrities and famous people get) which is temporary and lasts only as long as the adulation or fame lasts.

ETA: I got a rebuttal to this on Psychforums. I think this poster’s argument may be valid too, so I’m going to post it:

I believe the PD occurs in the first 5-6 years due to abuse/trauma, the critical level of which differs for each person depending on genetics (temperament, sensitivity).

I think NPD-like traits resulting from abuse/trauma after age 6 would be cPTSD to a normally developed personality.

I suspect traits from coddling/overvaluation after age 6 would be easier to “return to earth” from than something like sexual abuse and humiliation (say, having to testify in court) after age 6. I think the former might be unwind’able to a level of stable narcissism. I think the latter could be a more permanent scar/condition.

left-out_child

But, I don’t know much about. That’s just the way I think of it. It doesn’t seem feasible that PD could occur after the P(personality) is developed. I thought the whole point of a PD was that the P stopped developing, became a defective structure. Not merely unresolved trauma (like PTSD is?) but structural and permanent.

Basically his argument is that after age 6, true narcissism won’t develop but complex PTSD (C-PTSD) could. This could mean a child acquires a lot of narcissistic traits (what ACONs call “fleas”) that could resemble NPD in many ways but is more treatable/curable. I think this would be the same thing as the spectrum condition called the Destructive Narcissistic Pattern (DNP)
This would also take into account type of abuse inflicted and level of severity.