Is this how a person with NPD acts?
I finally found something I've been looking for for a long time - a university teaching video I once stumbled upon that is supposed to show students how to recognize a patient with Narcissististic Personality Disorder.
You'll find it near the bottom of this page. Click the "Narcissistic Personality Disorder 5 min" link near the bottom under the videos produced by Dr. Donald Fidler at West Virginia University. This link brings up a download window. Save the download to your desktop, and then run it. (You need Windows Media Player to view the video.)
What do you think? My first impression was that it was good that Fidler used a female actor, because that works against the sexual bias in diagnosis.
But viewing this video was all downhill from there.
First, the acting of a real narcissist is vastly better than the terrible overacting in this video.
Second, I kept waiting for a red flag. But there is really only one - when she pulls an abrupt face-change at the therapist and rudely asks if he always has that stonface.
That was a perfect example of how narcissists try to manipulate your reaction to them. If they aren't getting the look they want from you, they abruptly change personas and try another act. Often shock tactics like this.
That's a red flag because normal people just don't do that.
But the rest of this is nothing but a snobby debutant act. I'm sorry, but that isn't a PERSONALITY DISORDER.
Yes, envy comes through and some projection (when she accuses her college friends of being the ones who cared about nothing but clothes and money). But neither of these traits rises above the level of what you can find in normal (if neurotic) people = to the level of a serious pathology here.
If her envy had shown malignance in, say, some desire to get someone else fired or by some shocking slander, it would display the narcissistic lack of empathy and malignance that exploits others like objects to trash for the narcissist's aggrandizement. THAT would set off the alarm bells.
And if she had projected in the very act - like say, if while manipulating the therapist with her "stoneface" attack, she had added that he was trying to manipulate her - THAT bizarre projection would set off the alarm bells.
And yes she does expect her therapist to automatically comply with her highness' wishes. But we don't see that till she says, "You aren't going to change [the appointment]? A real narcissist wouldn't have asked "Can we change the appointment?" She would have said something like, "We'll have to change our appointment next week because I...." And she wouldn't have accepted him putting her off about it. She would have stopped that conversation dead in its tracks till he promised to change the appointment or she stormed out of the room (uttering some threat of complaining to his superiors).
So this portrayal is sorely lacking. This woman is just obnoxious and ridiculous. If this is what students in psychology are being taught to expect in someone with NPD, it's no wonder they don't seem to take NPD seriously.
What's more, this portrayal of a narcissist is just a stupid stereotype. Not accurate in 99 cases out of 100 I bet.
An act like this might be narcissistically successful in some circles in flouncy Manhattan, Hollywood or Paris, but not on Planet Earth. I have never known a narcissist who came off as flagrantly stuck up like this. (They behave that way only when showing contempt for someone they are abusing behind closed doors.) Presumably that's because people would laugh out loud at any such person here in Middle America (outside of the mad university town of Madison, that is). Every narcissist I have known puts on false modesty. They clamor for admiration between the lines, subtly. Not in the bawdy manner this actor does.
As Joanna Ashumn writes:
Some narcissists are flamboyantly boastful and self-aggrandizing, but many are inconspicuous in public, saving their conceit and autocratic opinions for their nearest and dearest.
And the therapist keeps asking her about her feelings. Duh!
What's more, this actor doesn't respond at all the way a real malignant narcissist would. Her first answer is the most off-base when she actually replies, "I feel...cut off." Give me a break!
This must be the fruit of just reading a lot of scholarly theoretical essays and having almost no real experience with narcissists.
Joanna Ashmun describes it best, I think.
From my personal experience, and from what I've seen in the clinical literature, narcissists don't talk about their inner life -- memories, dreams, reflections -- much at all. They rarely recount dreams. They seem not to make typical memory associations -- i.e., in the way one thing leads to another, "That reminds me of something that happened when I was...of something I read...of something somebody said...." They don't tell how they learned something about themselves or the world. They don't share their thoughts or feelings or dreams. They don't say, "I have an idea and need some help," or "There's something I've always wanted to do...did you ever want to do that?" They do not discuss how they've overcome difficulties they've encountered or continuing problems that they're trying to solve (beyond trying to get someone else to do what they want). They often say that they don't remember things from the past, such as childhood events, their schooldays or old friends, and it seems to me that they really don't most of the time.
Elsewhere, however, she does mention that occasionally a narcissist surprises you with a very detailed account from memory. I have seen this too. It can happen on a safe subject for the narcissist, like with something that happened before you were born, something no one can contradict him on. If, say, you ask him a very specific question about something that happened 50 years ago, he will capture your complete attention with a very detailed reply. (Made up as he goes along?)
But don't ask him a general question like, say, about what life was like back then on the farm. He will just gape at you as if your words are Greek to him. He has no idea what you want to know. That would be a story. He has nothing but still pictures.
Narcissists don't volunteer the usual personal information about themselves, so they may seem secretive or perhaps unusually reserved or very jealous of their privacy. All these things are true, but with the special narcissistic twist that, first, their real life isn't interesting to them so it doesn't occur to them that it would be interesting to anyone else and, second, since they have not yet been transfigured into the Star of the Universe, they're ashamed of their real life. They feel that their jobs, their friends and families, their homes and possessions aren't good enough for them, they deserve better.
Narcissists not only don't recognize the feelings and autonomy of others, they don't recognize their own feelings as their own. Their feelings are sort of like the weather, atmospheric, acts of God. The narcissistic think that everyone's having the same feeling as they are.
So, if this video is representative of what students in psychology are being taught about NPD, it's no wonder so many narcissists go undetected. No wonder there is such a high rate of misdiagnosis.
narcissistic personality disorder narcissism