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Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a serious condition that is believed to afflict about 1% of the population. People with this disorder tend to come across as very self-assured, but are usually very insecure and live turbulent lives. They typically refuse to admit that they need help and are reluctant to accept it from most clinicians. Mental health professionals need to use different strategies for treating them than they would patients with other mental disorders.
Challenges of Treating NPD
Patients with NPD have very fragile egos. Most clinicians believe that people with the disorder were raised by parents who either criticized or praised them excessively. They have created a grandiose image of themselves and feel very threatened by people who try to dispel their illusions. This makes it difficult for psychiatrists and professionals with an M.S. in clinical mental health to treat them.
Fortunately, it is still possible to help patients with NPD if you know what steps to take.
Strategies for Helping Narcissistic Patients
There are a variety of different things clinicians can do to help patients with this disorder. Of course, every patient’s needs are different so they will need an individualized treatment plan for every patient.
Role of Medication
There are no medications designed specifically for treating NPD or any other personality disorder. However, medication can still play a role in treatment. Patients with narcissistic personality disorder tend to have emotional symptoms such as anxiety and depression. Some of these symptoms can be managed with medication.
Patients with NPD are also at a higher risk of suffering from other mental health problems such as other personality disorders, bipolar and schizophrenia. These comorbid problems will also need to be treated if the clinician hopes to make any progress treating patients with NPD.
Focusing on a Healthy Sense of Self
The clinician must strike a delicate balance between protecting the patient’s fragile self-image and boosting their inflated ego. They need to focus on providing realistic insights and helping them find their strengths so they can lead a more successful life. Therapists have different opinions about how this should be accomplished. Many feel that the best way to help them is to begin the patient-therapist relationship with a sense of support and gradually focus on the patient’s realistic limitations as the therapy progresses.
Show an Interest in the Patient
Patients with personality disorders tend to feel shunned by the rest of the world. They have often been ignored by important people in their lives. You will need to show that you genuinely care about helping them. Keep in mind that they will probably be skeptical about your help so you will need to come across as genuine as possible. However, you will want to make sure you maintain a professional distance the same way you do with all your patients. Narcissists often see displays of warmth and affection as signs of weakness. You will want to avoid doing so to earn the patient’s respect.
Try to Empathize With the Patient
People with narcissistic personality disorder tend to be some of the least sympathetic patients. Many clinicians have a difficult time being patient or empathic to them if they are rude, arrogant or aggressive. However, you will need to remember that the patient is suffering from serious problems that need to be treated carefully.
About the author: Kalen is a freelance writer with a passion for psychology and mental illness.