Individuals who pervasively engage in narcissistic behavior typically suffer from a mental condition called narcissistic personality disorder. Their behavior tends to be erratic, manipulative and centered around themselves. In some cases, a person suffering from this condition can become both physically and emotionally abusive. This type of behavior is also extremely difficult to treat. Although women can develop the disorder, it is typically more common among men.
There are many different aspects of narcissistic behavior, but the main aspect includes behavior that enables sufferers to pursue goals that only benefit themselves. Typically, those with this condition are unable to relate to the emotions of other people, and see any form criticism as a personal attack. They may react with extreme rage or violence in these situations, or turn the words of their perceived attacker around to make themselves look like victims.
Another aspect of narcissistic behavior is one of a large sense of self-importance. Those with the disorder often act as though they are better and more important than others around them are. At the same time, however, those with narcissistic personality disorder actually have very low self-esteem. They typically require consistent praise and affection, and become angry or sullen if they are not the center of attention.
Researchers are not certain why people develop narcissistic behavior. While some patients are known to have suffered extreme emotional abuse and neglect as children, others came from homes where they received nothing but praise. Environmental factors are usually not enough to create the disorder; typically, the patients have some genetic traits that make them predisposed to mental conditions. Narcissistic personality disorder generally does not present until early adulthood, as when children display traits of the disorder, it is considered age-appropriate behavior
Narcissistic behavior can lead to several complications in both the sufferers’ lives and the lives of those around them. Many patients with this disorder also suffer from an addictive personality and become dependent on drugs or alcohol. They also have a hard time maintaining personal relationships, as their behavior can be very difficult to cope with. Some narcissistic personalities become depressed or suicidal, especially if they feel as though they are not getting the attention they deserve.
This type of behavior is difficult to treat because there are no medications for the disorder. Treatment typically revolves around various types of psychotherapy, including group therapy and family-focused sessions. The primary goal of treatment is to address the underlying issue of low self-esteem while helping the patient learn to better relate to others. Those with severe narcissistic personality disorder can take years to reach a breakthrough, or may never be able to alter their behavior.