What Is the Connection between Narcissism and Control?

Marlene Garcia
Marlene Garcia
Narcissists may attempt to control whose friends their partner can interact with.
Narcissists may attempt to control whose friends their partner can interact with.

The connection between narcissism and control represents one of the diagnostic tools used by psychologists to define the personality disorder. People suffering from narcissism might attempt to control others to enhance their own sense of power and entitlement. Narcissism and control relate to an image of feeling special and the tendency to devalue others to feed the narcissist’s sense of self-worth. Controlling others might also stem from a lack of empathy, a trait commonly seen in people with narcissism characteristics.

Narcissism may stem from unresolved anger in childhood.
Narcissism may stem from unresolved anger in childhood.

Narcissism is one of 10 recognized personality disorders, formally identified by psychologists in 1980. They defined nine traits exhibited by narcissists and determined patients meeting five of those characteristics might suffer from the personality disorder. A grandiose sense of self unsupported by actual achievement is generally considered a main factor in identifying narcissism and tendencies to control. Narcissists typically believe they deserve special recognition for their superior talent or intelligence, giving them the right to exploit, demean, and use others.

Someone with histrionic personality disorder might also show narcissism and control tendencies.
Someone with histrionic personality disorder might also show narcissism and control tendencies.

In intimate relationships, narcissism and control might be exhibited in the narcissist’s attempt to determine a partner’s choice of friends or how a loved one dresses. The narcissist might become jealous or possessive and resort to aggressive behavior to exert control. He or she might resent a partner who does not focus constant attention on the narcissist or defer to his or her desires.

Those with narcissism may try to control others for self gain.
Those with narcissism may try to control others for self gain.

Narcissists commonly boast about perceived abilities and attempt to explain away any failures. For example, a narcissist who cannot hold a job might blame coworkers for failing to recognize his or her special talents. A person with the disorder usually envisions power and success, despite an inability to get along with colleagues in the workplace. The narcissist might seek out people with status who can appreciate his or her unique capabilities.

Narcissists are more prone to conflicts if other people don't follow their lead.
Narcissists are more prone to conflicts if other people don't follow their lead.

The relationship between narcissism and control might make it difficult to treat the disorder. The narcissist often believes a therapist does not measure up in intelligence or fails to recognize his or her specialness. He or she might try to manipulate a therapist to elicit praise and attention. This could inhibit the bond between patient and therapist, considered important to successful therapy.

Narcissists often have a hard time being faithful in relationships.
Narcissists often have a hard time being faithful in relationships.

Mental health experts generally agree narcissism personality disorder stems from unresolved anger in childhood. Children who receive mixed messages regarding aggressive and assertive behavior might become fixated on a sense of self, some experts believe. This preoccupation with ego might carry on into adulthood, creating an unnatural need for praise and recognition. Some people showing narcissism and control tendencies might also show signs of other mental illnesses, including antisocial, borderline, and histrionic personality disorders.

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Discussion Comments

ZipLine

I think narcissists' obsession with control stems from the fact that they feel they are worthy of everything. If they want something, they deserve it and if they don't receive it, it's like the world has come to an end. And so they try to control situations and people to make sure that they are always getting what they want-- whether it's love, attention or praise.

It's very difficult for people to live with narcissist because of their controlling and selfish attitude. People cannot constantly give love and affection without receiving any in return. But when a narcissist gives affection, even that is pre-calculated and serves a purpose for them.

bluedolphin

@alisha-- That's true. Before I learned that my daughter has narcissism, I thought she was just a control-freak.

I think my daughter had this from when she was very young. When she was a child, she would cry and throw tantrums if she didn't get what she wanted. My mistake was always giving in to her tantrums and not putting my foot down. She learned at that age that she can control people by using their emotions and manipulating them.

discographer

I used to be married to a narcissist and I think that control is the most important issue for a narcissist. My partner had to be in control of everything all the time. If she wasn't in control, she would become depressed or aggressive.

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    • Narcissists may attempt to control whose friends their partner can interact with.
      By: michaeljung
      Narcissists may attempt to control whose friends their partner can interact with.
    • Narcissism may stem from unresolved anger in childhood.
      By: MNStudio
      Narcissism may stem from unresolved anger in childhood.
    • Someone with histrionic personality disorder might also show narcissism and control tendencies.
      By: Scott Griessel
      Someone with histrionic personality disorder might also show narcissism and control tendencies.
    • Those with narcissism may try to control others for self gain.
      By: gromovataya
      Those with narcissism may try to control others for self gain.
    • Narcissists are more prone to conflicts if other people don't follow their lead.
      By: bertys30
      Narcissists are more prone to conflicts if other people don't follow their lead.
    • Narcissists often have a hard time being faithful in relationships.
      By: avecfort
      Narcissists often have a hard time being faithful in relationships.
    • Narcissists often control the level of intimacy that occurs in their relationships.
      By: bonninturina
      Narcissists often control the level of intimacy that occurs in their relationships.