“Narcissistic” is a term that tends to get used loosely, often describing people who appear to be selfish or self-admiring. However, there is a big difference between having the tendency to admire oneself and having an actual personality disorder, which is what narcissism actually is (Narcissistic Personality Disorder). A personality disorder is a long-term pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates from the norm of the individual’s culture. This pattern is inflexible and pervasive over a broad range of personal and social situations and typically leads to significant distress or impairment in social, work or other areas of functioning. Personality disorders can only be diagnosed by a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist, and according to the DSM-IV, a person must meet five or more of the following symptoms to be diagnosed:
Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
Requires excessive admiration.
Has a very strong sense of entitlement, e.g., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.
Is exploitative of others, e.g., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends.
Lacks empathy, e.g., is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
Regularly shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.