The Real Dangers of ?Diagnosing? Everyone a Narcissist
by Craig Malkin, Psychology Today
April 12, 2015

Many people suffer true pain at the hands of severely narcissistic loved ones, especially if they?re the remorseless, manipulative type known as malignant narcissists. Victims of these extravagantly self-centered individuals can be so debilitated by their experiences that they?re left with post-traumatic stress disorder. Being able to pin the label narcissist on an abusive parent, a partner or a friend gives sufferers genuine comfort, providing a name to the source of their distress and the distance needed to heal and move on.

The current promiscuous use of the term narcissist, however, for every minor instance of self-absorption, trivializes that very real pain. Posting one too many selfies, hogging the bathroom mirror, or speaking loudly on a cellphone is not the same as compulsively lying to, insulting, or even screaming at one?s partner (common habits of the severely narcissistic). Equating these behaviors by tagging the people who display them as narcissists is a bit like comparing a pickpocket to an armed robber.

But all this indiscriminant label slinging is also symptom of a much larger confusion. Narcissism, as many writers have pointed out, lies along a spectrum; it?s not an all or none characteristic and a certain amount of narcissism is good for us?which is why ?narcissist? has never been an accepted mental health diagnosis.

Many narcissists may not have malignant narcissism or any other mental health problem; they?re simply higher on the spectrum compared to most people. The only official mental health disorder that references narcissism at all is narcissistic personality disorder (NPD)?people who fall so extremely high on the spectrum that they tip over into illness. Generally, when researchers use the term narcissist, they?re not referring to malignant narcissists or people with NPD at all, but simply to people who score high on self-report measures like the narcissistic personality inventory. And scoring high on narcissism measures isn?t inevitably a bad thing.
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