Mar 1, 2023

The Overuse of Narcissism : Why Most Abusers Aren't Narcissists

Most Abusers Aren't Narcissists

“He’s such a narcissist”

How many of us have heard people say things like this in reference to a perpetrator of abuse? Do perpetrators really have Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or is this a term that has been overused and misused?

According to the DSM 5 [1], Personality Disorders are biological, and the behaviors are “enduring”, “stable over time”, and “pervasive and inflexible” . The DSM 5 states :

“The pattern in personality disorders is maladaptive and relatively inflexible, which leads to disabilities in social, occupational, or other important pursuits, as individuals are unable to modify their thinking or behavior, even in the face of evidence that their approach is not working. “

(**Note “unable to modify their thinking or behavior”. This further attributes to the DSM’s claim that personality disorders are not choices, they are a part of who the person is)

Having NPD means the person can't help it. Therapist Randy Withers LCMHC states :

"While people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder are capable of some truly terrible behaviors, they are nonetheless people who suffer from a mental illness that is largely beyond their control. 

Those with a different point of view might take issue with what I have just said. NPD is a personality disorder, they would say. That’s totally different than a mental disorder like depression.

But they’d be wrong. The American Psychiatric Association classifies personality disorders as a type of mental disorder. The Mayo Clinic notes this as well, and research published in the British Journal of Psychiatry notes that their distinction is arbitrary."

If a perpetrator was truly a narcissist, you would see the disorder in all aspects of their life. Ie. Interaction with boss, coworkers, parents, wife, pastor, friends, strangers, etc. But as many victims of abuse have experienced, abusers are generally just abusive to their partners and/or kids, but can put on a happy smile and act like a saint whenever they want to, when they want to impress someone, or when it’s important to them. This shows evidence their harmful behavior and mistreatment is a CHOICE, not a biological dysfunction and disorder they “can’t help”.