Narcissistic Personality Disorder in Clinical Health Paper

Posted: November 5th, 2022

Narcissistic Personality Disorder in Clinical Health Paper

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is characterized by a persistent pattern of grandiosity, fantasies of unlimited power or importance, and the need for admiration or special treatment. Individuals with NPD may experience significant psychological distress related to interpersonal conflict and functional impairment. Research suggests core features of the disorder are associated with poor prognosis in therapy, including slow progress to behavioral change, premature patient-initiated termination, and negative therapeutic alliance. The current manuscript will explore challenges of working with NPD within the context of life-limiting illness for two psychotherapy patients seen in a behavioral health clinic at a large academic health science center. The ways in which their personality disorder affected their illness-experience shared significant overlap characterized by resistance to psychotherapeutic change, inconsistent adherence to medical recommendations, and volatile relationships with providers. In this manuscript we will (1) explore the ways in which aspects of narcissistic personality disorder impacted the patients’ physical health, emotional well-being, and healthcare utilization; (2) describe psychotherapeutic methods that may be useful for optimizing psychosocial, behavioral, and physical well-being in individuals with comorbid NPD and life-limiting disease; and (3) review conceptualizations of NPD from the DSM-5 alternative model for assessing personality function via trait domains. Narcissistic Personality Disorder in Clinical Health Paper

Keywords: behavioral health, clinical health psychology, psychological treatment, personality disorders, narcissism



Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a psychological disorder characterized by a persistent pattern of grandiosity, fantasies of unlimited power or importance, and the need for admiration or special treatment. Core cognitive, affective, interpersonal, and behavioral features include impulsivity, volatility, attention-seeking, low self-esteem, and unstable interpersonal relationships that result in a pervasive pattern of interpersonal difficulties, occupational problems, and significant psychosocial distress. Prevalence estimates of NPD range from 0 to 6.2% in community samples. Of those individuals diagnosed with NPD, 50%–75% are male. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) classifies NPD as a Cluster B (“dramatic, emotional, and erratic”) personality disorder, a category that also includes Antisocial, Borderline, and Histrionic Personality Disorders.

Individuals with NPD experience significant physical and mental health comorbidities and social problems. Stinson and colleagues found high 12-month prevalence rates of substance abuse (40.6%), mood (28.6%), and anxiety (40%) disorders among participants with a diagnosis of NPD. Core features of NPD that contribute to these mental health comorbidities include a higher frequency of experiencing shame, helplessness, self-directed anger, higher admiration of self, and impulsivity. NPD is a significant predictor of (a) making multiple suicide attempts, (b) using lethal means to attempt suicide, and (c) making suicide attempts in proximal relationship to being fired or experiencing domestic, financial, or health-related problems. Regarding physical health outcomes, individuals with Cluster B personality disorders, including NPD, have demonstrated significantly higher mortality rates due to cardiovascular disease than those without personality disorders, even after controlling for relevant medical comorbidities. NPD specifically is also associated with gastrointestinal conditions.Not unexpectedly, NPD is strongly associated with high health care utilization across a variety of services. Additionally, provider-patient relationships among individuals with NPD can be challenging due to interpersonal dysfunction marked by dramatic, emotional, and erratic thinking and/or behavior. From a behavioral standpoint, individuals with a Cluster B diagnosis are more likely to have (a) a criminal conviction (b) spent time in prison, (c) a history of interpersonal violence, (d) caused pain or suffering to others,and (e) evidenced overall impairment in social role functioning Narcissistic Personality Disorder in Clinical Health Paper.

In terms of treatment, a limited body of research has investigated interventions for NPD using randomized controlled trials or other methodologically rigorous approaches. One systematic review published by Town and colleagues found eight studies of “moderate” scientific rigor that demonstrated the positive effect of short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy (STPP). Several researchers have examined the impact of NPD on the psychotherapeutic relationship.Tanzilli and colleagues found that individuals treating patients with NPD were more likely to experience negative counter-transference feelings of disengagement as well as feeling criticized or mistreated. These authors highlight the core feature of narcissism—struggle to form intimate relationships—as a significant barrier to positive treatment outcome, due to the patient’s potential inability to form a safe and trusting relationship with the therapist. Other researchers have found that individuals with NPD have higher rates of self-terminating treatment Narcissistic Personality Disorder in Clinical Health Paper .


One proposed treatment method for personality disorders was originally developed with the goal of providing brief psychological services to individuals with substance use disorders or medical nonadherence concerns. This approach revolves around the six-component “FRAMES” technique developed by Miller and Sanchez. This method emphasizes the role of Feedback, Responsibility, Advice, Menu of Strategies, Empathy, and Self-Efficacy. This approach highlights guidelines for the patient and therapist in order to maximize the likelihood of behavioral change and therapeutic progress. This strategy creates a structure in which the provider can limit the impact of transference and countertransference on the therapeutic process and focus on creating a team-oriented dynamic that is supported by limit-setting, strong boundaries, and minimization of “splitting” with other providers Narcissistic Personality Disorder in Clinical Health Paper

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