Adult children of narcissistic parents (ACoNs) know a special type of emotional abuse in being raised by narcissists. (Biological mothers, stepmothers, biological fathers, and stepfathers can be N parents.)
Before we discuss the special case of narcissism, please note that not every emotionally abusive parent has the narcissistic personality disorder. In some circumstances, an emotionally abusive parent who is not a narcissist can change and improve his or her parenting. The same is not true for the narcissistic parent, however. Every narcissistic parent is an emotional abuser.
A narcissist is a person who has the narcissistic personality disorder.
Narcissistic personality disorder is one of a group of conditions called dramatic personality disorders. People with these disorders have intense, unstable emotions, and a distorted self-image. Narcissistic personality disorder is further characterized by an abnormal love of self, an exaggerated sense of superiority and importance, and a preoccupation with success and power.” (Cleveland Clinic, Narcissistic Personality Disorder)
Though people often refer to someone vain as a “narcissist,” NPD is far more destructive, sneaky, and layered than mere vanity. The Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) lists specific traits of NPD.
- An exaggerated sense of one’s own abilities and achievements.
- A constant need for attention, affirmation and praise.
- A belief that he or she is unique or “special” and should only associate with other people of the same status.
- Persistent fantasies about attaining success and power.
- Exploiting other people for personal gain.
- A sense of entitlement and expectation of special treatment.
- A preoccupation with power or success.
- Feeling envious of others, or believing that others are envious of him or her.
(The DSM is a manual used by clinicians and psychiatrists to diagnose psychiatric illnesses. It’s published by the American Psychiatric Association and categorizes mental health disorders of adults and children.)
Other traits psychologists have mentioned (in addition to the official list above) are…
- Exaggerating one’s achievements or talents
- Expecting constant praise and admiration
- Failing to recognize other people’s emotions and feelings
- Expecting others to go along with every single plan and idea she has
- Requiring constant attention and positive reinforcement from others
- Trouble keeping healthy relationships
- Being easily hurt and rejected if someone doesn’t agree with his or her every thought and command
- Reacting to criticism with anger, shame, or humiliation
- Lacking empathy and disregarding the feelings of others