It is unknown what specifically causes NPD. There are many theories that suggest the condition is shaped by a combination of biological, genetic, psychological, environmental and social factors. This is considered by many experts to be a ‘biopsychosocial model of causation’. It is unlikely one single factor is responsible.
People with narcissistic personality disorder tend to develop the condition in early adulthood. This could be linked to factors such as individual personality and an oversensitive temperament, but generally it is thought experiences during childhood are the most significant risk factors. These may include:
- insensitive parenting
- over praise and excessive pampering – particularly when parents focus on a specific thing (i.e. looks, talents)
- lack of affection or praise
- neglect and emotional abuse
- unpredictable or negligent caregiving from parents
- extremely high expectations
- excessive criticism.
The egotistical behaviour of people with acute narcissism is considered to be largely influenced by extreme parenting methods. Some children learn from their parents that vulnerability is unacceptable. As a result they will be focused on masking their emotional needs and deep sensitivities with grandiose behaviour that makes them seem bulletproof. Parenting issues may also be the reason why sufferers lose the ability to empathise with others and adopt manipulative tactics. They have not been taught ‘normal’ levels of interaction and thus find it difficult to connect with others on a healthy level.