Tracy Guy


Unearthing the Hidden Narcissism Epidemic: Understanding the Increasing Prevalence of Narcissistic Personality Disorder in Western Society

Tracy Guy
March 21, 2023
In this era of social media and materialism, it’s no surprise that we are unearthing a hidden epidemic: narcissistic personality disorder. Since the mid-1970s, mental health experts have observed an increasingly high prevalence of subclinical levels of narcissism in college students across Western countries 1 —a disturbing development that challenges our fundamental understanding of what healthy social behaviour is supposed to look like. From the rise in self-proclaimed influencers on Instagram to unchecked feelings of entitlement among young professionals at work, there are often troubling signs around us highlighting how pervasive and damaging this issue can be. To tackle this growing mental health burden, we must understand what narcissistic personality disorder is and why it has become a prevalent problem today.

Defining Narcissistic Personality Disorder and why it is a growing problem in
modern society

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a mental health condition characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance and an insatiable need for admiration. People with narcissistic traits often appear arrogant, grandiose, and selfish. In addition, narcissistic individuals tend to be exploitative, extroverted, attention-seeking and domineering, accompanied by entitlement, extremely high self-esteem, and self-enhancement. (Kristinsdottir et al., 2021) 2 As such, narcissists have difficulty forming and maintaining long-term relationships and use manipulative tactics to meet their needs.

Up to 6 per cent of the population is estimated to have NPD, a figure rising due to increased awareness and diagnosis rates. 3 The causes of NPD are still unknown, but it is thought that genetics, environment, and trauma all play a part in its development. In addition, certain risk factors, such as having parents who failed to provide adequate love or nurturing during childhood or having experienced abuse or neglect, can increase the risk of developing NPD in adulthood.

Social media use has been linked with higher rates of narcissism due to its emphasis on external appearance and highlighting personal successes rather than deeper emotional connections with others. For instance, sharing photos online can create an unrealistic expectation of perfection which can breed feelings of envy or competitiveness among users when these unattainable standards are unmet. Additionally, the immediate feedback received from ‘likes’ or comments on posts can further encourage seeking approval from others rather than developing internal validation or self-esteem. Research indicates that users who spend too much time engaging in these activities may become more susceptible to developing narcissistic characteristics over time.

Parental influence is also an important factor contributing to the formation of narcissistic traits in children. Parents who lack empathy but emphasize achievement may inadvertently reward narcissistic behaviour while invalidating their child’s negative emotions. For example, this parenting style may lead children to develop grandiose fantasies about their importance and expect special treatment from those around them since they were rewarded for exhibiting such behaviour in the past. Similarly, overly critical parents can cause their children to become preoccupied with gaining approval from outside sources instead of developing healthy coping skills for dealing with criticism.

As the prevalence of narcissism increases, so does its impact on modern society. People with narcissistic traits exploit those around them while vying for attention and praise. This demanding behaviour results in strained interpersonal relationships, which can sometimes lead to conflict, strife, and even violence. Additionally, narcissists often lack meaningful connections due to their inability to empathize with other people’s needs or feelings; this contributes significantly to their potential for loneliness and depression later in life. Finally, people with NPD are at an increased risk for substance abuse, gambling, and other addictions as they attempt to cope with inadequacy using self-medication, alcohol, or other means of escape from reality.

In conclusion, narcissistic personality disorder is a growing problem in modern society due to its increasing prevalence among individuals of all ages. The exact causes for this rise remain unclear but likely involve genetic predispositions and environmental influences such as materialism, social media use, parental upbringing, and traumatic experiences during childhood. Regardless of the cause, it is clear that those suffering from NPD and their victims face significant social and emotional challenges; therefore, we must recognize these issues to implement appropriate interventions. Treatment for narcissism is long-term counselling which yields mixed results, and victims of narcissistic abuse often suffer extensive emotional abuse, which may result in Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder C-PTSD) the effects of which reverberate for the rest of their lives.

Reference

1. Dingfelder, S. F. (2011, February). Reflecting on narcissism. Monitor on Psychology.
Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/02/narcissism
2. Kristinsdottir, K. H., Gylfason, H. F., & Sigurvinsdottir, R. (2021, September 26). Narcissism and social media: The role of communal narcissism. International journal of environmental research and public health. Retrieved
from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8508105/
3. Yakeley, J. (2018, July 5). Current understanding of narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder: BJPsych advances. Cambridge Core. Retrieved from https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/bjpsych-advances/article/currentunderstanding-of-narcissism-and-narcissistic-personality-disorder/4AA8B04FB352F8E00AA7988B63EBE973

Comments

2 Comments

  1. Richard Fisher

    Hello there! This article couldn’t be written much better!
    Looking through this article reminds me of my previous roommate!
    He constantly kept preaching about this. I’ll send this article to him.

    Pretty sure he’ll have a very good read. Many thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • Tracy Guy

      Hi Richard, Thank you so much for your comment and compliment! Narcissism is a huge problem in our society and I believe its only going to get worse. Take care.

      Reply

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