The Narcissism Definition, as defined by the American Psychiatric
Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is as
To diagnose narcissistic personality disorder, the following criteria must be met:
A. Significant impairments in personality functioning manifest by:
1. Impairments in self functioning (a or b):
a. Identity: Excessive reference to others for self-definition
and self-esteem regulation; exaggerated self-appraisal
may be inflated or deflated, or vacillate between extremes;
emotional regulation mirrors fluctuations in self-esteem.
b. Self-direction: Goal-setting is based on gaining approval
from others; personal standards are unreasonably high in
order to see oneself as exceptional, or too low based on a
sense of entitlement; often unaware of own motivations.
2. Impairments in interpersonal functioning (a or b):
a. Empathy: Impaired ability to recognize or identify with the
feelings and needs of others; excessively attuned to
reactions of others, but only if perceived as relevant to self;
over- or underestimate of own effect on others.
b. Intimacy: Relationships largely superficial and exist to
serve self-esteem regulation; mutuality constrained by little
genuine interest in others; experiences and predominance
of a need for personal gain.
B. Pathological personality traits in the following domain:
1. Antagonism, characterized by:
a. Grandiosity: Feelings of entitlement, either overt or covert;
self-centeredness; firmly holding to the belief that one is
better than others; condescending toward others.
b. Attention seeking: Excessive attempts to attract and be
the focus of the attention of others; admiration seeking.
C. The impairments in personality functioning and the individual's
personality trait expression are relatively stable across time and
consistent across situations.
D. The impairments in personality functioning and the individual's
personality trait expression are not better understood as normative
for the individual's developmental stage or socio-cultural
E. The impairments in personality functioning and the individual‟s
personality trait expression are not solely due to the direct
physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse,
medication) or a general medical condition (e.g., severe head trauma)
Now this information on narcissism definition is interesting enough, I think, but it doesn't
give flesh to the whole horror of Narcissism.
Also while it might be easy for trained psychiatrists to use these traits as a narcissim defintion,
it's hard for laypeople like us to correlate them to our own mothers to see if she is probably narcissistic.
For example, what does being grandiose mean in real life? For some narcissists it means walking around like
you're queen of the universe, expecting the world to arrange itself around you, having a superior smile and a
But for others, grandiosity might just manifest itself in your Narcissistic Mother expecting you to hang onto
her every word. (I think that's what the case is with my own mother.)
Another disadvantage to this Narcissism Definition list is that we cannot see inside others'
heads, and so can't know if our has a grandiose sense of self-importance, if she has fantasies of success
etc, or if she believes she's special. It's her actions which will show that she has these thoughts and
The other traits are actions, true, but it might help to have specific examples.
To see how these categories play out in real life, I invite you to read my page on Narcissism Traits. Also, my book You're Not Crazy - It's Your Mother and Drew
Keys' book Narcissists Exposed show, from different perspectives, what narcissism is like in real life.
You can get these books together, along with lots of other information in the Narcissistic Parent Survival Kit.
Also, Drew Keys has created The Toxicity Test, an 81-question interactive test so you can find out if it really
is your mother being toxic, or you over-reacting. I took it twice, both for my mother and my father, and
even though I've been speaking about this stuff for years now, I still found it to be incredibly validating and
reassuring and helpful. I recommend it. Fnd out about it here.
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