What Are the Signs of a Narcissistic Child?

What Is Narcissism?

Clinical narcissism in children is marked by inflated self worth, superficial relationships, emotional fragility and a lack of empathy.
Clinical narcissism in children is marked by inflated self worth, superficial relationships, emotional fragility and a lack of empathy.

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), or narcissism, is a personality disorder characterized by a sense of grandiosity, the need for attention and admiration, superficial interpersonal relationships, and a lack of empathy. It often accompanies other psychiatric disorders and can be difficult to treat.

What Are Symptoms of Narcissism?

Symptoms – called core features – of narcissistic personality disorder (narcissism) include:

  • Grandiosity
    • Exaggerated sense of self-importance
    • Feeling superior to others and that one deserves special treatment
    • Feelings are often accompanied by fantasies of unlimited success, brilliance, power, beauty, or love
  • Excessive need for admiration
    • Must be the center of attention
    • Often monopolize conversations
    • Patients feel slighted, mistreated, depleted, and enraged when ignored
  • Superficial and exploitative relationships
    • Relationships are based on surface attributes and not the unique qualities of others
    • People are only valued only to the extent they are viewed as beneficial 
  • Lack of empathy
    • Severely limited or totally lacking ability to care about the emotional needs or experiences of others, even loved ones
  • Identity disturbance
    • Sense of self is highly superficial, extremely rigid, and often fragile
    • Self-stability depends on maintaining the view that one is exceptional
    • Grandiose sense of self is easily threatened
    • Patients retreat from or deny realities that challenge grandiosity 
  • Difficulty with attachment and dependency
    • Relies on feedback from the environment
    • Relationships only exist to shore up positive self-image
    • Interactions are superficial
    • Intimacy is avoided 
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness and boredom
    • When attention and praise are not available, patients feel empty, bored, depressed, or restless
  • Vulnerability to life transitions
    • Difficulty maintaining reality-based personal and professional goals over time
    • Compromises required by school, jobs, and relationships may feel unbearable
    • Young adults may have a “failure to launch” 

Narcissistic personality disorder is also a significant risk factor for suicide and suicidal attempts.

What Are the Signs of a Narcissistic Child?

In children, the core features of narcissistic personality disorder may manifest in the following ways:

  • Believing they are better than other kids 
  • Difficulty making friends/maintaining friendships
  • See getting attention as their right/need to be center of attention
  • Withdrawal from others who do not give attention or admiration
  • Not expressing gratitude to parents or others for being kind 
  • Excluding other children from their playgroup based on superficial characteristics such as the other child being poor, having a lower social status, or if other children are unable to perform the same tasks with what they feel is an appropriate skill level
  • Not taking responsibility for their actions and the consequences
  • Throwing temper tantrums when criticized 
  • Resentment at being told what to do
  • Refusal to recognize the authority of others 
  • Gaze aversion (not looking into the eyes of someone speaking to them)
  • Pathologic play
  • Separation anxiety
  • Having high and unreasonable expectations of others
  • Magnified feelings of envy: The child is offended if others are seen as better than him in any way
  • Often accompanies antisocial behavior: The child will get into fights or steal toys from other children

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