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Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder the same as Narcissism?: Randi G. Fine


As our listeners know we have quite an eclectic group of guests on Mental Health News Radio. It is our shows, however, on Narcissistic Personality Disorder that garner the most downloads. Today’s guest is an expert in the field that we hope to enjoy many times on our show.

Randi G. Fine is an Empath and Life Issues Counselor who has compassionately guided thousands of people, both nationally and internationally, in their life journeys. A professional writer, her highly regarded blog Love Your Life is translated and read in 180 countries worldwide. She is also Professional Speaker and Radio Show Host of the acclaimed Blog Talk Radio Podcast: A Fine Time for Healing. She is the author of three books: the memoir Fine…ly, the inspiring self-growth book Awaken from Life and her upcoming book about Pathological Narcissism.

Join us as we discuss the differences between Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) and Narcissism. As always these shows are very personal, intimate, and include information for victims and survivors of NPD abuse.


Some of the questions we posed to Randi are included below:

Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder the same as Narcissism?

Narcissism is an instinctive trait of self-love that everyone possesses to some degree. In infancy we all possess traits of narcissism that are appropriate for that level of development such as self-absorption, omnipotence and grandiosity.  However, these same characteristic are seen as emotionally unhealthy when demonstrated by adults.

As children move through healthy stages of individuality, these extreme narcissistic traits should diminish. Healthy self-love and self-esteem, mild forms of narcissism, should not. So we all possess degrees of narcissism, but that does not mean we have a personality disorder.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder goes well beyond the parameters of healthy self-love. To put in a perspective that is easy to understand, this disorder is in the same psychological class as personality disorders such as Psychopathy and Sociopathy.

What is a personality disorder?

Personality disorders are not limited to episodic mental illness, not caused by illness or injury, and not an effect of substance abuse.

They are extreme manifestations of common behaviors. These behaviors significantly impair a person’s ability to behaviorally respond to life in an acceptable way. They also create difficulty in the interactions the person has with others.

Personality Disorders are characterized by sets of chronic, inflexible personality traits, or patterns of deviant or abnormal behavior. Those who have them will not change the way they act, even when their behavior troubles everyone around them and negatively impacts all their relationships.

What causes someone to have Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

The exact cause of NPD has yet to be fully discovered. There are many theories, but no one knows for sure exactly what causes narcissistic personality disorder to develop.

Some theories suggest that this disorder is rooted childhood victimization—that it develops as an emotionally unhealthy defense mechanism. Essentially the abused becomes the abuser. Another theory is that adolescents who feel deprived, unappreciated, or hopeless about their future may turn to fantasizing about their own importance and power to satisfy their unmet needs. And children who are overindulged, pampered or smothered by their parents, or children whose parents place unrealistic expectations on them, may be prone to developing the false sense of entitlement or grandiosity of NPD that carries over into adulthood.

Some scientific evidence exists that environmental factors may cause a person who is already genetically vulnerable to develop a personality disorder.

Are those who have Narcissistic Personality Disorder dangerous to be around?

Just below the surface of every Narcissist lie repressed aggression, paranoia, suspicion, and fear. They are very volatile, dramatic, and emotional people who feed off of any kind of drama, good or bad, negative or positive. When there isn’t enough drama in their lives they will create it.

Those who have Narcissistic Personality Disorder are not typically physically violent, though they are highly emotionally abusive and destructive to all those who intimately interact with them, especially impressionable young children. They control others through fear, guilt, brainwashing and confusion. There is no emotional safety when under the spell of these toxic people, and it is very difficult to recover from the abuse once removed from it. The longer someone remains in the grasp of these Narcissists, the more psychological damage occurs.

There is a form of NPD called Malignant Narcissism that is extremely dangerous, emotionally and physically. Malignant Narcissists have menacing behavior patterns like those seen in sociopaths and psychopaths. Though the term “Malignant Narcissism” is not clinically categorized as other personality disorders are, it is recognized as a mental illness by many mental health professionals.

How can we identify people who have this disorder?

This is tricky. They are very manipulative and cunning.  People with NPD are consummate actors, able to pick up on social cues and play whatever role is needed to get them what they want—constant adoration, admiration and attention. To achieve the end to this means they act gracious, charming, helpful, generous, light-hearted, sensitive and engaging in public. They are very careful with the image they portray to the outside world. What goes on behind closed doors is an entirely different story.

Those whom Narcissists manage to intimately suck into their sinister web will see a completely different side; one that is vengeful, rageful, demeaning and controlling. But these victims will not recognize the Narcissist as an abuser because they’ve been subjected to a carefully crafted campaign of demoralization. They will be unhappy, depressed and very confused, but will not be able to recognize the severity of what they are enduring.

Adults who suffered this abuse as children may not recognize it as such until they are well into their forties or even older than that, especially if their parent was a covert abuser. Some parents are covert in their approach and some are overt. Overt Narcissists are easier to identify.

“There are only two ways to live your life.What is the difference between a Covert Narcissist and an Overt Narcissist, and is one more damaging than the other?

Covert Narcissists use indirect or secondary methods to get what they want. They are not obvious in their pursuit of constant admiration and adoration, though they are very obvious in their pursuit of sympathy.  They keep an arsenal of manipulative tactics at hand and systematically use them, though their tactics and vanity are camouflaged to conceal their true motive.

Overt Narcissists are more outward and open. They crave attention and have an insatiable need to remain in the spotlight. They are ruthless when it comes to accomplishing their self-centered goals, using threats, coercion, insults, punishment, humiliation, devaluation, exploitation to get what they want. They’ll even use charm if they think it will work.

It doesn’t matter whether the abuse is meted out covertly or overtly—both methods are equally damaging.

Do people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder see anything wrong with the abusive way they treat other people?

Narcissists are abusers, though they do not see it that way. In their warped minds they believe that they are the victims in every situation and everyone else their enemies. That puts them forever on the defensive. Their very survival depends on them “getting” you before you “get” them.

Narcissists objectify people—people are only considered valuable for what they can give the Narcissist in the moment. Devoid of empathy and believing they are superior to others, Narcissists feel entitled to treat others however they want to without remorse or guilt.

If they believe they are superior to everyone else, does that mean they have great self-esteem?

“There are only two ways to live your life. (1)Narcissists create a facade to hide behind, a kind of alter ego, to deny the reality of their true damaged selves. This facade is known as “The False Self.” It is the only face they allow the public to see.

The False Self is impenetrable armor that protects Narcissists from all the perceived attacks from the outside world. Its job is to absorb everything the true self cannot bear to experience—all the pain, hurt, and fragility—the deep feelings of being unlovable, inferior, worthless, ugly and powerless. It keeps Narcissists from excruciating self-examination and introspection—from having to face fears that they may be less than perfect, that something is wrong with them, or that they are inadequate.

The False Self is everything the true self is not; grandiose, superior, and entitled. It tells Narcissists that everyone likes them, everyone is jealous of them, and everyone wants to be like them.

Do people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder ever get treatment? Can they ever change?

People with NPD rarely go for treatment because they never hold themselves accountable for what they do. They cannot see the part they play in the life they create and the relationships they destroy. They are forever the victim. If and when they do consult someone for mental health treatment they rarely get better because they are unable to see themselves as anything but perfect. Anyone who suggests that they are less than perfect is seen as a threat and will be subject to the Narcissist’s rage.

Change for the Narcissist is possible but one must seek help out and be willing to be introspective in order for the help to be effective. Narcissists are not known to do either. They feel safest living behind their False Self. Anything else is terrifyingly threatening to them.

With this disorder the victims must get help but the perpetrators never do.

What can survivors of this kind of abuse do to heal from it?

It is impossible to heal from this kind of abuse without a great support system. The best support must come from someone who understands NPD inside and out, not from a best friend, spouse or anyone else that will listen.

There is no possible way for anyone who has not experienced this kind of abuse to understand what victims of it go through. Narcissistic abuse always takes place behind closed doors and the Narcissist charms everyone else, so no one will ever see the Narcissist for who he truly is. Victims are often accused of lying and exaggerating, so talking to people who haven’t walked in your shoes will only make you feel worse and confuse you even more. This is one of the tragedies of Narcissistic abuse. The victim is seen as the abuser and the abuser seen as the victim.

I do not believe it is possible to heal without the ongoing help of a professional therapist, counselor, psychiatrist or psychologist that thoroughly understands this disorder. Victims of narcissistic abuse are victims of brainwashing. There is a lot of confusion and self punishment that goes along with it. Individuals cannot possibly unravel the twisted psychological abuse all on their own. They must have professional help—patient, compassionate, experienced support to keep reinforcing what is real and what is not.

I offer professional help for NPD and other mental health issues through my counseling practice, Fine Life Issues Counseling. As an NPD abuse survivor I have lived it and breathed it. Under my care clients experience deep compassion, empathic wisdom, and decades of success in helping others with their mental health issues.

I offer that wisdom and guidance by telephone to anywhere in the world, in the comfort of your own home or office. You do not have to hurt anymore. I want to help you.

For more information, please visit


Need Advice? Request a Call Show Host, A Fine Time for Healing

*Examples given regarding Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Psychopathy, or Sociopathology may be related to the guest or host’s experiences over vast interactions in their field. An amalgamation of experiences may be described but may not represent any specific entity. Should any listeners resonate with the information discussed or written, a list of licensed professionals will be made available upon request. 

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