Gaslighting and Narcissism
The term “gaslighting” has been used frequently over the last few years, quite commonly with the term narcissism or narcissistic personality.
What is gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse that persons with narcissism or narcissistic traits may use to gain control over others. Partners and loved ones of such individuals may question their realities, become confused, and likely manipulated.
Persons with narcissism use gaslighting to get their way, get what they want, to feel good about themselves, and to assert control over others.
To understand gaslighting, we need to learn a bit more about people with narcissism.
What is Narcissism or Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a mental health condition characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance, a deep need for admiration, and a lack of empathy towards others. Individuals with NPD often exhibit grandiose fantasies of unlimited success, a belief in their own uniqueness, and a constant desire for attention and validation.
Symptoms of NPD include an excessive preoccupation with fantasies of power, beauty, or success, a sense of entitlement, a tendency to exploit others for personal gain, and a fragile self-esteem that is easily wounded by criticism or perceived slights.
Furthermore, according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), individuals with NPD may also display arrogant or haughty behaviors and may struggle with maintaining healthy relationships due to their self-centered nature.
The prevalence of Narcissistic Personality Disorder is estimated to be around 1% of the general population.
Research suggests that NPD is more common in males than females, though this may be due to differences in how the disorder presents itself in each gender.
While the exact cause of NPD remains unclear, it is believed to develop through a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The disorder often emerges in early adulthood but can also develop during adolescence.
The Mayo Clinic reports that NPD can be a significant challenge to diagnose, as individuals with the disorder may resist seeking treatment and instead seek admiration and validation from others to maintain their inflated self-image.
Effective treatment modalities for Narcissistic Personality Disorder typically involve a combination of psychotherapy and medication, although there is no specific medication approved to treat NPD directly.
Psychotherapy, particularly cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can help individuals with NPD gain insight into their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and work towards developing more realistic and healthy self-perceptions.
Psychodynamic therapy and group therapy can also be beneficial in addressing underlying psychological issues and improving social functioning.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, treatment for NPD can be challenging, as individuals with the disorder may resist acknowledging their difficulties and may have difficulty forming a therapeutic relationship. However, with persistent and targeted intervention, individuals with NPD can experience improved self-awareness and more fulfilling relationships.
- American Psychiatric Association (APA). (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
- Mayo Clinic. (2021). Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/narcissistic-personality-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20366662
- Psych Central. (2022). Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/disorders/narcissistic-personality-disorder
- Johns Hopkins Medicine. (n.d.). Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Retrieved from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/narcissistic-personality-disorder