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What Causes Narcissism? The Facts & Theories to Read a Narcissist

If you’ve ever spent time around a narcissist, you’ll know it’s not pleasant. But, have you ever wondered what causes narcissism to begin with?

what causes narcissism

We often hear the word “narcissist” bandied about these days. In reality, true narcissists are quite rare. However, when you come into contact with an actual narcissist, there will be no doubt. And it might make you wonder, what causes narcissism?

The truth is that if you’re unlucky enough to be in a relationship with a narcissist, and trust us when we say “unlucky” we really mean it, you need to get out ASAP.

Yes, you might love them, but they’re not showing you who they really are. Narcissists are masters of disguise and manipulation. They have zero empathy and they’re never going to love you the way you deserve – they don’t love anyone but themselves.

To show you exactly why this is the case, we need to explore the subject of narcissism in a bit more detail.

[Read: 15 off-putting and obnoxious symptoms of narcissism in a person]

What is a narcissist?

A narcissist is a person who has been diagnosed with a personality disorder called NPD – Narcissistic Personality Disorder. However, it’s important to point out that NPD is so rarely diagnosed because, in order to be diagnosed, you need to seek out help. A narcissist isn’t likely to do that. This means there are countless people walking around with narcissism and they are totally unaware.

For sure, we’re all guilty of slightly narcissistic behavior occasionally. It’s normal to a degree. But, we tend to recognize what we’re doing, stop, pull back, and apologize. A narcissist will never do that.

To help you understand what narcissism truly is and where it’s come from, you need to know the signs first of all.

[Read: Do narcissists know they are narcissists – Or do they lie to themselves?]

Signs of narcissism

There are a few different types of narcissism but the signs of the condition, in general, are pretty much the same.

1. An inflated sense of self and grandeur

2. A constant need for validation from others

3. Extremely sensitive to criticism

4. A total lack of empathy [Read: Relationship with a narcissist – What it really means to love one]

5. Will belittle and bully other people to get what they want

6. Has to have the best of everything

7. Very ego-focused

8. Their opinion is always right

9. They believe the world owes them a favor

10. Very controlling

If you want to understand their behavior in more detail, check out this feature on the 27 biggest signs of narcissistic behavior and ways to identify them to know more before you read on about what causes narcissism.

What makes a narcissist so bad?

Now that you know the signs of a narcissist, you should know that these are just a few of the most common narcissistic traits you’ll come across in the general walk of life.

If you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, another common trait is isolating you from the people in your life, e.g. family and friends. This is because they see these people as threats and want to keep you firmly in their control.

The outcome of a narcissistic relationship isn’t particularly rosy. You might want me to tell you that love can conquer all, but when you’re stuck in the middle of a situation that drags you down, it’s hard to see anything bright or sunny.

Narcissists do not know how to love in the same way as someone who doesn’t have narcissism. They feel something, but it’s not the “I’d do anything for you” kind of love that most of us feel. It’s more selfish and one-sided and more like the “what can you do for me” kind of feeling.

That brings us once more to the idea that narcissists are bad people. It’s hard to argue against it, but understand that there isn’t a choice in whether someone is narcissistic or not. They simply are because they have a personality disorder.

[Read: 20 clear signs you’re in a narcissistic relationship]

Is narcissism on the rise?

The reason we hear the word so much is because there is a lot of cruelty in the world. People treat others badly: lying, cheating, manipulating, and all of this causes pain and heartache for those unlucky enough to have fallen for someone with such negativity in their hearts.

Narcissism in a relationship is no easy task. Most unions that are touched by narcissism don’t actually survive.

It’s hard to remain in a “loving” relationship when you’re constantly being dragged down and manipulated by one narcissistic partner. [Read: The secret signs of narcissism you shouldn’t overlook]

If you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, you have our sympathy. It’s awful to be torn between loving someone who is so wonderful to you one minute and so cruel the next. You don’t know where you really stand, and you have no idea if you’re imagining half of it or not.

What causes narcissism?

The good news is that we know what narcissism is, the bad news is that there is no 100% accurate explanation of what causes narcissism. There are a few ideas that are backed up by studies, but just as we don’t truly understand what causes any personality disorder, it still remains a bit of a mystery.

Every person is different, which means one size descriptions don’t fit all. [Read: What types of narcissism should you be on the lookout for?]

Despite that, researchers consider the following to be the most probable causes of narcissism:

1. Genetic issues

2. Issues that occurred in childhood, e.g. poor parenting

3. Psychological issues

4. Being praised too much when they were children

5. Parents who focused too much on looks or talent and didn’t focus enough on giving love

6. Traumatic experiences

7. A history of excessive criticism

Narcissists aren’t necessarily born with Narcissistic Personality Disorder *NPD*, and it can develop due to problems throughout life. In most cases, this is what happens, but there is very little evidence to really conclude X, Y, and Z as the main precursors to NPD. [Read: 25 signs of covert narcissism – A special kind of mind game]

Can narcissism be cured?

There is no cure for NPD, but there are some therapeutic methods that can reduce the symptoms and rewire the brain.

That’s the good news. [Read: How to date a narcissist and teach them to change for the better]

The bad news is that there are very few narcissists who actually believe there is anything wrong with them. They assume there is something wrong with you instead. That means they are unlikely to seek the help they need.

To successfully treat NPD, the first step must come from the narcissist themselves. They should ask for help and freely admit there is a problem. From there, time and effort need to be invested in methods to change their thoughts and behaviors. It’s not an easy road, and it takes a long time to get to the point where any progress is made.

This whole picture makes it very unlikely that someone with NPD will ever be truly “cured.”

[Read: How to hurt a narcissist – 11 subtle counterblows to hurt them hard]

So, what about your relationship?

We’ve talked a lot about narcissism and what causes it, but what about your relationship? Is there a future?

Because we don’t really know what causes narcissism, it’s hard to pinpoint a way to manage the problem. And most narcissists don’t actually believe there’s anything wrong with them. It paints a pretty poor picture of your future.

A relationship with a narcissist means never really knowing which side of your partner you’ll see. It could be the charming side, or it could be the manipulative nasty side. After you’ve been privy to their manipulative tactics, you’ll doubt your own thoughts, and find yourself isolated from those you care about.

[Read: 23 secret signs of narcissism people overlook until it’s too late]

You might think we’re showing you the worst-case scenario, but it’s actually the most common scenario.

A relationship with a narcissist is painful, and unless you want to remain in pain, there will come a point where you should walk away.

Okay, your partner isn’t a bad person at their core and they have a personality disorder that explains their problem. But that doesn’t mean you must live with constant lies, twisted truth, name-calling, manipulation, and gaslighting either. Put your own happiness first.

You deserve better

If you are pretty sure that you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, you need to take the necessary steps to pull yourself away.

As we said before, you love them and you’ve probably become reliant upon them, but that’s because of how the narcissist has manipulated you.

Through gas-lighting, passive-aggressive behavior, isolation techniques, and other manipulation efforts, they’ve got you literally where they want you.

For sure, it’s sad that this person is struggling with a personality disorder but you cannot help them. You need to look after yourself at this point and stop the constant cycle of emotional abuse you’re being subjected to. Because that’s what it is – abuse. [Read: Narcissistic supply and how to stop giving them the attention they crave]

How to leave a narcissist

The first thing you need to do is make the decision and then you need to be firm.

Seek help from those around you and if you’ve somehow found yourself isolated from them *that’s another of the narcissist’s tactics*, reach out to the people closest to you – they’ll no doubt be waiting to help you. Then, go. Do it when the narcissistic partner is not around and just leave.

Whether you choose to explain to them what you’re doing or not, know that it won’t make a difference to how they feel. [Read: How to leave a narcissist and free yourself from their web of control]

Cut all contact and make sure that you don’t go back, no matter what. They’ll probably bombard you with the charm offensive and try and make you go back to them but you must be strong. Over time, they’ll give up, and eventually, your life will be your own again.

However, the scars of emotional abuse can run very deep. Some people who have been subjected to narcissistic behavior over a long period of time need therapy to help them unpick the cycle and start to feel like themselves once more. If this happens to you, accept all the help you can and know that you’re taking control of your life once more. It’s the strongest thing you can possibly do.

[Read: The narcissistic victim syndrome and how to slowly find your way out of this mess]

Further studies will tell us what causes narcissism for sure, but for now, we should focus on the effects rather than the cause.

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Nicky Curtis
Nicky Curtis
Having stumbled from one relationship drama to another throughout her 20s, Nicky is now somewhat of a guru in the crazy world of life and love. Telling it how i...
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