Informal Narcissism (Not a Diagnosis)

Informal narcissism (labeling of narcissistic behaviors and attitudes) fits easily into casual observations of annoying traits, while “its technical definition describes a devastatingly vulnerable person, compensating for a deeply imprinted inadequacy with a desperate need for admiration, and a grandiose self-image.”

Informal narcissism (labeling of narcissistic behaviors and attitudes) fits easily into casual conversations of annoying traits, yet...

The word “narcissism” has been appearing more and more frequently in descriptions of other people by laypersons in casual conversations, pop news stories, and therapy sessions. Such usage is not necessarily as accurate or as informed as would be the case following appropriate clinical examination by a health care professional. It is important to remember that a person’s occasional display of some narcissistic behaviors is not equivalent to a valid clinical diagnosis of NPD.

For instance, writers Maureen Callahan, in her New York Post article on July 1, 2022), and Emily Nussbaum, as mentioned by Ben Booker in response to Peter Craven’s book review (2022) of a recent book by Woody Allen, both refer to Woody Allen and Alec Baldwin as “malignant narcissists.” This disparaging label was not the result of any psychiatrist or psychologist’s diagnosis. In fact, that term may not even be the most appropriate psychiatric diagnosis for either of those famous men, even if they had been professionally examined.

In another example of informal narcissism: the author personally knows a woman, the mother of three children, who insists that the celebration of their birthdays should consist of an equal celebration of herself. Why? She birthed those children. In her view, she deserves equal commemorative festivities from her friends and family instead of the congratulations just for her children. If that doesn’t happen and all the attention is given to the child, she becomes clearly upset and disappointed. Other people in her orbit, whom she expects will also be sympathetic to this major offense, soon learn of her hurt feelings.

Another casual application of this disorder’s term is the narcissistic personal self-description from a college student who had been to the dentist for a routine teeth cleaning. She complained bitterly that none of her friends had called her later that day to see if she was okay.

Among other lay terms, narcissism is revealed by a person’s excessive self-involvement, vanity, egocentrism, and the dramatic lack of empathy and near total disregard for other people’s feelings. In reality, all personality disorders are essentially on a continuum with normal behavior.

21 Signs of a Narcissist (Informal Narcissism)

  1. Inflated sense of superiority and entitlement
  2. Excessive need for constant praise and admiration
  3. Perfectionism
  4. Lack of empathy
  5. Need for control
  6. Easily provoked
  7. Extremely selfish
  8. Unable to deal with criticism, perceived slights, or disagreements
  9. Hypersensitive, defensive, and anxious
  10. Not settling for anything less than what you think you deserve
  11. Surrounding yourself with people who constantly admire you
  12. Expecting everyone to comply with your wishes and whims
  13. Thinking others always need a favor from you
  14. Exploiting others without guilt or shame
  15. Taking unfair advantage of others
  16. Frequently demeaning others
  17. Getting intimidated by others you perceive as stronger than you
  18. Fantasizing often about power, brilliance, beauty, and ideal love
  19. Ignoring facts and opinions that contradict your own
  20. Refusing to change your behavior no matter how much chaos it creates in your life
  21. Blaming others for your behavior

This excerpt is from Narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder, a 2-hour online continuing education (CE) course that distinguishes between the informal narcissism (labeling of narcissistic behaviors and attitudes), and the applications of the DSM criteria for a formal clinical diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).

Professional Development Resources is approved by the American Psychological Association (APA) to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. Professional Development Resources maintains responsibility for this program and its content. Professional Development Resources is also approved by the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC ACEP #5590); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB Provider #1046, ACE Program); the Continuing Education Board of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA Provider #AAUM); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA Provider #3159); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR Provider #PR001); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Arizona Board of Occupational Therapy Examiners; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy, Psychology and Office of School Psychology, Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, Dietetics and Nutrition, and Occupational Therapy Practice; the Georgia State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners – Occupational Therapy; the Mississippi MSDoH Bureau of Professional Licensure – Occupational Therapy; the New York State Education Department’s State Board for Psychology as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed psychologists (#PSY-0145), State Board for Mental Health Practitioners as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed mental health counselors (#MHC-0135) and marriage and family therapists (#MFT-0100), and the State Board for Social Workers an approved provider of continuing education for licensed social workers (#SW-0664); the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker and MFT Board (#RCST100501) and Speech and Hearing Professionals Board; the South Carolina Board of Examiners for Licensure of Professional Counselors and Therapists (#193), Examiners in Psychology, Social Worker Examiners, Occupational Therapy, and Examiners in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology; the Tennessee Board of Occupational Therapy; the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage and Family Therapists (#114) and State Board of Social Worker Examiners (#5678); the West Virginia Board of Social Work; the Wyoming Board of Psychology; and is CE Broker compliant  (#50-1635 – all courses are reported within a few days of completion).

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