Like anything - a little is good, a lot is bad....
Normal, Healthy Narcissism
Psychiatrists have long understood that we all go through stages of narcissism, but that we eventually integrate narcissistic tendencies into a normal behavior pattern. When characteristics of Narcissism predominate someone's actions and thinking, it is a disorder. Do not forget there are people who display the same characteristics but who are not NPD.
In the DSM IV, Narcissistic Personality Disorder is part of Cluster B personality disorders: (antisocial, borderline, histrionic, narcissistic) that are dramatic, emotional or erratic disorders. To date there is no recognized sub categories of NPD.
N.B.The following are simply inventions and suppositions that have not been validated by the general population of psychiatrists.
In his book Narcissism: Denial of the true self Alexander Lowen describes a gamut of narcissism, that goes from the mildest Phallic Narcissistic Character, to Narcissistic Character, to Borderline Personality, to Psychopathic Personality, to the worst, Paranoid Personality. A student of Wilhelm Reich, Lowen describes himself as a Phallic Narcissist.
Pending the perceived needs of the environment a narcissist can develop in one of two directions. The individual whose environment supports his or her grandiosity, and demands that he or she be more than possible will develop to be an exhibitionistic narcissist. Such an individual is told 'you are superior to others', but at the same time his or her personal feelings are ignored. Thus, to restore his or her feelings of adequacy the growing individual will attempt to coerce the environment into supporting his or her grandiose claims of superiority and perfection. On the other hand, if the environment feels threatened by the individual's grandiosity it will attempt to suppress the individual from expressing this grandiosity. Such an individual learns to keep the grandiosity hidden from others, and will develop to be a closet narcissist. The closet narcissist will thus only reveal his or her feelings of grandiosity when he or she is convinced that such revelations will be safe. (Manfield, 1992)
According to Sam Vaknin, there are two kinds of Narcissism. The cerebral and the somatic NPD. He also invented a new category, called inverted narcissism which is characterized by co-dependency to a NPD. All Ns want Narcissistic Supply, they may be identified by their preferences of NS. But I have seen Ns who will take whatever they can get.
Female somatic narcissists: Messalina and other nymphomaniacs
An interesting discovery of my own is that many somatic Ns do not enjoy sex, they use it to control others, and to gain N supply. Narcissists who are seeking control over others will use sex as a lure and to shock their victims into letting down their guard. The N may be overtly hyper-sexual, yet be a poor performer.
The third wife of the Roman Emperor Claudius, Valerie Messalina ,was known for her beauty and debauchery. She supposedly challenged prostitutes to contests of fornication; who could make love to the most men won. She was brought down by a freed slave named Narcissus. Ironic. The Sexual Life of Catherine M. autobiography of Catherine Millet details her sexual conquests, some documented and photographed by her husband Jacques Henric and published in his own book. In an interview Catherine Millet said, "I am not an exhibitionist, but I must admit I am a narcissist," She says. "And it is true that writing and publishing this book has satisfied the narcissist in me. I am the centre of attention everywhere I go. Narcissus, she reminds me, loved himself so much that he gazed at his own reflection in the water. "Everywhere I see myself written about, caricatured even, and I don't recognize the image. I don't recognize the reflection."
Jeff Koons, artist, and his wife Cicciolina, pornography star, is another couple who show signs of somatic narcissism. The singer Madonna and Paris Hilton have displayed sexual narcissism. No doubt the reader can identify other couples in the entertainment and political life.
Male somatic narcissists:Don Juan,Cassonova, Marquis de Sade
Lord Byron, the ultimate seducer, wrote a poem on the fictional character Don Juan. Don Juan was embodied by Cassanova. Marquis de Sade is another notorious lover of women and pain. Again the N is seeking sources of N supply through sex. As the French say, "Grand parleur, petit faiseur."
Intellectual cerebral Narcissist
The name says it all; the brainy kind of N seeks admiration for his or her intelligence.
Acquired Situational Narcissism
See more here. Term was invented by Doctor Robert B. Millman, a professor of psychiatry at Cornell Medical School, and describes someone in show business who becomes a star, looses touch with reality, turning into a NPD. The same phenomena can happen to anyone who suddenly receives a lot of power. See the Stanford U experiment.
High functioning Narcissist
A NPD who is intelligent and possesses enought Emotional intelligence to function in society; may be a leader or famous for actual accomplishments. This is what all narcissists want to be, but few attain it because of their disorder.
In this article is the idea that Freud first elaborated when writing about narcissism in 1914 taken to its modern conclusion.
Someone with NPD may also have other mental health problems; in psychiatrist's lingo this is called Co-morbidity. A Narcissist may also be obsessive compulsive etc...
Some disorders have similar or even the same symptoms:
Histrionic Personality Disorder; Antisocial Personality Disorder; Borderline Personality Disorder; Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder; Schizotypal Personality Disorder; Paranoid Personality Disorder; Manic Episodes; Hypomanic Episodes; Personality Change Due to a General Medical Condition; Symptoms that may develop in association with chronic substance use.