NPD – defined

My personal, simple definition of my ex, who is strongly NPD, is “a black hole of emotional needs”.  In a relationship with him, I felt that if I got close to him at all, it was like being sucked into the black hole his needs.  Anything that started off as an expression of my needs would be swirled in and turned into issues dealing with him.
The best explanation that I have received is that someone with NPD “has no core self”.  This makes the black hole analogy even stronger.  Since there is no core, no internal moral compass to true back to – the NPD person uses their external experiences to create who they are internally.  This is also why any conversation of substance on internal values is not possible with a NPD individual.
Even after separating, I found that just being compassionate or nice in communication could quickly lead to his expectations of more and more from me.  It’s been over 5 years since I asked for a divorce, and when I am compassionate, nice or cordial – he reads this to be that I want to be back in a relationship with him and ‘have the family back together’.
In my blog postings, I will include articles about my own experiences which define NPD in my situation, and how it affects his parenting to our children.  Listed below is the ‘clinical’ definition.
Although the DSM is being re-written and NPD , NPD is being blended into different categories — it still exists – there’s no doubt about that.  The DSM-IV defined Narcissistic Personality disorder as follows:
A pervasive pattern of grandiosity(in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

  1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
  2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  3. Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
  4. Requires excessive admiration
  5. Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
  6. Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
  7. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
  8. Is often envious of others or believes others are envious of him or her
  9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
It is also a requirement of DSM-IV that a diagnosis of any specific personality disorder also satisfies a set of general personality disorder criteria.
The DSM-V is underway, and the personality disorder section is under review.  See here for information on the proposed changes.

11 Responses to “NPD – defined”

  1. Pam Koch says:

    Hi Natalie:
    I have been studying and reading a lot in the past few months and appreciate all you’re doing for those of us sickened by a narcissist. Mine is my mother, aged 87. I am 61 and finally figured out the problem this year. I’m an only child and have had many “issues” during my life–low self-esteem, can’t do anything to please her, etc. my teaching career of 38 years wasn’t even acknowledged by her when I retired in ’15. I will continue learning and growing thanks to your blog!

  2. Lauren says:

    After another exhausting discussion/argument over the phone with my ex this morning I was doing a google search on co-parenting and the name of your website caught my eye.

    I am just starting to explore your blog/website but I already feel the need to say thank you. It’s hard to put into words sometimes what I have to deal with when interacting and trying to co-parent with my ex, and I think that your site is going to be very helpful to me.

    I have always been afraid to end up in court with my ex because even though he was abusive to me, has threatened my life multiple times, is still verbally abusive to me, etc., he also is good at fooling people into thinking he’s someone he is not so I have always feared that the end result would be similar to what happened with you. I am really sorry that you went through that but it was helpful for me to see that because when I express that fear to my parents or a couple of others that I am close with they tell me not to worry and there’s no way that could happen, but they don’t seem to fully understand the personality that I am dealing with; clearly it is possible for things to end up that way so I am going to do all that I can to continue to co-parent and deal with my ex outside of the courtroom.

    Anyway – I am sorry I didn’t mean to ramble but I just wanted to say thank you and I appreciate you creating this site to help other people.

    • Hey there, I’m glad you found the site and that it hopefully helps you. I have heavily focused on my own healing and learning how to be a stronger person (in a different way from before) – and I believe that this has played a big role in changing the dynamics with my ex. I pray for peace for him and freedom for me and my children from him daily. I also spend a lot of time envisioning that my children and I have that freedom and how much better life will be that way. I know it sounds like daydreaming, but it is so much nicer to spend time focused on the happy thoughts than focused on fear. If there is such a thing as “self fulfilling prophecy”, I would rather have my daydreams fulfilled than my fears 🙂 That said… I can’t say that the courts have offered people the right results, so I do think that whatever you can do to solve things yourself is best. While our outcome personally stunk, I am always thankful that it only was what it was (in comparison to others who have to do 50/50 or worse). I focus on every day that they are in my care and making it the best I can. I also focus on teaching them to recognize crappy behavior and build boundaries in a respectful way – with the goal that they avoid relationships with abusive people themselves as adults.

      Take care of you, and feel free to comment/ask questions. Blessings to you and your kids…

    • Katie says:

      I also wanted to say thank you for taking the time to write this blog! I have written a couple of times about my experiences as a mum who left a very abusive relationship, but you have really touched me with your positive spin! It’s exactly what I need. My son, aged 10, is going to court today to speak to a judge about his experiences with his NPD father. His father accuses me of being, crazy, depressed etc….all the usual blah blah which seems to come from these type of men. I liked your comment which I read somewhere of visualising a positive outcome….We are all desperate for some peace in our lives. I hope to be able to chat to you all soon x

  3. Bella says:

    I have been quietly following your blog for a while now. You have helped me in more ways than one. It is so good to know I’m not alone in my struggle, and it’s also wonderful to watch your story unfold and see your strength during such a difficult situation. I have learned a lot from you. I am divorced from a man with NPD who has absolutely wrecked my life. We have a child together and it’s a source of constant conflict. He’s sabotaged my friendships, my financial stability, my relationships with family members. It’s taken years to get to a point where I could see a light at the end of the tunnel. While I don’t believe there’s ever really an end to the tunnel when you co-parent with a narcissist, it does get a slight bit easier as they lose interest in harming you personally and latch onto someone else. Reading Edwin’s comment brought me to tears. Oh, how I can relate to his despair and yearning for freedom. I feel the same way. Hang in there, Edwin! You are not alone.

    • Hi Bella, thank you for commenting. I’m glad that posting my story has helped you. I hope to have.more time to commit to it again soon. I agree with you regarding the sadness felt for Edwin and in cheering each other on!

  4. Edwin says:

    Thank you Natalia.
    It is so healthy to be able to communicate and to be able to read other’s experiences so as to have some confirmation of sanity. Living a life that is by necessity entwined with someone with NPD is crazy-making. As Ken said, “they wear you out”. It is so surreal to know that energy is finite and that our own dreams and goals will be compromised even with tremendous energy and drive and then to be aware that enormous resources are being wasted daily on someone’s unexamined issues. The energy that NPD’s take is enormous and again one of those things that is almost impossible to explain to the uninitiated. My daughter’s mother pursues control at all costs. She would gladly walk our daughter through miles of a military combat zone if it meant that her control was guaranteed to be increased. Finding an internal mindset and bearing is what is continually challenging even after seven years. The balance of knowing that I need to define boundaries in order to have some sense of self esteem weighed against the inevitable rage and vindictiveness that will be the immediate result is so painful and exhausting to live with. As she is the mother and a very skilled liar, she will be able to call most of the shots. When the mother presents plans for our daughter that have no discernible concern for our daughter’s well being, but are rather plans for more teenage parenting, I can become overwhelmed with frustration. In the past two years on many occasions, our daughter has sadly declared to me that her mother “is cross” and that she wished she could live with me all of the time. Sometimes I remind myself that I am here and have made it this far and that gives me a sense that I can keep going when it is really hard to feel that feeling.

  5. Edwin says:

    Thank you for creating this site. It addresses several needs. I am an American father of a beautiful six year old little girl whose English mother – I believe – suffers from NPD and the past seven years of my life have been so painful, like they have been hijacked and I am living in a strange dark dream. A feeling of unease lives in my stomach virtually constantly: a sense that any calm will be disrupted and replaced with chaos and tantrums at any moment. We have spent many years in court in the UK which is notorious for being the worst jurisdiction for fathers and children in the world. This is a court system in which literally “one can not criticize a mother in British Family Court”. It is pure Kakfa. The mother has lied and lied and lied and her lawyers have supported her lies. The court social workers have supported her lies and the judges have supported her lies. I am bankrupt. I have no more money with which to attempt to protect my daughter’s right to have a consistent relationship with her dad. Last year I did not see my daughter for two months and no one here had a syllable of criticism for the mother. The mother constantly makes suggestions for our collective lives that are utterly incomprehensible to any parent I know. The cruelty of the mother and her meanness are so brutal to live with. My daughter loves her mom. The idea of someday having to explain her mother’s treatment of me and my daughter’s family to my daughter fill me with an overwhelming pain and sorrow.
    I pray for change. I want so badly to feel free again. I dream of healing. A healing that could make everything feel ok. I miss my old self. I miss my old life. I am worried about what my daughter’s mother says to her. She is constantly judgmental and critical of so many things. I never in my life imagined I would need so much inner strength and reserves just to live the most modest life and to keep going. I appreciate that you have a positive angle here. I am starving for that as I am starving for communication with others who have lived in this shadow. To the uninitiated, it is truly hard to explain, and in a life in which everyone struggles with many things, many simply do not have time. I have lost so many people through this struggle. People can not believe that this could go on and on and on. I know I am a great dad. I love my daughter more than words can say. I know that she loves me. I know that my presence in her life will help her surf the waves of rage and slamming doors and chaos. I hope I can find some peace for myself. I don’t sleep well. The sense of injustice is sometimes so overwhelming. I dream of laughing and being deeply in moment outside of these thoughts.

    • Hi there,

      I’m sorry to hear of your situation. It stinks.. it really stinks. I do wish the court system (and all the “mental health professionals”) were aware of how the dynamics of personality disordered people and could easily detect which parent has the issues that will damage the kids involved. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

      As for the feelings that you have – missing your old self, missing the feeling of freedom, feeling oppressed… I understand them immensely. You’re also so right that others cannot understand and are mesmorized by how it could drag on for years and years.

      In the work I’ve been trying to do – first on understand my other half and what are his struggles, and then on turning my focus to myself and inward – I’ve found that many times there are struggles in life before true freedom and healing are found. That these issues may be the catalyst (if we let them) for personal growth beyond belief. Personally, I’ve learned a ton about myself in my introspection – and I know I wouldn’t have done it without having gone through this. So, I mentally thank my ex for teaching me, and release him of this duty to continue teaching me anything.

      Your struggle is harder, though – in that you have less time to help influence your daughter with a positive, emotionally healthy way of interacting (don’t speak poorly of her mom). Keep in mind, though, that you may be a big influence later to help her understand what happened growing up, when she’s a young adult on her own and ready to make sense of it.

      I’m sending positive thoughts and prayers your way!

  6. Ken says:

    I did not co-parent but I worked for one for over two years and it was a form of tension every step of the way. I did not know what he was while working with him. I slowly, mistakenly, thought he was just a huge prick, a jerk of monumental selfishness. This was too simple. Gradually it came to me that he was maybe not normal. All nine of your listed characteristics were there in his actions and thinking. A strong sense of evil capability was there. Rage was always in the background but sometimes was open, stark, staring you in the face. The threat of this anger emerging suddenly was always a risk, a worry, an ever-present concern. The result was an ongoing roller-coaster ride of your mind being confused, twisted and assaulted by his “vision”.

    To get success for themselves,they abuse you in trying to create it by what they ask or direct you to do. Throughout, he played me with manipulation as the need arose or as he dicovered new ways to use me. In this way, they are inventive, resourceful, determined and pointed. Their wants/actions are excessive, insidious, invasive. They can never be satisfied. They simply want too much from you, of you. Then because you cannot possibly give them what they want, the abuse gets worse by bullying, more pressure and sharper demeaning comments/attacks. The fault or blame for failure is put on you. No matter the logic, you cannot defend yourself adequately. Challenged, stressed, more force is exerted on you, you are on a downward spiral and must get out.

    I feel really sorry for someone that has to deal with one of these individuals in any capacity. I believe attempts to define them are exceptionally difficult exercises because they are so complex. Some of their actons are very fine increments of the concepts outlined as defining their characteristics. In this way they are operating in a hidden form to most, if not all,around them. Including themselves!

    The biggest thing about them is their need for control. It is their power to control others that gives them gains. They feel this, seem to have a look in their eyes that says they need it and then they always push for it in some form. If I had known what he was, I could have better spotted why he did what he did. I do not think it would have bettered my situation except I would have understood sooner the only action to take was to leave.

    As you eventually burn out in the trying to please them, it eventually falls apart – you the victim – him the ongoing, unwitting predator, selecting the next people to assist him in his quest for greater things.

    They wear you out.

    To satisfy one, you can only alter yourself and go places you really do not want to be or go. In this servile way, being constantly tested, not knowing what is to come, you find yourself straining,asking yourself,is this worth it. This thinking takes over your mind.

    For a co-parent, locked in by children and family needs, I can only hope you survive, that it ends one day for you as a bad relationship or it becomes a form of improved relationship (to allow for all possibilities), that you find a better life for yourself. This sounds strong but is it not the truth?

    • Thank you for sharing! Yes, it sounds harsh, but it is so so true! The twisted thinking of the person is really exceptional and bewildering. There are many things I’ve found to be of help in regards to supporting myself emotionally. A couple tactical items in dealing with them that I’ve found to be of help and am reminded of in reading your comment: (1) document, document, document – and then refer them back to the documentation when the narcissist/pathological person tries to change the story. (2) Assertiveness and boundaries. This may be hard to do as a subordinate – but the more it is done, the better – and the sooner the better! Again – thank you – this is great information!

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