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NPD Causes: Exploring the Causes Behind Narcissistic Personality Disorder

What causes narcissistic personality disorder? Our blog examines the causes and coping mechanisms around narcissistic personality disorder.

NPD Causes: What Causes Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Table of contents

Written by

Brian MooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

Jeremy ArztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

October 25, 2023

The Forge Recovery Center

The center of the universe. If you've ever met someone like that, chances are they weren't.

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a mental health condition characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance, a need for excessive attention and admiration, and a lack of empathy towards others. It can lead to significant difficulties in personal relationships and daily functioning.

While the exact cause of NPD is unknown, research suggests that it may be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Let's take a closer look at some of the possible causes behind this complex disorder.

What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

The hallmarks of narcissistic personality disorder are a continuous pattern of actions and attitudes that revolve around a serious obsession with one's importance, a constant need for approval and praise, and a lack of empathy for others. A grandiose self-image and an exaggerated feeling of self-worth are common in people with NPD.

Typical narcissistic personality disorder symptoms include:

  • People with NPD often overstate their accomplishments and abilities because they think they are exceptional, superior, or one of a kind.

  • They frequently fantasize about infinite prosperity, power, beauty, or ideal love, and they anticipate others will notice and admire these traits.

  • Individuals with NPD have a constant craving for admiration and praise from others. They go to great lengths to attract attention and feel validated.

  • They frequently have an irrational sense of entitlement, thinking they should receive special treatment or advantages, and they could get angry if their expectations aren't met.

  • Some people with NPD can manipulate others and take advantage of them to further their objectives.

  • Usually, they find it difficult to understand others' needs and feelings or to demonstrate empathy for them. Lack of true emotional connection in a relationship can be a defining trait.

NPD Causes: What Causes Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

The exact causes of narcissistic personality disorder are not fully understood. Still, experts believe it's likely a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors contributing to its development.

Here are some key factors that are thought to play a role in the development of NPD:

NPD Causes: Genetics

Evidence suggests that genetics may contribute to the risk of developing NPD. If you have a family member with NPD, you may be at a higher risk of developing the disorder yourself.

NPD Causes: Early Childhood Experiences

Childhood experiences can have a significant impact on the development of NPD.

NPD Causes: Excessive Pampering

Being excessively pampered or overindulged as a child, without appropriate limits or discipline, can lead to a sense of entitlement and the belief that one always deserves special treatment.

NPD Causes: Lack of Empathy

A lack of emotional connection or empathy from caregivers during early development can lead to difficulties forming meaningful relationships later in life.

NPD Causes: Excessive Criticism or Neglect

Conversely, experiencing excessive criticism or neglect as a child may lead to a strong desire for validation and admiration in adulthood to compensate for feelings of inadequacy.

NPD Causes: Cultural and Societal Factors

Living in a culture or society that highly values success, wealth, and self-promotion can foster narcissistic traits. In such environments, individuals may feel pressure to prioritize their interests and accomplishments over others.

NPD Causes: Personality and Temperament

Some people may have personality traits that make them more susceptible to developing NPD. For example, individuals with high levels of extroversion and a tendency to seek attention and admiration may be more at risk.

NPD Causes: Psychological Factors

Psychological factors, such as low self-esteem or unresolved emotional issues, can contribute to the development of NPD. A person with low self-esteem might use grandiosity and a sense of superiority as a defense mechanism to mask feelings of insecurity.

The Narcissistic Abuse Cycle

The narcissistic abuse cycle is a pattern of behavior that generally takes place in relationships when one party displays strong narcissistic features or has a narcissistic personality disorder. The victim of this cycle may suffer psychologically and emotionally as a result. Let's examine the stages of the narcissistic abuse cycle:

The Happy Beginning

Everything seems wonderful when a relationship first begins. The narcissist behaves incredibly politely and makes their partner feel extremely special. The partner feels special, and it's like a fairy tale.

The Hurtful Phase

After some time, things change. The narcissist begins by being cruel, judgmental, and hurtful. They give their partner the impression that there is nothing they can do well. This part is painful and confusing for the partner because it differs from the sweet beginning.

Breaking Up or Pulling Away

Sometimes, the narcissist decides to quit a relationship or emotionally distances themselves. It may occur unexpectedly and without prior notice. The partner feels betrayed and abandoned as a result.

Trying to Get Back In

However, the tricky part is when the narcissist returns and claims they have changed and that everything will be better. This is like an elaborate scheme to get their partner back into the relationship.

Repeating the Cycle

Sadly, the entire cycle frequently repeats. It alternates between the sweet start, the painful stage, breaking up, and attempting to get back together. The partner gets hurt further each time it occurs.

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NPD Causes: Signs of Narcissistic Abuse

The following are common signs of narcissistic abuse:

  • Constant criticism

  • Gaslighting

  • Manipulative behavior

  • Isolation

  • Emotional rollercoaster

  • Playing the victim

  • Threats and intimidation

  • Love-bombing followed by devaluation

How to Deal With a Narcissistic Parent

Dealing with a narcissistic parent can be challenging but prioritize your well-being and establish boundaries for a healthier relationship. You can use the following approaches to help you deal with this situation:

Educate Yourself

Understanding the symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder and actions may be helpful. Educate yourself about narcissistic personality disorder to better understand your parent's behavior.

Establish Limits

To protect your emotional and mental well-being, establish strict boundaries. Make a decision on what behaviors you will and won't accept from your parent.

Engage in Self-Care

Put your attention on self-love and self-care. Take care of your well-being by engaging in enjoyable activities, learning stress-reduction strategies, and keeping a network of friends and family members for support.

Look for Support

Talk with a therapist or counselor who focuses on narcissistic relationships if you need help. They can provide direction and coping mechanisms.

Communicate Effectively

When necessary, communicate your needs and feelings calmly and assertively. Be clear about your expectations and boundaries but be ready for pushback or retaliation.

Detach Emotionally

Don't try to personalize your parent's actions. The focus of their narcissism is on them, not you, keep in mind. You can lessen your emotional burden by emotionally distancing yourself.

Avoid Engaging in Arguments

Narcissistic people frequently thrive on conflict and can escalate arguments. Pick your fights carefully and stay out of pointless conflicts.

Limit Contact

Consider limiting contact if your parent's behavior becomes consistently harmful or toxic. It's okay to take a step back for your well-being.

Build a Support Network

Surround yourself with friends, family members, or support groups who understand your situation and can provide emotional support.

Set Realistic Expectations

Recognize that your parent may never change, and their behavior may not improve. Adjust your expectations to protect yourself from disappointment.

Consider Professional Help

Suppose your relationship with your parent is severely damaging and causing significant distress. In that case, it might be beneficial to consult a therapist or counselor to explore your options further.

Focus on Your Growth

Use this challenging experience as an opportunity for personal growth. Invest in your own goals and well-being, and work on building your self-esteem and self-confidence.

Narcissistic Triangulation

Narcissistic triangulation is a manipulation tactic used by individuals with narcissistic personality disorder or strong narcissistic traits to create confusion, competition, and insecurity in their interpersonal relationships. It often involves bringing a third person or element into a relationship dynamic in a way that undermines or destabilizes the original relationship. Here's a simplified explanation of narcissistic triangulation:

Involving a Third Party

The narcissist introduces another person or factor into a relationship or interaction. This third party could be a new friend, a coworker, a family member, or even an idea or concept.

Creating Competition

The narcissist subtly or overtly compares you to the third party, often highlighting the third party's positive qualities or achievements. This creates a sense of competition, making you feel you must prove yourself or gain the narcissist's approval.

Seeking Validation

The narcissist may use this tactic to gain validation and attention from you and the third party. They enjoy being the center of attention and may thrive on the resulting drama and chaos.

Destabilizing the Relationship

Triangulation can cause tension and mistrust in the original relationship, as you may feel like you're in constant competition with the third party. It can also divert your attention away from the narcissist's problematic behavior.

Manipulative Control

The narcissist uses triangulation to maintain control over you and the relationship. It keeps you off balance and less likely to question or challenge their behavior.

Emotional Manipulation

Triangulation can be emotionally manipulative, as the narcissist may switch between praising you and the third party or making you feel like you're always falling short of their expectations.


Sometimes, the narcissist might deny that they are engaging in triangulation or downplay its significance, making you question your feelings and perceptions.

The Forge Recovery Center Treats Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Both a person who's been around someone with narcissistic personality disorder and the patient themselves deserve treatment. The Forge Recovery Center promises to provide a safe and nurturing environment for individuals struggling with NPD, as well as their loved ones.

Guided by a trauma-informed philosophy, we understand that NPD often stems from unresolved emotional pain and trauma. Our team of experienced professionals uses evidence-based treatments to address these underlying causes and help individuals heal.

If you're tired of living with BPD, or want a loved one with BPD to get help, reach out to The Forge Recovery Center today. Our team is happy to have a conversation.

The Forge Recovery Center's environment is carefully developed to ensure the highest level of comfort and security, nurturing not only the process of recovery but also the development of lasting bonds and a renewed sense of purpose. From the moment clients step into The Forge Recovery Center, they are welcomed into a supportive community wholeheartedly committed to their ultimate success.

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