Mental Health

“YOU’RE SO VAIN”: Narcissism and Ego

“You had one eye on the mirror as you watched yourself gavotte!” “You’re so vain; I bet you think this song is about you, don’t you?”

Those are the lyrics to a 1970’s song by Carly Simon about a man who had such an inflated image of himself that he used and discarded people as if they were the newspaper. He was so vain he only thought about himself and no one else. He was a Narcissist and his attitude and behavior were typical of the Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

NARCISSISM is a serious personality disorder that affects 2% of adults with the highest incidence in the 20-25 year age group. Males are affected almost twice as often as women. Of this population, 6% have co-occurring substance abuse problems and 40% have a co-existing anxiety disorder.

Narcissistic people have a “deep-seated sense of insecurity kept hidden by their exaggerated feeling of self-importance, distorted self-image, and oversized ego.“ These are the folks who actually believe the world revolves around them. They crave attention because they feel they are superior beings and deserve recognition even without achievements to warrant it. They are “manipulative and think nothing of abusing or mistreating people close to them to get what they want.” They have an excessive need for admiration, feel a sense of entitlement, and are preoccupied with fantasies of wealth, power, fame, and public praise.

The traits of the Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) are “manifest on a daily basis,” and lead to social isolation and loneliness because others find them challenging and hard to deal with. Because they believe they are “destined to accomplish great things, they are quick to blame others for holding them back when they don’t. They exaggerate or lie about their achievements and talents and do anything necessary to get their way or what they want. They expect to be pampered, coddled, and waited-on by everyone they encounter since they believe it’s their birthright as superior individuals.”

NPD patients are “lacking in empathy and have no sense of the feelings and needs of others. They cannot relate to the suffering of others and are unable to demonstrate real sympathy or compassion. They are callous and unemotional in a way that’s more than arrogance or vanity. These traits lead to troubled and chaotic interpersonal relationships, turbulent work histories, financial difficulties, legal problems, and mental health or substance abuse problems. They are selfish and envious and suspicious of others. They feel people envy them.”

Symptoms first appear in late teen or early adult years and persist for life. There is no cure for Narcissism and no medications control or alleviate it. It’s an in-bred personality disorder for which the only treatment is psychoanalysis and long-term psychotherapy. But it is possible to “overcome” these tendencies with therapy that “helps sufferers identify the faulty thinking patterns that underlie them.” “Childhood exposure to neglectful, abusive, or overindulgent parenting is usually implicated in the condition’s onset.” Addressing these issues and “probing deeply into the underlying causes of narcissistic thinking and behavior” can begin the healing process.

For a summarization of the criteria for diagnosing NPD I refer you to the 5th edition of the DIAGNOSTIC and STATISTICAL MANUAL of MENTAL DISEASES. The diagnostic requirements did not change in the 19 years between editions of this manual used extensively by mental health professionals. The nine criteria are as follow:

A “grandiose sense of self-importance”

A “preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love”

Believes he or she is “special and unique and can only be understood by, or associate with, other special or high-status people”

“Requires excessive admiration (regularly fishes for compliments, susceptible to flattery)”

Has a “sense of entitlement”

“Is interpersonally exploitative”

“Lacks empathy; is unwilling, or unable, to recognize or identify with the feelings of others”

Is often “envious of others” or believes they are envious of him/her

Shows “arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes”

Additionally, they are

Highly reactive to criticism

Bothered by low self-esteem

Inordinately self-righteous and defensive

React to contrary viewpoints with anger and rage

Project onto others qualities, traits, and behaviors they can’t (or won’t) accept in themselves Have poor interpersonal boundaries (other exist to cater to their personal desires)



Feelings of inferiority and insecurity demand the approval of others

The next time you hear Carly Simon sing “You’re So Vain,” it may strike you entirely differently.

Dr. G’s Opinion: Does this blog remind you of any public figures? Of course it does. Celebrities, politicians, Presidents wouldn’t be where they are without a touch of narcissism. Some of them demonstrate the behavior more than others, and our reactions are just as the experts say…we just listen and out of frustration, let them have their way.



Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button