Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is challenging, not just for the individual who has it, but also for those of us around them. It’s frustrating, and you find yourself wondering: Can a narcissist change? Let’s explore this question, providing insights from mental health professionals and recent research findings.
Edited by David Stone
As a journalist, I trip over narcissism on a regular basis. Narcissists make news because they’re disruptive. Sometimes, it’s positive because there are walls that should come down, but mostly it’s not.
Narcissists have less reluctance than you or me to inflict pain. They can reduce organizational structures to rubble because it’s all about them and every established mission be damned.
But although the inclination to punish and/or banish is strong, so is the importance of seeing NPD for what it is: an illness. We decided to have a look, researching the possibilities of something like a cure.
Before delving into whether narcissists can change, it’s crucial to understand what narcissism is. A narcissist is characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. They often believe they are superior and have little regard for other people’s feelings.
The Possibility of Change
So, can narcissists change? The answer is complex. Yes, change is possible, but it’s not easy or quick.
First, narcissists must recognize their behavior and acknowledge that they have a problem. This step is often the most challenging part because narcissists, by nature, believe there’s nothing wrong with them.
Then, they must be willing to change. This willingness often comes when a narcissist’s behavior has led to significant personal loss, such as the end of a relationship or a career setback.
Even then, change is a process that requires professional help, usually involving therapy with a mental health professional experienced in treating NPD. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), for instance, can help narcissists understand their thoughts and behaviors better and learn healthier ways to interact with others.
The Road to Change
While change is possible, it’s important to note that it’s a long, arduous process. Narcissists have spent a lifetime building and reinforcing their self-centered perspective, and it’s not something that can be dismantled overnight.
Also, narcissists who do want to change face societal resistance. Often, society reinforces narcissistic behavior, rewarding the assertiveness, confidence, and superficial charm associated with it. This societal reinforcement makes it even harder for narcissists to break their patterns.
In conclusion, while it’s challenging, change is possible for narcissists. However, it requires recognition of the problem, willingness to change, professional help, and time.
Dealing with a narcissist, especially in close relationships, can be emotionally draining. It’s crucial to prioritize your own mental health and seek professional support if needed.
Remember, everyone deserves respect and empathy in their interactions with others. If you’re dealing with someone who exhibits narcissistic behaviors, it’s okay to set boundaries and protect your well-being.