In addition to looking at what is narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) and the diagnostic criteria required for a diagnosis of the condition (see links below), today we are going to look at the damage caused by different family members who suffer from the disorder and the relative effects on the rest of the family.
The most devastating situation exists when the mother suffers from NPD. This makes sense because, despite changes in our society over recent decades, it is still the mother who is, and is expected to be, the primary source of love, caring and attention. This situation in itself is a source of much heartache for adult children of narcissists.
Therefore if one’s mother suffers from NPD, life becomes extremely difficult for the child and later, the adult child, of this individual. Consequently, most of the articles I have written about the subject of narcissism have usually revolved around the mother as the protagonist. And certainly the majority of my clients have unwittingly been the victims of the strange behavioral patterns that make up this disorder.
Yet males are just as likely to suffer from NPD as females and so there are many people who have suffered under the regime of a narcissistic father. In having such a father, the daughters do not experience any positive feedback in terms of their “femaleness”, their beauty, their intelligence or their burgeoning femininity when they reach puberty and beyond. It is very important for a girl’s self esteem to have a father who is complimentary, both in terms of their academic pursuits, sporting interests, and their growing attractiveness as young women. Father is the first man that a young girl looks to for reassurance that she is an acceptable female. If you have a narcissistic father, this will not only be absent but any attributes you may have will either be ignored or ridiculed.
For sons of narcissistic fathers, there is no father-son bonding, there is no role model to look up to, there are no complements on the son’s interests, hobbies, sporting abilities, academic prowess or looks. There is no relationship, in fact there is likely to be a male-to-male competition going on. The latter may not be overt but may take the form of putdowns, ridicule or even total dismissal. This behavior accelerates as the father ages and the son acquires his physical peak in terms of looks and handsomeness. The same dynamic applies in the mother-daughter relationship, but again need not necessarily be obvious.
In our next article, we will look at the effects of having a sibling with this disorder and how that compromises the family dynamic. Finally we will look at the sad scenario where the parents realize that their child has the disorder and the heartbreak this knowledge brings.