Are You Close to Someone with Narcissist Personality Disorder?

by | Mar 12, 2013

When you are a close relative, partner or friend of a person who suffers from Narcissist Personality Disorder (NPD), you suffer too. People with NPD have an escalated sense of their superiority and importance in the world and a constant need for attention and admiration. They often have little regard for others\’ feelings and may even exploit others to achieve their own goals. These traits can be detrimental to those who are close to the NPD sufferer.

Causes of NPD

The disorder can be rooted in a dysfunctional childhood in which the afflicted felt highly criticized, unworthy and unloved. A total lack of affection or empathy left the child feeling vulnerable and perhaps shameful. Sometimes children in these situations grow up to need ultra power and control so they never have to feel the horrible sense of vulnerability or rejection. When these people become adults, they mask their low self-esteem and shame with arrogance, superiority and demands for priority treatment.

It can be very trying to be close to someone with NPD, who often appears to function normally in public, and even excel at work or in social situations. Then, in the privacy of the home, the NPD person can flip a switch and become aggressive, demeaning, illogical, accusing and controlling in the extreme. If you are a spouse, family member, or friend, this treatment of you may distort your thinking process. You sometimes give up your own sense of self to become what the person with NPD needs you to be. You may sacrifice your well-being and even lose your own self-esteem in the process of taking care of the NPD person\’s emotional needs.

Are You at Risk of Being an Emotional Caretaker?

If you are generous, empathetic, deferential and want to help—all good things, usually—you are at risk of putting the person who suffers from NPD before yourself. How do you know if you\’re in a negative situation? If you think you may be, it\’s helpful to seek therapy. Ask yourself:

Is any relationship, even a bad one, better than none at all?

Is your self-esteem low?

Do you feel the need to be a rescuer?

Do you need to be needed?

Do you feel responsible for someone else\’s emotions?

Do guilt and obligation dominate your behavior in relationships?

Do you care about the person with NPD more than s/he cares for you?

Do you hate conflict and avoid it like the plague?

If you answer yes to any of the above, you may find yourself in a relationship in which you are the rescuer and sometimes the victim. You could become the unwitting caretaker of someone else\’s emotions. If you are in such an unhealthy situation, you may be an emotional caretaker. It may be time for you to take care of yourself to achieve the happy, rewarding life you deserve. Therapy can help.


Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here:



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