Narcissism is a term that’s used a lot these days and many people are wondering whether the number of narcissists is on the rise. It may just be that there is a greater understanding of the concept or it might be that modern society is helping to create an epidemic.

So what is narcissism? In a nutshell, narcissists have no self-worth, so they have to create an image that is so impressive, others won’t realise their secret. To create this impressive persona, they act as if they are incredibly important and deserve special treatment. They fantasise about being popular, rich, famous and powerful and will use other people to achieve these goals. They need to be constantly admired and cannot bear to be criticised. In fact, if they are criticised, they will often react with fury and acts of revenge. One reason why it’s so difficult to have a relationship with a narcissist is that they are unable to show any empathy towards others.

What causes such behaviour? It is thought that the lack of self-esteem that lurks beneath the arrogant behaviour is caused either by over-indulgence and children being told that they are so special and can do no wrong, or by parental neglect. To protect children from becoming narcissistic, parents need to give credit where credit’s due so that they develop a healthy sense of self, but don’t let them escape consequences.

And what if you are attempting to have a relationship with somebody who fits this description? Obviously it will be difficult. Don’t expect them to change. It’s important to try and understand why they act the way they do. You’ll need to be able to admire your partner and give them plenty of attention. You’ll have to expect little empathy and attention yourself. If you want to try to resolve an issue between you, try very hard not to criticise, but gently point out how you’re feeling and what you need. And if you attempt to end a relationship with a narcissist, prepare for an explosive and spiteful reaction.

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