Types of Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a mental health condition that causes someone to rely on others for praise, admiration, and self-esteem.

People with NPD may form superficial relationships based on personal interests. They often behave in unhealthy ways that damage their relationships with others. For example, they may appear condescending, self-serving, attention-seeking, and overly sensitive to criticism. Many people with NPD also have an exaggerated belief that they are superior to others.

Although there is only one official diagnosis of NPD, some researchers have identified several different types of narcissistic personality disorder. Learn more about the characteristics, symptoms, and treatment of narcissism, as well as the different types of narcissistic personality disorder.

Characteristics of Narcissism

NPD is one of 10 personality disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5).

A personality disorder is a mental health condition that causes someone to think and act in a way that damages themselves and their relationships with others. Personality disorders can lead to impaired functioning in work, school, self-esteem and identity, and relationships.

NPD is one of the Type B personality disorders. Group B personality disorders are associated with dramatic, emotional, irrational, and capricious behavior. Other examples of cluster B personality disorders include borderline personality disorder (BPD), hereditary personality disorder (HPD), and antisocial personality disorder (ASPD).

How common is NPD?

While many people share narcissistic traits, researchers estimate that up to 5 percent of the population meets the criteria for NPD.

The main characteristics of narcissism include arrogance, extreme self-focus, an inflated sense of self-worth, and a strong need for praise and approval.

For someone diagnosed with NPD by a therapist, someone must display these traits in a pathological (unhealthy) way that interferes with their daily functioning and ability to relate to others.

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grand feelings

People with NPD may display a sense of arrogance or superiority. They may think they are entitled to special favors, praise, or admiration from others. They may also appear condescending or arrogant. People with NPD may also be overly focused on impressing others, whether through outward displays of wealth, status, intelligence, or beauty.

extreme self-concern

Extreme self-focus is another common narcissistic trait. While many people are narcissistic to some degree, people with NPD are almost exclusively focused on themselves and their own personal interests. They may talk constantly about themselves or have difficulty empathizing with others. This can cause many people with NPD to face challenges in intimacy and relationships because their relationships with others are only superficial. They may even use others to get what they want.

Inflated sense of self-worth

An inflated sense of self-worth is another common narcissistic trait. People with NPD may expect special treatment for no reason. They may brag or exaggerate their achievements and think they are uniquely gifted and deserving.

Strong need for praise and recognition

People with NPD often struggle with self-esteem and identity. They often rely on others to maintain a positive view of themselves, leading to a strong desire for praise and recognition. This results in the need for constant external self-stroking for many people with narcissistic traits. They may also be jealous of other people’s positive traits or achievements.

Personality Disorders: Types and Characteristics

What are the types of narcissistic personality disorder?

NPD is the only official diagnosis associated with narcissism in the DSM-5.

However, many mental health therapists who work with people with NPD and researchers who study personality disorders have identified various possible types of narcissistic personality disorder. They include explicit narcissism, implicit narcissism, confrontational narcissism, collective narcissism, and malignant narcissism. Some experts also distinguish between adaptive and maladaptive narcissism.

Overt narcissism (proxy narcissism)

Overt narcissism, also known as proxy narcissism, is what you might think of as the “classic” and most obvious form of NPD.

People who experience overt narcissism are overly concerned with how others perceive them. Due to their arrogance and sense of entitlement, they are often overly concerned with status, wealth, flattery, and power. Many overt narcissists are highly accomplished and very sensitive to criticism, no matter how slight.

Covert narcissism (closet narcissism, vulnerable narcissism)

Covert narcissism, also known as closet narcissism or vulnerable narcissism, is not as obvious as overt narcissism. Like others with NPD, people with covert narcissism have an inflated sense of self-importance and a desire to be admired by others.

However, people with covert narcissism may exhibit more subtle and passive negative behaviors. Rather than brag about themselves or demand respect, they may use blame, humiliation, manipulation, or emotional neglect to get what they want and focus on themselves. They may also see themselves as victims.

confrontational narcissism

While all people with narcissistic traits may be overly concerned with how they appear in the eyes of others, hostile narcissists are especially concerned with “getting ahead.”

The definition of confrontational narcissism is a sense of competition, arrogance, and competition.

People with confrontational narcissism may try to use others to succeed. They may also belittle others or start arguments in an attempt to gain the upper hand or appear dominant.

collective narcissism

Like people living with covert narcissism, people who experience collective narcissism may not seem self-driven at all. They may initially come across as selfless, even martyr. But their intrinsic motivation is to win praise and admiration, not to help others.

To this end, these individuals often place themselves at the forefront of social causes or communities, often as leaders or voices of movements. People with shared narcissism see themselves as more empathetic, loving, or selfless than others, and often display moral anger.

malignant narcissism

Malignant narcissism is often seen as the most severe or potentially abusive form of NPD.

People with malignant narcissism share the same egocentric self-absorption and sense of superiority as other narcissists. They also have traits associated with Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD), such as aggression, paranoia, and lack of empathy. They may even have sadistic tendencies.

Narcissistic traits and violent crime

Narcissistic traits may be associated with a higher likelihood of violent crime. In one study, more than 21 percent of inmates in a single prison met the diagnostic criteria for NPD.

Adaptive Narcissism and Maladaptive Narcissism

It’s important to realize that not all people with NPD look, behave, or behave in the same way.

For example, a person with NPD may be a well-dressed, charismatic superman who develops a certain image to impress others. Another person with NPD may be an underachiever who has low expectations of himself due to a sense of entitlement.

Some researchers refer to narcissistic traits such as a sense of authority and a drive for self-sufficiency as “adaptive narcissism.”

These traits can actually help someone succeed in certain areas of life, such as their career, education, or finances.

Meanwhile, narcissistic traits such as exploitation, arrogance, and aggression are known as “maladaptive narcissism.” These traits have a negative impact on the person who displays them and those around them.

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Treatment and Outlook for All Narcissistic Personality Disorder Types

Because personality disorders are complex mental health conditions, people who appear to have NPD may actually have another type B personality disorder, such as HPD. They may also suffer from mood disorders, such as bipolar disorder. That’s why it’s important to be diagnosed with NPD by a licensed mental health professional.


To diagnose you or a loved one with NPD, a psychotherapist will use the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for NPD from the American Psychiatric Association (APA). They may use diagnostic tools such as surveys to ask you questions about your life, identity, past, and relationships.

According to the DSM-5, people with NPD must have chronic, long-term impairments in social and personal functioning due to their narcissistic traits.

They must also exhibit pathological personality traits that affect their relationships and well-being. Furthermore, the challenges faced by people with NPD cannot be attributed to their developmental stage (eg, adolescence) or other mental or physical health problems, such as substance abuse.


People with NPD may not seek treatment because they may not realize they have a problem. Instead, their loved ones may notice their symptoms before them. Others with narcissistic traits may be aware that they are struggling, but may be sensitive to criticism from a therapist. However, people with NPD can seek treatment and benefit from it.

Researchers don’t fully understand what causes someone to develop NPD, but it may be due to a combination of neurobiological factors, childhood trauma, genetics, and/or environment and upbringing.

The main treatment for NPD is psychotherapy. People with NPD may also benefit from couples counseling, family counseling, and support groups.

Psychotherapy can help people with NPD in several ways, such as:

  • Develop a sense of self that is less dependent on outside approval
  • Set realistic goals
  • Dealing with and Healing Past Trauma
  • Improve relationships with partners, friends, colleagues and relatives
  • Develop greater empathy for others

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NPD is a mental health condition that causes someone to display traits such as arrogance, selfishness, and an excessive need for praise and admiration. There is only one official diagnosis associated with narcissistic traits: NPD.

However, researchers have identified several possible subtypes of NPD, such as overt narcissism, covert narcissism, confrontational narcissism, community narcissism, and malignant narcissism. People with NPD and their loved ones can benefit from psychotherapy, including family counseling, support groups, and couples counseling.

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Whether you suspect you have NPD or you suspect that your partner or loved one has narcissistic traits, it’s important to seek help. Psychotherapy can help you or your loved one improve relationships, build self-esteem, and set more attainable, realistic goals.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How many types of narcissistic personalities are there?

    There is only one formal diagnosis associated with narcissistic traits in the DSM-5: Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). People with NPD have an inflated sense of self, a desperate need for praise and admiration, and will go to extremes to impress others.

    However, in the broader diagnosis of NPD, some researchers have noted as many as five subtypes: explicit narcissism, implicit narcissism, confrontational narcissism, community narcissism, and malignant narcissism.

  • Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder Treatable?

    Many people with NPD do not seek mental health treatment. Some people may not recognize their negative traits and behaviors. Others may feel criticized or judged during therapy.

    Still, people with NPD can benefit from psychotherapy, including family counseling, support groups, one-on-one therapy, and couples counseling. In talk therapy, people with NPD can improve their relationships, build self-esteem, learn to set more realistic goals and expectations, and overcome past trauma.