Updated: Apr 1, 2021
The Canadian Mental Health Association reports that by age forty, fifty percent of the population will have, or have had a mental illness. According to Statistics Canada personality disorders affect between six, and fifteen percent of the population. Statistics Canada further reports that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Disorders (DSM-lV) groups the ten known personality disorders into three distinctive clusters, Narcissism falls into Cluster B, and describes individuals in this category as dramatic, emotional, and unpredictable. If this isn’t frightening enough, Wikipedia reports narcissistic parents as self-absorbed, often to the point of grandiosity, and that they tend to be unwilling to understand, or even acknowledge a child's point of view. This sets the stage for generations of narcissistic behaviour patterns, including other diagnosis as a consequence of being raised by a narcissist.
Psychologists explain that narcissists control by way of ignoring, belittling, and undermining. The use of manipulation, and guilt tripping are common tactics used to control not only their children but all people they associate with to get their way. In the self-absorbed world of a narcissist, their tendency to be inflexible is due to their lack of empathy. Empathy is necessary for child raising, as a result of this lack, adult children of narcissists end up with disorders of their own quite frequently classified under the same Cluster B grouping that includes Antisocial, Borderline, and Histrionic Personality disorders.
The psycho-social considerations personality disorders produce are difficulties with interpersonal relationships, irritability, hostile disposition, and fear orientation. The personality traits characteristic of personality disorders are inappropriately expressed anger, attitudes, thoughts, and behaviours that interfere with the ability to function successfully, or safely in social environments, however, narcissism has traits of its own commonly described as the following:
Grandiose sense of self.
Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
A belief of personal uniqueness that can only be understood by, or should associate with, other unique, or high-status people, or institutions.
A need for excessive admiration.
What's more important to realize about narcissism is the impact it makes on individuals who are in a relationship with a person diagnosed with the disorder. Individuals most impacted through those suffering mental illness are vulnerable children, and the elderly. Dr. Dan Neuharth created a check list of connections between unhealthy patterns in adult life and narcissistic parental behaviours. His checklist is as follows:
A. As an adult do you sometimes:
B. Possible connection:
A. Have difficulty making decisions.
B. Your parents criticized, or second-guessed your choices.
A. Get uncomfortable when good things happen?
B. Your parents ruined good times with selfish behaviour, or gave gifts with strings attached.
A. Worry, or ruminate over confrontations with others?
B. Your parents forbade you to disagree with them, or punished you for doing so.
A. Too often please others at your own expense.
B. Your parents used guilt, or pressure to make you put their needs first.
A. Feel unable to get close to others even when you want to?
B. Your parents had a come-here/go away style that was confusing and unsafe.
A. Find it difficult to relax, laugh or be spontaneous?
B. Your parents behaved unpredictably, or over-scrutinized you.
A. Feel inexplicably drawn to turmoil rather than harmony in your relationships?
B. Your parents created drama, scapegoating, and disharmony in your family.
A. Expect too much of yourself?
B. Your parents never seemed satisfied with you.
A. View others as fragile, or view yourself as too much for others to handle?
B. Your parents played the martyr, or become unhinged by your questions, or independence.
A. Trust others unwisely, or conversely, find it hard to trust even when you want to?
B. Your parents told you that you could trust them, then disappointed, or used you.
A. Feel numb or have difficulty knowing what you are feeling?
B. Your parents minimized, or ridiculed your feelings and desires.
A. Feel extra-sensitive around bossy, entitled, or manipulative people.
B. Your parents needed to be the centre of attention, or dominate most conversations.
A. Self-sooth through excessive food, drink, shopping or other addictive behaviours.
B. Your parents' behaviour left you feeling trapped, unloved, hopeless, or helpless.
Wikipedia reports that children who perceive their parents to be narcissistic have higher rates of depression, and lower self-esteem in adult life. The narcissist's lack of empathy contributes to low self esteem due to the consistent lack of emotional feedback imposed on their children. When a child's emotions are rarely mirrored, honoured, or acknowledged in development, confidence is reduced, which leads to low self-esteem. Children of parents with narcissism quite frequently are subjected to older siblings that have developed the same traits, this can multiply the confusion for children making it that much more difficult to develop without a dual mental health diagnosis in later years.
Children of narcissistic parents are taught to submit, and conform, this causes an individual to lose touch with themselves, as a result of this, children equate love with conformity which in later years is of concern for girls being subjected to abusive relationships. Compliance will seem natural to a narcissistic abuse survivor, yet will be devastating mentally, and emotionally to conform too. Adolescents living with narcissistic individuals frequently leave home early to escape the mental, and emotional damage imposed on them resulting through the toxicity of parental communication.
There is help out there for children of narcissistic parents, and for the narcissist. One sure way to recognize narcissism is lack of empathy. Lack of this trait makes it difficult for narcissists' to maintain meaningful relationships, as well as lovingly guide children who can emotionally regulate themselves. Although children are rarely diagnosed with anything related to personality disorders until they're adult years, signs and symptoms can be witnessed in adolescence. Researchers have been steadily researching narcissism over the decades, and have found that narcissism traits are steadily on the rise, while empathy rates are steadily decreasing. This points to an alarming absence of understanding in society about healthy child minding. Empathy is the underlying component of human communication, and we are fumbling at transferring this knowledge to future generations through the parent - child relationship. Change starts with every individual that can make a difference in their own life, and the life of their children. Heal yourself, heal your family. Be love and light, seek Bindu - the point of creation.
Statistics Canada: Section F - Personality Disorders https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-619-m/2012004/sections/sectionf-eng.htm 2015
Wikipedia: Narcissistic Parent, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narcissistic_parent Wikimedia Foundation 2021
CMHA: Fast Facts About Mental Illness, https://cmha.ca/fast-facts-about-mental-illness 2021 CMHA National