What Is Extreme Narcissism?

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EXTREME NARCISSISM refers to an antagonistic variant of this personality trait that exists at the far end of the narcissism continuum. It is a defensive ego structure that generates a false self to protect the failed development of a true self. It is used to describe the maladaptive, socially destructive strains of narcissism. It is synonymous pathological narcissism.

An Intersection of Two Disorders

Social psychologist Erich Fromm described the most extreme form of narcissism as malignant and placed it at the intersection of narcissistic personality disorder and anti-social personality disorder. He called it “the most severe pathology” and “the quintessence of evil”.

These intersecting personality disorders include the malevolent traits that comprise the dark triad, vulnerable dark triad, or dark tetrad.

The Dark Triad

  • Narcissism –  grandiosity, arrogance, megalomania and low empathy.
  • Psychopathy – antisocial behavior, ruthlessness, impulsiveness, selfishness, absence of conscience and emotionally frigid.
  • Machiavellianism – manipulativeness, amorality, callousness, and self-centeredness.

The Dark Tetrad

  • Narcissism –  grandiosity, arrogance, megalomania and low empathy.
  • Psychopathy – antisocial behavior, ruthlessness, impulsiveness, selfishness, absence of conscience and emotionally frigid.
  • Machiavellianism – manipulativeness, amorality, callousness, and self-centeredness.
  • Sadism – cruelty, mercilessness.

The Vulnerable Dark Triad

  • Vulnerable narcissism – introverted grandiosity
  • Sociopathy – Feeble conscience, absence of psychosis, and emotionally volatile. Also known as secondary psychopathy.
  • Borderline personality disorder – Distorted sense of self, chronic emotional dysregulation, splitting, self-destructiveness, emptiness, rapidly shifting moods, and anger management issues.

Why Does Extreme Narcissism Develop?

Extreme expressions of narcissism are a post-traumatic stress adaptation. It can be thought of as a kind of scar tissue that develops to protect the psyche from unhealed trauma and the failure to generate a true self. Its function is to dull, hardened, and desensitize the mind, to severe consciousness from a state of constant fragility, dread, and hyper-vigilance. It limits an individual’s capacity to form true bonds with others, as it is largely removed from empathy.

Extreme narcissism separates the psyche from painful feelings connected to highly stressful or traumatic experiences. Overwhelming feelings of shame and humiliation are buried deep in the subconscious mind, where a false self is formed to keep feelings of vulnerability emotions at bay.

Characteristics of Extreme Narcissism?

This variant shares the same characteristics as malignant narcissism. Both are:

  • Harmful to self and others
  • Loves self to the exclusion of others
  • Rigid, and 
  • Compromises mental health of self and others.

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Manya Wakefield is an educator and recovery coach specialized in cognitive behavioral therapy and trauma. She is also the author of 'Are You In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship?' and host of the Narcissistic Abuse Rehab Podcast available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher.

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