Narcissism: 5 Causes of Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Narcissism: 5 Causes of Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Last update: 26 July, 2018

The causes of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) have to do with deficiencies and excesses during childhood. The child can experience a lack of the different stimuli or the love that he so needed. Or, on other occasions, narcissism starts to form because of different excesses. One example of this is when parents go over the top in trying to meet the needs of their children.

The problems associated with narcissism have different levels. Sometimes it is simply the way we are. On other occasions, it is a narcissistic personality disorder, which is far more serious. In this case, pretentiousness and selfishness invade the person’s entire personality. Added to that, there may be antisocial traits.

“Shyness has a strange component of narcissism: the belief that others really care about what we wear or how we act.”

-André Dubus-

Depending on what has caused the NPD, our personalities will be affected in different ways. However, all cases have some common features, which have different degrees of intensity.

In general, what predominates are delusions of grandeur, arrogance, exploitation of others and interpersonal problems. There may also be many hidden traits that denote feelings of inferiority. Whatever the case, the main causes of NPD are the following.

Abuse, one of the causes of exaggerated narcissism

We would usually think that those who have suffered from abuse during childhood would become completely introverted. However, this is not always true. In many cases the exact opposite occurs. The victim develops a narcissistic personality, and only wants to feel superior to those around him.

Sad boy suffering abuse

Abuse is one of the most complex causes of narcissism. What happens in these cases is a type of compensation and defense mechanism. They are determined to never again be someone else’s victim, and their self-image becomes inflated. If they continue along this road then an exaggerated form of narcissism will form in their lives.


In the case of neglect, there are many similarities to what happens with abuse. The person has experienced such a sensation of vulnerability in his childhood that he decides to build a wall between himself and the world. That wall is narcissism. The main consequence of neglect, in this case, is a profound difficulty in experiencing empathy.

What happens in these cases is that narcissism acts like a shell. It a shell that hides an extremely weak person. That is why it is quite normal for people like this to be terrified of rejection from other people. Either that, or they have deep feelings of shame because of how they have ordered their inner selves. Narcissism simply hides away these feelings.

Parents’ inconsistency

Parents’ inconsistency is one of the main causes of NPD. It can occur because of the inconsistency between their words and their actions, or because of the actions themselves. It happens when the parents say one thing, but then do something completely different. It also occurs when parents are erratic and you never know how they are going to act or react.

This is characteristic in restless, anxious parents, and often gives rise to a deep insecurity in the children. These kind of parents often lavish exaggerated praises on their children, but also criticize them far too harshly. Narcissism is the response to the anguish caused by this troubling and inconsistent environment.

Teen arguing with parents

Empty praise and gifts

Empty praise is very typical in parents who carry feelings of guilt inside them. They probably feel that they aren’t giving enough time and attention to their children, and know this isn’t right. So, to compensate for this deficiency, they often inappropriately try to highlight certain traits that they think their children are proud of. They do this regardless of whether the children have them or not, seeing as they know very little about them.

They do this through excessive praise and expensive gifts. It’s a way of compensating and covering up their lack of true affection. They feel compelled to celebrate whatever their child does. In this way they conclude that no-one will doubt the love they have for them. Because of this, the child develops an idealized image of himself, far from reality.


Over-protection is a form of abuse. It transmits a message of fear and anxiety. It installs the idea in the child’s mind that they are incapable of facing life’s difficulties on their own. They also make them think that there is “something special” inside them that must be constantly taken care of, a weakness inherent in them. This feeds both insecurity and exaggerated narcissism.

Over time, the person starts to shut themselves away. They get into their own personal bubble. They think that others, if they really love them, should protect them and provide for all the whims and “needs”. They also become apathetic to the needs of others.

Boy sitting in a bubble

Many of the causes of NPD have to do with the parents’ own narcissism. Sometimes they try to heal the wounds in their own self-esteem using their own children, or on other occasions by carrying out their own narcissistic desires. The problem is that they end up achieving totally the opposite. Psychotherapy can actually contribute decisively to rebuild someone’s self-esteem and make it strong and healthy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.