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Narcissism can be a form of abuse. Narcissists often engage in emotional manipulation, gaslighting, and other harmful behaviors.

The details behind the personality trait


By Mary Beth Sallee

Jobe Publishing, Inc.


Billions of photos are posted to social media every day, but you can’t always see the big picture through the small ones, especially when it comes to unhealthy relationships or the true personality of a person.

Michael Jennings, M.Ed., LPCC-S, NCC, is the Clinical Director of Bluegrass Professional Counseling in Hart County. Photo submitted.

Michael Jennings, the Clinical Director of Bluegrass Professional Counseling in Munfordville, shared information via a question-and-answer session regarding a personality trait that seems to be garnering more attention: narcissism.

Q: What is narcissism?

A: Narcissism refers to a personality trait characterized by an excessive preoccupation with oneself, a sense of entitlement, a need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. It is named after the mythological figure Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection. Individuals with narcissistic traits often have an inflated sense of self-importance, a constant craving for attention and validation, and a tendency to exploit others for their own gain.

Is narcissism considered a mental disorder (inherited or otherwise) and/or a personality trait that one develops based on what they are exposed to?

Narcissism is primarily considered a personality trait rather than a mental disorder. It is classified as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) when the traits become pervasive, rigid, and cause significant impairment in various areas of life. Both genetic predispositions and early life experiences, such as excessive pampering or neglect, can influence the development of narcissistic traits.

 Q: What are the traits of a narcissist?

A: Traits are:

– Exaggerated self-importance

– Preoccupation with success, power, or beauty

– Requiring excessive admiration

– Expectation of favorable treatment

– Inability to recognize the needs and feelings of others

– Taking advantage of others for personal gain

– Tendency to demean or belittle others

Q: Is narcissism considered a form of abuse? Please explain.

A: Narcissism can be a form of abuse. Narcissists often engage in emotional manipulation, gaslighting, and other harmful behaviors that can have a profound impact on those around them. They may exploit and demean their partners, friends, or family members, creating an environment of constant invalidation and control. This emotional abuse can lead to significant psychological distress and trauma for the victims.

Q: How do narcissists affect those around them, especially those who are in a relationship with them?

A: A person who is victim to the behaviors mentioned above may feel inadequate and doubt themselves. These behaviors erode a person’s sense of self-worth and confidence. The victim may question their own perceptions, memories, and feelings due to being made to doubt their own sanity. Victims may feel the need to constantly monitor their behavior to adapt to the narcissist’s expectations. Victims often lose their sense of self and identity, as they prioritize the needs and desires of the narcissist.

Q: Is it true that someone who is exposed to a narcissistic person for long periods of time may experience memory loss or other complications? Please explain.

A: While being in a relationship with a narcissistic person can be highly distressing and emotionally taxing, there is limited evidence to suggest that exposure to narcissistic individuals directly causes memory loss. However, the chronic stress, anxiety, and emotional abuse experienced in such relationships can have negative effects on cognitive functioning and overall mental health. This can manifest as difficulties with concentration, attention, and memory retrieval.

Q: Why may a person who is in a relationship with a narcissist not simply leave the relationship?

A: Leaving a relationship with a narcissist is difficult due to manipulation and control, fear of retaliation, emotional dependency, low self-esteem, financial/logistical obstacles, and hope for change. It requires planning, support, and professional help.

Q: Can a narcissist change? And/or what would be the steps or process?

A: Changing narcissistic personality traits is quite challenging. It requires a genuine desire for change, self-reflection, and intensive therapeutic intervention.

For additional information about services offered at Bluegrass Professional Counseling, visit the website at

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse whereby a person manipulates another person into questioning their sanity and perception of reality. Above are the common gaslighting phrases that a narcissistic person may use against someone. Graphic courtesy of Mind Journal


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