The 3 Biggest Causes Of Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Merriam Webster defines the narcissistic personality disorder as “a personality disorder characterized especially by an exaggerated sense of self-importance, persistent need for admiration, lack of empathy for others, excessive pride in achievements, and snobbish, disdainful, or patronizing attitudes.”

Here are the 3 major causes of this disorder according to psychologists.


Sigmund Freud believed that narcissism is caused mainly from parental influence, and many psychologists today share his opinion. Namely, Freud’s theory is that when a baby is born, it is not born with an ego. Therefore, the sense of self is developed during infancy or early childhood. This is called primary narcissism and is a healthy development of a child’s mind.

While the child grows up, their sexual energy gets invested on things outside of themselves. However, when their love objects (their parents) don’t return them the love, they start turning all the love onto themselves. This is called secondary narcissism and this type of narcissism is a mental condition.

Many psychologists see narcissism as a result of too little or too much parental control. This happens when parents don’t love their children for who they are, so the children start creating a false sense of themselves and require massive attention and adoration.

Also, parental emotional neglect can have a great influence on the development of narcissism. Otto F. Kernberg, Kohut’s researcher, believes also that narcissists are narcissists because they were never valued as kids, they were only valued when they’d met their parents’ expectations and that’s why they have an immense need of attention.


Almost all personality disorders, and the narcissistic personality disorder as well can be inherited genetically. A son or a daughter of a narcissist is likely to turn out to be a narcissist also.


Many studies on personality disorders show that patients with antisocial personality disorder and borderline personality disorder have different brain structures than others. Recently, the researchers found abnormalities in the brain structure of the people with a narcissistic personality disorder as well.

It was discovered that the cortical thickness of the brain was reduced in the people with narcissistic personality disorder and the parts of their brain responsible for social behavior and emotional control were smaller. This is the reason why these people don’t have empathy.

Finally, it is possible to treat narcissism with medication and psychotherapy, but the whole process is extremely long. Psychologists think that better parenting is the key to bringing up healthy individuals and preventing narcissism.


1. ↑ Freud on narcissism. University of Hawaii.
2. ↑ Narcissism. University of Michigan.
3. ↑ McLean, Jamie. “Psychotherapy with a narcissistic patient using Kohut’s self psychology model.” Psychiatry (Edgmont) 4, no. 10 (2007): 40.
4. ↑ Russell, Gillian A. “Narcissism and the narcissistic personality disorder: a comparison of the theories of Kernberg and Kohut.” British Journal of Medical Psychology 58, no. 2 (1985): 137-148.
5. ↑ Groopman, L. C., and Cooper, A. M. “Narcissistic personality disorder.” Armenian Medical Network (2006). Retrieved from Narcissistic Personality Disorders. Armenian Medical Network.
6. ↑ Livesley, W. John, Kerry L. Jang, Douglas N. Jackson, and Phillip A. Vernon. “Genetic and environmental contributions to dimensions of personality disorder.” The American Journal of Psychiatry 150, no. 12 (1993): 1826.
7. ↑ Buchheim, A., G. Roth, G. Schiepek, O. Pogarell, and S. Karch. “Neurobiology of borderline personality disorder (BPD) and antisocial personality disorder (APD).” Schweiz. Arch. Neurol. Psychiatr 164 (2013): 115-122.
8. ↑ Mao, Yu, Na Sang, Yongchao Wang, Xin Hou, Hui Huang, Dongtao Wei, Jinfu Zhang, and Jiang Qiu. “Reduced frontal cortex thickness and cortical volume associated with pathological narcissism.” Neuroscience 328 (2016): 50-57.