Narcissistic personality disorder affects more males than females, and it often begins in the teens or early adulthood. While some teens may show narcissistic traits, it is more likely typical of their age and developmental stage and doesn't mean that they have or will develop Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Teens are in the right in the middle of the process of forming their identities and learning how to maneuver their lives- both their inner and outer lives. When I say they are in the middle, I mean that their personalities are not yet fully formed and are still being developed. Thus, they may exhibit traits associated with narcissism, such as being defensive, hypersensitive, selfish, and oblivious to the feelings of needs of those around them. This is developmentally normal.
Wondering what is narcissism? Here's a reminder of NPD traits:
1. Lacks empathy and is extremely selfish.
2. Arrogant and egotistical.
3. Insatiable need for approval and reverence.
4. Need for power and control.
5. Overinflated sense of entitlement.
6. Resentment and envy at the success of other people.
7. Vindictive, aggressive, and moody.
8. Defensive and hypersensitive.
9. A shifting personality.
What causes NPD? Experts know that genetics, neurobiological factors and personality and temperament play a role and may make an individual more or less vulnerable to the development of NPD. However, we also know that social and environmental factors, such as parent-child relationships can have a huge impact on the development of this disorder, specifically if there is excessive adoration and overprotection, excessive criticism, or severe neglect or abuse may trigger Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
The good news? If you believe you are seeing traits of narcissism in your child, just remember that you still have several years to help guide your child to appropriate thoughts and behavior. Having a strong, loving relationship with your child with clear boundaries and an emphasis on encouragement rather than criticism, and guiding them in the development of their moral compass and decision making will help protect your teenager from having their "normal" teenage narcissism turn into a full-blown Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Still not sure? If you suspect your teen's narcissitic traits are outside of the norm for an adolescent, seek the help of a qualified therapist.