A heavy diet, The Great Depression, and jumbo prawns are all examples of oxymorons that are in frequent use. These terms, characterised by two conflicting ideas being presented side by side, are sometimes humorous. In other instances, such as that of the narcissistic mother, this juxtaposition paints a darkly sad picture.
The description of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) in the 5th version of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM-5) includes nine possible symptoms. Each of these symptoms is in direct opposition with traits that a parent who provides a stable and nurturing environment for her child possess.
Someone with NPD exaggerates his or her achievements, talents and expects to be recognised as superior. A narcissistic mother may be unable to put her own child’s needs first because of this false belief about herself.
Fantasies about self
These fantasies can be related to unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love. A mother who attempts to pursue domains related to these fantasies may forsake her children in this futile pursuit.
Sees self as special
Beliefs often include that someone can only be understood, or should associate with, other special or high-status people. A mother who exhibits this trait may refuse to associate with their children or others in their children’s lives (i.e., other parents, teachers, etc.)
Requires excessive admiration
As is often said, motherhood is a thankless job, and mothers who need appreciation from their children may be sorely disappointed when this admiration never comes. The reaction to this can be as minor as resentment, but it may also lead to more severe reactions such as abuse or neglect, as these mothers eventually refuse to perform motherly duties.
Sense of entitlement
This symptom includes unreasonable expectations of exceptionally favourable treatment or automatic compliance with expectations. This trait can be passed on to children, who may also believe they are entitled to similar favourable treatment.
Exploitation of others
A person with NPD often takes advantage of others to achieve his or her ends. A mother with NPD may be driven to use her child to fulfil her own needs, despite the threat it may pose to the child.
Identification of children’s feelings by their primary caregiver is necessary to assist healthy development. Someone diagnosed with NPD is unwilling to recognise or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
Individuals with NPD often envy others or believe that others are envious of them. This irrational envy is another trait that is likely to be passed on to children, which can lead to future relational deficits.
Arrogance is another trait that may be modelled by narcissistic mothers. Children who observe an arrogant mother may believe this characteristic is typical and may themselves display it.
In isolation, these symptoms may not present a clear danger to the child of a narcissistic mother, but when these traits are combined the potentially deleterious effects become manifest. It is essential for clinicians to be aware of these dangers and keep a watchful eye on mothers who display these traits, as the effects of their narcissism can have lasting impacts on their children.
If a mother raised you with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or if you are concerned for your children, therapy can help. Contact me today for an initial consultation.