A heavy diet, The Great Depression, and jumbo shrimp are all examples of oxymorons that are often used. These terms, characterized 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 dark picture of the potential for harm that these individuals possess.
The description of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) in the 5thversion of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM-5) includes nine possible symptoms. Each of these symptoms is in direct opposition with traits that quality mothers possess.
Someone with NPD exaggerates his or her achievements and talents and expects to be recognized 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
This includes beliefs that someone can only be understood by, 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 require admiration 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 serious reactions such as abuse or neglect, as these mothers eventually refuse to perform motherly duties.
Sense of entitlement
This symptom includes unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations. This trait can be passed on to children, who may also believe they are entitled to similar favorable treatment.
A person with NPD often takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends. A mother with NPD may be driven to use her child to achieve her own needs, despite the threat it may pose to the child.
Someone with NPD is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others. This is concerning for mothers, as the identification of their children’s feelings is necessary to help them develop in a healthy way.
Individuals with NPD often envy others or believe that others are envious of them. This 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 modeled by narcissistic mothers. Children who observe an arrogant mother may believe this characteristic is normal 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 potential deleterious effects become clear. It is important 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 you were raised by a mother with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or if you are concerned for your own children, therapy can help. Feel free to contact me and I’ll see how I can help.