Inordinate self-love: experts disagree on treating narcissistsBy: Ernest Dempsey Narcissism can be a big threat to mental health and social life. Contemporary experts are notentirely hopeless on chronic narcissism cases. As healers and as humans, they tend torecognize the narcissists’ problem as not self-induced.Loving oneself is natural but when it possesses one’s personality, it assumes the form of narcissism, a personality disorder that has several threateningly dysfunctional sides to it.Whether it is treatable or is the case of the narcissist is gone is a question about whichcontemporary subject experts seem to disagree.According toDr. Sam Vaknin, expert on narcissism and author of the book
Malignant Self Love – Narcissism Revisited
, pathological narcissism is maladaptive, rigid, persisting, andcauses significant distress, and functional impairment. Besides being sickeningly self-centered,these individuals rarely seek therapeutic help and they definitely do not listen to advice of anykind. Dr. Vaknin is of the opinion that people with narcissistic personality disorder have nohope of recovering from their disease or returning to normal life.“Pathological narcissism cannot be “healed", or "cured," says Dr. Vaknin. He goes on to warnthat social contact with narcissists can become a threat to one’s own mental health: “Narcissistscannot be “fixed” and, if you do not keep absolute distance, will ruin your life thoroughly.”Psychodrama expert Dr. Daniel Tomasulo, author of
, agreeswith Dr. Vaknin on the point that narcissists are a potential threat to the overall wellbeing of asociety. He calls narcissists the “cancer of society”. To him, Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is all consuming, self-and-other-destructive, and profoundly self-defeating. But he doesallow “detaching with compassion” from the narcissist, recognizing that they have a disorder that they have no control over.Still other professionals practicing in the field of psychology/psychotherapy believe that thecase of the narcissist is not all gone. Australian psychiatristDr. Niall McLaren, who is astaunch critic of contemporary psychiatric theory and practice, thinks it unethical andunprofessional to give up on any psychological patient. Dr. McLaren admits that no therapycan work against the patient’s will.“I have very lengthy experience treating people whom everybody else says are impossible. Thefirst thing is to give them a chance,” says Dr. McLaren.To the question whether it is ethical for a psychiatrist to excommunicate a narcissist on accountof saving himself from the psychopathic fallout of the patient's personality, Dr. McLarenreplies, “It is legitimate for a therapist to decline to accept a patient for treatment. However,anybody who does so needs to be in therapy himself. Consistently declining particular types of patients says that the therapist's training is incomplete, similar to the therapist who always endsup with the same kind of patient.”Equally open and even more optimistic is psychotherapist andRichard Singer , author of
Now: Embracing the Present Moment
, who has treated a number of patients diagnosed withnarcissism and tells that there has been significant progress in therapy.