The New York Times article featured on November 29, 2010, "A Fate That Narcissists Will Hate: Being Ignored," by Charles Zanor, gave clinicians something to buzz about. The article is an update on the fifth edition of the new and upcoming DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), the manual used for mental health providers to diagnose patients. The news is that the new manual will be eliminating 5 of the 10 personality disorders that are currently listed, and narcissistic personality disorder is one of them.
Perhaps the full-blown narcissist won't care about being tossed from the DSM bus because they don't usually realize they have a problem. But, what if you are an adult child raised by a narcissistic parent? Symptoms are usually hidden in the shadows and must be brought to light for the recovery process to begin. Lack of consideration by the DSM committee could only reinforce the confusion around this disorder and make it even more difficult for adult children of narcissistic parents to embrace and understand this generational legacy.
I agree with Dr. John Gunderson, Harvard psychiatrist, who was quoted in the article as saying it "showed how ‘unenlightened' the personality disorders committee is." I, too, have some concerns. The lack of understanding that I have seen in the mental health field regarding the insidious effects of being raised by a narcissistic parent needs to be discussed. The damage I've seen in my research and work regarding the emotional abuse that ensues from narcissistic parenting only clarifies and captures how much work and education is needed in this area.
While studying the effects of maternal narcissism, I heard repeatedly from women I interviewed and treated that no one had identified the problem or the long lasting effects on them, if their parent was a narcissist. Parents who were and are not capable of unconditional love and empathic parenting do leave scars on their children that are invisible but create life-long wounds.
Children of narcissists think it is their fault. They blame themselves. They don't understand the projections of narcissists and instead internalize messages of "I am not good enough." "My parent can't love me, therefore, something must be wrong with me." Therefore, the importance of identifying the problem has a huge impact on the well-being of adult children of narcissists. There are predictable life patterns that develop in the form of over-achieving to self-sabotaging and on-going difficulties with love relationships and parenting. This is serious business. It causes generations of people who grow up with a distorted notion of what love really is and thus gets passed down through the generations.
If we are to help in the mental health field, we must first understand how this insidious disorder is affecting many people in our culture. The culture itself is becoming more and more "all about me" and "all about image."
I agree that many of us can be self-absorbed and not be narcissistic and it is a spectrum disorder, but that's not really what this is about. I think it is about not being able to be in touch with one's own emotions, projecting feelings onto others, and not being able to navigate human interactions with kindness, empathy, and nurturing.
If we look at what is really important to people: love relationships, raising healthy children, and managing serious thoughts, feelings, and internal messages...we need to have a greater understanding of how narcissism is affecting our families and culture. How does eliminating the diagnosis from the DSM help? Because we know that our mental health providers use the DSM on a daily basis and rely on it to assist in treatment planning, this may be a bigger issue than the DSM committee realizes. I hope this buzz continues so we are all thinking more about it.
If you are an adult child of a narcissistic parent... do you think this diagnosis should be eliminated? Or do you think instead we need further information and education on this important topic as well as support from the diagnostic committee.
Because narcissists don't usually seek the advice of our mental health professionals, maybe at the next bus stop, we need to pick up their children because that is where we will find the greatest need for understanding, healing and support.
Additional Resources for Recovery:
Resource Website: http://www.willieverbegoodenough.com
Book: Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers http://www.willieverbegoodenough.com/the-book-2/buy-the-book
Audio Book: http://www.willieverbegoodenough.com/the-book-2/buy-the-book
Workshop: Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers Virtual Workshop. Work recovery in the privacy of your own home, complete with video presentations and homework assignments: http://www.willieverbegoodenough.com/workshop-overview-healing-the-daughters-of-narcissistic-mothers
Daughter Intensives: One on one sessions with Dr. Karyl McBride
“Is this your Mom?” Take the survey: http://www.willieverbegoodenough.com/narcissistic-mother