Narcissism is commonly associated with a variety of other disorders, including mood disorders like depression and anxiety, substance abuse, and eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia. A person who is extremely preoccupied with their looks, body, and image will often exhibit many signs of narcissistic personality disorder as well. Because recovering from an eating disorder is a multi step process that also involves treating any other co-existing issues, it’s important to address a personality disorder like narcissism if it is present as well.
What is narcissistic personality disorder?
Someone who has narcissistic personality disorder struggles with much more than an extreme sense of vanity. A person with this disorder has difficulty with any kind of close relationship, including those with family members, romantic partners, friends, and even their own children. Their interests always come first, even if it means taking advantage of or manipulating the feelings of others.
Narcissistic personality disorder is becoming more common in the US, especially among young men. It’s not uncommon for someone with the disorder to also have other mental disorders. Narcissism deeply damages relationships and leaves an individual feeling empty, lost, depressed, and unsatisfied without knowing the reason why.
Treating narcissistic personality disorder is very difficult and many experts believe that it can’t be completely cured. Nevertheless treatment can make a big difference and is absolutely necessary, especially if an eating disorder is also present.
How to recognize the symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder.
Narcissists will often appear confident, charming, and charismatic. They are often quite popular and social, and can be found in leadership roles. But the truth is that these seemingly powerful and confident individuals are actually very much afraid of being judged or disliked by others.
Their self image is very weak, and any kind of criticism or negative feedback will deliver a strong blow to their egos. An anorexic with narcissism will obsess over their body image and any perceived flaws. Any person who expresses concern over their well being will likely become the target of cruel words or behaviors when the narcissist lashes out at them.
This is a part of the narcissist’s defense mechanism that protects their fragile ego. Their arrogant attitude, sense of entitlement, constant criticism or putting down of others, and sense of superiority are defense mechanisms as well.
Studies have revealed that these narcissistic defense mechanisms are very common among those with anorexia. Blaming others for problems or playing the victim are common behaviors among those with both an eating disorder and narcissism. Addressing the narcissistic defense mechanisms that an individual has, along with treatment for the eating disorder, is the most effective strategy for recovery in these cases.
How to treat narcissism and an eating disorder.
Narcissistic personality disorder is difficult to treat on its own, and when coupled with an eating disorder, becomes even more challenging. This is because a narcissist’s defense mechanisms are very strong after being developed over the course of the individual’s life. It is difficult to break through these mechanisms and treat the source of the patient’s narcissism.
A person with an eating disorder will also have strong defense mechanisms in place when it comes to their eating and dieting habits. An anorexic will be very protective of their eating and dieting rituals because it is often the only methods they know for feeling powerful and in control of their lives. It’s difficult for someone with an eating disorder to admit they have a problem, even if they’ve experienced serious health problems due to their strict dieting or eating habits.
The good news is that there are effective therapies for treating both disorders. Dialectical behavioral therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy have been shown to help change the thought patterns of patients to more positive, self affirming ones that encourage healthy behavior.