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Distinguishing Between Grandiose Narcissism, Vulnerable Narcissism, and Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Abstract

This chapter draws upon the empirical literature to delineate the distinguishing characteristics of grandiose and vulnerable narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). We find that these constructs can be well described using models of general personality such as the five-factor model (FFM) and, in particular, three primary traits including (low) agreeableness (or antagonism, entitlement, and self-involvement), agentic extraversion (or boldness, behavioral approach orientation), and neuroticism (or reactivity, behavioral avoidance orientation). Our review led to three primary conclusions. First, the FFM trait correlates of NPD and grandiose narcissism overlap quite substantially. Second, the two differ to some degree with regard to the role of extraversion, with stronger relations found for grandiose narcissism than NPD. Third, extant data suggest that vulnerable narcissism represents a construct that is largely divergent from NPD and grandiose narcissism, composed of the tendency to experience a wide array of negative emotions such as depression, self-consciousness, stress, anxiety, and urgency. Nevertheless, vulnerable narcissism shares a common core of interpersonal antagonism, though the traits associated with grandiose and vulnerable narcissism are not identical. Finally, our chapter concludes with recommendations for aligning the alternative model of personality disorders (PDs) in Section III of DSM-5 with the substantial and long-standing empirical research literature that documents the improved validity of dimensional, trait-based models of PDs.

Keywords

  • Grandiose narcissism
  • Vulnerable narcissism
  • Personality
  • Five-factor model
  • NPD
  • NPD impairment
  • FFNI
  • Five-factor narcissism inventory

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Important to note that Big Five-based assessments tend to manifest smaller relations between narcissism and agreeableness due to the exclusion of content related to honesty-humility, which is found to a much greater degree in FFM-based measures (e.g., NEO PI-R).

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Weiss, B., Miller, J.D. (2018). Distinguishing Between Grandiose Narcissism, Vulnerable Narcissism, and Narcissistic Personality Disorder. In: Hermann, A., Brunell, A., Foster, J. (eds) Handbook of Trait Narcissism. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-92171-6_1

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