Why Was Narcissism Taken out of the DSM? And why that is Scary

If you have met one narcissist, chances are it’s easy to feel as if you have met them all. The range of someone’s narcissistic traits and characteristics ranges on what scale of narcissism they are on yet the qualities stay typically the same. Narcissism has been around in theory since the Greeks and has formally been studied since the beginning of the 20th century. The disorder was inducted into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association in 1968 but, taken out in 2013. This was a very curious move and came across as a surprise to many.

The American Psychiatric Association Workgroup is the party responsible for publishing the DSM which is deemed to be to go-to guide for practitioners in the psychology and psychiatric fields. When the fifth version of the DSM was published in 2013 narcissism PD was removed along with a few other disorders such as schizoid, paranoid, and histrionic. Some big changes were made, to say the least. As far as the Workgroup’s one of the reasons for removing NPD along with the others included an idea that these disorders are already so well-known and documented that they no longer serve a big role in further scientific research and clinical study.

A major reasoning was in regard to over-lap that these disorders cause with other disorders causing “diagnostic co-occurrence.” The translation of co-occurrence means that one person can have multiple PD’s based off of their traits thus leading to confusion in a clear type to which an individual fits into. This particular reason seems to be a disparity between academic researchers, who are claimed to make up a big portion of the Workgroup, and clinicians as many clinicians have spoken out against the elimination of NPD. They claim that these disorders are still deserving of and important in the realms of clinical attention, thus, should be retained.

I am speculating here, but it might also be due to the fact that it does not have a known cure.

There is an element of uneasiness that also comes along with thinking that this is not a recognized personality disorder anymore. Does it no longer validate or diminish the fact that so many people have suffered or are suffering at the hands of a narcissist? As anyone who has a relationship with a narcissist will tell you, it is no easy task. Many survivors have found comfort and understanding in the fact that they are in fact dealing with a personality disorder, an illness in many ways.

Another speculation lies in the idea that narcissism is just becoming so common and normal that it is no longer considered a disease but a common trait among different types of people. If one examines our current society and some of our leading politicians and entertainment figures it almost seems like the trait is not only ridiculed and condemned but at the same time enjoyed and admired by many. Are many people blind to narcissism as they may exhibit the qualities of narcissists themselves? The easiest way to be blind to a trait is to possess the trait yourself. Any kind of conjectures aside, it really overall begs the question of how pervasive and “normal” narcissism is in our society.

I asked a therapist of mine if she think the number of narcissists in this world is growing. I also followed up with if she thinks that one day the continuum might shift into trending towards sociopaths. She offered a stay awake at night and shut your doors kind of response with saying “Yep, one day it might just be you take from another person whatever you might want.”

So, what’s the solution? Where’s the light, the silver lining? Do we lace up our boots and go to battle for the survivors of this disease and continue to better ourselves and society against the waning notions of compassion and empathy? Does this minimize the effects of narcissism in families, relationships, organization, politics and so forth? All we can do really is to be the light. Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” If we stand together as a community, we not only create a support system for one another but legitimize the fact that narcissism is, in fact, very real. And in turn we can find solutions for ourselves, the people suffering (which include narcissists, the communities we are a part of, and the society we live in.

Written by: Anna (Creator of Echo’s Corner)

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