Narcissism is not a symptom of bipolar, and most people with bipolar are not narcissistic. However, some people with bipolar may display narcissistic traits as a result of their other symptoms.
In this article, we take a look at the relationship between bipolar disorder and narcissism, including symptoms and treatment.
What are bipolar and narcissism?
Bipolar disorders are mood disorders that cause a person to cycle between extremely high moods, called mania, and in some cases, depression. A person may have bipolar I disorder or bipolar II disorder.
A related condition, called cyclothymic disorder, involves cycling between less intense manic and depressive episodes.
Narcissism is a personality trait that involves feelings of self-importance, grandiosity, and a need for validation. Narcissism can be a behavior that occurs in otherwise psychologically healthy people.
A person whose personality is characterized by narcissistic tendencies may have narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).
NPD is part of a group of personality disorders called cluster B disorders. These conditions are characterized by dramatic, emotional, or unpredictable thinking and behavior.
Bipolar is a chronic condition. There is no cure, but it is treatable. Most people with bipolar can learn how to manage their symptoms to lead a happy, healthy life.
Doctors may recommend the following treatments for bipolar disorders:
- Medication. Mood medication can help people with bipolar have fewer and less severe mood swings. Lithium, a mood stabilizer, is one of the most popular bipolar treatments. Some people also take antidepressant drugs, antipsychotic drugs, or anti-anxiety medication.
- Therapy. Talking therapy and behavioral therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), can help people identify, understand, and better manage extreme emotions. It may also support people with bipolar to make healthy lifestyle changes.
- Alternative medicine. Complementary remedies may help some people with bipolar, though research is mixed or inconclusive. Herbal supplements such as St. John’s wort may not be safe to use with some bipolar medications, so it is important to discuss alternative medicine with a doctor. Some people with bipolar also find that acupuncture and lifestyle changes, such as exercise and diet changes, can help.
- Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). For people who do not see improvements in their symptoms with medication and treatment, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may help. ECT delivers a mild shock to the brain. Doctors are still not sure why or how it works, but it does reduce symptoms of bipolar and some other mental health conditions.
An accurate diagnosis is critical for managing bipolar, especially when it co-occurs with narcissistic personality traits. People who think they have a mental health condition should work with a skilled clinician and should not self-diagnose or self-medicate.
Narcissistic personality disorder and bipolar disorders can be frustrating both for the people they affect and for those who love them.
What looks like narcissism in a person with bipolar might be something else. Likewise, people with narcissistic personality disorder might be incorrectly diagnosed with bipolar.
Narcissistic traits that can come with bipolar disorders are not a choice. It does not mean someone is a bad person. Bipolar disorders are treatable medical conditions.
Using narcissism to label a person as bad can be harmful, may undermine the problematic reality many people with mental health problems face, and can even deter treatment. A 2014 report argues that stigma is a significant barrier to people accessing quality mental health care.
Quality treatment requires an accurate diagnosis. With proper treatment and a strong relationship with a skilled provider, people with narcissism and bipolar can heal, have good relationships with others, and live happy lives.
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