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About Narcissistic Personality Disorder & Ego

Questioner

Anonymous

Reply Date

May 02, 2017

Question

Assalam Alaykum. I'm just curious about Narcissistic Personality Disorder though I am not one of those diagnosed. 1) How would you explain the psychological origin of NPD in Islamic Psychology like what is the ego and superego and what happens? 2) Is it the person's fault that they have NPD since childhood? Can they control it or is it like any other disorder that can develop? 3) Is there any cure for it Islamically? If yes, what is it exactly? If no, what does the person do if he is Muslim because he won't truly be sincere? Will he be destined for hell? 4) Can an actual sufferer become a true, sincere Muslim? I mean can the disorder and the faith coexist? How? Why not? 5) Is there any point in giving da’wah to a sufferer? I would really appreciate that you answer them for me. Thank you.

Counselor

Answer


About Narcissistic Personality Disorder & Ego

Answer:

As-Salamu ‘Alaykum Sister,

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is truly a challenging disorder, but not one that is hopeless. As you did not indicate whether it was a spouse, other family member or a friend who was diagnosed, or if you were just interested in learning about the topic, I will do my best to answer your questions in a general sense. 

I will begin by giving you clinical perspectives of NPD in the hope that in sha’ Allah it will help you better understand its presentation, etiology, and treatment as well as its significance in relation to Islam. 

NPD is more common in males and is usually diagnosed in early adulthood. People with NPD exhibit an exaggerated sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements). They are preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love. They believe that they are “special” and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions). They require excessive admiration; they selfishly take advantage of others to achieve their own ends; they have a sense of entitlement; they lack empathy and are often envious of others or believe that others are envious of them. They are often arrogant, haughty, patronizing, or contemptuous behaviors or attitudes.

In regards to Islam, it is important to note that grandiosity and an inflated sense of self are prominent in people with NPD. There are two types of grandiosity (a) a grandiose state of mind in young adults that can be corrected by life experiences, and (b) the stable disorder described in DSM-IV, which is defined less by grandiosity than by severely disturbed interpersonal relations.

Grandiosity and an inflated sense of self are prominent in NPD. It is contradictory to our Islamic characteristics which we strive for in sha’ Allah such as being humble, submitting to Allah (swt), helping others, have the intention that is striving to please Allah (swt) as well as other Islamic traits. NPD can be challenging for the Muslim as there may be brief periods of clarity wherein the person with NPD can see how their thought processes are in contradiction to serving Allah (swt).  In the brief realization, however fleeting it is, it may only serve to exacerbate the underlying clinical depression which is also a feature of NPD.

MedicineNet states that the word narcissism comes from the story of Narcissus, “a hunter in Greek mythology, who was well known for his beauty and for being completely in love with himself. His all-consuming self-love resulted in his eventual death caused by his becoming so attracted to his own reflection in a pool that he was unable to stop staring at his image.”

People with narcissistic personality disorder tend to interact with others and the world in general by distorting things. This distortion leads to an alternating between feeling omnipotent or devalued. In Islam, we know that Allah (swt) is the only omnipotent and one worthy of being worshiped. In the period of feeling devalued, however, the person with NPD may in sha’ Allah gain some clarity, although this has not been proven as studies yield conflicting results. However, if during these times, the person can be in touch with his/her true intention and pray to Allah (swt) for forgiveness, healing and guidance, Allah (swt) will most surely hear the person’s plea, for He is Most Merciful and Most Forgiving.

The causes of NPD are not clearly understood. Possible models of development come from longitudinal studies wherein researchers conduct studies on people with NPD that can last years in order to get valid and reliable outcomes or hypothesis. Inherited genetic defects are thought to be responsible for up to 50 percent of cases. Contributing environmental factors may include childhood abuse or neglect, excessive pampering, or unrealistic expectations from parents. Other causes may include sexual promiscuity, peer influence, and cultural role models (i.e. from TV). The condition usually appears in early adulthood.

As there are varying models regarding the cause of NPD, the biopsychosocial model is one that is most widely accepted. The biopsychosocial model of causation combines biological and genetic factors with social factors in early growth and development like how one related to others such as family and friends. Psychological factors relate to how a person’s personality and emotions are shaped by the environment as well as how the person learned to utilize coping mechanisms to deal with stress.

In regards to a person’s responsibility to Allah (swt) as a Muslim and one with NPD, Islamic Law rules that the “insane” are excused and they will have no reckoning and all their sins will be forgiven. Allah (swt) burdens not an individual more than his capability.

The definition of ‘insane’ is not one I would like to use for NPD; however, in general if a person has an illness, mental or physical, which results in that the person is unable to think rational, is grandiose, delusional, and this prohibits him or her from being able to think or act in a rational fashion, perhaps this may apply to those with NPD. But I am not an Islamic Scholar, therefore I do encourage you to post this question to our “Ask the Scholar” section.

With the verse in mind Allah does not charge a soul except [with that within] its capacity…” (2:286) as well as the clinical literature and research pointing to a biopsychosocial illness, if the person with NPD cannot help it due to a defect, in sha’ Allah may be excused by Allah (swt) and will not taste the hellfire as a sinner would. However, if deep down the person has a mild form of NPD and refuses treatment and addressing the problem, it may be a different issue if the person is aware. Allah knows best. As stated previously sister, I am not an Islamic scholar, so please do submit to our “Ask the Scholar” section.

You also asked about id, ego, and superego. “They are dysfunctional in NPD as in some other psychopathology. There is an imbalance. The id is the most primal part of the personality; it is instinctual and is present at birth. It is interested in instant gratification and is primal without restraints. It is interested in filling its needs such as thirst, hunger, or sex and is associated with rage, fear, fight or flight responses and it avoids pain.

The superego is like the moral monitor. It has intellectual and perceptual functions. It develops within the framework of societal norms ingrained from parents, teachers, religion, and controls our sense of guilt and remorse. It seeks to endorse socially appropriate behaviors and criticizes the id with its primal needs.

The ego is the organized part of the personality that includes defensive, perceptual, intellectual-cognitive and executive functions. It is the balance of the id and superego, and the reality check. The ego is a person’s personality integrated. It is the “I” in self-presentation to society; it is what we believe and how we act. If successfully integrated, it presents a mentally balanced and socially acceptable person. The Ego remembers, evaluates, plans, and responds to the world and acts in it and on it. It is able to maintain a balance between the primal id, the superego and society delaying gratification.

People with a strong ego can objectively comprehend both the world and themselves. In other words, they are possessed of insight. They are able to contemplate longer time spans, plan, forecast and schedule. They choose decisively among alternatives and follow their resolve. They are aware of the existence of their drives, but control them and channel them in socially acceptable ways. They resist pressures – social or otherwise. They choose their course and pursue it.”

A person with NPD is said to have a fake, substitute Ego. This is why his energy is drained. He spends most of it on maintaining, protecting and preserving the warped, unrealistic images of his (false) self and of his (fake) world. “The narcissist is a person exhausted by his own absence.” It would appear that people with NPD have low self-esteem due to their over inflated ego, poor reaction to criticism, and their grandiose sense of self-worth (over compensation). However, new research shows that people with NPD have high self-esteem. “In fact, a person with NPD can be secure to the point of aggressiveness. It is important to note that high self-esteem and NPD are not the same things. People with high self-esteem are usually humble, while narcissists almost never are.”

Treatment of NPD is usually is long-term psychotherapy with a clinician who is experienced with personality disorders. Medication is usually not utilized unless there is co-existing illness such as depression or anxiety that is debilitating. Even then there are mixed research studies showing certain medications used to treat these existing illnesses can exaggerate NPD, so they must be used cautiously. The overall recommended therapy is  Kernberg’s object-relations approach and Kohut’s self-psychology approach which includes individual psychotherapy (specifically, psychoanalytic psychotherapy).These approaches also utilize group therapy, family therapy, couples therapy cognitive-behavioral therapy, schema-focused therapy, and short-term objective-focused psychotherapy.

During treatment, one of the goals is to modify the person’s perception so they can begin to take responsibility for their thoughts and behaviors as well as fostering empathy. In addition, cognitive restructuring is also sometimes used.  The natural history of NPD, like those of all personality disorders, is unfavorable, and the condition is typically life-long.

However, many patients can and do show improvement with appropriate treatment. Research also suggests that corrective life events such as new achievements, stable relationships, and manageable disappointments, can lead to considerable improvement in the level of pathological narcissism over time.

Also, in sha’ Allah make du’aa’ for this person. As the hadith by Muslim says “The supplication of a Muslim for his brother in his absence will certainly be answered. Every time he makes a supplication for good for his brother, the angel appointed for this particular task says: `Ameen! May it be for you, too.” [Muslim]

Du’aa’ is good for the person with NPD and for you as well. Continue staying in prayer over this matter and ask Allah (swt) to grant ease and heal in sha’ Allah. As Muslims, we know that an affliction of an illness also relieves sins. Pray, stay in a supportive circle of family and friends, recite Qur’an and trust in Allah (swt).

Also, concerning da’wah, keep calling the ones with NPD as we never know Allah’s (swt) divine will or who Allah (swt) will heal through da’wah and du’aa’s.   “

As far as Islamic treatments for NPD, please refer to this link of Qur’anic Healing and read the book: “Scientific Commentary of Suratul Faateḥah” which may give you further insight. In my studies, the prevailing treatment I found Islamically was, as outlined above, the supplications to Allah (swt) as well as special Qur’anic verses to be read to the person; however, this would best be addressed by an Islamic Scholar.

Salam,

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About Aisha Mohammad-Swan

Aisha Mohammad-Swan received her PhD in psychology in 2000. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years for Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York with a focus on PTSD, OCD, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, marriage/relationships issues, as well as community-cultural dynamics. She is certified in Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, and Mediation, and is also a certified Life Coach. She is currently studying for her certification in Islamic Chaplaincy, and takes Islamic courses at SHC. Aisha works at a Women's Daytime Drop in Center, and has her own part-time practice in which she integrates counseling and holistic health. Aisha also received an MA in Public Health/Community Development in 2009 and plans to open a community counseling/resource center for Muslims and others in the New York area in the future, in sha' Allah.

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