Clinician Ratings of Vulnerable and Grandiose Narcissistic Features: Implications for an Expanded Narcissistic Personality Disorder Diagnosis

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Conceptualizations of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (American Psychiatric Association, 2013) have been criticized for focusing too exclusively on grandiose narcissistic traits (e.g., exploitativeness and entitlement) and failing to capture vulnerable narcissistic features (e.g., feelings of inadequacy). We extended prior grandiose and vulnerable narcissism research by examining the degree to which clinician ratings of traits related to grandiosity overlapped with traits related to vulnerability in a large sample of adult outpatients (N = 2,149). We also examined relations with other psychopathology and psychosocial impairment for both (a) narcissistic trait configurations including both vulnerable and grandiose features and (b) configurations focusing on grandiose narcissistic traits. Structural results indicated that some personality features related to vulnerability (e.g., perfectionism and inadequacy) were unrelated to ratings of grandiose narcissistic personality features. Additionally, our results suggest that emphasizing vulnerable features within narcissism trait configurations may increase NPD’s overlap with other disorders (e.g., borderline personality disorder and social anxiety) and does not appear to discriminate pathological narcissism from antisocial personality disorder, a disorder with which NPD is highly comorbid. Finally, scores on configurations defined only by grandiose narcissistic traits related positively to all psychosocial impairment indicators, although configurations also including vulnerable features generally showed stronger relations with psychosocial impairment. The implications of these findings in regard to future conceptualizations of NPD are discussed.

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