Historical overview of pathological narcissism



Publication Details

Grenyer, B. F. S. (2013). Historical overview of pathological narcissism. In J. S. Ogrodniczuk (Eds.), Understanding and Treating Pathological Narcissism (pp. 15-26). Washington D.C., United States: American Psychological Association.


Pathological narcissism has long exerted an important hold on the imagination. Mythological, biblical, and other religious writings and doctrines have included sanctions against vanity and warnings about choosing self-love over the love of others and society. These dangers, long discussed in stories, paintings, and plays, have found a modern form in the presentation of a particular kind of personality style, narcissistic personality disorder, in psychology and psychiatry. The purpose of this overview is to demonstrate how contemporary views on pathological narcissism and its treatment can be enhanced through understanding the history of the concept. Understanding the historical roots of narcissism brings more clearly to light the contemporary implications of narcissism and the current debates and advances in the field (Ronningstam, 2009). I begin with the original Greek myth and then discuss the psychological literature up until 1979, which marks the publication of the narcissistic personality inventory (Raskin & Hall, 1979), followed 1 year later by the inclusion of narcissism as a personality disorder (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 3rd ed.; DSM-III; American Psychiatric Association, 1980). Considerable clinical, experimental, and theoretical work on narcissism has been undertaken since then (Cain, Pincus & Ansell, 2008).

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