“It’s not you, it’s me”: identity disturbance as the main contributor to interpersonal problems in pathological narcissism

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Borderline Personality Disorder and Emotion Dysregulation


Background: Core impairments in self and other functioning typify individuals with personality disorder. While interpersonal dysfunction is a known element of narcissistic disorders, empirical research investigating intrapersonal elements is lacking. The aim of this study was to investigate the internal representations of individuals with grandiose and vulnerable features, as manifested through their attachment styles, and the specific role of identity disturbance in explaining the relationship between pathological narcissism and maladaptive interpersonal functioning. Methods: A sample of 270 university students completed the Brief Pathological Narcissism Inventory (B-PNI), the Severity Indices of Personality Problems (SIPP), the Relationship Questionnaire (RQ), and the Inventory of Interpersonal Problems (IIP-32). Results: Both vulnerable and grandiose narcissism were positively associated with both fearful and preoccupied attachment, and negatively associated with secure attachment, whilst grandiose narcissism was also positively associated with dismissive attachment. Furthermore, unstable representations of self, poor self-reflective functioning, and low sense of purpose fully mediated the relationship between interpersonal problems and grandiose narcissism while partially mediating the relationship between interpersonal problems and vulnerable narcissism. Conclusions: Overall, our findings suggest that for individuals presenting with narcissistic features, capacity for adaptive interpersonal functioning is grounded by deficits in identity integration. Implications of these findings are discussed.

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