Controversies in Narcissism

Annu Rev Clin Psychol. 2017 May 8:13:291-315. doi: 10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-032816-045244. Epub 2017 Mar 15.


There has been a surge in interest in and research on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). Despite or because of this increased attention, there are several areas of substantial debate that surround the construct, including descriptions of grandiose and vulnerable dimensions or variants, questions regarding the existence of a consensual description, central versus peripheral features of narcissism, distinctions between normal and pathological narcissism, possible etiological factors, the role of self-esteem in narcissism, where narcissism should be studied, how it can be assessed, and its representation in diagnostic nosologies. We suggest that a failure to distinguish between grandiose (i.e., overtly immodest, self-centered, entitled, domineering) and vulnerable (e.g., self-centered, distrustful, neurotic, introverted) presentations of narcissism has led to a less cohesive and coherent literature and that trait-based models of personality and personality disorder can bring greater clarity to many of these important debates.

Keywords: assessment; expert ratings; grandiose narcissism; personality traits; vulnerable narcissism.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Narcissism*
  • Personality Disorders / classification
  • Personality Disorders / etiology
  • Personality Disorders / physiopathology*