Because of a recent conversation I was having on Psychforums about age of onset and prognosis for a cure, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this.
I do think how old you were when Ground Zero occurred–that would be the primary traumatic event that forced you to create a False Self–determines the difficulty/ease of healing, and also how low or high you fall on the spectrum.
Here’s what I came up with.
Age of onset of Trauma/stage of child development (Piaget, Freud):
0-2 (Piaget’s Sensorimotor stage; establishing boundaries, physical and comfort needs met; Freudian Oral/Anal stage):
High spectrum, malignant narcissism and/or psychopathy/sociopathy (if as an infant)– not curable except under extreme circumstances in very rare cases. May be self aware but has no incentive to change.
3-6 (Piaget’s Concrete Operations; Freudian Anal–Oedipal/Electra stage )
Mid-high spectrum narcissist who may or may not be malignant. May become self aware but will be resistant to a cure. In unusual circumstances (total loss of supply or primary supply), a narcissist this high on the spectrum might seek therapy. They are unlikely to be willing to do all the work required for healing due to its difficulty for someone this high, but there might be a few exceptions.
In my opinion, this is where I think Sam Vaknin falls — in fact I think his primary trauma did occur at ages 3-4 because this is when he said he shut off his vulnerable feelings.
7-11 (Piaget’s Formal Operational stage; abstract learning, competence; Freudian “latency” period)
Mid-spectrum narcissist. Could become self aware and if so, there’s a good chance of them seeking therapy or treatment. They’re more likely to be cured, but it’s not a guarantee.
Therapy would be difficult at the higher end (onset before 8-9), moderately easy at lower end (onset between 9-11).
Low-mid spectrum narcissist. Likely to become self aware and good chance of being cured.
This was when my narcissism developed over my preexisting BPD/avoidant.
It took two events for my NPD to get set in motion: the wholesale rejection by a group of girls in my sophomore year when I was 14; and the rejection/tossout by my mother at age 17. After that my NPD was set in stone.
Low spectrum at the higher ages (onset after 15/16), mid spectrum at the lower ages (younger than 15). The ages between 14 and 15 would put me at the lower end of mid-spectrum or upper end of low-spectrum.
Good prognosis for a cure and self awareness. May be able to heal him or herself without outside help (hopefully I’m right!) 🙂
A person cannot become a true narcissist after age 21 or so. They may instead have a lot of narcissistic traits, have DNP (Destructive Narcissistic Pattern disorder–just below NPD on the spectrum), or in rare cases they could develop “acquired narcissism” (this is something a lot of celebrities and famous people get) which is temporary and lasts only as long as the adulation or fame lasts.
ETA: I got a rebuttal to this on Psychforums. I think this poster’s argument may be valid too, so I’m going to post it:
I believe the PD occurs in the first 5-6 years due to abuse/trauma, the critical level of which differs for each person depending on genetics (temperament, sensitivity).
I think NPD-like traits resulting from abuse/trauma after age 6 would be cPTSD to a normally developed personality.
I suspect traits from coddling/overvaluation after age 6 would be easier to “return to earth” from than something like sexual abuse and humiliation (say, having to testify in court) after age 6. I think the former might be unwind’able to a level of stable narcissism. I think the latter could be a more permanent scar/condition.
But, I don’t know much about. That’s just the way I think of it. It doesn’t seem feasible that PD could occur after the P(personality) is developed. I thought the whole point of a PD was that the P stopped developing, became a defective structure. Not merely unresolved trauma (like PTSD is?) but structural and permanent.
Basically his argument is that after age 6, true narcissism won’t develop but complex PTSD (C-PTSD) could. This could mean a child acquires a lot of narcissistic traits (what ACONs call “fleas”) that could resemble NPD in many ways but is more treatable/curable. I think this would be the same thing as the spectrum condition called the Destructive Narcissistic Pattern (DNP)
This would also take into account type of abuse inflicted and level of severity.