Narcissistic personality disorder and the dsm–v --miller widigercampbell20101
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Narcissistic Personality Disorder and the DSM–V
Joshua D. Miller
University of Georgia
Thomas A. Widiger
University of Kentucky
W. Keith Campbell
University of Georgia
We address 3 issues relevant to narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) and the DSM–V. First, we argue
that excluding NPD while retaining other traditional personality disorder constructs (e.g., avoidant)
makes little sense given the research literature on NPD and trait narcissism and their association with
clinically relevant consequences such as aggression, self-enhancement, distorted self-presentation, failed
relationships, cognitive biases, and internalizing and externalizing dysregulation. Second, we argue that
the DSM–V must include content (in diagnostic form or within a dimensional trait model) that allows for
the assessment of both grandiose and vulnerable variants of narcissism. Finally, we suggest that any
dimensional classification of personality disorder should recover all of the important component traits of
narcissism and be provided with official recognition in the coding system.
Keywords: narcissism, narcissistic personality disorder, DSM–V, diagnosis
The American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Personality and
Personality Disorders (PPD) Work Group for the fifth edition of
the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
(DSM–V) is well into the process of developing its proposed
revisions. The Work Group began meeting in 2007, and the final
product is anticipated to be published in 2013. The purpose of the
current article is to discuss these three fundamental taxonic issues
for the diagnosis of pathological narcissism: (a) whether narcis-
sism should be deleted from the diagnostic manual (as suggested in
the proposal put forth by the DSM–V PPD Work Group), (b) the
need for the DSM–V personality disorders (PDs) system to be able
to assess different variations of narcissism, and (c) how to best
characterize narcissistic traits within an alternative dimensional
model of classification. Each of these issues will be discussed in
turn, followed by a set of explicit recommendations.
Should Narcissism Be Excluded From the DSM–V?
Any discussion of how narcissism should be classified within
the DSM–V must first address the question of whether any repre-
sentation of narcissism will be included. The latest meeting of the
International Society for the Study of Personality Disorders
(ISSPD) included the symposium “Narcissistic Personality Disor-
der and DSM–V.” Each paper offered proposed revisions to nar-
cissistic personality disorder (NPD; e.g., Levy, 2009). Donna S.
Bender, a member of the DSM–V PPD Work Group, indicated in
her role as the discussant to this symposium that the various
presentations were all quite interesting but that all of the proposals
were potentially moot, because there might not in fact be any such
diagnosis in the DSM–V (D. S. Bender, personal communication,
August 22, 2009).
Skodol (2009), chair of the PPD Work Group, provided his
proposal at the ISSPD meeting, a proposal that he indicated was
based on the advice and guidance he has received from the Work
Group members, the explicit details of which were presented by
Skodol and Bender (2009) and a slightly revised version of which
was posted on the DSM–V website February 10, 2010, as the
official proposal of the DSM–V PPD Work Group (see
www.dsm5.org). One notable aspect of the proposal for DSM–V
was the deletion of five PD diagnoses, including NPD (along with
the dependent, histrionic, paranoid, and schizoid PDs). It might
indeed be true that there is little point in discussing how narcissism
should appear in the diagnostic manual if it is not going to appear
at all. As such, the first question to consider is: Should NPD be
included in the DSM–V?
The basis for the DSM–V PPD Work Group’s proposed deletion
of NPD is not entirely clear. It is stated on the website that the
rationale for reducing the number of diagnoses from 10 to five is
to reduce diagnostic co-occurrence. However, removing fully half
of the diagnoses would seem to be a rather draconian approach to
addressing a problem of diagnostic co-occurrence. Persons are
likely to still have dependent, schizoid, paranoid, histrionic, and
narcissistic personality traits despite their being excluded from the
manual. In addition, diagnostic co-occurrence will still remain for
those five that are retained (e.g., borderline and antisocial PDs). Of
course, there is no clear rule on how many PD diagnoses are
optimal or when there are so many that the classification system
becomes inordinately complex (Frances & Widiger, 1986). The
members of the PPD Work Group for the Diagnostic and Statis-
tical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed.; DSM–IV; APA, 1994)
This article was published Online First September 20, 2010.
Joshua D. Miller and W. Keith Campbell, Department of Psychology,
University of Georgia; Thomas A. Widiger, Department of Psychology,
University of Kentucky.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Joshua D.
Miller, Department of Psychology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA
30602-3013. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Journal of Abnormal Psychology © 2010 American Psychological Association
2010, Vol. 119, No. 4, 640–649 0021-843X/10/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/a0019529
were reluctant to add additional diagnoses (H. A. Pincus, Frances,
Davis, First, & Widiger, 1992), but they also felt that passive–
aggressive PD was the only one for which there was adequate
justification for its deletion (Millon, 1996).
The DSM–V PPD Work Group’s rationale for retaining the
borderline, antisocial, schizotypal, avoidant, and obsessive–
compulsive PDs while excluding the rest is also unclear. It is stated
on the DSM–V website that the “borderline, antisocial/
psychopathic, and schizotypal PDs have the most extensive em-
pirical evidence of validity and clinical utility” (Skodol, n.d.) but
no clear rationale is provided for the decision to retain the avoidant
and obsessive–compulsive PDs instead of (for instance) NPD. At
this time, there are only brief, incomplete statements concerning
level of impairment, prevalence, and health care utilization and
costs for the avoidant and/or obsessive–compulsive PDs. The
information provided is severely limited, and there is no direct
comparison of this literature with the findings obtained for the PDs
slated for exclusion, such as NPD. For example, with respect to
mental health care treatment utilization, only one study is cited,
and it did not consider NPD (i.e., Bender et al., 2001), With respect
to epidemiology within the community, only one study is cited (in
reference to the prevalence of obsessive–compulsive PD; 7.9%;
Grant et al., 2004), and researchers from this same program (i.e.,
National Epidemiologic Survey of Alcohol and Related Condi-
tions) found that NPD was the second most frequent PD (6.2%;
i.e., Stinson et al., 2008) of the eight PDs studied.
One might argue that clinical utility should weigh heavily in the
decision to include or exclude individual diagnoses. One clear,
explicit indicator of clinical utility is clinical interest and attention.
If clinical interest is considered, then the decision to delete NPD
would not appear to be justified. There is a substantial body of
theoretical and clinical literature on narcissism, recently summa-
rized by Levy, Reynoso, Wasserman, and Clarkin (2007); A. L.
Pincus and Lukowitsky (2010); Ronningstam (2005); and others.
There is no comparable clinical or theoretical literature on the
avoidant or obsessive–compulsive PDs (Costa, Samuels, Bagby,
Daffin, & Norton, 2005; Tyrer, 2005).
One might hope that a decision to delete NPD would be made on
the basis of insufficient empirical support for its retention (Regier,
Narrow, Kuhl, & Kupfer, 2009), at least relative to the five PD
constructs that would be retained. According to the writing pro-
vided by the DSM–V PPD Work Group, this was, at least in part,
the basis for retaining the borderline, schizotypal, and antisocial
PDs. Construct validity support has long been recognized as a
primary basis for deciding whether a diagnosis should be included
or excluded from the APA diagnostic manual (Blashfield, Sprock,
& Fuller, 1990; Frances, Widiger, & Pincus, 1989; Regier et al.,
2009; Spitzer, Williams, & Skodol, 1980; Widiger & Clark, 2000).
Informative, quality research validating the presence of significant
psychological pathology and negative life outcomes and conse-
quences secondary to the presence of the disorder would seem
central to determining whether a diagnosis should be retained
within the diagnostic manual. It is conceivable that the DSM–V
PPD Work Group is using a different set of guidelines for making
these decisions, such as level of impairment or prevalence, but
there is no apparent effort to systematically compare the DSM–IV
PDs with respect to these other concerns, nor is it clear whether
these are in fact the bases for the inclusion/exclusion decisions
being made for the DSM–V.
If the decision is to be made on the basis of the extent of
empirical support for the validity of the diagnosis, then it is again
difficult to understand why NPD would be subject to deletion,
particularly relative to the avoidant and obsessive–compulsive
PDs. Four of the five PD diagnoses proposed to be retained (all but
antisocial) are the four that were included within the Collaborative
Longitudinal Personality Disorder Study (CLPS). It is plausible
that NPD is proposed for deletion in part because it was not part of
the CLPS investigation. The CLPS has generated a substantial
number of studies concerning the borderline, schizotypal,
avoidant, and obsessive–compulsive PDs (Skodol et al., 2005) and
perhaps thereby has generated more empirical support and scien-
tific foundation for these PDs than has occurred in the meantime
However, there are other highly productive and informative PD
research programs besides CLPS that have helped to develop a
scientific foundation for the PDs for the Diagnostic and Statistical
Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed., text rev.; DSM–IV–TR;
APA, 2000), including NPD (examples of which will be presented
later). It is also worth recognizing that rarely has a CLPS study
been concerned specifically with either the avoidant or the
obsessive–compulsive PD. For the most part, these two PDs have
been simply included along with the other two in any particular
CLPS study. As such, the CLPS has not yielded a sizable empirical
literature that could be said to concern the specific pathology of
either the avoidant or the obsessive–compulsive PD. In contrast,
quite a sizable body of such literature has been generated for NPD.
Blashfield and Intoccia (2000) conducted a computer search of
a limited segment of the PD literature. They reported that of the
PDs they examined, only borderline PD had a rising rate of growth
in the literature since 1980. They reported that the antisocial and
schizotypal PDs had relatively large literature bases, but works on
these PDs were not rising in their rate of publication. They con-
sidered the literatures for borderline, antisocial, and schizotypal
PDs to be “alive and well” (p. 473), whereas the literatures for
avoidant and obsessive–compulsive PDs were either dying (small
base that is actually decreasing) or dead (no appreciable literature
We conducted a search of PsycINFO for peer-reviewed publi-
cations with the phrase narcissistic personality disorder in the title,
which yielded 123 publications. A search for publications with
avoidant personality disorder in the title yielded only 90 publica-
tions, and obsessive–compulsive personality disorder yielded only
52. It is difficult to compare these figures with the findings of
Blashfield and Intoccia (2000) because they did not report the
specific results for the narcissistic, avoidant, or obsessive–
compulsive PDs, but it is at least evident that there are fewer
publications concerning the latter two PDs than for NPD.
A significant limitation of our search and that by Blashfield and
Intoccia (2000), however, is the confinement to studies that con-
tained the precise title of a respective PD. Such a search will miss
a vast amount of literature relevant to some of the DSM–IV–TR
PDs. For example, it is evident that studies of psychopathy are
relevant to an understanding of antisocial PD. Reviews of DSM–
IV–TR antisocial PD invariably include references to studies of
psychopathy (e.g., Cloninger, 2005; Derefinko & Widiger, 2008;
Millon et al., 1996; Patrick, 2007; Stoff, Breiling, & Maser, 1997).
It is stated explicitly in the DSM–IV–TR that this disorder “has also
been referred to as psychopathy” (APA, 2000, p. 702), yet none of
641SPECIAL SECTION: NPD AND THE DSM–V
the psychopathy research was considered by Blashfield and Intoc-
cia in their search for the empirical support for or scientific interest
in antisocial PD. A similar point can be made for studies of
“narcissism” being relevant to the validity of and scientific interest
in NPD (Miller & Campbell, in press), yet none of these studies
would have been identified by Blashfield and Intoccia (2000). It is
conceivable that the substantial body of literature on narcissism is
being similarly missed by the DSM–V PPD Work Group. Miller
and Campbell (in press) discussed elsewhere the importance of
appreciating the relevance of the social–psychological research on
narcissism to an understanding of the clinical disorder of NPD. It
would be unfortunate if one consequence of this neglect was the
deletion of NPD from the diagnostic manual.
One of the more frequently used measures of narcissism is the
Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI; Raskin & Terry, 1988),
whose items were written to assess the NPD construct for the
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (3rd ed.;
DSM–III; APA, 1980). The NPI has scales to assess narcissistic
symptoms such as exploitativeness, entitlement, superiority, exhi-
bitionism, and vanity. It has been demonstrated that the NPI
correlates as highly (if not higher) with measures of NPD as any
two measures of NPD correlate with one another (e.g., Miller,
Gaughan, Pryor, Kamen, & Campbell, 2009; Samuel & Widiger,
2008a). Although some are critical of the construct of narcissism
as assessed by the NPI and diagnosed by the DSM–IV (e.g., Cain,
Pincus, & Ansell, 2008), it is apparent that the NPI is providing an
assessment of narcissism that is quite close to the construct as
defined within the APA diagnostic manual. As indicated by Cain
et al. (2008), “since 1985, the NPI was used as the main or only
measure of narcissistic traits in approximately 77% of social/
personality research on narcissism” (pp. 642–643). A search of
PsycINFO for peer-reviewed articles that have used the NPI as a
measure of narcissism returned 175 publications, much of which
would have been missed by Blashfield and Intoccia (2000) and
perhaps is also not being considered by the DSM–V PPD Work
Group. Of course, it goes without stating that the quality of the
research is more important than simply its quantity. Specific ex-
amples of this research will be provided later, but for the moment
it is important to appreciate that no comparable quantity is avail-
able for understanding the pathology or social, clinical conse-
quences of avoidant or obsessive–compulsive personality traits.
Ultimately, adding studies that have used the NPI to study narcis-
sism to the literature on NPD results in a sizable empirical liter-
ature on the topic, much of which is theoretically driven and has
provided a rich empirical support for the construct validity of
As expressed by Ronningstam (2005), “despite that research
with the NPI was ͓usually͔ conducted on nonclinical samples, the
results, especially in regard to self-esteem and affect regulation,
have proved increasingly relevant and applicable to pathological
narcissism” (p. 289). As she noted, this research resulted in a rather
compelling self-regulatory processing model for narcissistic func-
tioning by Morf and Rhodewalt (2001). In what follows, we
review the empirical literature taken from studies of both NPD and
trait narcissism with regard to a wide variety of issues and conse-
quences, with a particular focus on interpersonal consequences,
pathology, and other clinical implications. As one considers this
literature, it is worth contemplating whether there is a comparable
literature for the avoidant and obsessive–compulsive PDs.
Consequences of Narcissism
Aggression. One of the more frequently studied social behav-
iors predicted by narcissism is aggression. This considerable body
of research has demonstrated that narcissism is associated with a
wide variety of aggressive responses to criticism and other threats
to self-esteem, ranging from disdain and contempt to argumenta-
tiveness, anger, and more or less controlled aggressive and violent
behavior (Ronningstam, 2005). Much of this research has em-
ployed laboratory aggression paradigms, in which participants
receive bogus feedback from a fictional “other participant” and
then are given the opportunity to behave aggressively (e.g., pro-
vide electrical shocks, noise blasts) toward this individual. Across
studies, narcissism is related to aggressive responding in both
nonprovoked and provoked interactions (e.g., ego threat). For
instance, narcissism predicts the administration of a louder noise
blast toward an opponent following feedback that threatens the
inflated sense of self (Bushman & Baumeister, 1998).
Self-enhancement and cognitive distortion. Both clinical
and social-personality conceptualizations of narcissism include an
aspect of self-esteem maintenance or self-enhancement. This can
be seen in the self-serving bias, or the tendency to take personal
credit for success but to blame the situation or other individuals for
failure. In laboratory studies, narcissism predicts the self-serving
bias (Campbell, Reeder, Sedikides, & Elliot, 2000; Rhodewalt &
Morf, 1998). Narcissism even predicts the self-serving bias in
intimate personal relationships. That is, narcissistic individuals
will steal credit from those close to them (Campbell et al., 2000).
Narcissism also predicts the better than average effect, or the
belief that one is better than the average individual on a given
attribute (e.g., intelligence, attractiveness). Furthermore, narcis-
sism predicts the better than average effect primarily on agentic
traits such as intelligence and assertiveness (Campbell, Bosson,
Goheen, Lakey, & Kernis, 2007; Campbell, Rudich, & Sedikides,
The social-personality literature also presents evidence that nar-
cissism is related to other types of cognitive distortions as well.
Individuals high in narcissism are notably overconfident. They
overestimate their knowledge and fail to learn from critical feed-
back (Campbell, Goodie, & Foster, 2004). This self-confidence
even spills over into the creation of false beliefs known as over-
claiming. This refers to claiming knowledge of a fact that is false
(Paulhus, Harms, Bruce, & Lysy, 2003).
Impaired relationships. The effects of narcissism are most
substantial in relation to interpersonal functioning. In general, trait
narcissism is associated with behaving in such a way that one is
perceived as more likable in initial encounters with strangers—but
this likability diminishes with time and increased exposure to the
narcissistic individual (Paulhus, 1998). In fact, several studies have
demonstrated that individuals (e.g., strangers) view narcissistic
individuals in a positive light on the basis of brief glimpses of their
personalities (e.g., Friedman, Oltmanns, Gleason, & Turkheimer,
2006; Oltmanns, Friedman, Fiedler, & Turkheimer, 2004). The
empirical research on narcissism and interpersonal relationships
has focused primarily on romantic relationships (i.e., dating and
marriage). Over the course of time, narcissism has a negative
impact on relationships because it is linked to game playing,
infidelity, and high levels of unrestricted sociosexuality (e.g.,
Campbell et al., 2002). As in their meeting with strangers, narcis-
642 MILLER, WIDIGER, AND CAMPBELL
sistic individuals are initially seen as attractive romantic partners
because they can present themselves as both exciting and charm-
ing. This early attraction, of course, leads to longer term conflict
and problems. Oltmanns and Turkheimer (2009) suggested that
this may be part of the problem: “Narcissistic behaviors may be
perpetuated by the way in which they attract others, at least
temporarily. These traits may not become interpersonally disrup-
tive until relationships become more intimate” (p. 33).
These findings relating trait narcissism to potential impairment
in the social domain are consistent with evidence from clinical
research on NPD. For instance, Miller, Campbell, and Pilkonis
(2007) reported that NPD was substantially (mean r ϭ .46) and
uniquely related (i.e., when controlling for the other three Cluster
B PDs) to causing distress to significant others. It is not difficult to
understand how NPD traits cause substantial social impairment for
the individual with these traits and distress for individuals who
associate with them. Ogrodniczuk, Piper, Joyce, Steinberg, and
Duggal (2009) reported that NPD scores were significantly asso-
ciated with domineering, vindictive, and intrusive interpersonal
behaviors in a sample of psychiatric outpatients.
Externalizing behaviors. Directly relevant to many clinical
issues, trait narcissism is related to a variety of maladaptive ex-
ternalizing behaviors including pathological gambling, alcohol
use, compulsive spending, and antisocial behavior (Lakey, Rose,
Campbell, & Goodie, 2008; Luhtanen & Crocker, 2005; Miller et
al., in press). These behaviors are linked to both a basic appetitive
or reward-seeking disposition and a callous lack of concern for the
needs of other (Miller et al., 2009). The link between narcissism/
NPD and externalizing behaviors should be expected given the
significant overlap between these constructs and psychopathy
(e.g., Hildebrand & de Ruiter, 2004; Paulhus & Williams, 2002)
and interpersonal antagonism (Miller & Campbell, 2008; Miller,
Gaughan, et al., 2009), both of which are among the strongest and
most reliable personality correlates of externalizing behavior (e.g.,
Hare, 2003; Miller & Lynam, 2001).
Internalizing behaviors and symptoms. The link between
narcissism/NPD and internalizing symptoms is difficult to sum-
marize because the relation depends, in part, on which narcissism
variant is being discussed (see the NPD: Addressing the Need to
Cover Different Narcissism Variants section for more information
on these variants). Nonetheless, there is some research to suggest
that narcissism/NPD is linked prospectively to depression and
anxiety and that this relation is mediated by functional impairment
(Miller et al., 2007). That is, over time narcissistic individuals may
experience failure in a wide array of domains—work, romance,
social functioning—that leads to psychological distress. There also
appears to be a relation between narcissism and suicidal behavior
(e.g., suicide completion: Overholser, Stockmeier, Dilley, &
Freiheit, 2002; suicide attempts: Pincus et al., 2009) and nonsui-
cidal self-injury (A. L. Pincus et al., 2009).
Deficits in insight. Individuals with PDs have long been char-
acterized in the clinical literature as lacking insight into their own
personalities. In a meta-analytic review, Klonsky, Oltmanns, and
Turkheimer (2002) found limited rates of agreement between self-
and informant ratings for PD symptoms, although informants
tended to agree with one another. These authors reported that NPD
manifested the smallest degree of self-informant agreement (me-
dian r ϭ .29) of the 10 DSM–IV PDs. Miller, Pilkonis, and Clifton
(2005) examined the correlations between expert ratings of
DSM–IV PDs with self- and informant ratings on a measure of the
five-factor model (FFM). These authors then correlated the result-
ant FFM trait profiles (one profile generated by correlating self-
reported FFM traits with DSM–IV PD ratings, the other profile
generated by correlating informant-reported FFM traits with
DSM–IV PD ratings) to examine the similarity of the trait profiles
across raters for each PD. In general, the self and informant trait
personality profiles generated by the PDs were quite similar (me-
dian r ϭ .75), with one exception: NPD. The correlation between
self- and informant ratings for the FFM’s NPD profiles was .29.
Although NPD was negatively associated with FFM Agreeable-
ness as reported by both self and informants, the two trait profiles
diverged substantially with regard to the domains of Neuroticism
and Extraversion. NPD ratings were unrelated with self-ratings of
neuroticism and positively related to self-ratings of extraversion
(e.g., assertiveness, excitement seeking). Alternatively, NPD rat-
ings were positively correlated with informant ratings of neuroti-
cism (e.g., anger, self-consciousness) and unrelated to informant
ratings of extraversion. Interestingly, there is some evidence to
suggest that this lack of insight affects narcissistic individuals’
abilities to rate others’ personalities accurately as well (Friedman,
Oltmanns, & Turkheimer, 2007).
In sum, although the body of research literature on NPD may be
smaller than that for the borderline, schizotypal, and antisocial
PDs, it is evident that there is a substantial body of scientific
interest in and research on narcissism and that it is considerably
larger than that for the avoidant and obsessive–compulsive PDs.
We believe this literature is relevant to an understanding of the
pathology of NPD and that the total research literature (e.g., on
narcissism and NPD) is suggestive of an active and strong scien-
tific foundation for and a wide-ranging interest in the topic. This
research has been concerned with aggression, self-enhancement,
self-presentation, interpersonal relationships, cognitive biases, and
internalizing and externalizing dysregulation. We believe that this
is an important and rich body of literature that suggests that
narcissism/NPD warrants recognition in the DSM–V.
NPD: Addressing the Need to Cover Different
If NPD is retained, an additional issue that must be resolved is
whether the taxonomy can address the substantial heterogeneity
that exists in the conceptualization and assessment of NPD. Mul-
tiple studies have documented the existence of two or more nar-
cissism subtypes, which are typically referred to as grandiose
versus vulnerable narcissism (Dickinson & Pincus, 2003; Fossati
et al., 2005; Miller & Campbell, 2008; Russ, Shedler, Bradley, &
Westen, 2008; Wink, 1991).1
Grandiose narcissism primarily re-
flects traits related to grandiosity, aggression, and dominance; this
conceptualization is consistent with Freud’s (1931/1964) concep-
tualization of this personality (“libidinal”) type. Cain et al. (2008)
It is important to note that some narcissistic individuals may not fit
well into either narcissism variant in the long term but rather fluctuate
between grandiose and vulnerable presentations. For instance, a grandi-
osely narcissistic individual may eventually present more vulnerably nar-
cissistic traits as he or she experiences more failure and impairment across
the life span (see A. L. Pincus & Lukowitsky, 2010, and Ronningstam,
2009, for a more detailed discussion of this idea).
643SPECIAL SECTION: NPD AND THE DSM–V
identified a host of “phenotypical labels” (p. 641) used by various
PD theorists associated with grandiose narcissism—labels such as
overt, malignant, oblivious, elitist, arrogant, and psychopathic, to
name just a few.
Vulnerable narcissism reflects a defensive and fragile grandios-
ity in which the grandiosity serves as a facade that obscures
feelings of inadequacy, incompetence, and negative affect; this
conceptualization is more consistent with Kernberg’s (1984) no-
tion of narcissism. Ronningstam (2009) contrasts individuals with
grandiose forms of narcissism with the
inhibited, shame-ridden, and hypersensitive shy type, whose low
tolerance for attention from others and hypervigilant readiness for
criticism or failure makes him/her more socially passive . . . . never-
theless, under a modest surface, the shy narcissistic individual is
equally preoccupied with self-enhancing fantasies and strivings and
hyperreactive to oversights and unfulfilled expectations from others.
Cain et al. (2008) identified a number of phenotypical labels that
correspond with this vulnerable narcissism dimension, including
closet, shy, thin-skinned, and compensatory. Factor analyses of the
DSM–IV NPD symptoms suggest that the DSM–IV NPD criterion
set is either entirely (Miller, Hoffman, Campbell, & Pilkonis,
2008) or primarily (i.e., six of nine symptoms; Fossati et al., 2005)
consistent with the grandiose variant.
It is worth noting that this is not a new issue or concern for this
diagnosis. The authors of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of
Mental Disorders (3rd ed., rev.; DSM–III–R; APA, 1987; Widiger,
Frances, Spitzer, & Williams, 1988) and the DSM–IV (APA, 1994;
Gunderson, Ronningstam, & Smith, 1991) criterion sets also strug-
gled with the problem that narcissism is associated with a tendency
to respond to criticism, defeat, or rebuke with either disdainful
indifference or shameful embarrassment. The authors of the
DSM–IV placed an emphasis within the criterion set on the con-
fident, assured, and grandiose variant but did also acknowledge in
the text that “vulnerability in self-esteem makes individuals with
Narcissistic Personality Disorder very sensitive to ‘injury’ from
criticism or defeat. Although they may not show it outwardly,
criticism may haunt these individuals and may leave them feeling
humiliated, degraded, hollow, and empty” (APA, 2000, p. 715).
What is new to this debate is the presence now of a considerable
body of empirical literature on both variants of narcissism, partic-
ularly if one goes beyond studies confined to the DSM criterion
sets (A. L. Pincus & Lukowitsky, 2010).
It is our opinion that the comingling of these two forms of
narcissism has serious consequences for the field because a great
deal of unreliability is introduced into our communications, as-
sessments, and conceptualizations. An example of this can be seen
in a recent study by Samuel and Widiger (2008a) in which they
compared five self-report assessments of NPD and narcissism. The
correlations between the five scales ranged from .29 to .64, with a
median correlation of .45. More interesting are the correlations
each generated with an FFM instrument, the Revised NEO Per-
sonality Inventory (NEO PI-R; Costa & McCrae, 1992). The
degree of similarity across the trait profiles generated by the five
narcissism/NPD scales (i.e., correlations between each NPD scale
and the 30 facets of the NEO PI-R), as assessed via double-entry
intraclass correlations (see McCrae, 2008, for a review), ranged
from –.10 to .92, with a median of .45. The authors noted that the
five measures primarily share a negative correlation with FFM
Agreeableness but diverge with relation to the direction and size of
the effect sizes found for Extraversion (rs ranged from –.15 to .48)
and Neuroticism (rs ranged from –.40 to .13). The findings from
this study are not unique; the same pattern of discrepancy is found
in a meta-analysis of the FFM correlates of NPD (Saulsman &
Page, 2004). For example, Saulsman and Page (2004) reported a
mean correlation of .03 between NPD and FFM Neuroticism. Yet
a review of the individual effect sizes revealed that roughly one
third of the relations were significantly negative, one third were
significantly positive, and one third were nonsignificant. A similar
pattern was found for Extraversion; despite a significant mean
effect size (r ϭ .24), the majority of findings (i.e., 61%) were
nonsignificant. Ultimately, the only constructs shared by measures
of NPD are related to interpersonal antagonism.
It is clear that measures of NPD diverge with relation to the
contribution of negative affectivity (i.e., weighting of vulnerabil-
ity) versus positive affectivity and dominance (weighting of gran-
diosity). We believe this inconsistency of the trait correlates of
NPD reflects this comingling of grandiose and vulnerable narcis-
sism. Measures of NPD (or raters) that associate NPD with the
more grandiose conceptualization typically result in a profile com-
prising low neuroticism and agreeableness and high extraversion.
Alternatively, measures of NPD (or raters) that associate NPD with
the more vulnerable forms of narcissism typically result in a trait
profile comprising low extraversion and agreeableness and high
neuroticism (e.g., Miller & Campbell, 2008; Miller, Dir, et al., in
These forms of narcissism are also differentially related to
environmental etiological factors such as emotional, physical, and
sexual abuse and poor parenting practices (Horton, Bleau, &
Drwecki, 2006; Miller & Campbell, 2008; Miller, Dir, et al., in
press; Otway & Vignoles, 2006). For example, grandiose narcis-
sism typically manifests no relations with childhood abuse (Miller,
Dir, et al., in press) and negative parenting practices, with the
exception of a small negative correlation with parental supervision
(Horton et al., 2006; Miller & Campbell, 2008; Miller, Dir, et al.,
in press) and a small positive correlation with parental overvalu-
ation (Otway & Vignoles, 2006). Alternatively, vulnerable narcis-
sism is significantly related to reports of childhood sexual, phys-
ical, verbal, and emotional abuse (Miller, Dir, et al., in press) and
to reports of parenting described as psychologically intrusive,
controlling, and cold, as well as a lesser degree of parental super-
vision (Miller & Campbell, 2008; Miller, Dir, et al., in press;
Otway & Vignoles, 2006).
Interpersonally, individuals with vulnerable and grandiose nar-
cissism are viewed differently by important others; spouses de-
scribe individuals with either form of narcissism as “bossy, intol-
erant, cruel, argumentative, dishonest, opportunistic, conceited,
arrogant, and demanding” (Wink, 1991, p. 595). Spouses of indi-
viduals high on grandiose narcissism, however, are also rated as
being “aggressive, hardheaded, immodest, outspoken, assertive,
and determined,” whereas spouses of individuals high on vulner-
able narcissism are seen as “worrying, emotional, defensive, anx-
ious, bitter, tense, and complaining” (Wink, 1991, p. 595).
It is likely that these forms of narcissism are differentially
associated with important clinical outcomes. Given the much
stronger relation between vulnerable narcissism and psychological
distress, negative affect, and Axis I psychopathology (e.g., depres-
644 MILLER, WIDIGER, AND CAMPBELL
sion, anxiety; Miller & Campbell, 2008; Miller et al., 2007; Miller,
Dir, et al., in press; A. L. Pincus et al., 2009), it is not surprising
to find that vulnerable narcissism is more strongly linked with
nonsuicidal self-injury and suicide attempts (Miller, Dir, et al., in
press; A. L. Pincus et al., 2009). In addition, these forms of
narcissism may present differently in therapeutic settings in terms
of treatment utilization. In a small clinical sample, A. L. Pincus et
al. (2009, p. 376) found that “grandiose ͓narcissism͔ characteristics
most often reduced treatment utilization (e.g., more cancellations
and no-shows, less medication use, less contact with partial hos-
pitalizations and inpatient admissions,” whereas “vulnerable ͓nar-
cissism͔ characteristics most often promoted treatment utilization
(e.g., more contact with crisis services and partial hospitalizations,
fewer therapy no-shows).” Others have found that DSM–IV NPD
is associated with failure to complete treatment; Ogrodniczuk and
colleagues (2009) found that 63% of their high NPD group
dropped out of treatment, compared with 28% and 36% in their
moderate and low NPD groups, respectively. These narcissism
variants may also have a differential impact on therapeutic rapport.
Gabbard (2009, p. 132) suggested that individuals with the gran-
diose narcissism variant will use “the therapist as a sounding
board, a listening ear that exists primarily to enhance the patient’s
self-esteem.” Gabbard argued that these individuals pay little at-
tention to cues (verbal and nonverbal) from the therapist and
demonstrate a failure to connect with the therapist in a meaningful
manner that is representative of their failure to connect with others
outside the therapeutic setting. With regard to vulnerable narcis-
sism, Gabbard suggested that these individuals may be acutely
sensitive and feel “wounded, ignored, or rejected by the therapist”
(p. 133) and thus move to devalue the clinician. These patients
may also be suspicious of the therapist and “perceive in the
therapist’s eyes a wish to hurt, humiliate, and deride the patient”
(Gabbard, 2009, p. 134).
The various behaviors associated with these forms of narcissism
will certainly affect the therapist’s view of and attitude toward the
patient. Betan, Heim, Conklin, and Westen (2005) presented the
clinician ratings that were most and least descriptive of clients with
NPD, which included items such as “I feel annoyed in sessions
with him/her” and “I feel used by him/her” (the two most descrip-
tive statements) and “I look forward to my sessions with him/her”
and “S/he is one of my favorite patients” (the two least descriptive
statements). Unfortunately, it is not clear from this work whether
these reactions are germane to both narcissism variants. It certainly
seems plausible, however, that clinicians might react differently to
these variants, perhaps empathizing more with the vulnerable form
due to the more obvious presence of psychological distress.
It is clear that the DSM–V should make efforts to ensure that
both of these narcissism variants can be captured. Given the
uncertainty surrounding the manner in which personality pathol-
ogy will be addressed in the DSM–V, we present ideas for address-
ing these two narcissism variants in two alternative situations: In
Situation 1, the DSM–V includes NPD as one of the official
diagnostic constructs, and in Situation 2, the DSM–V includes
NPD only to the extent that it can be captured by the dimensional
trait model. Here we address only the first proposal, because the
dimensional trait model is covered in the final section of this
article: NPD and Dimensional Trait Models of PD. In this latter
section we also address our own recommendations as to which of
the two aforementioned models should be used.
If the DSM–V PPD Work Group decides to retain NPD as an
official diagnosis, an outcome we fear is unlikely, it should offi-
cially recognize both narcissism variants. The DSM–V would not
be the first diagnostic manual to recognize these two forms of
narcissism. The Psychodynamic Diagnostic Manual (PDM; PDM
Task Force, 2006) recognizes two narcissistic personality disor-
ders, which are labeled Arrogant/Entitled and Depressed/
Depleted. Including both forms of narcissism would encourage
research into the potentially divergent etiologies, outcomes, and
effective treatments for these two forms of narcissism, which seem
to share only a core of interpersonal antagonism. It is clear that,
should NPD remain an official DSM–V diagnosis, more vulnerable
diagnostic criteria must be included. A. L. Pincus and Lukowitsky
(2010) argued that “relying solely on the DSM–IV NPD diagnostic
criteria may impede clinical recognition of pathological narcis-
sism” (p. 430). In fact, these authors contended that the extreme
dearth of empirical work on vulnerable narcissism is a significant
limitation of the extant empirical base and suggested that measures
of vulnerable narcissism “be regularly included in research focus-
ing on narcissistic personality, even in nonclinical contexts, and
particularly in research investigating negative consequences of
trait narcissism” (p. 430). Low prevalence rates that have at times
been obtained for NPD are probably due in part to having an
overly narrow conceptualization of the disorder. Ronningstam
(2009, p. 118) also recently put forth a number of “alternative
formulations” of the DSM–IV NPD criteria, some of which should
prove more successful at capturing the vulnerable form (e.g.,
“fluctuating and vulnerable self-esteem”).
NPD and Dimensional Trait Models of PD
Although the diagnosis of NPD has been proposed for deletion,
the chair of the DSM–V PPD Work Group has also suggested
supplementing the five PD diagnoses that would be retained with
a set of ancillary dimensions, consisting of negative emotionality,
introversion, antagonism, disinhibition, compulsivity, and schizo-
typy (see www.dsm5.org), from which the diagnosis of narcissistic
personality traits might still be derived (D. S. Bender, personal
communication, August 22, 2009). The authors of this article have
long argued for a shift to a dimensional classification of PD and
would certainly prefer that narcissistic personality traits be under-
stood from this perspective (Miller & Campbell, 2008; Widiger &
Simonsen, 2005). However, it is important to recognize that what-
ever the ancillary dimensions or traits that are included within the
DSM–V, they will not provide an officially recognized PD diag-
nosis. It appears that these trait scales are not being provided with
code numbers in the DSM–V and will then not have any clear,
specific, or official recognition within a clinician’s diagnostic
record for a respective patient. The clinician will have to rely upon
the already catchall, nonspecific, wastebasket diagnosis of “Not
Otherwise Specified” to record the presence of any narcissistic
personality traits included within the supplementary trait dimen-
sions (Verheul & Widiger, 2004). The likelihood that the ancillary
trait ratings will even be used by most clinicians, let alone have
any actual impact in health care, will be substantially handicapped
by the absence of any official coding system or record.
Even if the dimensional model were provided with official
recognition, it remains unclear whether the traits of both variants
of narcissism could in fact be recovered from the collection of
645SPECIAL SECTION: NPD AND THE DSM–V
traits proposed by the DSM–V PPD Work Group. The dimensional
trait proposal consists of six broad domains, each defined by more
specific facets. Negative emotionality includes the specific traits of
emotional lability, anxiousness, suspiciousness, submissiveness,
self-harm, pessimism, depressivity, guilt/shame, self-esteem, and
separation insecurity. Introversion includes the traits social with-
drawal, social detachment, restricted affectivity, anhedonia, and
intimacy avoidance. Antagonism includes the traits narcissism,
callousness, manipulativeness, histrionism, hostility, aggression,
oppositionality, and deceitfulness. Disinhibition includes the traits
impulsivity, distractibility, recklessness, and irresponsibility.
Compulsivity includes the traits perfectionism, perseveration, ri-
gidity, risk aversion, and orderliness. Finally, the schizotypy di-
mension includes the traits unusual perceptions, unusual beliefs,
eccentricity, cognitive dysregulation, and dissociation proneness.
There is a substantial body of empirical literature on alternative
dimensional models of PD (Clark, 2007; Livesley, 2005; Widiger
& Simonson, 2005). It is worth noting that the six-dimensional
model proposed for inclusion in the DSM–V is not equivalent to
any previously proposed dimensional model. For example, distinct
from all other dimensional models of PD, the proposal for the
DSM–V splits constraint (otherwise known as conscientiousness)
into two separate, independent dimensions: disinhibition (low con-
straint or conscientiousness) and compulsivity (high constraint or
conscientiousness). The proposal for the DSM–V also fails to
include maladaptive extraversion (the opposite of introversion),
maladaptive agreeableness (the opposite of antagonism), and mal-
adaptively low levels of neuroticism, included within the five-
factor model of PD (Widiger & Mullins-Sweatt, 2009). These
failures contribute to the potential misalignment of some traits,
such as histrionism, which includes behaving in a manner to attract
attention, flamboyance, admiration seeking, and sexualization of
interpersonal relations (Skodol & Bender, 2009). There is a con-
siderable body of research to indicate that these traits more com-
fortably belong within a domain of extraversion than within an-
tagonism (Samuel & Widiger, 2008b). Similarly, submissiveness
is clearly a manner of interpersonal relatedness, yet it is included
within a domain of negative affectivity due in part to the absence
of the domain of agreeableness (Lowe, Edmundson, & Widiger,
Currently, the PDs are organized into three clusters that have
failed to be supported empirically (Sheets & Craighead, 2007) and
have been difficult to understand conceptually. For instance,
passive–aggressive personality was never well understood as being
an anxious–fearful PD, nor is antisocial PD well understood as a
dramatic–emotional PD (APA, 2000). It would be unfortunate for
a hierarchical dimensional classification to continue to be prob-
lematic conceptually and empirically, particularly when there is a
considerable body of research to help guide the organization of the
The omission of some of the aforementioned traits may also
contribute to a failure to capture traits that are important in de-
scribing and understanding some of the existing PDs. For example,
low anxiousness and fearlessness are excluded (due to the absence
of a dimension pertaining to low negative affectivity), which may
be central to an understanding of psychopathy (Lynam & Widiger,
2007). A similar argument can be made with respect to the inclu-
sion of traits necessary to adequately describe narcissism. Despite
the inclusion of a trait titled “narcissism,” we believe the trait
model proposed by the DSM–V PPD Work Group will be incapa-
ble of capturing traits related to maladaptively high levels of
extraversion such as dominance, excitement seeking, and behav-
ioral activation/approach. The failure of this model to assess these
traits suggests that the model will be unable to assess fully the
grandiose narcissism construct. Multiple studies have demon-
strated a strong link between grandiose narcissism and
extraversion-related traits such as assertiveness (e.g., Miller &
Campbell, 2008: rs ϭ .61 and .55; Miller, Gaughan, et al., 2009:
rs ϭ .49 and .51), excitement seeking (e.g., Miller & Campbell,
2008: rs ϭ .28 and .28; Miller, Gaughan, et al., 2009: rs ϭ .48 and
.48), and behavioral activation/approach (Foster & Trimm, 2008:
rs ranged from .34 to .57). Importantly, in several of these studies
(e.g., Foster & Trimm, 2008; Miller, Campbell, et al., 2009) the
extraversion-related traits mediated the relations between narcis-
sism and several behavioral problems (e.g., aggression, risk tak-
It is also unclear what traits (e.g., which narcissism variants)
will be assessed by the DSM–V PPD Work Group’s narcissism
scale. This scale was not included in the original version of this
proposal provided by Skodol and Bender (2009) but appears to
have replaced the trait grandiosity that was originally proposed.
One possibility is that a trait scale for narcissism was ultimately
included in the DSM–V proposal because it exists within the
Dimensional Assessment of Personality Pathology (DAPP) created
by Livesley (2006), a member of the DSM–V PPD Work Group. If
this is the case, it is interesting that the narcissism scale measured
by the DAPP appears to be a better measure of the vulnerable
narcissism variant because this scale typically loads more strongly
with the DAPP Emotional Dysregulation factor rather than the
Dissocial Behavior factor (e.g., Bagge & Trull, 2003; Livesley,
Jang, & Vernon, 1998; Maruta, Yamate, Iimori, Kato, & Livesley,
2006). Given these results, the content validity of the DSM–V’s
trait model remains unclear, at least as it pertains to the assessment
Removal of half of the PDs section (i.e., the paranoid, schizoid,
histrionic, dependent, and narcissistic PDs) represents a substantial
gutting of this section of the diagnostic manual. One of the
repeated criticisms of the APA’s PDs section has been its lack of
adequate coverage (Clark, Watson, & Reynolds, 1995; Trull, 2005;
Verheul, 2005; Verheul & Widiger, 2004; Westen & Arkowitz-
Westen, 1998). The DSM–V as proposed by the PPD Work Group
will grossly exacerbate this problem. We focused in particular on
narcissistic personality traits because there is a considerable body
of clinical literature and empirical research on narcissism that
would support its retention, particularly relative to the avoidant
and obsessive–compulsive PDs.
The decision of which diagnoses should be removed should be
based primarily on the extent of documented clinical interest and
the quality of construct validity research (Frances et al., 1989).
NPD is much stronger in both regards than is either the avoidant or
the obsessive–compulsive PD, both of which are PDs that have
been proposed for retention in the DSM–V. If any PDs are to be
retained, we propose that NPD should not only be retained but be
expanded to include both the grandiose and vulnerable subtypes.
646 MILLER, WIDIGER, AND CAMPBELL
Nevertheless, the authors of this article have argued elsewhere
for replacing the diagnostic categories with a dimensional model
(e.g., Widiger & Mullins-Sweatt, 2009), and we continue to favor
this approach. However, if a dimensional classification is to re-
place the categorical classification of certain PD diagnoses, then it
must have a status equal to the diagnostic categories that are
retained. A dimensional classification lacking any official coding
recognition is unlikely to be used on any regular, systematic basis.
Those traits removed from the official list of diagnoses and rele-
gated to a set of ancillary dimensions are being effectively deleted
from the diagnostic manual.
If categorical diagnoses are to be replaced by a dimensional
classification of maladaptive personality trait scales, then the struc-
ture of the latter should be governed by the empirical research,
with a documented ability to recover all of the important maladap-
tive personality traits currently covered by the existing diagnostic
categories, and should be given official recognition, including
being part of the official coding system that clinicians must use.
We do not support what we perceive to be a middling step forward
in which some traditional diagnostic PD constructs are retained
whereas some are deleted on the basis of relatively arbitrary and
unspecified decision rules. One is then left with a crippled set of
diagnostic categories, taking only a half step away from the diag-
nostic categories and only a half step toward a dimensional model.
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Received November 3, 2009
Revision received February 17, 2010
Accepted February 23, 2010 Ⅲ
649SPECIAL SECTION: NPD AND THE DSM–V