The term narcissism refers to the personality trait of egotism, which includes the set of character traits concerned with self-image ego. The terms narcissism, narcissistic, and narcissist are often used as pejoratives, denoting vanity, conceit, egotism or simple selfishness. Applied to a social group, it is sometimes used to denote elitism or an indifference to the plight of others.
The name "narcissism" is derived from Greek mythology. Narcissus was a handsome Greek youth who rejected the desperate advances of the nymph Echo. As punishment, he was doomed to fall in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. Unable to consummate his love, Narcissus pined away and changed into the flower that bears his name, the narcissus.
Freud believed that some narcissism is an essential part of all of us from birth. Andrew P. Morrison claims that, in adults, a reasonable amount of healthy narcissism allows the individual's perception of his needs to be balanced in relation to others.
It is only in recent times that it has been defined in psychological terms. In 1898 Havelock Ellis, an English sexologist, used the term "narcissus-like" in reference to excessive masturbation, whereby the person becomes his or her own sex object.
In 1899, Paul Näche was the first person to use the term "narcissism" in a study of sexual perversions.
Healthy narcissism is formed through a structural truthfulness of the self, achievement of self and object constancy, synchronization between the self and the superego and a balance between libidinal and aggressive drives (the ability to receive gratification from others and the drive for impulse expression). Healthy narcissism forms a constant, realistic self-interest and mature goals and principles and an ability to form deep object relations. A feature related to healthy narcissism is the feeling of greatness. This is used to avoid feelings of inadequacy or insignificance.
Healthy narcissism exists in all individuals. Freud says that this is an original state from the individual from where to develop the love object. Freud argues that healthy narcissism is an essential part in normal development. The love of the parents for their child and their attitude towards their child could be seen as a revival and reproduction of their own narcissism according to Freud. The child has an omnipotence of thought. The parents stimulate that feeling because in their child they see the things that they have never reached themselves. Compared to neutral observations, the parents tend to overvalue the qualities of their child. When parents act in an extreme opposite style and the child is rejected or inconsistently reinforced depending on the mood of the parent, the self-needs of the child are not met.
Healthy narcissism has to do with a strong feeling of “own love” protecting the human being against illness. Eventually, however, the individual must love the other, “the object love to not become ill". The person becomes ill, as a result of a frustration, when he is unable to love the object. In pathological narcissism such as the narcissistic personality disorder and schizophrenia, the person’s libido has been withdrawn from objects in the world and produces megalomania. The clinical theorists Kernberg, Kohut and Millon all see pathological narcissism as a possible outcome in response to unempathic and inconsistent early childhood interactions. They suggested that narcissists try to compensate in adult relationships. The pathological condition of narcissism is, as Freud suggested, a magnified, extreme manifestation of healthy narcissism. With regard to the condition of healthy narcissism, it is suggested that this is correlated with good psychological health. Self-esteem works as a mediator between narcissism and psychological health. Therefore, because of their elevated self-esteem, deriving from self-perceptions of competence and likability, high narcissists are relatively free of worry and gloom. Other researchers suggested that healthy narcissism cannot be seen as ‘good’ or ‘bad’; however, it depends on the contexts and outcomes being measured. In certain social contexts such as initiating social relationships, and with certain outcome variables, such as feeling good about oneself, healthy narcissism can be helpful. In other contexts, such as maintaining long-term relationships and with other outcome variables, such as accurate self-knowledge, healthy narcissism can be unhelpful.
In Ronnie Solan's view, healthy narcissism represents the functioning of narcissism as an emotional-immune system for safeguarding the familiarity and the well-being of the individual against invasion by foreign sensations (1998).
Within psychology, there are two main branches of research into narcissism, clinical and social psychology. These approaches differ in their view of narcissism with the former treating it a disorder, and thus as discrete, and the latter treating it as a personality trait, and thus as a continuum. These two strands of research tend loosely to stand in a divergent relation to one another although they converge in places.
Campbell and Foster (2007)  review the literature on narcissism. They argue that narcissists possess the following ‘basic ingredients’:
Also, narcissists tend to demonstrate a lack of interest in warm and caring interpersonal relationships. Campbell and Forster (2007) also talk of several ongoing controversies within narcissism literature, namely whether narcissism is healthy or unhealthy, a personality disorder, a discrete or continuous variable, defensive or offensive, the same across genders, the same across cultures, and changeable or unchangeable.
Campbell and Foster (2007) argue that self-regulatory strategies are of paramount importance to understanding narcissism.. Self-regulation in narcissists involves such things as striving to make one’s self look and feel positive, special, successful and important. It comes in both intra-psychic, such a blaming a situation rather than self for failure, and interpersonal forms, such as using a relationship to serve one’s own self. Some differences in self-regulation between narcissists and non-narcissists can be seen with Campbell, Reeder, Sedikides & Elliot (2000)  who conducted a study in which two experiments were conducted. In both experiments, participants took part an achievement task following which they were provided with false feedback; it was either bogus success or failure. It was found that both narcissists and non-narcissists self-enhanced but non-narcissists showed more flexibility in doing so. Participants were measured on both a comparative and a non-comparative self-enhancement strategy. It was found that both narcissists and non-narcissists employed the non-comparative strategy similarly. However, narcissists were found to be more self-serving with the comparative strategy, employing it far more, than non-narcissists, suggesting a greater rigidity with their self-enhancement. When narcissists receive negative feedback which threatens the self, they will self-enhance at all costs whereas non-narcissists tend to have limits.
Although most individuals have some narcissistic traits, high levels of narcissism can manifest themselves as a pathological form as narcissistic personality disorder, whereby the patient overestimates his or her abilities and has an excessive need for admiration and affirmation.
Hotchkiss identified what she called the seven deadly sins of narcissism:
James F. Masterson in 1993 proposes two categories for pathological narcissism, exhibitionist and closet. Both fail to adequately develop an age- and phase- appropriate self because of defects in the quality of psychological nurturing provided, usually by the mother. The exhibitionist narcissist is the one described in DSM-IV and differs from the closet narcissist in several important ways.
The closet narcissist is more likely to be described as having a deflated, inadequate self perception and greater awareness of emptiness within. The exhibitionist narcissist would be described as having an inflated, grandiose self perception with little or no conscious awareness of the emptiness within. Such a person would assume that this condition was normal and that others were just like them.
The closet narcissist seeks constant approval from others and appears similar to the borderline in the need to please others. The exhibitionist narcissist seeks perfect admiration all the time from others.
Acquired situational narcissism (ASN) is a form of narcissism that develops in late adolescence or adulthood, brought on by wealth, fame and the other trappings of celebrity. It was coined by Robert B. Millman, professor of psychiatry at the Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University.
ASN differs from conventional narcissism in that it develops after childhood and is triggered and supported by the celebrity-obsessed society: fans, assistants and tabloid media all play into the idea that the person really is vastly more important than other people, triggering a narcissistic problem that might have been only a tendency, or latent, and helping it to become a full-blown personality disorder.
In its presentation and symptoms, it is indistinguishable from narcissistic personality disorder, differing only in its late onset and its support by large numbers of others. The person with ASN may suffer from unstable relationships, substance abuse and erratic behaviour.
This is Factor 1 in the Hare Psychopathy Checklist, which includes the following traits:
Conversational narcissism is a term used by sociologist Charles Derber in his book "The Pursuit of Attention: Power and Ego in Everyday Life".
Derber observed that the social support system in America is relatively weak, and this leads people to compete mightily for attention. In social situations, they tend to steer the conversation away from others and toward themselves. "Conversational narcissism is the key manifestation of the dominant attention-getting psychology in America," he wrote. "It occurs in informal conversations among friends, family and coworkers. The profusion of popular literature about listening and the etiquette of managing those who talk constantly about themselves suggests its pervasiveness in everyday life..."
What Derber describes as "conversational narcissism" often occurs subtly rather than overtly, because even the dim-witted among us know that it's rude not to show interest in others, and prudent to avoid being judged an egotist.
Derber distinguishes the "shift-response" from the "support-response."
Organizational psychologist Alan Downs wrote a book in 1997 describing corporate narcissism . He explores high-profile corporate leaders (such as Al Dunlap and Robert Allen) who, he suggests, literally have only one thing on their minds: profits. According to Downs, such narrow focus actually may yield positive short-term benefits, but ultimately it will drag down individual employees as well as entire companies. Alternative thinking is proposed, and some firms now utilizing these options are examined. Downs's theories are relevant to those which have been suggested by Victor Hill in his book, Corporate Narcissism in Accounting Firms Australia. 
Lachkar describes the phenomena of cross-cultural narcissism thus:.
"The cross-cultural narcissist brings to his new country a certain amount of nationalistic pride, which he holds onto relentlessly. He refuses to adapt and will go to great lengths to maintain his sense of special identity. Cross-cultural narcissists often hook up with borderline women, who tend to idealize and be mesmerized by men from another culture."
In The Culture of Narcissism, Christopher Lasch defines a narcissistic culture as one in which every activity and relationship is defined by the hedonistic need to acquire the symbols of wealth, this becoming the only expression of rigid, yet covert, social hierarchies. It is a culture where liberalism only exists insofar as it serves a consumer society, and even art, sex and religion lose their liberating power.
In such a society of constant competition, there can be no allies, and little transparency. The threats to acquisitions of social symbols are so numerous, varied and frequently incomprehensible, that defensiveness, as well as competitiveness, becomes a way of life. Any real sense of community is undermined -- or even destroyed -- to be replaced by virtual equivalents that strive, unsuccessfully, to synthesize a sense of community.
Destructive narcissism describes someone who constantly exhibits numerous and intense characteristics usually associated with the pathological narcissist but having fewer characteristics than pathological narcissism.
Gender narcissism is a relatively new concept, referred to by Dr. Gerald Schoenwolf, with reference to both males and females.
The concept builds on Freud's theories of penis envy and the castration anxiety. Chiefly that an over-emphasis or over-perception of gender and gender difference in childhood can lead to either a devaluation or an over-valuation of one's gender in later life.
Dr. Schoenwolf in particular suggests that the emergence of the feminist personality, with gonadal-centric views, and female gender narcissism are synonymous.
Malignant narcissism, a term first coined in a book by Erich Fromm in 1964, is a syndrome consisting of a cross breed of the narcissistic personality disorder, the antisocial personality disorder, as well as paranoid traits. The malignant narcissist differs from narcissistic personality disorder in that the malignant narcissist derives higher levels of psychological gratification from accomplishments over time (thus worsening the disorder). Because the malignant narcissist becomes more involved in this psychological gratification, they are apt to develop the antisocial, the paranoid, and the schizoid personality disorders. The term malignant is added to the term narcissist to indicate that individuals with this disorder tend to worsen in their impulse controls and desires over time.
Banja defines "medical narcissism" as the need of health professionals to preserve their self esteem leading to the compromise of error disclosure to patients.
In the book he explores the psychological, ethical and legal effects of medical errors and the extent to which a need to constantly assert their competence can cause otherwise capable, and even exceptional, professionals to fall into narcissistic traps.
He claims that: "...most health professionals (in fact, most professionals of any ilk) work on cultivating a self that exudes authority, control, knowledge, competence and respectability. It’s the narcissist in us all—we dread appearing stupid or incompetent."
Wilhelm Reich first identified the phallic narcissistic personality type, with excessively inflated self-image. The individual is elitist, a "social climber", superior, admiration seeking, self-promoting, bragging and empowered by social success.
Psychiatrist Ernst Simmel first defined primordial narcissism in 1944. Simmel's fundamental thesis is that the most primitive stage of libidinal development is not the oral, but the gastro-intestinal one. Mouth and anus are merely to be considered as the terminal parts of this organic zone. Simmel terms the psychological condition of prenatal existence 'primordial narcissism'. It is the vegetative stage of the pre-ego, identical with the id. At this stage there is complete instinctual repose, manifested in unconsciousness. Satiation of the gastro-intestinal zone, the representative of the instinct of self-preservation, can bring back this complete instinctual repose, which, under pathological conditions, can become the aim of the instinct.
Contrary to Lasch, Bernard Stiegler argues in his book, Acting Out, that consumer capitalism is in fact destructive of what he calls primordial narcissism, without which it is not possible to extend love to others.
Sexual narcissism has been described as an egocentric pattern of sexual behavior that involves both low self-esteem and an inflated sense of sexual ability and sexual entitlement. In addition, sexual narcissism is the erotic preoccupation with oneself as a superb lover through a desire to merge sexually with a mirror image of oneself. Sexual narcissism, coined by David Farley Hurlbert, is an intimacy dysfunction in which sexual exploits are pursued, generally in the form of extramarital affairs, to overcompensate for low self-esteem and an inability to experience true intimacy. This behavioral pattern is believed to be more common in men than in women and has been tied to domestic violence in men and sexual coercion in couples. Hurlbert argues that sex is a natural biological given and therefore cannot be deemed as an addiction. He and his colleagues assert that any sexual addiction is nothing more than a misnomer for what is actually sexual narcissism or sexual compulsivity. (E.g. Joe Villanueva, Baja Captain)
Spiritual narcissism describes mistakes spiritual seekers commit which turn the pursuit of spiritualism into an ego building and confusion creating endeavor. This is based on the idea that ego development is counter to spiritual progress.
The Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) is the most widely used measure of narcissism in social psychological research. Although several versions of the NPI have been proposed in the literature, a forty-item forced-choice version (Raskin & Terry, 1988) is the one most commonly employed in current research. The NPI is based on the DSM-III clinical criteria for narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), although it was designed to measure these features in the general population. Thus, the NPI is often said to measure "normal" or "subclinical" (borderline) narcissism (i.e., in people who score very high on the NPI do not necessarily meet criteria for diagnosis with NPD).
The Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory (MCMI) is a widely used diagnostic test developed by Theodore Millon. The MCMI includes a scale for Narcissism. Auerbach JS ("Validation of two scales for narcissistic personality disorder", J Pers Assess. 1984 Dec;48(6):649-53. ) compared the NPI and MCMI and found them well correlated, r(146) = .55, p<.001. It should be noted that whereas the MCMI measures narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), the NPI measures narcissism as it occurs in the general population. In other words, the NPI measures "normal" narcissism; i.e., most people who score very high on the NPI do not have NPD. Indeed, the NPI does not capture any sort of narcissism taxon as would be expected if it measured NPD.
Narcissistic parents demand certain behavior from their children because they see the children as extensions of themselves, and need the children to represent them in the world in ways that meet the parents’ emotional needs.
A study published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin suggests that when a group is without a leader, you can often count on a narcissist to take charge. Researchers found that people who score high in narcissism tend to take control of leaderless groups.
Livesley et al. concluded, in agreement with other studies, that narcissism as measured by a standardized test was a common inherited trait. Additionally, in similar agreement with those other studies, it was found that there exists a continuum between normal and disordered personality.
The study subjects were 175 volunteer twin pairs (ninety identical, eighty-five fraternal) drawn from the general population. Each twin completed a questionnaire that assessed eighteen dimensions of personality disorder. The authors estimated the heritability of each dimension of personality by standard methods, thus providing estimates of the relative contributions of genetic and environmental causation.
Of the eighteen personality dimensions, narcissism was found to have the highest heritability (0.64), indicating that the concordance of this trait in the identical twins was significantly influenced by genetics. Of the other dimensions of personality, only four were found to have heritability coefficients of greater than 0.5: callousness, identity problems, oppositionality and social avoidance.
Arikan found that a stigmatising attitude to psychiatric patients is associated with narcissistic personality traits.
Evidence for assortative mating among humans is well established; humans mate assortatively regarding age, IQ, height, weight, nationality, educational and occupational level, physical and personality characteristics, and family relatedness. In the “self seeking like” hypothesis, individuals unconsciously look for a mirror image of themselves in others, seeking criteria of beauty or reproductive fitness in the context of self-reference.
Alvarez et al. found that facial resemblance between couples was a strong driving force among the mechanisms of assortative mating: human couples resemble each other significantly more than would be expected from random pair formation. Since facial characteristics are known to be inherited, the "self seeking like" mechanism may enhance reproduction between genetically similar mates, favoring the stabilization of genes supporting social behavior, with no kin relationship among them.
Various books and films have been written on the subject of narcissism. Examples include: