Can someone have a situational narcissistic personality disorder

The bipolar narcissist and the empathic person

They are also referred to as toxic people (1): Narcissists, especially when interacting with empaths, i.e. very sensitive people. However, narcissistic personality disorder does not only burden those who live with, work with, or are otherwise in contact with a narcissist. It means just as much suffering for the person concerned. Even if this is not always apparent at first glance in the sight of his egocentric behavior and his ambition, which is often crowned with success. I would like to shed light on what forms of behavior can be observed and what consequences this can have for the mentally healthy environment if a narcissistically disturbed person is also suffering from bipolar disorder. In the end, I will name twelve questions that empathetic people should ask themselves ...

Written for: people suffering from a narcissist. People who are stressed by the bipolar disorder of a close relative, friend or business partner. People who deal with a hybrid of narcissism and bipolarity.

First of all, I will present the two disorders without claiming to be exhaustive. I then explain my observations and experiences when I suspected both disorders to coincide in one and the same person, for which I have made my own thesis (2). For the sake of readability, I will not mention the female forms in the following: a sick person can always be a sick person, a narcissist also a narcissist. My contribution, the anonymized examples from my experiences as well as from the reports of my interlocutors, my thesis and the - borrowed (3) - metaphors from Cerberus and Ente will hopefully be useful to all concerned.

1. Bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is a psychiatric illness in which the person fluctuates between extreme feelings. This has nothing to do with normal mood swings that we all experience. The high phase is called mania referred to, the low phase as depression, which is why the disorder was formerly known as manic-depressive illness. Phase changes can occur on the one hand through external events, on the other hand they can also be initiated for no apparent external reason. There can be times of rest and stability between the phases, but according to the current state of research (4), healing is almost impossible. The affected person spends most of his life in a kind of inner turmoil, trapped in a black and white pattern without midtones, which distinguishes the disease from, among other things, unipolar 'normal' depression.

1.1. Some characteristics of bipolar disorder in the (low) phase of depression according to D. Illy:

  • Sadness, depressed mood
  • emotional emptiness and meaninglessness of existence - e.g. noticeable by the fact that you can hardly get out of bed in the morning
  • Inability to feel joy, e.g. after completing a project: because something about it is always bad!
  • negative self-image and impression of worthlessness - not being ok with who you are
  • Pain / discomfort
  • Cognitive problems, e.g. grasping facts correctly, using terms correctly or acquiring new knowledge
  • Exhaustion with inner restlessness
  • Shame when it becomes clear what you have done in the manic phase: which superfluous things you bought, which e-mails or text messages you wrote in an affect, which private or business relationships you ruined, etc.
  • Delusion, complete impoverishment or paranoia possible

1.2. Some characteristics of bipolar disorder in the (high) phase of mania according to D. Illy:

  • no sense of being sick
  • Elevated mood, increased self-confidence up to euphoria
  • but also strong irritation, frequent conflicts - "like an ax in the forest" or "tear with your (pardon!) ass what you have built up with your hands" are observable behaviors
  • strong sexual desire to the point of abandonment
  • low need for sleep and food
  • constantly new ideas
  • Working exclusively for days on something that is fun, e.g. writing a text
  • strong need to speak up to pathological loquacity (logorrhea)
  • strong difference between self-image and image of others
  • Conversations usually revolve around the person concerned - including loss of empathy
  • Neglect of personal hygiene
  • Megalomania or hallucinations (mostly voices) possible

Mania does not show itself in the extreme form in all those affected. A milder form is called Hypomania, characterized by increased drive and slightly better mood. This variant is usually not recognizable for non-medical professionals. At the end of a depressive phase, it is equally difficult for laypeople as for experts to recognize whether the sick person initially falls into a normal state or directly into hypomania.

To make things even more complicated than they already are: In rarer cases there are patients with particularly frequent phase changes (more than four within a year up to hourly fluctuations). This is called Rapid cycling. There are also Mixed phasesin which depressive and manic symptoms coexist. In addition, there are other diseases that occur more often with bipolar disorder, such as Anxiety disorder, Obsessive-compulsive disorder or one Addiction. In general, but especially in the mixed phase, the sick are at increased risk of suicide.

1.3. Reasons for bipolar disorder

There are many ways in which this mental illness can develop and have not yet been fully explored. Possible causes are:

  • the genes - the disease is not inherited directly, only susceptibility to it, which is why families often, but not necessarily, have several cases of disease
  • too much dopamine in the brain
  • an unhealthy lifestyle
  • a difficult childhood with neglect, violence, abuse or other traumatic experiences
  • Everyday stress beyond normal stress - where the limit of what is wearable is different from person to person ...
  • The first trigger of the illness or a later phase change can be certain of the factors mentioned, but also nice experiences, e.g. a new love or a completed degree can trigger the illness for the first time or later initiate a phase change



2. Narcissism

Personality disorders like narcissism do not count among the diseases, but they (also) often get the sad verdict: life sentence. In combination with illnesses - which includes bipolar disorder - “they have so-called multiaxialDisorder patterns Serious consequences for the quality of life of patients, because their behavior patterns usually deviate considerably from a flexible experience and behavior appropriate to the situation. ”(5) According to the psychologist Sabine Wery von Limont, eight to twelve percent of the German population have a personality disorder.

In the greek mythology Narcissus was the beautiful son of the river god Kephissus and Leiriope. He found himself so beautiful and magnificent that he scorned the love of others. In the end, however, he fell in love with his own reflection and drowned in the pond. Instead of a corpse, the nymphs only found a yellow flower, which is now called daffodil ...

Narcissism can have many faces, and with the vast majority of them it becomes clear why people with narcissistic personality disorder or with pronounced narcissistic traits are called toxic, so called toxic: If you have had contact with them, you will feel worse afterwards than before. As if you've been exposed to a disease-causing substance. Often you may not be able to state this clearly at first, sometimes you may still talk about the encounter nice. But at the latest after some time, the poison begins to work in you and you notice: "This person's manner was not good for me." Having a narcissist by your side for a short period of time can also be exhilarating, inspiring or downright Be intoxicating, but his thirst for unrestricted recognition while at the same time rejecting the needs of his fellow human beings (which are not playing his cards and are therefore uncomfortable) makes contact in the long term exhausting - and unhealthy for your own soul.

2.1. Typical patterns of thinking, feeling and behavior of a person with narcissistic self-esteem disorder:

  • feels like an exceptional being that deserves better; sees and describes himself as a "diva" or "star"
  • is very ambitious and mostly works either in leading positions or as a sole trader - a boss about himself - or a different opinion - is difficult for the narcissistically wounded person to endure
  • is hypersensitive to extremely irritable
  • sees even the smallest criticism or a detail that is meaningless to other people, such as a messy work space, as a sign of a lack of respect and an attack on his person
  • cannot overcome rejection
  • knows how to sell himself well and is always concerned about his own advantage, even to the point of unscrupulousness towards supposed competitors or colleagues / business partners; E.g. he redistributes promised projects regardless of work already done or blocked time contingents if it seems opportune to him - he considers a personal notification of the employee concerned or an explanation of his behavior to be superfluous
  • does not manage to adapt to its environment, but this is exactly what it demands of the environment
  • does not feel obliged to do anything (e.g. in terms of punctuality or compliance with promises, see example above), but expects the highest level of respect and privileges himself; For example, it is completely sufficient if he receives what he thinks is too small a share in the distribution of praise and honor or if his 'stage' is not perfectly prepared to mess with him permanently
  • can appear very charming, seductive or even charismatic - especially if this results in an advantage for him
  • shows little empathy, feelings and needs of others leave him largely indifferent; if his environment suffers from his behavior, it does not particularly affect him or even triggers a reactive anger because he is unable to take on someone else's perspective. He hasn't really learned how to deal with his own emotions, let alone those of other people.
  • exploits other people and manipulates them - then also instrumentally and empathically - in order to achieve their own goals; Flattering, praising, black rhetoric, twisting the truth, triggering feelings of guilt or attempts at intimidation are among the manipulation techniques that are often all skillfully applied within a single dialogue - or lecture-like monologue - or an e-mail
  • can subtle and / or aggressive atmospheric discharge of the inner state of tension, thereby relieving himself and thus charging others with tension (if you want to read more about it, look for the keyword projective identification)
  • likes to be in the front row or in the spotlight - if this is not possible, he seeks the company of famous people privately and / or professionally in order to improve his own worth, to bask in their glamor or to see his importance confirmed
  • thematically revolves almost exclusively around itself and expects the same from everyone else; If one reports to a narcissistically disturbed person, for example, about personal suffering or stress, he effortlessly manages to only talk or write about himself in his answer - provided he condescends to deal with someone else's topic at all
  • is basically not to blame, e.g. for a rejection, a failed relationship or the loss of a customer - the others simply did not realize how great he is
  • complains to his few confidants, often using the ugliest terms, about other people and their stupid, ungrateful or malicious behavior - mostly because he did not get what he believed he deserved in terms of fee, hotel room, furnishings or attention, for example and his genius has been misunderstood. The boundaries to paranoia are fluid here.
  • is trapped in his own patterns of thinking, feeling and behavior, and also suffers a lot under this trap
  • in the “quiet little room” he feels his professional or social failure experiences with sometimes great shame and then often has massive doubts about self-worth, which he seals off from the outside with a facade of security
  • so he is creative, manipulative, suffering or ashamed constantly under pressure and thus indirectly occupied again and again with his fragile, fragile self
  • therefore he is also massively injurious, which he tries to hide behind a mask of excessive, excessive self-confidence

If narcissistically wounded people see a psychotherapist, it is after major failures such as the end of a relationship or after a termination. Most of the time, however, they instinctively seek out therapists who cannot really help them - dealing with one's own abyss is too painful.

Important: Not everyone who occasionally shows narcissistic traits, e.g. plays himself in the foreground depending on the situation, likes to talk a lot or has a pronounced self-confidence, can be assigned to the personality disorder of the same name. In general, a distinction must be made between the disorder and the colloquial narcissism. Therefore, diagnoses should be handled very carefully, even if the bottom line is that the narcissistic behavior feels the same for the social environment in both cases. By the way, pretty much all people show 'narcissistic' behavior in certain situations; these are only signs of healthy self-esteem, knowledge of one's own abilities or personal preferences. There are people who can lead other people well, who like to make courageous decisions and who express their opinion with confidence; others just enjoy being on stage and entertaining. And all of this is also good and important, I will come back to this briefly below. And don't most of us like to win? So what. But there are signs that, if they accumulate and occur regularly, suggest that they are flawless narcissists and not just an extroverted personality style ...

2.2. The positive sides of narcissism

Like so many things in life, narcissism also has two sides: looking at our ancestors 10,000 years ago, a narcissistic character was probably an advantage in order to secure the largest piece of the mammoth killed by the group or to replace the tribal leader . Seen in this way, narcissism is not only to be assessed as negative and indeed the literature distinguishes between constructive and destructiveto shape of narcissism (6).

Let people in high management positions play their often existing charisma, so they can inspire other people, get carried away, convince them of their often really innovative ideas and ensure that they identify with the company of the manager and bind themselves loyally to it. Without a good portion of what is attributed to narcissism on the constructive side and what also makes people mentally completely healthy (see above) - e.g. self-confidence, creativity, power as a driving force (7) - this would probably not be possible at all.

2.3. The look behind the facade of a narcissistically disturbed people

In contrast to the so-called healthy narcissism, one speaks of the correspondingly disturbed person reactive or vulnerable narcissism as a result of early childhood hurts and injuries. In later years of life the attempt to compensate for the experienced lack, e.g. of recognition or love, with brilliant achievements becomes invincible. Anger, hatred, envy and vengeance can arise from this hurt self-image. The frequent ones Outbursts of anger of a narcissistically disturbed person, e.g. through critical remarks from other people or through failures, are easy to explain. In this way, the narcissist defends his supposedly secret knowledge with claws and teeth, which catches up with him when he is alone or otherwise involuntarily confronted with it: He is not as great as he is! Behind all the noise is the injured, sad child who considers himself unloved, deficient and worthless.Feelings of inferiority and fear of failure must absolutely be concealed, under no circumstances should the world learn that the narcissist actually considers himself small, stupid and unimportant. For this reason, narcissists are in constant stress, can only rarely relax, have the highest expectations of themselves and end up in a permanent one Performance mode - whether at work or privately, e.g. in bed. Various studies suggest that “narcissistic personalities take an above-average risk during their midlife crisis at depressions to get sick. They are probably more difficult than other people to cope with not having achieved the ambitious goals of their youth. ”(8) This could be one of the triggering situations as a 'switch point' for the connection between narcissism and bipolar disorder.

Their nature often prevents narcissistic persons from forming trusting and close bonds with other people: for example, it is next to impossible to be friends with a narcissist in the long term. It can also happen to seasoned men and women that they indulge themselves for a certain period of time under the illusion that they are connected to a narcissist in deep friendship. Its enormous emotional injury, which regularly comes to light as soon as it is touched sensitively by a trigger, hide it or talk to yourself nicely if you really like the person and do not want to admit it. But a narcissistically disturbed person has no image of friendship in him - you can even test that by asking him: there will be no answer to what he understands by friendship, even if asked repeatedly! - and therefore usually no real friends. The narcissist may even be aware of this. Alone, he doesn't know what to do about it. Because his egocentricity hinders him, his lack of impulse control distorts his actions and because expectations of other people - however harmless in the eyes of healthy people - are a stress factor for him. As if on autopilot, it drives him into the 'three Fs': Fight, Flight, Freeze. However, stress is another major cause of bipolar disorder ...

3. The bipolar disordered narcissist

If both disorders come together, my observations lead me to suspect the following, and this is also the core thesis of my text: In the manic phase come all destructive elements of narcissism to bear. In the depressive phase also show the described constructive sides. In both phases there are phenomena that would be inconceivable in the life of a 'healthy' narcissist, as I will describe below under 'Duck' and 'Cerberus'.

3.1. Loss of self-management

A management position or a life as an entrepreneur or solo preneur is actually wonderfully suited to overcompensating for narcissistic deficits. But if bipolar disorder joins narcissism, the ability to self-guide suffers - in both phases. Signs that you have lost control of your life are not just wearing jogging pants, but also, for example:

  • Top performance without a break or vacation vs. not getting out of bed, getting nothing done
  • poor nutrition vs. lack of nutrition
  • Alcohol, drug use vs. can't enjoy anything, don't indulge yourself
  • excessive sex vs. no sex or sexual dysfunction
  • excessive sport vs. no sport
  • Foreign exploitation vs. self-exploitation

The loss of self-management can regularly put small business owners in difficult financial situations, employees lose their jobs, and entrepreneurs drive their companies against the wall. In general, the behavior described promotes various other illnesses or physical injuries.

I would now like to present two pictures that hopefully illustrate more clearly the faces narcissism can have in both phases. My description will in places go beyond what can be ascribed to the real animal or the Greek mythical creature or not one hundred percent. So please use the duck and the Cerberus as metaphors.

3.2. The duck

As Image of depression - and as an image of the injured and sensitive ego, to which the narcissist can stand up to selected people in the depression (!) - the softly chattering one strikes me duck on the village pond: She often presents herself helpless, is afraid of most things and looks for the blame for all suffering in herself. As a reminder: Fear, mistakes and helplessness are among the "weak" traits that a pure narcissist without bipolar disorder would never admit! As one of many who look inconspicuous and completely the same at first glance, the duck does not see its value, feeds on thrown crumbs and paddles desperately for success and recognition. After a sunspot on their eternal pond the tribulation, which, however, according to the duck definition, will not happen anyway. Because happiness, other beings have already leased it for themselves. Self-fulfilling-prophecy, the depressive thoughts become depressive feelings and self-affirming actions.

Once the duck has gained confidence in you, it will occasionally surprise you with its proactivity, pronounced creativity and good ideas. This is where the beneficial parts of narcissistic traits come into play, yes, the problematic sides are almost completely eliminated for the time being: The bipolar-depressive narcissist can suddenly listen and is capable of appreciation and care within a certain framework. He shows an astonishing clarity of his situation and allows us to reflect his depressive as well as his destructive behavior from earlier manic phases.

It may also be a sign of a mixed phase of depressive and manic symptoms as described above. If the depressive phase changes into manic, the chatter is slowly louder and accompanied by violent wing flapping, occasionally the beak is chopped and the transformation begins ...

3.3. The Cerberus

The Image of mania - but also the image of the narcissist in top form - corresponds to that of the Cerberus growling, snapping around: the three-headed hellhound, which we owe again to Greek mythology. It provides the fur that snakes often outgrow in the visual arts. He thinks he is the king and bites off everything that could come up from the underworld. Say what threatens his world and self-image or what might force him to deal with his own supposed glory: be it a different opinion, an articulated foreign need or an expectation of other people.

This shows the narcissistic-destructive aggression potential, which aims at exploitation by others up to the destruction of the counterpart, according to the motto "Either you are the way I want you or you cease to exist." (8) A phenomenon It is therefore also important for people with narcissistic self-esteem to avoid contact with failed relationship partners, be it private or professional. This can go so far that they avoid places of shared experience for decades - if not for life - start a kind of campaign from a safe distance against the enemy, simply no longer report or disappear (also as Ghosting known) or suddenly no longer manage to mention the name of the "evil one". In this way, the “best friend” may become a “persona non grata” within two weeks: It can actually be observed that the narcissist in the manic phase, if he is forced to communicate with the “opposing” person concerned, does not use their name name nor can address them in the second person singular. In truth, his fear is simply far too great to be confronted in direct contact with his injuries and the resulting own behavior. A change of perspective is not possible for him, and whoever holds out the mirror is barked loudly.

3.4. More examples of the differences between the phases

The bipolar-depressive narcissist (i.e. the 'duck' to stay in the picture) likes to put people who are well-disposed towards him and who remain so despite previous bad treatment on a pedestal: Then you are the savior, the only friend, even the soulmate, one of the most important people. In contrast to the pure narcissist, who also does this, but to play his manipulative game, the 'duck' means it seriously and believes in it.

This does not prevent the bipolar narcissist from letting the 'Cerberus' hang out with you in the manic phase and attacking you in the worst possible way, turning the word around in your mouth, stabbing you in the back or even accusing you of lying. In the manic phase, the narcissistic part also has no problem with dropping a friend, lover or business partner like a hot potato, should a better object of worship that is more useful to him look and grasp. Even if he had protested shortly before - in the depressive phase or in the resting phase - he would never do this! As already mentioned, narcissists can be extremely charismatic and impressively simulate empathy - which they may boast but which they really lack - if they want to win over someone. After a while, the new partner or friend has to be replaced again; the narcissist needs a fresh drama in which to star.

If the phase changes back to the depressive, the head is hidden under the piano and chattered in embarrassment - in real life this can be expressed by fleeing in the form of months to years of silence, but also by tearful apologies and attempted reparations. Shame, guilt and remorse are terms that the normal narcissist would completely miss in his outward turn.

"From Dr. Jekyll he becomes Mr. Hyde, there is nothing he can do about it, suddenly the time has come ... "

- based on All out of love of the Dead pants

The rest periods between phases can be characterized by really good days or times when you can have a lot of fun with the bipolar narcissist or achieve a lot on business.
Announces a new one Phase change on, this is usually easy to see for the trained eye - for people who have endured closer contact with the sick person for several years. An exception are abrupt changes, which I suspect are triggered by extraordinary stress and pressure: if you experience this, then as a relative you really think that someone has just flipped the switch here, by Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde

4. The danger for helpers and especially empathetic people

Just as every manager needs someone who can be led and instructed and thus enables leadership in the first place, so the narcissist needs a counterpart who he can outdo or who admires him in order to be confirmed in his longed-for greatness. He became a star with the help of his imagination of size and therefore needs a fan.

Sometimes you can't help but surround yourself with a narcissist - if it's your boss, for example. Although you are of course free to look for another job, but I realize that that is easier written than done. In other cases you can simply not follow the first contact with a second one or withdraw from the corresponding toxic situations or people. However, there are people who are particularly at risk of deliberately and permanently exposing themselves to a bipolarly disordered narcissist. And there are also relatives who cannot or do not just want to walk.

Both bipolar disorder and narcissistic self-esteem disorder have an enormous impact on the quality of life of those who bear this burden. Even if I have found many clear words and drastic examples up to this point, I would like to make it clear that

a) I have full sympathy for the sick or affected people and do not consider them bad, wrong or malicious - but simply for what they are: people, their normal stress and protective reactions including the ability to self-regulate through the double pack two faults got out of hand and damaged. And who need professional psychiatric help.

b) I do not see the co-suffering social environment exclusively and completely as a poor victim, but rather observe an own contribution. Many of the phenomena described have two sides: one that does it, and one that lets itself be done. I'll keep it there with a line from a song by Waves: “Fool me once, shame on you; Fool me twice, shame on me too ... “Before you scream outraged and stop reading: After two more paragraphs I'll go into more detail about what I mean ...

While reading my text you may have thought “I know that!” Several times and remembered people from your own circle of acquaintances who correspond to my description. Perhaps you have already fared similarly to my examples, which, albeit anonymized or generalized, all come from reports and observations of real scenarios.

4.1. Relief and personal responsibility

You may even have realized why you know contemporaries whose behavior sometimes seems sympathetic, super nice and maybe even a bit pitiful (the 'duck' at its best), but on another day in an irritating, frightening and painful contrast for you it says how it couldn't be more blatant (the 'Cerberus' in top form). When you have realized this - and that it has nothing to do with you, why the bipolar disorder narcissist is who he is and why he does what he does! - then my contribution has already fulfilled its purpose.

  • The behavior of the bipolar disordered narcissist arises from his psychological disposition. It has - this cannot be stressed enough! - nothing to do with you, you are at most a trigger, a trigger for a form of behavior or a phase change. You don't have to take any responsibility for this.
  • How you position yourself vis-à-vis the bipolar narcissist, how you deal with what you may have experienced with him, and whether you keep experiencing more of the same: that has something to do with you. In my eyes, this is where your responsibility lies. It is the responsibility of every adult person for himself. I personally do not believe in cultivating self-portrayal as a victim. The role of victim drives you swoon and reduces your self-efficacy.

4.2. Empathy and understanding as a trap

In my opinion, people in social professions and particularly empathetic people, regardless of their profession, are particularly at risk of ending up with bipolarly disordered narcissists - and being permanently unduly stressed by them. The disturbed person only turns around himself - and sympathetic empathetic people turn with them at some point. Often without even realizing it. Why? Because they think they can make a difference. And because the relationship (of whatever kind) with the person affected also has its good sides. Give up, go away? In their eyes that would be far too early and far too exaggerated! "Nothing happens to me and I don't let someone who is important to me fall just because they are feeling bad!", They think, for example, because they have also recognized narcissistic behavior as an expression of great emotional pain and classified them accordingly.

Another reason is a truth that people do not like to hear, but which I cannot hide: Every person who does something for another is also doing something for himself at the same time. Which is perfectly fine as long as it is within the normal range remains. In other words: if you, for example, shower your counterpart with gifts permanently and for no reason in order to experience yourself as generous and nice, you have probably exceeded the healthy level of your heart's need to give. Anyone who would like to be needed and therefore excuses all the disturbed behavior of the person concerned with their early childhood traumatic experiences or with their bipolar illness runs the risk of so-called codependency. Mainly because “the objective, selfless, empathetic person and the projection of a strong ego” (9) are dependent on one another - and narcissism is a single projection of a subjective ideal state on oneself Borrowed from the last manic phase, according to Illy, this does not exactly help to arrive healthy on the ground of normality as a sick person. This floor is mostly not black or white, but shaded gray.

For these reasons, close contact with people with bipolar disorder at the same time is even more challenging for some people than with someone who is purely narcissistically disturbed. Narcissism opens the door for helpful and compassionate people single-handedly to co-dependency, the fantasy of being able to save them or at least to a strong asymmetry of any interpersonal relationship, for example in the sense of star and fan.

4.3. 12 questions for people dealing with bipolarly disordered narcissists

I do not know who you are and what you are doing, dear reader. But my following questions can help you to find out whether your mental attitude and your values ​​are at risk of exhausting yourself completely in relationships with toxic people and of getting mentally ill yourself. Because this is the real danger for mentally healthy people when dealing with narcissists with bipolar disorder over the long term. Daniel Illy makes it clear in his book already mentioned that being a relative of a bipolar patient is equivalent to a full-time job (p. 147). He also counts friends as relatives. “Often this stress is not so clearly visible at first [...]. Relatives therefore often overtax themselves [...] and get sick themselves. Depression threatens. ”(Ibid.) And Illy's book does not even include the case of a narcissistic personality disorder that occurs at the same time as manic-depressive illness.

The more questions you ask for yourself with Yes answer, the more at risk you are, in my opinion, in closer connection to a narcissist with bipolar disorder (therapists or psychiatrists who are in a professional relationship with the person concerned are of course excluded from the entire question):

  1. Do you think that if you just stay understanding, patient, and supportive, you can help him or her?
  2. Do you think that you have enough strength, affection, inner peace, resilience etc. to cope with both disorders and their effects in the long term?
  3. Do you feel joy, happiness or contentment when you can do something for the disturbed person?
  4. Did you care about his problems, fears and worries, but also his good ideas and ideas, almost as much as he did?
  5. Do you often blame yourself for problems that arise with each other?
  6. Are you disproportionately often the one or the one who gives way in a conflict or who takes the first step after an argument - the wiser one just gives in?
  7. Do you usually accept the disturbed person's desires to the detriment of your own needs?
  8. Do you worry about losing contact with the sick person if you stand up for yourself and, for example, try to get your way through a decision to be discussed?
  9. Do you sometimes feel guilty when you take care of yourself instead of the sick person?
  10. The words of a narcissist or 'Cerberus' are like weapons: Do you believe him if he verbally attacks you?
  11. Are you trying to compensate for your subjective as well as objective deficiency through special commitment (labor, attention, gifts, etc.) on your part?
  12. Do you notice how in the course of time - I'm talking about a period of at least one year of intensive contact - you increasingly doubt yourself, how you develop depressive thoughts yourself, how you consider yourself to be more and more worthless and how you lose your joie de vivre?

This was not a psychological test, it was just questions from my professional and life practice. You will now not find a resolution á la “with more than 5x Yes is it so and so ... ". But I can imagine that by now at the latest you have a good sense of what it looks like in you and how it behaves with you. You need your inner voice to feel whether you are still on a path that is healthy for you, not guidance from a third party. However, the inner voice can be sensitized by external impulses if you have lost contact with yourself a little.

My appeal to you is therefore: Be honest with yourself and get yourself to safety in good time - maybe even before you nod your head at point 12 ... You can and want to do this job really do? Or are you already at the end of your tether?

5. Coaching and help for affected relatives

When I at security for the afflicted, I'm not interested in the tips on dealing with common narcissists that can be found on numerous websites and many books. Therefore there is no “7 steps, what you can do now…” or anything like that. What security means individually for you, we can work together in a coaching session. In the meantime I have already helped a number of affected relatives to stay healthy when dealing with a bipolarly disordered narcissist - or to find the strength to gain distance.

Should you go to point 12 Yes have said and want support, please contact a therapist you trust; in this case you would be at the wrong address with me. And especially: don't get angry with yourself! A colleague of mine once said comfortingly to a friend who had been badly touched by the poison of a bipolar narcissist: “It only happens to the best!” And no, this saying shouldn't paint the stomach of another narcissist, but illustrate that empathetic ones People usually have strong character traits such as empathy, loyalty, helpfulness and resilience.

6. Conclusion

It doesn't matter how much you like the sick person, to whom you are friends, family or collegial, how well you mean it or how well you are trained as a social pedagogue, consultant or coach: You cannot do anything permanently in the sense of a healing! The topic with its known problems will fall on your feet every few months if you do not delimit and protect yourself accordingly. If you try to help the person affected and have the impression that your attempts are falling on fertile ground because their behavior is a bit more socially acceptable, you will soon get to know another figure in Greek mythology: Sisyphus! You are working on something that rolls back towards you (and possibly flattens you) the moment you think you can see a success for your loved one. In this case, not only is it not your job to help, it also puts you in danger. Because empathy can also exhaust - up to the "self-loss of the empathic person" (10). No matter how much good you can pour into the bipolar narcissist - it will disappear in him like mass in a black hole: if he swallows your light, it may remain trapped in him.

Only a good psychiatrist can help the doubly disturbed - if you are one, you probably distanced yourself early on and / or referred your friend, significant other or relative to a colleague. In addition to (among others) Behavior therapy drug discontinued in most cases. Narcissistic personality disorder can (i.a.) depth psychology be treated. A clinical stay may be necessary in both cases or in a combination of disorders, especially if there is a risk of suicide. I can recommend Daniel Illy's book listed under footnote 4 if you want to find out more about bipolar disorder, the right medication and suitable forms of therapy. With tips, questions and exercises, it also offers help for the sick to help themselves. You can only take good care of yourself: take care of yourself!

post Scriptum

As a coach and systemic consultant, it is part of my ethical attitude to ask people who are mentally ill - and therefore mostly unable to work in the sense of coaching - to go one step further: to a good psychotherapist. If, in the preliminary discussion or in the course of a consultation, I suspect that my profession is not sufficient in one position, I must and will comment on it. Nevertheless, I have in-depth psychological knowledge, which comes with my training, e.g. as a coach, mediator and in positive psychology, as well as my professional and life experience. Because I have encountered the equally sad and fascinating complex of topics of narcissism and bipolar disorder in the past, I have devoted myself intensively to studying further specialist literature on both narcissistic personality disorder and bipolar disease and talked to a number of people. From a professional point of view, it is important to know which license plates to look out for. Personally speaking, knowing where to draw lines to protect yourself is important.

I thank my Trigon supervisor Georg Engelbertz for supportive reading as well as for critical consideration of this text before publication. I would like to point out that I see my contribution as an essay, in no way as a scientific publication or as a research result.

My thanks also go to: Dipl.-Psych. Christina Kölpin, my colleagues Ingeborg Scheer, Nina Fischer, Nicole Flagmeyer and Thomas Döring. Without you this text would not have existed.

References and footnotes:

(1) The career bible describes some of the points I have listed and manages very elegantly to avoid the term narcissism. Nevertheless, it should be clear which type of person is meant. A very readable article!

(2) At least I haven't found anything about it in the clinical literature available to me. Should that change, I will of course correct my contribution.

(3) The inspiration for the metaphors Cerberus and duck For the phenomena mentioned I owe a person whose name I do not want to mention for reasons of discretion, but to whom I would like to thank and wish him all the best for his future life.

(4) My section on bipolar disorders is a summary of: Illy, Daniel: Ratgeber Bipolar Disorders. Help for everyday life; Urban & Fischer in Elsevier, 2017

(5) Wery von Limont, Sabine: The secret life of the soul. Everything about our invisible organ; Mosaic, 2018, p. 122

(6): Schmidt-Lellek, Christoph J .: Charisma, power and narcissism. To diagnose ambivalent leadership qualities; In: OSC 11 (1), 2004, pp. 27-40

(7): See Steven Reiss

(8): Lelord, F; André, C .: The normal madness; Construction publishing house paperback; P. 135

(9): Breithaupt, Fritz: The dark sides of empathy; suhrkamp pocket book science, 4th edition 2019, p. 40

(10): Breithaupt, p. 54

Sylvia Pietzko works as an organizational consultant, business coach and mediator. She is the author of various specialist articles and the eBook guide "Win-win thanks to empathy: Communicating successfully on the job", published by kreutzfeld digital. Here she writes about everything worth knowing about her work as well as everything that moves her.