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Narcissists, much to the surprise of many experts, are in the process of becoming an endangered species.
Not that they face imminent extinction — it's a fate much worse than that. They will still be around, but they will be ignored.
The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (due in 2013) has eliminated five of the 10 personality disorders listed in the current edition.
Narcissistic personality disorder is the most well-known of the five, and its absence has caused the most stir in professional circles.
Most non-professionals have a pretty good sense of what narcissism means, but the formal definition is more precise than the dictionary meaning of the term.
Our everyday picture of a narcissist is that of someone who is very self-involved — the conversation is always about them. While this characterisation does apply to people with narcissistic personality disorder, it is too broad. There are many people who are completely self-absorbed who would not qualify for a diagnosis of NPD.
The central requirement for NPD is a special kind of self-absorption: a grandiose sense of self, a serious miscalculation of one's abilities and potential that is often accompanied by fantasies of greatness. It is the difference between two high school baseball players of moderate ability: one is absolutely convinced he'll be a major-league player, the other is hoping for a college scholarship.
Of course, it will be premature to call the major-league hopeful a narcissist at such an early age, but imagine that same kind of unstoppable, unrealistic attitude 10 or 20 years later.
The second requirement for NPD: since the narcissist is so convinced of his high station (most are men), he automatically expects that others will recognise his superior qualities and will tell him so. This is often referred to as "mirroring." It's not enough that he knows he's great. Others must confirm it as well, and they must do so in the spirit of "vote early, and vote often."