In the therapy room, licensed marriage and family therapist Moe Ari Brown has recently been in the business of definitions. A client might say “I have the worst relationship with my mother. She’s a total narcissist,” to which Brown would invite the client to elaborate on what the term “narcissist” means to them. Usually, the client describes a person who may be selfish or self-involved, but not someone who demonstrates the clinical definition of narcissistic personality disorder, marked by “a pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy,” according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Brown then emphasizes the differences between a difficult family member and using a mental health diagnosis in order to judge someone, encouraging the client to instead use more specific language to describe the relationship.
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