Physical Address

304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124

Are You a Narcissist? Miley Cyrus Admits She Is.

“Miley Cyrus attributes her narcissistic tendencies to her father,” the singer revealed in a recent interview with David Letterman on Netflix’s interview series My Next Guest Needs No Introduction. Discussing her childhood, she described how she, along with her five siblings, moved from Tennessee to Los Angeles to advance her career. At the time, Cyrus said, she didn’t think much about her siblings or the move itself: “I was moving to LA, and that’s all I really knew.”

Her admission sparked questions: Can narcissism be inherited like physical traits? And can someone be a narcissist if they’re aware enough to consider the possibility?

The term “narcissist” is frequently used nowadays, often aimed at a generation engrossed in social media and subject to numerous TikTok videos highlighting signs of narcissism. However, it’s important to differentiate between narcissistic traits and Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), a mental health condition recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

Helen Villiers, co-author of the bestseller You’re Not the Problem: The Impact of Narcissism and Emotional Abuse and How to Heal, lists five key NPD traits: grandiosity, entitlement, exploitation, impaired or motivational empathy, and impaired self-awareness. These manifest as feeling special compared to others, expecting to get whatever one desires, using people to achieve one’s aims, emotional manipulation, and blaming external factors for personal failings.

Interestingly, we all possess these traits to some extent, and they aren’t always unhealthy. For instance, healthy entitlement, such as feeling deserving of a promotion due to hard work, can be positive. Unhealthy entitlement, however, disregards the means or consequences of achieving a goal.

Grandiosity, too, can be beneficial, fostering self-worth and self-esteem. “A healthy example is discussing a subject you’re an expert in with confidence,” says Villiers. “In contrast, someone with unhealthy grandiosity might read a Wikipedia page and proclaim themselves an expert.”

Dr. Craig Malkin, a clinical psychologist and author of Rethinking Narcissism, makes a distinction between healthy and unhealthy narcissism. “The core of narcissism is self-enhancement—a drive to feel special,” he explains. While excessive self-enhancement is harmful, moderate levels are linked to positive outcomes like resilience and potentially even longevity.

The opposite extreme of the narcissism spectrum—those who don’t self-enhance at all—can lead to higher anxiety and depression rates. These individuals might find themselves in relationships with highly narcissistic partners, who exploit the space left by their lack of self-enhancement.

Self-enhancement becomes problematic when it’s used excessively for self-soothing rather than seeking emotional connections and care from relationships. When narcissism reaches the extreme where someone has NPD, it can lead to deeply unhealthy and abusive relationships.

NPD manifests in various forms: the “overt” narcissist seeks to be the smartest or most attractive person in the room, while the “covert” narcissist’s drive for self-enhancement is expressed through a sense of victimhood. The “communal” narcissist, meanwhile, finds their uniqueness in perceived altruism.

The nature versus nurture debate continues on whether narcissism is inherited or developed. Psychotherapist Nicholas Rose suggests it’s a combination, influenced by early childhood experiences and genetic predispositions. Parenting styles, such as authoritative parenting, can mitigate natural narcissistic traits by fostering attachment security.

Can narcissists recognize their own narcissism? Absolutely, says McKenna. An overt narcissist might even embrace the label, while a covert narcissist might react defensively. Narcissism often acts as a robust defense mechanism, making self-awareness and the journey to therapy challenging.

As a result, those who seek help are often the narcissist’s partners or family members. Online resources frequently focus on identifying narcissistic traits in loved ones. While it’s crucial to recognize potential abuse and prioritize safety, it’s equally important to understand narcissism with empathy, acknowledging the pain behind the behavior.

Malkin insists that while narcissism is not inherently abusive, abuse is inherently narcissistic. Positive outcomes are possible for those with NPD who commit to genuine therapeutic processes, even if not all experts believe narcissism can be fully “cured.”

As for Miley Cyrus, her teenage self-absorption may have been quite normal. “Teenagers typically don’t consider experiences outside their own,” says Villiers. So, let’s leave narcissistic diagnoses to the professionals.

Source: Helen Villiers, Katie McKenna, Dr. Craig Malkin, Nicholas Rose