Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is associated with an assortment of characteristics that undermine interpersonal functioning. A lack of empathy is often cited as the primary distinguishing feature of NPD.
However, clinical presentations of NPD suggest that empathy is not simply deficient in these individuals, but dysfunctional and subject to a diverse set of motivational and situational factors.
Consistent with this presentation, research illustrates that empathy is multidimensional, involving 2 distinct emotional and cognitive processes associated with a capacity to respectively understand and respond to others’ mental and affective states.
The goal of this practice review is to bridge the gap between our psychobiological understanding of empathy and its clinical manifestations in NPD.