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Systematic Review
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Association between Pathological Narcissism and Emotion Dysregulation: A Systematic Review.

Psychopathology 2024 June 14
INTRODUCTION: Pathological narcissism (PN) can be defined as the compromised and fluctuating ability to regulate self-esteem, the latter depending on external validation, admiration, or enhancement, all resulting in grandiose (e.g., self-enhancement, aggressiveness, manipulation) or vulnerable (e.g., depression, anxiety, self-criticism, avoidance) dysfunctional reactions when confronting with self-esteem threats. A link has been suggested between PN and emotion dysregulation (ED), but to date, no systematic review has been conducted.

METHODS: We conducted a systematic review of the literature published until February 2024 studying the association between PN (with or without a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder) and ED, divided in two domains: emotion regulation difficulties and strategies.

RESULTS: Twenty-two studies were included in our analysis. Altogether, the available data are insufficient to conclude on the link between grandiose narcissism and emotion regulation difficulties in non-clinical population (notably due to different patterns of associations depending on the scale used to assess narcissism). However, the small number of studies conducted in clinical population seems to indicate a possible absence of association between the two constructs. On the other side, there is considerable evidence for the existence of a positive association between vulnerable narcissism and emotion regulation difficulties, regardless of the scale used to assess narcissism and the type of population considered. Finally, regarding emotion regulation strategies, data are too scarce to draw any conclusion, even though there seems to be a trend toward positive association between narcissistic vulnerability and expressive suppression.

CONCLUSION: ED seems to be highly associated with narcissistic vulnerability. Given that every patient suffering from PN may experience vulnerable states, we believe that ED should be considered as an important part of psychoeducation programs and psychotherapeutic treatments designed for this population.

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