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Akhtar, S. (2000). The Shy Narcissist. Changing Ideas In A Changing World: The Revolution in Psychoanalysis. Essays in Honour of Arnold Cooper, 111-119.

Akhtar, S. (2000). The Shy Narcissist. Changing Ideas In A Changing World: The Revolution in Psychoanalysis. Essays in Honour of Arnold Cooper, 111-119

The Shy Narcissist Book Information Previous Up Next

Salman Akhtar, M.D.

Ever since the DSM-III recognized Narcissistic Personality Disorder as a distinct entity, attempts have been made to refine its phenome-nological portrait. An important aspect of these efforts (Akhtar, 1989; Akhtar & Thomson, 1982; Cooper, 1989a; Horowitz, 1989; Kernberg, 1989; Ronningstam, 1988; Ronningstam & Gunderson, 1989) has been to note that the characteristic manifestations of this disorder - grandiosity, exhibitionism, envy, ambition - are sometimes hidden underneath a superficial facade of modesty and shyness. A detailed clinical description of this variant of narcissistic personality disorder, and of its distinctions from the usual flamboyant type, have not yet been provided.

In this paper, I will attempt to delineate the profile of such a “shy narcissist”. I will do so by combining the insights gleaned from (1) revisiting the pertinent material covered in my two earlier reviews (Akhtar, 1989; Akhtar & Thomson, 1982) of the literature on narcissistic personality; (2) relevant publications by others since my last review of the topic; and (3) my own experience of treating narcissistic patients. I will also highlight the similarities and differences the shy narcissistic personality has with the usual narcissistic personality and certain other personality disorders. I will conclude by commenting upon the implications of recognizing this syndrome.

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