Wednesday, February 16, 2011

High and Low Functioning

“Otto Kernberg has described three levels of narcissistic impairment. At the top are those who are talented or gifted enough to attract all the admiration and attention that they want; these people may never enter therapy because they don't feel the need.

On the second level are those who function satisfactorily in their jobs but seek professional help because they cannot form healthy relationships or because they feel generally bored and aimless. 

Narcissists on the lowest level have frequently been diagnosed with another mental disorder and/or have gotten into trouble with the law. They often have severe difficulties with anxiety and with controlling their impulses.” ~

Severe: Low Functioning
There are high-functioning people with personality disorders and there are people with personality disorders, deemed to be low functioning. A person with a severe personality disorder; i.e.: low functioning, is easier to spot as being mentally unhealthy. They are impulsive, reckless, other-and-self-destructive, emotionally unstable; they are subject to distorted thinking and might be involved in criminal behavior. They are also use splitting as a defense mechanism and oftentimes their  irrational behavior alerts us that something is seriously wrong.

The pathological liar may be an aspect of a low-functioning personality disorder because he or she cannot control the impulse to lie. We can much more easily catch a pathological liar than someone who maintains control over the impulse to lie and manipulates others to avoid negative consequences.

Mild: High functioning
At the other end of the continuum is someone with a mild personality disorder, what is deemed to be high functioning. High functioning narcissists are often viewed as being competent, charismatic, intelligent, self-reliant, the go-getters, the movers and shakers of our society. This includes of course, our friendly neighborhood grocer along with therapists, doctors, business managers and community spiritual leaders. 

“Many high-functioning narcissists are well liked by casual acquaintances and business associates who never get close enough to notice the emptiness or anger underneath the polished surface…” ~Quote Link



  1. I became involved with what I now believe to have been an undiagnosed high functioning narcissist. She is a doctor and successful professionally and financially. At first she was vulnerable and of course a "victim" of all her previous failed personal relationships. She was strong in the areas where I was weak and I found her to be fun and lovable. She faked compassion and empathy until the end, when she split me black. At that moment I was on the recieving end of a viscous, hateful verbal rage. She was cold hearted, unapologetic and just blindsided me with a sudden breakup. I know she csnnot bear to be alone and feel that she has moved on to someone else by now . Yesterday was the one year anniversary of the last time I ever saw her or heatd her voice. Just a few text messages last August to see if she could continue to manipulate me emotionally and I would not engage with her at all after I removed my things from her home where we were living together. I asked if I could stay there for a few days and she said NO ! You will "cling" to me and want to talk about it...... and when you split, you split and I can't have you here ! You are driving me nuts !

    1. I am so sorry for what you've been through. The sudden disdain, the rage, the complete detachment from someone they were supposedly intimate and connected to! It is so difficult to comprehend and for awhile, we may feel as though our minds have broken.

      But you will get through this. You've already got a head start learning about pathological personalities. They are absolutely notorious for the kind of behavior you've described.

      I think people are under the false impression that women can't be malicious and cruel. This renders other people vulnerable to being manipulated when she cries "victim." But you know what? Victims do not Devalue and Discard people...

      I hope you've found a support group to help you if you're struggling staying away from her. If it's done, it's done. Leave it that way. Don't go back. She won't be trustworthy, even if she says she's sorry.


  2. Thank you for the support, validation, and encouragement. In the beginning, she presented herself as the "victim" in all of her previous relationships. I actually noticed this and pointed it out stating that she sounded like she saw herself as a victim and that she CHOSE the people and relationships and they were for a reason. She became angry and insulted with my observation

    Now I understand with all that I have learned that she was mining for sympathy from me so I would believe her history revisions for the failure in her two marriages and multiple triangulated "affairs"

    She chases "fantasy" and panicks and runs away from reality.