Having a Sibling with Narcissistic Personality Disorder
By: Beth McHugh 2010
Although nowhere near as emotionally harmful as having a parent with this disorder, growing up with a sibling with narcissistic personality disorder can be an extremely painful experience, particularly if that sibling is older than you are.
Let’s look at the case of Lisa and Margo. Margo was 12 years Lisa’s senior and therefore was in a position to almost be a second mother to her baby sister. But Margo was so overcome by jealousy at the birth of the cute new interloper that she never really recovered from that trauma. Any motherly attributes that Margo may have possessed were quickly squashed by the girls’ mother, who was a controlling woman and repeatedly told her elder daughter to keep away from the baby, believing that the 12 year old was somehow incompetent.
What was already present in Margo’s nature was fanned by the mother’s behavior and by the age of 15 Margo was clearly showing the early signs of developing NPD. It is important to remember that like all the personality disorders, there is a failure to grow up, to mature in an emotional sense, so at the age of 15 it would not have been possible to accurately diagnose Margo with NPD. However, the signs were clearly there to be noted at a later date.
There was intense jealousy, and Margo constantly derided Lisa through her childhood and adolescent years for her ugly looks and underdeveloped body. Margo experienced great pleasure in sadistically attacking her little sister, both physically and verbally. Of course, the verbal abuse was by far the worse. But even more disturbing was that the mother, who knew what was going on, chose to ignore the situation and not reprimand her elder daughter.
This was unfortunate because at this time in her life Margo had the opportunity to change her behavior and thus her personality. Without that crucial intervention by either parent, Margo showed clear signs of the disorder by the time she was 21. She was highly abusive and manipulative towards not only her sister, but her parents and interestingly, her boyfriends. The latter were her slaves and she treated them with such little respect that the ones with intact egos left her, while the more malleable ones that she usually selected where used by her and tossed away without a moment’s hesitation.
It was fortunate for Lisa that she was able to determine that her sister was ill, although it was many years before she was able to put a name to the illness. Most importantly, in being able to observe that her sister was treating others as she herself was being treated, she was able to dissociate herself from the treatment of her sister ands see that the behavior was directed towards others and not just her. This was her salvation and gave her the ability not to be so affected by the constant putdowns and emotional arrows directed at her.
Unfortunately not everyone who grew up with a narcissistic brother or sister escaped so easily. In the next article in this series, we will look at the trauma of having a narcissistic child.