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Are Self-Assessment Tests for Narcissism Reliable?

When referring to narcissistic personality disorder assessment tools, quizzes and tests, reliability means that when you use the assessment tool (for example, a self-administered quiz or test), you receive the same results regardless of who administers the tool or how many times you use it. Different treatments for narcissistic personality disorder exist, but before you can decide which might be most appropriate, you need to determine whether or not the diagnosis is on target. Can a quiz you take by yourself actually diagnose a disorder like narcissistic personality disorder? Will these types of tests, which are widely available on the internet, provide real diagnostic insight? Or are they really just for entertainment?

The Narcissistic Personality Inventory

The Narcissistic Personality Inventory or NPI is a 40-question test that measures seven different personality qualities or traits. Your score on the NPI indicates whether or not you are likely to meet diagnostic criteria for narcissistic personality disorder. The NPI is the most widely used clinical measure for diagnosing narcissistic personality disorder. According to a 2005 study published in the academic journal Personality and Individual Differences, the inventory is indeed reliable, at least in terms of test-retest reliability. This means that when the participants in the study took the NPI twice, they scored the same both times. This indicates that the NPI is measuring personality characteristics that are not changing over time.

A Diagnosis in One Question?

In 2014, scientists studying narcissism and its impact on society explored a surprising hypothesis: that narcissistic personality disorder could be diagnosed based upon a response to just one question. Their assessment tool, called the Single Item Narcissism Scale (SINS), asks “To what extent do you agree with this statement: I am a narcissist.?” The answers you may choose range from agreeing with the statement very strongly to disagreeing very strongly. The researchers administered both the NPI and the single question measure (the SINS) to 2,200 participants and reported that the SINS performed well. Those participants who scored high on the NPI also reported strong agreement with the statement on the SINS. The researchers explained this by stating that for most people who meet the diagnostic criteria for narcissistic personality disorder, narcissism isn’t viewed as a flaw or negative trait. Central to narcissism is the sense that you are superior to others, so it isn’t difficult for people with this trait to admit to it. This helps to make the SINS a reliable measure.

Quizzes in Context

Perhaps a better question when trying to understand self tests and online quizzes regarding narcissistic personality disorder is “How can I understand and use the information in this quiz?” If you are trying to come to terms with aspects of your personality and you suspect that you might have a problem, seeing a therapist or a doctor will help you place your quiz results in context. A therapist can guide you through the process of obtaining a diagnosis, using the NPI or other assessment tests, in addition to a thorough clinical interview. Then, if you do meet diagnostic criteria, you can review treatments for narcissistic personality disorder. In some cases hospitalization is the best treatment option, although many people with this disorder are seen on an outpatient basis for individual and/or group therapy. Online quizzes, tests and other self-assessment measures can be fascinating as a way to gain more insight into your personality. Just remember, none are a substitute for meeting with a professional and undergoing a thorough evaluation. Narcissistic personality disorder can be linked with certain health problems and co-occur with other mental health conditions, including depression. While it cannot be cured, treatments for narcissistic personality disorder can lead to improvements in relationships at home, work and in the community.

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