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Holly Golightly's Narcissistic Personality Disorder

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While some individual personality traits are mistaken for the signs of personality disorders, in some ways how a person acts can show clear signs of a type of personality disorder. There have been plenty of moments in the story ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ by Truman Capote that Holly Golightly showed she is suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder or NPD. Holly Golightly is suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder because, she shows the symptoms of unemotional traits, grandiosity, exaggerated feelings of self-importance, disregard of other feelings and the excessive need for admiration.

Definicion of Narcissistic Personality Disorder

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), Narcissistic Personality Disorder is defined as a pattern comprised of attitudes reflecting grandiosity, lack of empathy, and an excessive need for admiration (APA, 2013). The disorder is characterized by nine symptoms, and if five of which are identified in a patient, the diagnosis for Narcissistic Personality Disorder may be given. The nine symptoms include: a grandiose sense of self-importance, preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love, belief that he or she is special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions, need for excessive admiration, sense of entitlement, interpersonally exploitative behavior, lack of empathy, envy of others or a belief that others are envious of him or her and demonstration of arrogant and haughty behaviors or attitudes (APA, 2013).

Patients diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder may also exhibit a tendency to display exploitative behaviors. This entails manipulating or using another person unfairly or cynically in order to gain an advantage (Merriam-Webster, n.d.). This will affect how the patient chooses to view other people, seeing them as a means for them to progress at the expense of their friends, relatives and colleagues. A sense of genuineness may be projected, but in actuality, the person is merely seeking to benefit from their interaction with another person, and afterwards, will no longer have any use for them. Lastly, the person may have difficulty maintaining intimate relationships with other people, as a possible effect of exploitative behavior or the lack of a need for any genuine relationships. It is possible that the person only requires interaction with others for the mere purpose of boosting self-esteem (Ambardar, 2019).

Symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder Explained

Individuals with NPD experience limited interests in the feeling of their people. Sperry (2016) points out that NPD patients lack empathy since they fail to appreciate the opinions of other people. Since NPD patients have extreme levels of jealousy, they are unable to maintain relationships because of a lack of empathy. Campbell & Miller (2011) observes that without empathy, patients cannot love, bond, or be attached to other people. As such, NPD patients are more concerned about their feelings, and as soon things fail to go their way, they turn on the person close to them. For instance, when a person is getting divorced, NPD patients tend to consider factors such as other people’s opinions other than the pain or despair of the people who are divorcing. Consequently, patients are unable to express their love since they do not regret the outcome of the relationship they have with other people.

NPD patients have a tendency of being arrogant that make them need overstating themselves. Sperry (2016) states that confident people have a strong sense of self and are achievement-oriented, unlike NPD patients who cover up their fragility to seem superior to others. As a result, they tend to think that making other people perceive them as superior without the achievement to support them (Livesley, 2001). For instance, they constantly tell people that they are important and powerful than them, especially in intimate relationships that influence marriage and parenting. Therefore, regardless of what they accomplish, their mindset makes them feel as if they are not equal to others since to them, other people are not good enough.

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Narcissists need constant praise due to their obsessive craving for affirmation. As a result, it is all about what an admirer can do for them without offering anything in return. According to Sperry (2016), the narcissist is empty of emotions and requires a constant reminder that people appreciate them regardless of what they do. For instance, relationships with narcissists are not reciprocal since they only require their needs to be met. In addition, Rafferty (2017) considers narcissist’s sense of superiority as a balloon that involves a stream of recognition and applause to keep it inflated. However, it is observed that occasional compliments for narcissists are not enough since their ego requires to be maintained that make them surround themselves with people who are willing to cater to their praise and affirmation.

Holly Golightly’s Mental State

In the story ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’, there are key moments in which Holly Golightly showed symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder behavior. A symptom of Narcissistic Personality Disorder is manipulation, in the story Holly Golightly entertains multiple relationships with multiple men in which, she only entertain these men in exchange for money to maintain her high lifestyle of living. Holly Golightly is not genuinely entertaining these men as she is only using them unfairly in order to gain things in return. In relation to Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Holly Golightly chooses how she see people.

In regards to the multiple men that she is entertaining, she only see these men as money symbols. Holly Golightly only entertain these men just for the benefit of being able to maintain the lifestyle that she lives. Holly Golightly may entertain multiple men because, if she cannot benefit from one she goes to the next and continues to do so to get what she wants. This questions what Holly Golightly would do once she has no more use for some of the men that she entertains. In addition, not only do Holly show signs of manipulation in relations to symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder but, she shows the disregard to maintain genuine relationships. This is a second symptom in relation to the Narcissistic Personality Disorder, people that suffer with this disorder will have issues in wanting, thinking or being able to stay in serious intimate relationships.

Even though seen as a free spirit, Holly Golightly runs away from commitment. This shows that Holly Golightly lacks empathy and haves trouble sharing her feelings with others or to be able to understand the feelings of another person. Holly Golightly believes that she deserves the highest form of living. While speaking to the narrator she mentions Tiffany’s and explains to the narrator that “If I could find a real-life place that made me feel like Tiffany’s, then I’d buy some furniture and give the cat a name”(Breakfast at Tiffany’s, pg.9). This again shows another symptom of Narcissistic Personality Disorder which includes preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, and beauty. Holly Golightly shows that she fantasizes about the high class feeling of having a home that makes her feel like the Tiffany’s jeweler store. From each event, entertaining multiple men in order to gain, failing to be able to maintain serious relationships and the fantasies of high class living arrangements that make her feel like Tiffany’s, this falls in under another symptom of Narcissistic Personality Disorder in which the patient feels an over exaggerated feeling of self-importance.


Within the story of ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’, there have been multiple events in which Holly Golightly showed multiple symptoms in relation to Narcissistic Personality Disorder. According to the DSM-V, the person may experience moderate to extreme impairment in personality functioning manifested by characteristic difficulties in 2 or more of the following 4 areas: Identity, Empathy, Self-Direction, Intimacy (Ambardar, 2019). Holly Golightly showed 2 out of those 4 areas which includes empathy: not being able to understand others feelings and Intimacy: Holly Golightly being unable to maintain serious intimate relationships. This means that Holly Golightly may be suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder from the signs and symptoms from each event stated from the story. Holly Golightly may have manifested symptoms that may lead to a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Work Cited

  1. Ambardar, S., MD. (2019, February 02). Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Retrieved April 23, 2019, from
  2. Ambardar, S., MD. (2018, May 16) What are the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD)? Retrieved from /answers/ 1519417-101764/what-are-the-dsm-5diagnostic-criteria-for-narcissistic-personality-disorder-npd American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), Fifth edition. 2013.
  3. Campbell, W. K., & Miller, J. D. (2011). The Handbook of Narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Theoretical Approaches, Empirical Findings, and Treatments. John Wiley & Sons.
  4. Livesley, W. J. (2001). Handbook of Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment. Guilford Press.
  5. Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Exploitative. Retrieved from
  6. Rafferty, F. (2017). Narcissistic Personality Disorder: How to Handle People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
  7. Sperry, L. (2016). Handbook of Diagnosis and Treatment of DSM-5 Personality Disorders: Assessment, Case Conceptualization, and Treatment, Third Edition. Routledge.

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“Holly Golightly’s Narcissistic Personality Disorder.” Edubirdie, 01 Sept. 2022,
Holly Golightly’s Narcissistic Personality Disorder. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 6 Feb. 2023].
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