Whenever we tell anyone about the NPI study we administered to celebrities while researching this book, their first question is: "Can I take the test?" The answer is yes. Before you do, however, you should understand a thing or two about how the test is structured and what it's intended to evaluate.
The most important thing to know is that the NPI is not a diagnostic instrument for a personality disorder. It will not tell you if you have narcissistic personality disorder; what this test documents is the taker's levels of various narcissistic traits.
You should also be aware that there is ongoing debate within the scientific community about the validity of measuring narcissism on the NPI or any other scale. Nor is everyone convinced that tests using this scale prove the existence of a trend toward increasing narcissism in our society. However, other studies have offered further independent evidence that the trend is increasing, and this conforms with our own experiences in the field.
Taking the NPI is in no way a substitute for a diagnostic workup by a trained professional. If you're experiencing symptoms such as depression, anxiety, uncontrolled use of substances, or any other behaviors that affect your functioning, please see a professional. Symptoms that may seem psychiatric or psychological can actually be signs of a medical condition. In any such circumstances, always begin by having a thorough medical evaluation; if necessary, your doctor can then give you an appropriate referral to a mental health professional.
Narcissism has become such a pervasive issue today that it will be natural for most readers to identify with at least some of the issues discussed in the book and to wonder where they fall on the narcissism spectrum. Again, if you're having chronic feelings of emptiness, or difficulty with your interpersonal functioning, simply knowing where you are on this spectrum won't change things. Narcissism is the result of longstanding behavioral patterns that reflect fixed brain functioning. It requires a lot of motivation to change these patterns. In chapter 10, we suggest ways to start changing in a healthy direction, but these suggestions won't be enough for everyone, and you might need professional help to sustain whatever changes you make.
In taking this test, you'll notice that it's sometimes difficult to choose between the two choices offered to you. You may feel that neither, or both, apply. This is what social scientists call a forced choice. Although you may feel ambivalent about the choices available to you, the one you do choose has meaning. There are no time constraints for the evaluation, but you should take it in a single sitting, without asking anyone for help or clarification.