What Is Grandiosity In Psychology? (Not Just Pretense)

Grandiosity, in common parlance, means a state of pretense or pomposity. (Hint: Instagram celebrities borne of filter culture). This garden variety of grandiose people is well aware that their pomp and show are fake.

However, “grandiosity in psychology” doesn’t often come with self-awareness. A psychologically grandiose person doesn’t know that they are exaggerating it, in some cases, even when it is pointed out to them.

That’s why grandiosity in psychology is often classed as a delusion. A delusion is a false belief that cannot be debunked with proof.

what is grandiosity in psychology

What Is Grandiosity In Psychology?

Grandiosity is a term used in psychology to describe an unrealistic sense of superiority, which is typified as a persistent false belief that one is better and more important than others. Grandiosity is a false self-image of inflated self-esteem when actually it is not so. It is a symptom most commonly associated with bipolar disorder and narcissistic personality disorder.

Around two-thirds of bipolar patients have grandiose delusions at some point (Knowles, McCarty-Jones, & Rowse, 2011).

Grandiosity may also be seen in patients with borderline personality disorder, reactive attachment disorder, grandiose delusional disorder, substance abuse, schizophrenia, and many schizoaffective disorders.

The term “grandiosity” is a direct translation from Latin to English of the Greek word “megalopsychia” which means, literally, ‘great-souled’ or ‘very large-minded.’

Excessive grandiosity is accompanied by delusions of divinity, god-like power, or fantastical abilities. A grandiose person can display it by accepting responsibility for something far beyond their skill or capability.

Another way a grandiose person may behave is to boast about their incredible skills and exaggerate achievements or talents to belittle others.

For example, someone might boast that they have been awarded a Nobel Prize when they haven’t even been nominated.

Grandiosity usually has a negative connotation, since it is a form of self-deception that involves the overestimation of one’s own importance or knowledge.

It is an unjust and irrational overestimation of oneself and one’s social status. Grandiose individuals may have little to no insight into their own condition and firmly believe in their delusions of grandeur, often accompanied by an inflated sense of power.

What Are The Symptoms of Grandiosity?

A person who suffers from grandiose delusions believes that they are a great and important person, and deserve attention and admiration in accordance with their “hallowed” sense of importance.

Some symptoms of grandiosity are:

  • Sense of being special
  • Boastful of imagined achievements
  • Lashing out in rage when questioned or criticized
  • Dismissing and disparaging others’ achievements
  • Feeling more talented or intelligent or influential
  • Unable to perceive how wrong their perceptions are
  • Unable to empathize with what harms their actions are causing others

Grandiose delusions are usually characterized by interactions with authority figures, such as law enforcement, parents, or teachers. , who are seen as being corrupt and in the control of others.

The person is usually convinced that they have a special mission or destiny that is destined to be fulfilled, often involving world-saving.

Grandiose delusions are also associated with erotomania, which is a type of parasitosis in which there exists an intense delusion that someone else has romantic feelings for the sufferer.

A grandiose delusion is a type of delusional belief that a person has a grand sense of personal superiority and power. The perception is that the person has greater wealth, influence, or abilities than those around them.

Does Grandiosity Have An Advantage?

Grandiosity is only one of several ways that people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) defend their sense of self-worth. For someone with NPD, grandiosity serves as a counterbalance to all the other times when they were privately or publicly humiliated and made to feel worthless.

The grandiosity in someone in a manic episode of bipolar may seem “fun” or “exciting” from the outside, it can quickly devolve into being threatening and dangerous, and frequently leads to destructive, even self-destructive, behavior.

When a narcissist displays a sense of grandiosity, it is not actually based on high self-esteem, but instead, it is based on their deep need to overcompensate their deep fear of being worthless. It can make a grandiose narcissist work extra hard and outperform others. However, it can also be destructive to their relationships, and further lower self-esteem.

Is There A Treatment For Grandiosity?

Grandiosity is often associated with the onset of mania in bipolar or psychosis in schizophrenia. For both such patients, acute grandiose behavior needs prompt suppression with confinement and antipsychotic medication such as risperidone or quetiapine. For chronic cases, psychotherapy may be used as an adjunct to medical therapy.

For someone with NPD who goes to therapy, the goal is usually to help them develop more object constancy, or the ability to maintain a positive emotional tie to others even when they feel hurt or angry.

Therapy for narcissists also aims to improve their ability to emotionally self-regulate, develop more self-support and self-esteem, become more aware of the feelings of other people as well as their ability to adjust to other people’s needs, and improve their self-awareness of their own role their life circumstances.

Can one be a narcissist without feelings of grandiosity?

Narcissism is mostly associated with grandiosity, but not all narcissists show it. The grandiose or overt narcissists are most commonly associated with grandiosity. The toxic or malignant narcissists also exhibit grandiosity. However, covert or vulnerable narcissists do not put up shows of grandiosity, and do not express statements of self-importance, but rather feel insecure and exposed when they are the center of attention.

Who Is A Narcissist?

In brief, a narcissist is characterized by inflated feelings of self-worth, unstable self-esteem, the need to depend on other people for validation, hierarchical thinking (status oriented), and a lack of emotional empathy.

The most identifiable behaviors of narcissists are:

  • A grandiose sense of self-importance.
  • A preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, or beauty.
  • Believing that he or she is special and having an unreasonable sense of entitlement, e.g., expecting special favors without reciprocating.
  • Expecting constant praise and admiration from others.
  • Taking advantage of others in order to achieve his or her own ends.

Further Reading:

  1. Euler S, et al. (2018). Grandiose and vulnerable narcissism in borderline personality disorder.
  2. Jauk E, et al. (2018). The higher the score, the darker the core: The nonlinear association between grandiose and vulnerable narcissism. Link.
  3. O’Reilly CA, et al. (2021). Grandiose narcissists and decision making: Impulsive, overconfident, and skeptical of experts — but seldom in doubt. Link.

Final Words

Grandiosity in bipolar only appears during the manic and hypomanic phases, but in NPD, it usually persists over time.

Moreover, grandiosity exists in a spectrum. In mild cases, it may show up as a euphoric mood in a manic phase. In some cases, when it is referred to as grandiose delusions or delusions of grandeur, the affected person may believe outrageous things like they have superhuman abilities or they had been abducted by aliens.

Grandiosity may be precipitated by a traumatic event, such as a loss of a person or a relationship breakup.

Finally, if you want to help such a person, the best way is to ask them if you can take them to a mental health professional, and then take them there.

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Do you know out of these 6 types of Narcissists, which is the most dangerous one?

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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy — medical doctor, psychology writer, and happiness researcher. Founder and Chief Editor of The Happiness Blog. Writes on mental health, happiness, positive psychology, mindfulness, and philosophy (especially Stoicism).

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