Understanding Donald Trump by Understanding Narcissistic Personality Disorder

I’ve said for over four years now that I often feel guilty making jokes at the president’s expense because it’s not right to make fun of someone with a mental illness just as it’s not right to make fun of someone with a physical illness, and our president suffers from a mental illness recognized by the American Psychiatric Association: Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).

As you might expect, an awful lot of Trump supporters are, shall we say, a little reluctant to acknowledge the president’s mental illness. But, as I’ve told my work colleagues repeatedly, it’s not easy to spot unless you’ve actually lived with it, which my wife and I unfortunately have.

So what is NPD? Well, many, if not most, websites that discuss NPD simply lay out the nine criteria specified by the DSM-5:

  • A grandiose sense of self-importance
  • Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  • Belief that one is special and can only be understood by or associate with special people or institutions
  • A need for excessive admiration
  • A sense of entitlement (to special treatment)
  • Exploitation of others
  • A lack of empathy
  • Envy of others or the belief that one is the object of envy
  • Arrogant, haughty behavior or attitudes

and indicate that individuals individuals with NPD will exhibit five or more of the nine. This is helpful, but let’s be honest, these criteria are a little “clinical” and therefore not necessarily easy to spot in an individual (which makes sense, since most of us are not qualified to diagnose according to the DSM-5!).

The Mayo Clinic website, on the other hand, actually lists the types of behaviours a person with NPD is likely to exhibit, which I think makes it much easier:

Signs and symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder and the severity of symptoms vary. People with the disorder can:

  • Have an exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • Have a sense of entitlement and require constant, excessive admiration
  • Expect to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
  • Exaggerate achievements and talents
  • Be preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
  • Believe they are superior and can only associate with equally special people
  • Monopolize conversations and belittle or look down on people they perceive as inferior
  • Expect special favors and unquestioning compliance with their expectations
  • Take advantage of others to get what they want
  • Have an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
  • Be envious of others and believe others envy them
  • Behave in an arrogant or haughty manner, coming across as conceited, boastful and pretentious
  • Insist on having the best of everything — for instance, the best car or office

At the same time, people with narcissistic personality disorder have trouble handling anything they perceive as criticism, and they can:

  • Become impatient or angry when they don’t receive special treatment
  • Have significant interpersonal problems and easily feel slighted
  • React with rage or contempt and try to belittle the other person to make themselves appear superior
  • Have difficulty regulating emotions and behavior
  • Experience major problems dealing with stress and adapting to change
  • Feel depressed and moody because they fall short of perfection
  • Have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation

Now, does that sound like anyone you may have voted for or against recently?

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