Narcissistic Personality Disorder Contributes to Increased Cortisol Responses to Stressful Situations and Related Long Term Health Issues

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Narcissistic Personality Disorder contributes to increased cortisol responses to stressful situations and related long term health issues Lori Steffen
National University

Abstract
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) or Malignant Narcissism affects approximately one percent of the population and seventy five percent of those afflicted are male. NPD is characterized by grandiosity, lack of empathy, fantasies of unlimited power or ideal love and a sense of entitlement. Many books have been written describing malignant narcissism and the damaging effects on people who find themselves in relationships with narcissists but scientists are just beginning to study the effects of malignant narcissism on the narcissist himself. Researchers at the University of Michigan, School of Psychology recently published findings that demonstrate that the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis), the body’s primary stress response system is hyperactive in men diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder and that this HPA hyperactivity can contribute to long term health complications. |

Malignant Narcissism is a personality disorder that affects approximately one percent of the population and seventy five percent of those afflicted are male. Narcissistic Personality Disorder is characterized by a grandiose self-importance, a sense of entitlement and lack of empathy (Campbell, 2002). Many books have been written describing malignant narcissism and the damaging effects on people who find themselves in relationships with narcissists but scientists are just beginning to study the effects of malignant narcissism on the narcissist himself. Recent findings published in the Journal of Research in Personality describe a role for Malignant Narcissism in increased cortisol responses to stress thereby linking the personality disorder to long term health consequences for the first time. Sigmund Freud was one of the first mental health professionals to describe narcissism in pathological terms. It wasn’t until 1980 however that the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual (DSM) the standard classification of mental health professionals in the United States recognized it as a mental health disorder. The DSM gives diagnostic criteria and symptoms that must be present so that a correct diagnosis can be made. According to the DSM people suffering from Malignant Narcissism have a grandiose sense of self importance. He will often exaggerate his achievements and expects to be recognized as superior. He believes that he is special and that only “special” people or people of high status or importance can understand him. He believes in ideal love and is constantly in search of it. He fantasizes about unlimited success, power or beauty. He constantly needs admiration and praise. He has a sense of entitlement and constantly takes advantage of others to achieve his goals. He is incapable of empathy and cannot identify with the needs and feelings of others. He often has a snobby attitude or comes across as arrogant. He is envious of others and believes them to be envious of him. In order to be diagnosed with Malignant Narcissism, five of the above criteria need to be met. In addition, the DSM IV states that, “ many highly successful individuals display personality traits that might be considered narcissistic” and that, “ only when these traits are inflexible, maladaptive, persisting and cause severe functional impairment or subjective stress, is it considered Narcissistic Personality Disorder”. The psychiatric community largely believes that Malignant Narcissism cannot be cured and behavior modification therapy has been minimally effective in mitigating some of the more harmful aspects of this personality disorder (Campbell, 2002). Psychologists believe that during an important stage of development for the narcissist, a significant individual in his life needed him to be something other than he was. The narcissist felt that he had to be different...
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