Last summer, The Atlantic served up a scathing psychiatric summation that described The Donald as a disagreeable, narcissistic showman who surpasses failed president Richard M. Nixon when it comes to cunning and callous disregard for his fellow humans. The article referred to research that ranked Lyndon B. Johnson the most grandiose and narcissistic president in U.S. history, with presidents Nixon, Kennedy, Jackson, Clinton, and both Roosevelts trailing close behind. If the first weeks of the Trump administration are any indication, POTUS 45 may go down in history as the president most affected by a kind of mental malady known as Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or NPD.
What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
Described as a mental illness in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM-V, persons with Narcissistic Personality Disorder have an overblown sense of their own importance and expect others to perceive them as superior. Persons diagnosed with NPD are deeply attached to their personal fantasies of the ideal mate, limitless wealth, and unimpeded power. They exaggerate their own accomplishments, may lie about achievements and expect praise even when they’ve done nothing to deserve it. The narcissistic personality goes beyond a healthy sense of chutzpah; persons diagnosed with the personality disorder consistently place their own needs and desires above those of anyone else. In fact, individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder evince little or no true empathy for anyone at any time, nor do they experience guilt or remorse when their words or actions cause another person harm.
Haughty, arrogant and exploitative, narcissists are human hustlers known to take advantage of other people to get ahead, and they rarely seek help for their psychological disorder.
“Most narcissists don’t seek treatment unless there’s someone threatening to take something away from them. There would have to be some kind of meaningful consequence for him to come in. There is help available, but it doesn’t look like the help people are used to. It’s not insight-oriented psychotherapy, because narcissists already have insight. They’re aware. The problem is, they don’t care.”
Such is the estimation of Disarming the Narcissist: Surviving and Thriving with the Self-Absorbed author, Wendy Terrie Behary. The licensed clinical social worker noted that while narcissists may or may not be blatant liars, they are “notoriously uncomfortable with the truth.” Behary further explained to Vanity Fair in 2015.
“If all they [narcissists] have to show the world as a source of feeling acceptable is their success and performance, be it in business or sports or celebrity, then the risk of people seeing them fail or squander their success is so difficult to their self-esteem that they feel ashamed… They’re uncomfortable with their own limitations. It’s not that they’re cut out to lie, it’s just that they can’t handle what’s real.”
Behary is by no means the only mental health professional to note the remarkable similarities between Donald Trump’s behavior and the diagnosable mental malady known as Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Practicing psychotherapist, Dr. Charlotte Prozan, told Vanity Fair that Trump’s personality disorder is “easy to diagnose” while noting that the now-45th Commander in Chief will stop at nothing to demean another person. Clinical psychologist, Dr. Ben Michaelis, added that Donald Trump is a classic example of “textbook narcissistic personality disorder.” Dr. Howard Gardner, a professor and developmental psychologist at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, referred to Trump as “remarkably narcissistic.”
Dozens of mental health professionals agree: Donald Trump is dangerous
It goes against the prescribed ethics of the American Psychiatric Association for any licensed psychiatrist to make a diagnosis or even comment on an individual’s mental health status without an in-person examination and the patient’s consent. Nonetheless, more than 30 psychiatrists, psychologists, and medical doctors signed an open letter in the New York Times on Monday, February 13. Authored by Beverly Hills psychiatrist Dr. Lance Dodes, M.D., the letter explained that “too much is at stake to be silent any longer.” Dodes described the speech and actions of the current president as those of an individual who distorts reality to suit themselves while attacking facts and those who deliver them. The letter went on to say that the relative silence by the nation’s mental health organizations and their failure to lend much-needed expertise could be tolerated no longer.
“In a powerful leader, these attacks are likely to increase, as his personal myth of greatness appears to be confirmed. We believe that the grave emotional instability indicated by Mr. Trump’s speech and actions makes him incapable of serving safely as president.”
The Goldwater Rule: Why psychiatrists hesitate to speak out on Trump’s mental condition
Section 7.3 was added to the ethics manual of the American Psychiatric Association after a number of members made public comments regarding the mental health of presidential candidate, Barry Goldwater, during the 1964 election season. In the wake of published comments that referred to Goldwater’s mental status as paranoid, obsessive, schizophrenic, psychotic, and even narcissistic, the Arizona senator sued Fact magazine for $2 million and was ultimately awarded $75,000 in punitive damages and one dollar in compensatory damages by the U.S. Supreme Court.
[Featured Image by Eskemar/Shutterstock]