The Narcissist Test

I didn’t pay much attention to the idea of narcissism as a personality disorder until a whole bunch of psychs were diagnosing Trump as having a “narcissistic personality disorder.”  So I checked, and the guy who edited the “Journal of Personality Disorders,” Allen Frances, said:

“We must not confuse Trump’s constant bad behavior with mental illness. That he is a world class narcissist does not prove he meets DSM criteria for “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” which require the accompanying presence of significant distress or impairment. Trump mostly causes distress in others rather than experiencing it himself and, rather than being impairing, his extravagant narcissism has gained him the presidency.”

That got me looking at narcissism.  My first thought was that it would take no small amount of narcissism to even try for the office of President – whether your name was Bush, Obama, Trump or Biden.  I’m no headshrinker, but some of the descriptors in DSM apply to most of our recent presidents – and definitely apply as well to Biden as Trump.

So I kept looking.  They have a test for narcissism at and it is a series of paired statements.  This pair struck me as a hard choice:

The thought of ruling the world frightens the hell out of me.|
If I ruled the world it would be a better place.

I would run away if a cabal of busybodies showed up for coffee and said, “Mike, we want you to run the world.”  On the other hand, when I look at the guys who run a big share of the world – let’s just look at Biden and Putin – it wouldn’t be particularly difficult to match or surpass Biden’s recent economic accomplishments or Putin’s leadership in Ukraine.  This isn’t an either/or choice – it’s a yes, given the quality of leaders and the multiple problems.

Mayo Clinic gives these observations about narcissists:


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

Allen Francis reminded us that Trump had a lot of Narcissistic behaviors, but they didn’t qualify as a personality disorder.  I have a hunch that it would be hard to be President without a pretty large dose of Narcissism.

1 thought on “The Narcissist Test”

  1. I can see how folks would come to this conclusion. In effect I think you are right. I believe it is possible to be President or a strong politician without narcissism, however. A strong sense of self coupled with a dose of humility and the habits of good listening skills. An ability to speak in public and to speak honestly and to then follow through on attempting to achieve what you stated you would – honest talk and intentions. An ability to understand whatever charter and rules you would be taking on as leader be it the country or some smaller entity and the strength and integrity to hold to such things. These things, I believe, make good leaders. Bombastic styles and an overweening sense of self-importance do not, generally confer strength in leadership. Dishonest behavior and collusion in dishonesty and then an ability to spin things so it looks “OK” are also not good leadership skills. Narcissism is, by definition a set of parameters that make the person the center of the universe and everything must revolve around that person. A good leader on the other hand has enough strength of purpose and will and mortal integrity and some charisma tossed in for good measure to enable him or her to clearly outline problems; seek solutions from various sources; can rely on his or her own instincts when all the data comes in muddled; can LISTEN to the people who put him or her in their positions and; and knows the rules and charters and intentions of the organization he or she leads. Those qualities are NOT self-centered. Those qualities are focused on the led and not the leader. And those qualities are sadly missing in most areas of leadership today. A narcissistic leader is in position of leadership with the express purpose of doing something for him or herself. A true leader takes the position to ensure the integrity and purpose and goals of the organization or group or country are met and the people within are protected. There, I think, are the differences. However, your last statement is a true one. Thus far, holding one’s nose to vote for President and even many other politicians ought not to happen. Which means we aren’t voting, recently, for true leaders.


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