More on Narcissism

Hadn’t read my Monitor on Psychology (Feb 2011 edition) til this morning and saw that the cover story is on the possible rise of narcissism in young folk these days. Now, this magazine is popular and doesn’t go too deep into reporting on research…and I haven’t followed up on the studies to read them for myself, but…

  • one study has 80% of middle school students scoring higher on self-esteem in ’06 than ’88
  • Another shows an increase in the lifetime prevalence of NPD
  • However, no nationally representative samples comparisons have been done to really shed light on whether a rise is truly taking place
  • One meta study of 85 studies (between ’82 and ’06) suggests an increase of narcissism among college students

The article goes on to muse about whether materialism and social networking lead the way toward narcissism but also wonders whether the decrease in availability to easy credit will lower the self-promoting trend a bit.

In an ironic twist, it appears that the DSM 5 may not include NPD as a diagnosis. Rather. It will include a more general diagnosis (see below taken from the DSM5.0rg site). Strangely, one of the “types” is NOT narcissism.

The essential features of a personality disorder are impairments in identity and sense of self and in the capacity for effective interpersonal functioning. To diagnose a personality disorder, the impairments must meet all of the following criteria:

A.    A rating of mild impairment or greater in self and interpersonal functioning on the Levels of Personality Functioning.

B.    Associated with a “good match” or “very good match” to a personality disorder type or with a rating of “quite a bit like the trait” or “extremely like the trait” on one or more personality trait domains.

C.    Relatively stable across time and consistent across situations.

D.    Not better understood as a norm within an individual’s dominant culture.

E.    Not solely due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, medication) or a general medical condition (e.g., severe head trauma).


Filed under counseling, counseling science, personality, Psychology

3 responses to “More on Narcissism

  1. Scott Knapp

    Homosexuality was removed from the DSM when it could not longer be (popularly) demonstrated that the condition necessarily lead to a perceived impairment in personal or interpersonal functioning. Indeed, the proponents of the move made the case (and continue to assert) that if any distresses were associated with homosexuality, they were in large part due to the social pressures and punishments imposed by in intolerant society, which would be ameliorated, in part, by the removal of the social stigma of “mental illness” associated with homosexuality.

    I light of that logic, if self-centeredness and self-promotion become ingrained into societal norms, and resultant attitudes and behaviors become normal as well, why doesn’t it follow that narcissism, or any so-called “mental illness” that steps on the toes of unbridled pursuit of what makes me “happy”, should be removed from the DSM and emasculated of any power to check my progress toward self-fulfillment? As a precuror to His return, Jesus said, “Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold” (Matthew 24:11-12, NASU). Psychology is seemingly leading the way toward ushering in the return of Christ…you go, Psychology!

  2. Scott, I might agree with your 2nd paragraph–that if self-promotion is so ingrained then is it a disorder?

    However, I do think that we ought to be consistent in our theory/research in mental illness and as such, agree with the “popular” notion that homosexuality is not a mental illness. If you study a population of people and they do not have evidence of personal and interpersonal impairment, then we shouldn’t label them as mentally ill.

    Now, while a person meeting current criteria for NPD might not believe they have interpersonal impairment, it shouldn’t be too hard to prove they do, in fact, have impairment. Just ask the collaterally damaged friends and family.

  3. Scott Knapp

    I think we’re in agreement here…I certainly didn’t mean to suggest that we go back to calling homosexuality a mental disorder (thought I’m certain we agree it’s a spiritual and moral disorder). In my reading of the writings of Spitzer at the time he was lobbying on this issue, he still believed that homosexuality was not normal sexual behavior, and those who were troubled by their homosexual desires still deserved the option to be treated, and thus he supported keeping a diagnosis in the DSM to address this. Of course, popular sentiment eventually eradicated this from the DSM as well.

    I am suggesting that the definition of the terms we use (maybe including “impairment”) will eventually be modified to make allowances for the things we want to hang on to, when present definitions make it difficult to do so.

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