9 Megalomaniacal Facts About Narcissism

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You hear the term narcissist tossed out frequently, but is that date who’s more interested in hearing himself talk really a narcissist or just a jerk? What about your boss who always demands you do things his way? The term stems from the Greek myth of Narcissus, a beautiful and proud young man who was cursed by the god Nemesis to fall in love with his own reflection and died pining for his own beauty. But in real life, psychologists have developed a list of actual criteria for the definition of narcissism.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), as it’s called in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), “is one of the least understood of personality disorders,” psychologist Anjhula Mya Singh Bais tells mental_floss. A former model and now Ph.D, Bais has for the past 10 years worked with clients who are celebrities, high achievers, and their partners dealing with various facets of NPD.

Bais says the NPD diagnosis evolved through collaboration between psychoanalysts and psychologists over the years “who couldn’t quite put their finger on a subset of their patients." NPD also tends to co-exist with depression or anxiety; having one of those conditions is often the only reason a narcissist tries therapy.

To qualify as a narcissist, an individual must have "a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts," paraphrased from the fifth version of the DSM [PDF]:

— A grandiose sense of self-importance, exaggerating achievements and talents
— Fantasizes about unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
— Believes that he or she is “special” and should associate only with high-status people or institutions
— Requires excessive admiration
— Has a sense of entitlement, expects favorable treatment or automatic compliance
— Is interpersonally exploitative, taking advantage of others
— Lacks empathy, unwilling to recognize or identify others' feelings and needs

1. NARCISSISTS LIVE IN A GRANDIOSE WORLD OF THEIR OWN MAKING.

Narcissists become fixated on fantasies of infinite success, control, brilliance, beauty, or idyllic love, Bais says. They believe they are "extraordinary and exceptional and can only be understood by, or should connect with, other extraordinary or important people or institutions.”

2. NARCISSISTS DO NOT EXPERIENCE EMPATHY.

What makes narcissists incredibly difficult to be in relationship with is “they lack empathy in totality,” Bais says. They do not care about others’ points of view or feelings, unless “it is to manipulate a situation or person to their advantage,” she adds. Psychologist Brad Reedy, the clinical director of Evoke Therapy Programs, puts it more bluntly. “If you don’t fulfill their needs, they have no use for you,” say Reedy, who has treated clients with narcissism in therapy for 20 years. In this regard, the difference between a narcissist and a sociopath—who also views people as objects and lacks empathy—may simply be a matter of degree.

3. YET THEY HAVE A MADDENING ABILITY TO CHARM.

A romantic relationship with a narcissist may start with passion and excitement. Your narcissist may be the most dynamic person in the room or “extraordinarily charming,” Bais says. But that charm eventually gives way to manipulation, entitlement, lack of forgiveness, a desperate need for ego strokes, and even rage.

4. NARCISSISM IS WORSE THAN ARROGANCE.

According to Reedy, the narcissist’s personality is so pervasive, rigid, and consistent that “they won’t be able to demonstrate anything different than the narcissist presentation.” A person who is just a little arrogant still has moments where they can admit they’re wrong, apologize for their mistakes, and empathize. But unlike people with “strong confidence” or arrogance, narcissists “place value only on [themselves] and no one else,” Bais says.

5. NARCISSISM STARTS IN CHILDHOOD …

Narcissism is forged by “a fundamental lack of connection in childhood—a lack of attachment,” Reedy explains. This “narcissistic wound,” as psychologists call it, comes from what Reedy describes as “valuing the wrong thing in the child”—such as praising them for their achievements or outward appearance, but never for their inner value. In this way they differ from people with anti-social personality disorder, who usually have experienced direct abuse. Many children who become narcissists, according to psychologist Alice Miller’s landmark book The Drama of the Gifted Child, consistently seek admiration because of an empty sense of themselves. Without therapy, Reedy says, “it is impossible for the grandiose person to cut the tragic link between admiration and love.”

6. … BUT CAN ONLY BE DIAGNOSED IN ADULTHOOD.

Be careful not to call your child or teen a narcissist, Reedy cautions. “Developmentally, children have many narcissistic traits," he says. "This is normal. Shaming them is not healthy.”

7. TRY NOT TO TAKE A NARCISSIST’S BEHAVIOR PERSONALLY.

Since narcissists require immense amounts of therapy to even begin to make changes in their nature, your best bet if you’re dealing with one in your life, says Reedy, is to “see them for what they are and don’t take it personally. It really isn’t about you.” However, narcissists inspire in others an understandable urge to “take them down a notch” or “put them in their place," Reedy says, which will only further aggravate a narcissist’s behavior. “A superiority complex always covers up an inferiority complex.”

8. HOWEVER, YOU MIGHT HAVE TO LEAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH A NARCISSIST.

Since narcissists are unlikely to change on their own without therapy—which most of them are unlikely to seek out unless they have co-existing anxiety or depression—you may have to accept that the only solution for a healthy relationship is to leave. “If that is either impractical or you are unwilling to leave [the relationship], be sure not to try to fix it or conclude that you can fix it if you do all the right things,” Reedy advises. He considers that the most common mistake of people who stay in “toxic relationships.”

9. THERAPY MAY HELP NARCISSISTS TO CHANGE.

The cure is long-term therapy, Reedy says, “where one experiences something different than what they experienced in their childhood.” However, getting a narcissist to therapy is no small task, as many of them view therapy as an admission of something wrong with them. The good news is that once they’re getting help, Bais says, they do respond well to psychotherapy.

Pioneering Heart Surgeon René Favaloro Is Being Honored With a Google Doodle

Dr. René Favaloro (left) pictured with colleague Dr. Mason Sones.
Dr. René Favaloro (left) pictured with colleague Dr. Mason Sones.
The Cleveland Clinic Center for Medical Art & Photography, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 4.0

Argentinian heart surgeon René Favaloro is the subject of today’s Google Doodle, which features a sketched portrait of the doctor along with an anatomical heart and several medical tools, The Independent reports.

The renowned doctor was born on this day in 1923 in La Plata, the capital of Argentina’s Buenos Aires province, and pursued a degree in medicine at La Plata University. After 12 years as a doctor in La Pampa, where he established the area’s first mobile blood bank, trained nurses, and built his own operating room, Favaloro relocated to the U.S. to specialize in thoracic surgery at the Cleveland Clinic.

In 1967, Favaloro performed coronary bypass surgery on a 51-year-old woman whose right coronary artery was blocked, restricting blood flow to her heart. Coronary bypass surgery involves taking a healthy vein from elsewhere in the body (in this case, Favaloro borrowed from the patient’s leg, but you can also use a vein from the arm or chest), and using it to channel the blood from the artery to the heart, bypassing the blockage. According to the Mayo Clinic, it doesn’t cure whatever heart disease that caused the blocked artery, but it can relieve symptoms like chest pain and shortness of breath, and it gives patients time to make other lifestyle changes to further manage their disease.

Favaloro wasn’t keen on being called the “father” of coronary bypass surgery, but his work brought the procedure to the forefront of the clinical field. He moved back to Argentina in 1971 and launched the Favaloro Foundation to train surgeons and treat a variety of patients from diverse economic backgrounds.

Favaloro died by suicide on July 29, 2000, at the age of 77, by a gunshot wound to the chest. His wife had died several years prior, and his foundation had fallen deeply into debt, which Argentinian hospitals and medical centers declined to help pay, The New York Times reported at the time.

“As a surgeon, Dr. Favaloro will be remembered for his ingenuity and imagination,” his colleague Dr. Denton A. Cooley wrote in a tribute shortly after Favaloro’s death. “But as a man ... he will be remembered for his compassion and selflessness.” Today would have been his 96th birthday.

[h/t The Independent]

A Simple Way to Cure Brain Freeze Quickly

vitapix/iStock via Getty Images
vitapix/iStock via Getty Images

As one of life’s simple pleasures, ice cream should not have the capacity to cause spontaneous and agonizing pain immediately after ingestion. Yet ice cream and other extremely cold food frequently catches us off-guard by inciting what is known as “brain freeze” or “ice cream headache.” Fortunately, there’s a way to alleviate this harsh side effect.

According to Johns Hopkins University, a bout of radiating pain in your head after eating cold food is known as cold neuralgia or sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia. It’s likely caused by your body entering survival mode when it detects a freezing temperature on the palate (roof) of the mouth: our system constricts blood vessels in the palate to preserve our core temperature. When they rapidly open back up, a pain signal is sent to the brain via the trigeminal nerve. Since that nerve leads directly to the midface and forehead, your face bears the brunt of the referred pain from the mouth.

A brain freeze typically lasts less than five minutes. But when your head is throbbing, that can feel like forever. To minimize the pain, the best strategy is to warm the palate up. You can do this by pressing your tongue or a thumb against the roof of your mouth, by drinking a warm liquid, or both. Covering your face and breathing into your hands can also warm the air inside your mouth that was chilled by the ice cream.

If you want to take preventive measures, avoid gulping cold drinks and take smaller bites. Holding the ice cream in your mouth to warm it before swallowing can also reduce the potential for a painful end to your cone or slushy drink.

[h/t Johns Hopkins Medicine]

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