Famous individuals are human beings, just like the rest of us. They get sick, stressed out, tense- what’s more, their life is sometimes much more inconvenient that the life of a “normal” mortal. It isn’t thus unusual to see some famous individuals being diagnosed with various mental disorders- Michael Jackson, for instance, most surely had body dysmorphic disorder (sometimes referred to as dysmorphophobic disorder)- in other words, he was chronically obsessed with his physical appearance, and no kind of operation, nothing was able to make him content with his looks.
Addiction is so common among famous individuals that no special elaboration is needed. We’ll just mention few of them who succumbed to this deadly affliction- Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix… The list could go on and on.
But in this particular article, we’ll talk about a more insidious, sometimes even clandestine, form of mental disorder- the so-called personality disorders. This group of disorders started to gain prominence in psychiatric and psychological literature fairly recently, but there are some things that have been unanimously accepted by psychiatric and psychological authors and researchers:
- 1. A personality disorder is chronic. Unlike schizophrenia, which can have a sudden and unexpected onset, major signs of personality disorders can be tracked down to early childhood. For example, it has been noted that individuals with an antisocial personality disorder (psychopathy) tend to be extremely cruel towards animals, even in early childhood.
- 2. It is maladaptive– meaning that the person who has a certain type of personality disorder adapts to the environment in a way that causes significant mental discomfort. In other words, the person is in constant conflict with the environment.
- 3. Self-image is fragile, extremely negative or excessively positive– while having problems with their social environment, people with these kinds of problems are also in constant conflict with themselves- these two problems (with the environment and with their own self) are actually two manifestations of essentially the same problem.
To sum it up, personality disorders are pervasive (they sometimes last as long as the patient is alive), maladaptive, and, most importantly, are hard to change. The whole structure of personality is malformed, and each maladaptive element supports the other one.
We’ll now pass on to the analysis of Donald Trump, and will try to detect major signs of narcissistic personality disorder in his behavior. Note that, while personality disorders, especially in their extreme forms, usually pose insurmountable hurdles on the path of career progress, there are nevertheless individuals with impeccable careers who have some forms (albeit less extreme) of personality disorders.
Donald Trump and narcissism- a (un)happy combination?
In the last paragraph of the introduction section, we’ve stated that it is possible for someone to have a personality disorder and in spite of it “succeed” in life. Now we’ll specify our statement a bit- narcissistic and antisocial persons can ascend to wuthering heights, without being hindered by their disorders. Quite the contrary, narcissistic and antisocial traits can actually help someone to succeed. Why? Because narcissists and psychopaths lack empathy and are extremely ambitious- this combination, while causing much pain in other people, is quite handy in a merciless, highly-competitive environment of the contemporary business world.
We’ll first give a list of criterions for diagnosing a narcissistic personality disorder, mentioned in the newest version of Diagnostic and Statistics Manual (DSM-5), issued by American Psychiatric Association (2013):
- Grandiose self-representation– simply put, they think that they are the best. Their ego is inflated, even though reality constantly proves otherwise.
- 2. Constant thinking about great success, perfection. Narcissists daydream a lot about their possible success or think about past events that seemingly represent their perfection.
- Admiration seeking– a narcissist will enter the room and expect that everyone will abandon what they’ve been working on and focus all their attention on him. When he doesn’t get the expected admiration, the so-called narcissistic rage ensues.
- Lack of regard for other people– others serve only as a negative comparison- something according to which narcissists measure their own might and perfection. Sometimes this symptom is so prominent that a narcissist becomes completely unable to empathize with others.
- Entitlement to special treatment– because they are so much better than others, narcissists expect to receive special treatment- for example, waiting in queue is something “below the level” of our usual egoist. When they don’t get the treatment they expected, narcissists will utter phrases like: “Do you know who I am?”, or “How dare you to speak to me like that?”, etc.
- Arrogance– if they conclude that they’re dealing with persons who are “below their level”, narcissists won’t hesitate to act in a condescending and downgrading manner. They will be sarcastic, ironic, or even explicitly insult the other person.
- Envy– especially when the qualities other individuals possess seem unjustified or “unfair”, our ordinary egoist will resort to envy, he will say: “It’s not fair. I deserve that thing, and I have the right to take it.”. Needless to say, if envy is intense, narcissists can get pretty destructive and aggressive.
- Manipulation– this symptom is closely related to the aforementioned lack of empathy. In order to prove their self-worth and importance, patients with narcissistic personality disorder won’t hesitate to manipulate and use others in order to achieve their goals.
- Narcissists think they are special– and they tend to bond exclusively with other people to whom they ascribe special qualities.
Let’s now see which of these symptoms Donald Trump exhibits.
Most surely, Donald Trump has a grandiose self (criterion 1). We all remember his slogan “Make America Great Again”- which, when translated a bit, might sound like “I will make America great again!”. Considering that he actually rose to power, and won the election, his grandiose ego only received support and is, therefore, more inflated than ever.
But there’s more- Trump is born in a wealthy family, and from the very start of his life, everybody around him was saying: “You’re special, your family is special.” (criterion 9).
Admiration seeking (criterion 3) probably incited Trump to pursue a career in politics. Otherwise, why would a man with millions of dollars do such a thing? By becoming a politician, Trump got what he wanted- all eyes were turned towards him, and, most importantly, a lot of people started to admire him.
Allegations revolving around Trump’s immoral behavior (especially towards women) are so frequent that it would be impossible for us to forget his lack of regard for other people (criterion 4) and manipulation (criterion 8). Most probably, he repeatedly behaved towards women in an abusive and harming way, and manipulated them into providing him with “services” he wanted. Blackmail, bribe, and other means were most surely utilized by Trump in his immoral endeavors.
Probably Trump’s most conspicuous characteristic is his arrogance (criterion 6). One has only to watch a few minutes of his public speeches to see just how arrogant (and even obnoxious) he is. Even if we were to mute his videos, his gestures would give us signs of his endless arrogance. The way he speaks, looks and waves aside others’ arguments, implies to his internal monologue: “Pff, just look at this pathetic man/woman! She doesn’t know who’s she speaking with, and I will make her aware of this very soon!”
Donald Trump regards himself as America’s savior, someone special (criterion 9). He’s the one who will save the USA, and he, personally, will stop all those immigrants from “contaminating” America with their foreign culture.
You’ll probably notice that we didn’t mention 2 symptoms- entitlement to special treatment (criterion 5) and constant thinking about great success and perfection (criterion 2). It is hard to assess the existence of these symptoms solely from sources like videos and speeches. For their assessment, a deeper and more thorough psychological investigation is needed. But even without these two symptoms, we think that the following conclusion is completely justified: “Donald Trump has a lot of characteristics that might imply that he’s suffering from a narcissistic personality disorder”. The statement is given in this “moderate” and vague form on purpose- it’s impossible to decidedly confirm the existence of any personality disorder without a thorough psychological examination. We don’t believe that Trump ever sought help due to his narcissistic traits and that he ever will, so, in lack of better sources, we have to stick to his public speeches, interviews, etc. But still, it’s impossible not to perceive how arrogant and grandiose he is. He named his building “Trump Tower” for crying out loud! Why didn’t Bill Gates name some of his buildings after him? Probably because he isn’t as narcissistic as Donald Trump is.
Of course, we aren’t the first ones to state that Trump might indeed be a narcissist. Sander Thomaes (Utrecht University, n.d.), a psychologist working at the University of Utrecht came to the same conclusion even before the election! Even before Donald Trump became the president of the USA, Sander Thomaes noted Trump’s peculiar behavior and talked with his students about his possible pathological traits.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). DSM-5 (Fifth Edit). American Psychiatric Publishing.
Utrecht University (n.d.). Donald Trump: textbook narcissist. Available at: https://www.uu.nl/en/node/541/donald-trump-textbook-narcissist