Still Ill: Narcissism is Sick Again

Dali MetamorphosisOfNarcissus Still Ill: Narcissism is Sick Again

Terrible news! Call off the Xmas Party at Men’s Health magazine! Cancel the male strip­pers and the buck­ets of (low-fat) blancmange!

Self-love isn’t going to be rehab­il­it­ated after all. At least not by the shrinks. Professionally speak­ing, it will remain the love the dare not speak its name — even as the cul­ture screams noth­ing else.

According to this piece by Jennifer Allen in The Sunday Telegraph, in the face of strong cri­ti­cism, the American Psychiatric Association has back­tracked on its plan to remove Narcissistic Personality Disorder from the new edi­tion of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Allen sug­gests the reason they tried to de-list nar­ciss­ism in the first place was not down to any recog­ni­tion of how ‘nor­mal’ nar­ciss­ism has become in the world out­side the con­sult­ing room, but because of the American psy­chi­at­ric trend to bio­lo­gise men­tal ill­ness (‘Baby, I was born this way’) and pre­scribe drugs instead of the ‘inter­min­able’ talk­ing cure.

Allen isn’t impressed though by the APA’s backtracking:

I find the volte-face dis­may­ing, not because I’m for pre­scrib­ing drugs and against talk­ing cures. You don’t need to be a psy­chi­at­rist to see that nar­ciss­ism has shif­ted from a patho­lo­gical con­di­tion to a norm, if not a means of survival.

Narcissism appears as a neces­sity in a soci­ety of the spec­tacle, which runs from Andy Warhol’s “15 minutes of fame” pre­dic­tion through real­ity tele­vi­sion and self-promotion to YouTube hits.

Well, quite. But then, I would agree as I’ve been say­ing this for years, darling.

Perhaps, being some­what cyn­ical, the objec­tion to de-listing NPD was driven pre­cisely by the ubi­quity of nar­ciss­ism. It’s cer­tainly a growth market.

I don’t doubt that NPD, or some­thing akin to it exists, and can be an extremely unpleas­ant exper­i­ence both for the suf­ferer and those they come into con­tact with – here in the UK we’re only just get­ting over Tony Blair. But even before the advent of Big Brother, Facebook, iPhones and Immac for Men the symp­toms of NPD were vague and com­mon enough fail­ings to be applied to almost any­one who had any­thing about them.

Or, to quote Gore Vidal, any­one bet­ter look­ing than you. According to the DSM ‘nar­ciss­ists also tend to be phys­ic­ally attract­ive on first impres­sion, giv­ing them advant­ages when first meet­ing people’.

Here’s the full list of NPD sins provided by the DSM:

  • Has a gran­di­ose sense of self-importance
  • Is pre­oc­cu­pied with fantas­ies of unlim­ited suc­cess, power, bril­liance, beauty, or ideal love
  • Believes that he or she is “spe­cial” and unique and can only be under­stood by, or should asso­ci­ate with, other spe­cial or high-status people (or institutions)
  • Requires excess­ive admiration
  • Has a sense of enti­tle­ment, i.e., unreas­on­able expect­a­tions of espe­cially favor­able treat­ment or auto­matic com­pli­ance with his or her expectations
  • Is inter­per­son­ally exploit­at­ive, i.e., takes advant­age of oth­ers to achieve his or her own ends
  • Lacks empathy: is unwill­ing to recog­nize or identify with the feel­ings and needs of others
  • Is often envi­ous of oth­ers or believes oth­ers are envi­ous of him or her
  • Shows arrog­ant, haughty beha­vi­ors or attitudes

If you thought that just five of these symp­toms might apply to you, then you may have NPD. If you found that they all apply to you then you’re prob­ably in prison serving a very long stretch indeed or have your own TV cook­ery show and super­mar­ket endorse­ment deal.

Though I sup­pose a psy­chi­at­rist would prob­ably say that someone with NPD would likely not be able to recog­nise those traits in them­selves. At any rate, that’s what I’m telling myself.

So if you found that none of these traits applied to you then you’re prob­ably Jesus Christ. Or Barbara Streisand.


Martin Lindstrom writ­ing in The NYT today (‘You Love your iPhone. Literally.’) claims to have found evid­ence, using fancy-pants neuro-imaging tech­no­logy, that people are not ‘addicted’ to their smart­phones as is com­monly sug­ges­ted, but rather, ‘love’ them.

And not, like, iron­ic­ally. Or like ‘I heart my iPhone’. But like they love a per­son. Or how they used to love a per­son. Before iPhones replaced people.

But most strik­ing of all was the flurry of activ­a­tion in the insu­lar cor­tex of the brain, which is asso­ci­ated with feel­ings of love and com­pas­sion. The sub­jects’ brains respon­ded to the sound of their phones as they would respond to the pres­ence or prox­im­ity of a girl­friend, boy­friend or fam­ily member.

In short, the sub­jects didn’t demon­strate the clas­sic brain-based signs of addic­tion. Instead, they loved their iPhones.

When the iPhone was launched in 2007 I dia­gnosed its appeal, without the use of neuro-imaging tech­no­logy, or even access to the actual product, as being a form of nar­ciss­ism. Takes one to know one, I guess. The clue is in the ‘i’, of course:

Imagine the per­fect relationship.

Imagine a rela­tion­ship so per­fect that it will be the only one you need. One that is bet­ter and cooler and smarter than all the rest. A rela­tion­ship that will make you the envy of your friends and the centre of atten­tion at din­ner parties. Imagine a rela­tion­ship that is entirely con­trolled by you.

A rela­tion­ship, in fact, that is – finally! – all about YOU(I know I have).

Imagine the iPhone. The per­fect lover. The per­fect friend. The per­fect child. The per­fect access­ory. The per­fect kit. The per­fect kick. Walking, talk­ing tech­no­sexual porn.

Not for­get­ting of course that by put­ting t’internet and GPS nav­ig­a­tion in your pants, smart­phones make it much easier to ‘stray’, or ‘cheat’ on any­one you might still be hav­ing an actual, real-time, old-time rela­tion­ship with. Or just pur­sue dis­creetly your hitherto hid­den fantas­ies. To find out more about you. Which is an end­lessly fas­cin­at­ing story, naturally.

And no mat­ter how many people you hook up with through your tart­phone you’ll always remain faith­ful – to your phone.

The iPhone is really the Iphone. It’s a dir­ect line to your­self. Now, isn’t that a call we all want to take?

I now have a smart­phone myself, natch. And because I have a cer­tain knee-jerk dis­dain for the ‘gor­geous­ness’ of Apple so lauded by most of my media friends — and didn’t fancy a love-triangle with Steve Jobs — I picked up a more homely-looking Android (Samsung Galaxy S). Like most more homely-looking lov­ers, it works a lot harder at pleas­ing me.

And, yes, we’re very much in love, thanks for ask­ing. Until the next upgrade.

Tip: DAKrolak

Men’s Health Staff Celebrate News That Narcissism Is No Longer an Illness

I jest of course. The staff at Men’s Health wish they looked like that.

Even if I’m sure quite a few of them dance like that – when the read­ers can’t see them (Don’t Ask Don’t Tell may be about to be repealed in the US Armed Forces, but not any time soon at Men’s Health pub­lisher Rodale Inc.).

The top­less, some­what top-heavy chaps mim­ing to Kylie in the vid are actu­ally mod­els from a gay porn out­fit. The clip is called ‘A Tribute to Kylie’ – but should prob­ably be called ‘A Tribute to My Tits’.

Then again, lots of things today should prob­ably be called that, includ­ing Men’s Health, Strictly Come Dancing, and Mikey Sorrentino’s wan­nabe nar­ciss­ists’ self-help book, Here’s the Situation.

Get outta their way!

heres the situation Mens Health Staff Celebrate News That Narcissism Is No Longer an Illness

Especially now that nar­ciss­ism is offi­cially no longer a men­tal ill­ness.  Earlier this month it was announced that the next edi­tion of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual, the bible of ther­ap­ists and psy­chi­at­rists, would no longer include nar­ciss­ism in its list of per­son­al­ity disorders.