Does Trump Really Suffer From Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

The idea of diagnosing public figures — especially public figures you hate — can be appealing, but doing so is akin to diagnosing someone with a cough with pneumonia, sight unseen.
Man in the Mirror
Man in the Mirror

Psychiatrists and other mental health professionals have been asked many times times since Donald Trump began running for president to diagnose him with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. However, thanks to the Goldwater Rule, it is unethical for a psychiatrist or psychotherapist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has seen the patient and has been granted authorization for such a statement. Still, therapists and shrinks offer their opinions: Psychologist John Gartner writes, “Donald Trump’s malignant narcissism is toxic,” despite the fact that many who have broken the Goldwater Rule in the past have not only been reprimanded but kicked out of the APA.

And although I’m not going to diagnose him, I’ll give you some good reasons why many therapists would not give Trump a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or NPD.

First of all, let’s define NPD: According to DSM 5, the newest “bible” that defines and classifies mental disorders, in order to qualify for a diagnosis of NPD, the following criteria must be met:

  1. Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance

  2. Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it

  3. Exaggerating achievements and talents

  4. Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate

  5. Believing that you one is superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people

  6. Requiring constant admiration

  7. Having a sense of entitlement

  8. Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectations

  9. Taking advantage of others to get what you want

  10. Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others

  11. Being envious of others and believing others envy you

  12. Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner

Apart from the Goldwater Rule, here’s why I make the statement that many therapists deny that Trump has a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. (I’m not denying his extreme narcissism. I just see why most therapists would not make the official diagnosis.)

  • Not having examined Trump, most therapists would have no idea about 1, 2, 4, 5, 10, or 11, since knowledge of them would require reading his mind or getting him to admit those traits, which he hasn’t yet, publicly.

  • Criterion number two is the key: “Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it.” Many therapists would say that Trump DOES have commensurate achievements. I’m not saying I admire the guy, but let’s stick to the textbooks when we start diagnosing. He has achieved possibly the highest of all achievements, becoming elected Leader of the Free World. So some would say he has a right to feel superior.

  • Trump appears to suffer no distress from his “disorder,” so who are we to define him as mentally ill? I’m certainly not going to say he “suffers” from NPD, if, in fact, he seems to enjoy his arrogance. That’s one of the golden rules of diagnosing personality disorders, according to the DSM: “The enduring pattern leads to clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.” Trump does not appear to be “suffering” from NPD at all. Whether you like him or not, he seems to be doing pretty well.

The idea of diagnosing public figures — especially public figures you hate — can be appealing, but doing so is akin to diagnosing someone with a cough with pneumonia, sight unseen.

I’m going to repeat my premise again: “There are some therapists who wouldn’t diagnose Trump with NPD,” nothing more, nothing less. As support for that statement, I offer this final statement:

Now I want you to understand that that statement is not proof that Trump does npt have NPD. It is merely one of many examples of indisputable evidence for my statement, “many therapists would not give Trump a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or NPD.” I’m not even saying I agree with it.

It is what it is. It’s not an apology. What you might see as an “apology” for Trump is, in reality, a plea for exactitude of language and semantics.

If you don’t believe that winning the most important job in in the world is a “commensurate achievement,” then I’d like to know what is. Think about it. What WOULD be a commensurate achievement?

Yes, he is a mythomaniac, but that’s not a diagnosis. Yes, he is incredibly dishonest. I believe he is a menace, a liar, a misogynist, and a crook. None of those are diagnoses. But his achievements ARE commensurate, to a certain extent, with with his ideas of himself.

Even if you hate Trump and believe he is the New Hitler, allow yourself one iota of open-mindedness and at least admit that he is an evil man who has accomplished incredible things. That is indisputable.

Once again, I’m not “finding excuses” for Trump. If you can’t see any logic in my premise, I would contend that your hatred of him is an excuse for distorted dichotomous thinking. When I say, “many therapists would not give Trump a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or NPD,” I think that’s a pretty safe statement.

Donald Trump may be many things, But many very competent therapists would agree that Donald Trump does not warrant a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

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