I would like to begin this article by saying that I’m neither a supporter nor an opponent of Donald Trump, but he is certainly a curious subject for psychological evaluation. So let’s forget about the politics for a moment and focus solely on psychology.
What do psychologists say about Trump’s personality?
Many psychologists and mental health professionals have attempted to make a psychological profile of the US president. While their opinions vary, they all agree on one fact: Trump’s personality is an extreme one. At the same time, narcissism seems to be one of the most frequently used terms to describe Trump’s personality.
Thus, back in December, three professors from Harvard Medical School and the University of California wrote Barack Obama a letter about Trump’s symptoms of mental instability, such as “grandiosity, impulsivity, hypersensitivity to slights or criticism, and an apparent inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality.”
Could these be the signs of narcissism? Let’s find out.
Is Trump a narcissist?
John D. Gartner, a practicing psychotherapist, believes that Trump “is dangerously mentally ill and temperamentally incapable of being president.” He goes on with using the term “malignant narcissism,” which is basically a mix of such traits as narcissism, aggression, antisocial personality disorder, grandiosity and sadism. While Gartner acknowledges the fact that he never had a chance to personally examine Donald Trump, he claims that the president’s public behavior gives us enough clues to diagnose him with narcissism.
Let’s take a look at the nine-point checklist used by the professionals at The American Psychiatry Association to diagnose their patients with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. If an individual exhibits at least five of the below-described traits, then they most certainly have the disorder:
- A grandiose feeling of self-importance, a tendency to exaggerate their achievements and talents.
- A lack of empathy, being unable to relate to the needs and feelings of other people.
- Manipulative traits, a tendency to take advantage of others for their own good.
- Having fantasies of great power, unimaginable success, divine beauty or intelligence, or ideal, fairytale-like love.
- Having a firm belief in their own uniqueness, feeling that no one is capable of understanding them.
- An all-consuming need for admiration from other people.
- A feeling of envy: either being envious of others or believing that others are envious of them.
- A sense of entitlement, such as expecting a special treatment from others.
- Arrogant behaviors.
So what do you think? Do the above-described points sound like Trump?
The supporters of the idea that the US president is indeed a narcissist believe that he does exhibit at least five of these traits. According to them, some examples of his narcissistic behavior include Trump’s obsession with bashing the “fake news,” which are, in essence, any sources of information that say negative things about him or refuse to praise him. He also surrounds himself only with people who express admiration to his persona and loses his temper if someone says anything negative about him, showing oversensitivity to criticism. Psychologists refer to this kind of behaviors as “disconnection from reality”, which are typical for people with personality disorders including narcissism.
In any case, let’s not forget that all these are just assumptions, and the only way to make a certain diagnosis about someone’s mental health is to examine the individual in person. In fact, professionals at The American Psychiatry Association have an ethics code which includes the so-called Goldwater Rule. This rule claims that it is ethically wrong to assess a public figure’s mental health without actually examining them and having their consent to share the results of the psychological evaluation.
Image credit: Gage Skidmore