John Edwards, the Self-Diagnosing Narcissist
Narcissist Personality Disorder (NPD) is no joke. If you remember your Greek mythology, Narcissus was a beautiful young man who fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water, while rejecting lovers and leaving a trail of broken hearts. Features of NPD are ingrained patterns of feeling special, a sense of entitlement - to the manor born - combined with a need for constant attention and admiration from others and a complete lack of empathy. For any one who has ever dealt with a narcissist up close and personal, the lack of empathy is one of the most difficult aspects of the disorder. Narcissists are superficially warm and charming - until you need them for something - like say, support if you are diagnosed with cancer. The chill behind the narcissist's charming smile can make, say a loving wife question who she has been living with all these years.
People with NPD are drawn to positions of power and like to be in the limelight, anything that feeds their ego. There are also many narcissists in the helping professions. Psychiatrists say that beneath the polished exterior is an angry person masking feelings of emptiness. Narcissists are known to lie to themselves, about themselves and to get worse with age. Aging is particularly hard on narcissists - they just aren't able to move out of the spotlight and make way for the next generation. Narcissists aren't known for having a lot of insight into themselves or for being able to trust others.
ABCNews.com has been running some interesting commentary about Edwards, narcissism and spouses who cheat on their sick partners. Dr. Stephen Berglas, psychiatrist blogger over at Psychology Today, ran a very informative post about Edwards - prognosis: poor. It would be very difficult for a charming, successful middle-aged narcissist diagnosing himself and getting a lot of attention for his sincere mea culpa to have the kind of wake up call needed for any real change.
But who knows, maybe we are being too hard on him, maybe he is in therapy and this is the diagnosis he has been given and is sharing with us. I have difficulty with health care professionals pontificating about the diagnosis of people they have never met. It isn't playing fair, and it seems, well, a bit grandiose ( a feature of narcissism). We all make mistakes, so we wish him and his family well.
Image - Narcissus by Michael Caravaggio.